12:09 PM

UHD "Innovation in Criminal Justice" Symposium Set for Nov. 14


By Mike Emery

Scholars, practitioners and civic leaders continue to discuss and debate new approaches to the criminal justice process. These include reparative interactions between offenders and victims (restorative justice), rehabilitation or education programs in lieu of convictions (diversion) and the inclusion of communities in the criminal justice process (community-based justice).

The University of Houston-Downtown is hosting a conversation on these topics and more during the "Innovation in Criminal Justice: Diversion, Restorative Justice and Community-Based Justice Symposium" on Nov. 14. This event is free. To register, email bryants@uhd.edu.

"The Innovation in Criminal Justice Symposium is particularly important for scholars, practitioners and students of criminal justice and associated fields," said College of Public Service Dean, Dr. Leigh Van Horn. "Panelists from Greater Houston agencies, UHD faculty and national best practices experts will identify the innovative and transformative work currently being done, as well as possibilities for future advancement for restorative justice, diversion and community-based justice. UHD's robust Criminal Justice program, with its dedication to social responsibility and proximity to primary justice agencies and institutions, make our campus an ideal site for these conversations."

The event, presented by UHD's College of Public Service, will feature panels on a range of topics and include insights from University faculty members, criminal justice practitioners, social workers and others in the community. The event will begin with opening remarks at 9 a.m. in the Welcome Center from the following dignitaries:

  • Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg
  • Harris County Sheriff and UHD alumnus Ed Gonzalez
  • Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo
  • Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña
  • UHD President, Dr. Juan Sánchez Muñoz,
  • University of Houston System Regent Paula Mendoza

"Great universities facilitate conversations on issues facing our communities," said Dr. Juan Sánchez Muñoz, UHD President. "UHD has hosted previous discussions on immigration, education and human trafficking. Now, we turn our attention to criminal justice, a topic that is particularly relevant to our city and across the country. I look forward to welcoming friends Chief Acevedo, Sheriff Gonzalez, District Attorney Ogg and Chief Peña to campus. Likewise, our University is proud to host some of the leading voices in criminal justice and public safety during this very important symposium."

Following the event's opening remarks, breakout sessions will run from 10 to 11:30 a.m. in UHD's Welcome Center. A networking luncheon will begin at noon following the discussions in the Academic Building's Room A300. Panels, speakers and locations are as follows:

Restorative Justice (Welcome Center, Travis Room)

This panel will include an evaluation of drug, mental health, and veterans courts and address school restorative justice, a literacy program in a juvenile detention center, and a comprehensive community restorative justice program.

Moderator: Associate Professor of Criminal Justice, Dr. Ashley Blackburn:

  • Dr. Clete Snell, UHD professor of Criminal Justice
  • Anita Wadhwa, restorative justice coordinator, YES Prep High School
  • Dr. John Kelley, UHD associate professor of Urban Education
  • Amanda Berman, project director for the Center for Court Innovation

Diversion Panel (Welcome Center, Tour Room)

This panel will include a discussion of the cost savings of diversion for alcohol-related arrests, prostitution diversion in Houston, and a look at innovative diversion programs for youth.

Moderator: Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice, Dr. Nina Barbieri:

  • Dr. Rebecca Pfeffer, UHD assistant professor of Criminal Justice
  • Jennifer Varela, director of the Harris County District Attorney's Office Sex Crimes Division
  • Leonard Kincaid, executive director, Houston Recovery Center
  • Jeff Alexander, youth services division manage, Harris County Protective Services

Community-Based Justice (Academic Building, Room A300)

This panel will include data from a project with the goal of keeping juvenile sex offenders in community care and look at the programs strengthening the families of the incarcerated, and those that serve juveniles in both the foster care and juvenile justice systems.

Moderator: Assistant Professor of Social Work, Dr. Dana Smith:

  • Dr. Lori Brusman-Lovins, UHD Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice
  • Stuart Berry, director of social projects for Lucas County Juvenile Court
  • Janet Kasper, program supervisor, Houston: Revision
  • Dr. Laura van der Lught, director of research and innovation, Suffolk County Sheriff Department