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SUNDAY, JANUARY 11, 1998202/307-0703


AUSTIN, TEXAS -- Community leaders and criminal justice and law enforcement professionals from 11 southeastern states will join national criminal justice experts here today to begin a Justice Department-sponsored symposium on restorative justice, which focuses on ways to further involve crime victims and the affected community in the criminal justice process. Participants will share local experiences, identify regional resources and explore ways to improve regional collaboration.

"Justice begins in the local communities we serve," said Laurie Robinson, Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs (OJP), the lead Justice Department component sponsoring the meeting. "That's why the Justice Department, with the strong support and encouragement of Attorney General Reno, is committed to fostering the development of restorative community justice efforts. We're helping communities take a step back and look more broadly at the justice system in America -- what it means and what it should mean."

"Restorative community justice is an old-fashioned concept that is right for the 21st Century," added Reggie Robinson, Acting Director of OJP's Office for Victims of Crime, who will deliver opening remarks at the conference. "Restorative community justice means that criminals and wrong-doers are held accountable to victims for their actions within their local community, and that the community works together to determine appropriate punishment or restitution."

Programs that embrace restorative justice principles seek to repair the harm done to victims and communities caused by crime and criminal offenders through involvement of victims and community members, as well as offenders, law enforcement and the judiciary, in the criminal justice process. Such programs can be anything from a community-based court to face-to-face mediation between victim and offender to court-ordered community service.

Austin was selected as a conference site because the Travis County area has been involved in community justice efforts for over a decade with its Community Justice Council, Community Justice Center, neighborhood conference committees and its new Victim Services 2000 project that creates a network of support services for crime victims. "Travis County, in particular, has a strong reputation for innovation in community justice," said Ms. Robinson. "They are making a significant contribution to the understanding of how community justice principles apply in real world situations."

The Austin meeting is the fifth and final regional restorative justice symposium sponsored by the Department of Justice, building on a successful national symposium held in January 1996. In addition to Austin, regional meetings have been held in Burlington, Vermont; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Portland, Oregon.

Two community-based teams from Austin and Travis County, Texas will participate in the event, including Travis County District Attorney Ronald Earle, Councilman Bill Spelman and Chief of Police Stanley Knee. Other teams will come from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North and South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. Topics for discussion will cover a broad range of issues, including domestic violence, cultural diversity and restorative justice for juveniles.

For more information about OJP and its component agencies' programs, visit the OJP homepage at, or call the National Criminal Justice Reference Service

toll-free on 1-800/851-3420.



After hours contact: Linda Mansour on 202/616-3534 or page on 1-888/582-6750