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U.S. Sentencing Commission and restorative justice

January 12, 2010

The statement by Bishop-Jenkins:

I wanted to share a bit of news with you all for a very specific reason I will get to in a minute: that I have been appointed to the United States Sentencing Commission’s Victim Advisory     Group (USSC VAG). Here is a link to the press release about it at the top of their web page.
I am told that I am the only actual victim on the VAG. The rest are an impressive gathering of high level victim advocates and experts such as the Exec Dir of NCVC Susan Smith Howley who chairs the VAG, attorney experts in victims rights such as Doug Beloof of NCVLI, academicians, advocates, and several prosecutors. Also on the group is Howard Zehr, the leading national expert on Restorative Justice. They told me on the phone they were glad to have me – a homicide victim family member and DV victim – that had some expertise in sentencing policy and violence prevention joining them. I will be serving a three year term.
I consider therefore my role will be significantly to represent all of you who are my victim allies and associates, to bring victim voices to the national public policy discussions about offender sentencing.
I wanted to share this news with you all specifically because I want to seek your advice and your input from the very beginning. One of the job descriptions is that we on the VAG are educational liaisons to the victim community. I not only want to seek all of your input and advice, but also keep you in the loop about what the USSC is proposing for sentencing guidelines     for offenders so that you can share it with all of your networks in the victim community.

I am sure you all know that we are in a very different era right now with the changing economic climate, the pressure to reduce prison populations, the new administration, etc. Sentencing reform advocates are well-funded and a huge advocacy presence nationally, and as many of you know I have been already pushing up against, there has been virtually no recognition yet from many prison reform advocates that victims should be included in their public policy conversations about what should be done going forward. I am glad therefore that the VAG exists, and hope that you all will help me in this process.


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