• John McGary, Woodford Sun Staff

Pisgah Academy to highlight ‘restorative justice’

Angela McCormick Bisig

Pisgah Presbyterian Church will host its annual Pisgah Academy Saturday, with the topic of “Restorative Justice” addressed by a Jefferson County judge who’ll talk about her efforts in the area. Members of the public and legal system are invited to the free event (contributions will be accepted to offset the cost of lunch), which begins at 9 a.m. and will conclude with a discussion over lunch. Jefferson Circuit Judge Angela McCormick Bisig will be the opening speaker, using “The Little Book of Family Group Conferences, New Zealand Style” as her text. Organizer Hank Graddy said the book is available for free download at www.pisgahchurch.org, where attendees can also register. Graddy said the goal of restorative justice is to modify our longtime emphasis on punishment to stress instead, when possible, healing and repairing. A typical scenario involved having the offender meet with the victim and mediator, try to figure out what happened and make it right, Graddy said. A panel discussion at 10 a.m. will follow Bisig’s presentation. The discussion will be led by Linda Harvey, the director of the Juvenile Restorative Program in Lexington. Harvey visited Pisgah last November, where her Second Sunday address outlined her efforts to bring the program to the court system in Fayette County. Louisville attorney Tom Williams also came to Pisgah in November and will take part in the 10 a.m. panel discussion, as will Lexington native Kabby Akers, a member of the Fayette County faith community. Asked whether he’d heard the “L” word (liberal) used pejoratively to describe restorative justice, Graddy said yes. “Well, I run into that all the time, and I will say that this happens to be one issue that – President Obama may be speaking with the Republican members of Congress right now – because of a recognition on both ends of the spectrum that our criminal justice system isn’t working the way it’s supposed to be working. We have way too many people behind bars, and people are being punished far in excess of what most people would consider appropriate, and it is not a healthy part of our community. “And especially when you look at the folks behind bars, and a disproportionate percentage of them are poor and non-white. And that’s an indicator to me and, I think, both liberals and conservatives, that we may be doing something wrong, and we may need to fix it,” Graddy said. Graddy said Pisgah Presbyterian has officially asked Lexington, Versailles and Midway to join Louisville in adopting charters of compassion. “… Restorative justice is a component of a compassionate community, and so we see this as taking steps to implement a discussion we started four years ago on how to make Woodford County, Versailles and Midway more compassionate, more caring for those people in the community with the most needs, and making sure that everybody in the community is looked after and treated fairly,” Graddy said. “I would encourage everybody who cares about Woodford County to support efforts to make our community more compassionate and more caring for all the members of the community, and this is a way to take a step in that direction,” Graddy said.

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