Advocacy, Organizing and Restorative Justice with Justice Matters of Lawrence, KS

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Joanna Harader is the Co-Chair of the Justice Matters' Jail Alternatives campaign. Joanna serves as pastor of Peace Mennonite Church in Lawrence, KS. She has a Masters in English from the University of Kansas and a Masters of Divinity from Central Baptist Theological Seminary. She has written for publications such as Leader Magazine and Christian Century, and she blogs at She is also a parent, spouse, pet caretaker, crafter, and writer. Dr. John Errante is a Co-Chair of the Justice Matters' Restorative Justice in Schools campaign. He is also the Program Founder of the Prodigal Son Reenactment Guild, an association of craftsmen in a particular trade who possess the willingness to “reenact” the Prodigal Son story (Luke 15:11-32) each time a juvenile offender comes home to our neighborhood. About 4-6 weeks prior to release, pastors of churches in Lenexa that serve the neighborhood to which the youth will return will be contacted. Each youth will be sponsored by a “Family Group Conference Team” comprised of stakeholders dedicated to develop and support a successful reintegration strategy for this juvenile. John is also a KS Supreme Court Approved Mediator. Ben MacConnell is the Lead Organizer of Justice Matters in Lawrence, Kansas. Ben graduated from Indiana University Northwest in Gary, Indiana in 1995 with a bachelors degree in Criminal Justice. After college, Ben became a full time volunteer with the Church of the Brethren. In 1997, he was accepted into GreenCorps, an environmental advocacy training program based in Boston. In 1999, he went to work with Citizens of Louisville Organized and United Together (CLOUT) in Louisville, Kentucky. He assisted efforts to end gang violence among youth, to improve reading in low-performing public schools, and to remove neighborhood eyesores in the south end of Louisville. In 2001, Ben moved to the east side of Lawrence where he and his family now reside. He telecommuted and traveled extensively on staff with the Direct Action & Research Training (DART) Center for 13 years. He assisted DART's efforts to hire and train new organizers going into the field of congregation-based community organizing. Ben and his wife, Sarah, have had over 16 foster children. Ben has taken his adopted son, Joshua, to visit his biological father, Jimmy, in local jails throughout the region over the last several years. Background on Justice Matters: Justice Matters is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, 501 (c)(3) community organizing group based in Douglas County, Kansas comprised of seventeen diverse faith congregations. The mission of Justice Matters is to surface, understand, and address issues of injustice in the Lawrence-Douglas County, Kansas region. We have successfully addressed a broad range of community-led issues including Crisis Intervention Training for all Lawrence police officers and a 10 million-dollar investment in permanent affordable housing. But for the purpose of this podcast, the most relevant experience in our five-year history as organization relates to our expanded mental health services and organized opposition to a proposed jail expansion. In the fall of 2014, Justice Matters organized a 112 small group discussions with over 1,400 people in attendance. Small group leaders were trained to guide discussions beyond the superficial or opinions, and surface stories about the day-to-day issues and anxieties impacting people’s. Repeatedly and regardless of geography, income, race, or gender, we heard stories of people suffering from mental illness, who could not find adequate treatment in Lawrence. Four months of focused, community-led research confirmed the stories we heard. Police officers reported an average of eight mental health calls every shift. Mental Health Consumers described 6-8 weeks lag times for psychiatric consultation. Lawrence Memorial Hospital had a staff walkout in the ER because people in mental health crisis were piling up. Read More at Website..
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