Verduin, Boyle speak on restorative justice for giving societies

Photo Katie McLean | Staff Photographer Week Six Interfaith Lecturers Jacques Verduin and the Rev. Greg Boyle speak on crime and punishment and the mistake of demonizing fellow humans — even prisoners — July 30 in the Athenaeum Hotel parlor. Verduin and Boyle’s conversation was a special program for Chautauqua’s Bestor, 1874 and Daugherty giving societies, in recognition of the donors’ loyal support to Chautauqua.

On July 30, more than 200 members of the Bestor, 1874 and Eleanor B. Daugherty societies gathered for “A Conversation with Jacques Verduin and Father Greg Boyle,” a special event organized by the Chautauqua Foundation and the Department of Religion to recognize the members’ loyal support to Chautauqua. During the event, held at the Athenaeum Hotel, Verduin and Boyle conversed with the crowd about their ideas on and experience with the restorative justice movement. The audience was thus afforded a deeper grasp of the ideas and projects of the two men, as well as an opportunity to voice questions and concerns about the conversation topics. Maureen Rovegno, assistant director of the Department of Religion, began the event by introducing Verduin and Boyle. She then played a short video clip about Insight-Out and Homeboy Industries, the two restorative justice programs by Verduin and Boyle, respectively. Verduin, who has a master’s degree in somatic psychology and 17 years of experience working in prisons, founded Insight-Out in 2011 to provide prisoners and challenged youth with resources to change their lives for the better. Homeboy Industries is a conceptually similar youth program that was founded by Boyle in 1992 in Los Angeles. The organization offers mental health counseling, tattoo removal, employment services and legal services to high-risk youth, former gang members and the recently incarcerated. During their conversation, Verduin and Boyle addressed how a framework of healing must play a crucial role in rehabilitating the victims of dismissive justice systems and violent and resource-limited environments. Rovegno pointed out that Verduin and Boyle both deal with “the wounds of our [current justice and healing] systems” and “listen to the pleas for help” from the people hurt by it. “And what we heard at [Verduin’s Interfaith Lecture] was people asking in various ways how we are to listen to these pleas for help with some form of effective response,” Rovegno said. “You talked about engaged citizenship. Can you speak to how we can become more engaged citizens?” “I think it’s a choice to want to be bothered about these issues, which isn’t a natural choice,” Verduin said. “You have to be willing to be on fire about it and seek entry into organizations that are addressing the problem. It’s really important that we begin to face each other before we find ways to go back and connect with each other and speak our secrets and, ultimately, find healing.” He named two concrete ways to get involved: writing elected officials about policy changes in the justice system and volunteering at places like halfway homes and shelters. Boyle spoke to the importance of conceptual reformation as a way to address problems in the current justice system. “Unless people can begin to transform their pain, they’re going to continue to transmit it,” Boyle said. “People say that if you want to change something, change the metaphor you use to describe the problem. 25 years ago in Los Angeles, [the city] had ‘tough on crime,’ and every single year from 1988 to 1992, we had an increase in gang-related violence and homicide.” Progress was made, however, “when we had ‘smart on crime,’ ” he continued, “when we started imagining second chances and seeking to invest in people rather than just endlessly incarcerating our way out of this problem.” Verduin added to this idea, asserting that Americans need to reframe how prisoners are viewed view prisoners — as “5,000 resources instead of 5,000 problems” — and also restructure the procedures of prison systems. In response to a question from the audience about how restorative justice can sometimes undermine the justice afforded to victims of violent crime, Boyle explained how it is crucial that people do not demonize offenders. He referenced an event for which he served as the keynote speaker, speaking to an audience of criminals who had recently committed rather serious crimes. “The woman who invited me said, ‘Whatever you do, don’t even suggest that your audience of young men is composed of victims,’ ” Boyle explained. “But everybody in this room knows there wasn’t a single kid in that audience who wasn’t hugely victimized in a way that will take your breath away. Not one. And that’s important to know, because it leads us to a sensible place where we don’t ever demonize a single human being.” Rovegno said she was pleased with the response to the event and the overall interest in the restorative justice movement. “Those present came to be inspired and to learn how to become more engaged in this movement in their own communities, as well as to share the ways in which they are already committed,” she said. Verduin was impressed, too. “Thanks for supporting an institution that doesn’t turn its head to these important issues,” he said, addressing the crowd of Chautauquan donors. Donors invited to the July 30 event included those making a contribution to the Chautauqua Fund at a minimum of $1,874 and/or committing to a bequest intention or other planned gift, said Karen Blozie, director of gift planning. Tina Downey, director of the annual fund, urges anyone interested in learning more about participating in giving societies at Chautauqua to contact her at 716-357-6406 or

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  1. At the Edge…

    […]  Verduin, who founded Insight-Out, and Boyle, a Jesuit priest who founded the Homeboy Industries, advocated volunteer activism on both the political front and in the social arena while bringing the justice system to scrutiny using ‘smart on crime’ approach.   […]

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