Zehr named to federal advisory body

Item by Jim Bishop

The United States government has named restorative-justice expert Howard Zehr to be one of six members of a new Victims Advisory Group, a move that represents a major step toward addressing the needs of victims at the federal level.

“I am pleased that U.S. Sentencing Commission has made this effort to represent victim concerns and honored to be asked to serve,” said Dr. Zehr, a professor at Eastern Mennonite University who is often called the “grandfather” of the worldwide restorative justice movement.

In his dozens of books and journal articles, Zehr has argued that crime victims are better served by having their emotional, spiritual and physical needs addressed than by vengeance wreaked on the offender. He also believes, however, that the offender should be held “accountable” for the harms of his or her crime and should make amends to victims to the extent possible.

The Victims Advisory Group will be under the umbrella of the United States Sentencing Commission, which develops the national sentencing policy for the federal courts. The Commission was established in 1985 to ensure that similar offenders who commit similar offenses receive similar sentences.

In an official statement posted recently on its website, the U.S. Sentencing Commission said the six group advisory-group members “were selected from a broad array of applicants, with the aim of providing the Commission with a victim-centered perspective on federal sentencing issues and providing a key educational role in disseminating sentencing-related information to victims groups and other interested advocacy groups.”

Zehr’s fellow committee members are: Mary Lou Leary, executive director of the National Center for Victims of Crime (chair); Douglas E. Beloof of Lewis and Clark Law School; Russell P. Butler of the Maryland Crime Victims’ Resource Center; Montie R. Deer, former Assistant U.S. Attorney; and Pat Sekaquaptewa of the Nakwatsvewat Institute.

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