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The central tenet of restorative justice is that the justice process belongs to the community.

As implemented by CRRJ, restorative justice is crafted to speak to the descendants of racial terror, foster accountability, support reparations, honor the healing process, memorialize victims, and further racial reconciliation.

We promote truth proceedings, official apologies, and memory projects to acknowledge this racialized past. These processes contribute to reconciliation by educating citizens through the public debates they stimulate and by providing structures for genuine interactions between alienated groups.

How does restorative justice work?

Traditionally, restorative justice returns the harmed party to a prior state, before the injustice occurred. This process requires engaging the parties and the broader community in the redress process. The restorative justice process involves identifying and addressing the harms, as well as any needs and obligations that stem from the harm, and using that information to heal and remediate the injured parties to the broadest extent possible.

Although it is impossible for CRRJ to return loved ones taken by acts of racial violence to their families, we continue to engage the harmed parties and the broader community to seek redress and healing.

What are the goals of restorative justice?

The goals of restorative justice are to identify and address harms, needs and obligations. We then work to heal and remediate harms in. a number of different ways.

How does CRRJ engage with restorative justice?

Through our multi-phase, interdisciplinary investigative practice, The Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project reaches out to the families that were left behind to contend with the generational aftermath of homicidal racial violence during the Jim Crow era. From there, we follow the guidance of each family to facilitate individualized processes of healing and redress. Above all, CRRJ’s restorative justice practice centers on the experiences of those whose lives have been and continue to be impacted by fatal cases of racial terror.

Some examples of restorative justice as practiced by CRRJ include:

Engaging Public Officials

TEXAS – Joyce Faye Crockett Nelson, who was shot in October 1955 in the course of a murder that took the life of her cousin John Earl Reese, in 2009 was able to tell the story of what happened to public officials for the first time. CRRJ facilitated Ms. Nelson’s conversation with County Commissioner Mike Pepper and Rusk County Mayor Buzz Fullen.

ALABAMA – In 2012, CRRJ Fellow Chelsea Schmitz facilitated a conversation between Mobile City Councilman Fred Richardson and the family of Rayfield Davis. Davis was murdered on March 7, 1948, by a white man, Horace M. Miller, who became enraged when Davis anticipated that the new Truman administration would bring equal rights to the South.

GEORGIA – CRRJ student Tara Dunn met with Harris County officials in 2016 on the Henry Gilbert case.

Official Apologies

Engaging the Families of the Perpetrators

A letter from Karen Branan written to Recie Moss (pictured in corner)
Transcript of a letter written by Sandra Simpson-Kraft
Letter from Sandra Simpson-Kraft to CRRJ

Burial Markers and Civil Rights Markers

photo of a street sign, JOHN EARL REESE RD.
As a result of a community campaign, local officials re-named the street where Reese grew up, recognizing his racially inspired murder in 1955.

Commemorative Events & Exhibits

aerial photo of a church gathering in pews

GEORGIA – October 15, 2022, CRRJ joined the family and descendants of Denna and Estella Strickland, murdered in 1932 by a law enforcement officer, to honor their lives and legacy.

Ninety years later, CRRJ partnered with members of the Strickland family to plan a commemorative event that brought together more than 40 members of the Strickland family, along with CRRJ staff and students, Coweta County council member Al Smith, Reverend Skip Mason of the West Mitchell Church in Atlanta, and members of the community.

MISSISSIPPI – In the spring of 2023, CRRJ helped the family of Hosea “Shant” Carter, who was lynched in Marion County, Mississippi in 1948, organize a memorial service that brought together family and community members in remembrance. 

Hosea Carter was a father of four who served in the military and worked as a carpenter in Marion County.

Media accounts of his murder varied, with Black newspapers claiming Carter was killed by a mob after being accused of making advances toward a white woman. Marion County Deputy Sheriff T.W. White told newspapers that Carter was shot after he tried to break into her home. White also declared that killing Carter was “what any decent white man would have done.”

Correcting Public Records

John Earl Reese’s death certificate in 1955 reported his death as an “accident,” when in fact it was a racial killing. In 2010, CRRJ caused the official death certificate to be changed to reflect that the death was a homicide.

grainy photocopy of a death certificate and Amendment form

Court Cases and Consultations

Engaging in the Arts

CRRJ intern Michelle Wells wrote and produced the play, The War at Home.

On the John Earl Reese case, a community member commissioned a painting about the incident of racial violence.

Toni Morrison (pictured), Isabel Wilkerson, and many other writers have met with survivor families at Northeastern University.

(on left): photo of Toni Morrison; (on right): playbill for the play 'The War at Home'

Engaging the High School Classroom

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