Being Howard Zehr

Nationally known restorative justice practitioner sujatha baliga tells this story of how she met Herald Press author Howard Zehr. It was 2007, and baliga had invited Zehr to speak at a conference on crime victims at Stanford Law School’s Criminal Justice Center.

As Howard finished his talk, Robert Weisburg, the center’s long-time faculty director, excitedly whispered, “I’ve discovered what I want to be when I grow up! Howard Zehr!”

I was in complete agreement with Professor Weisburg that day. In the years that followed, I’ve taken every opportunity to learn from Howard, in the hopes that his prodigious heart and intellect would somehow be contagious.

It’s no exaggeration to say that by asking us to change lenses, Howard Zehr has changed countless lives. Mine is among them.

 

Shortly after meeting Howard and encountering his paradigm on restorative justice, baliga left the practice of law to try to put into practice her emerging commitment to a justice that restores and heals. “Here was a view of justice that could better meet crime victims’ needs, while simultaneously ending our addiction to punitive confinement by believing in the power of communities to support their members when things go wrong,” baliga writes in the foreword to the new edition of Zehr’s classic text, Changing Lenses. “Changing these constructs requires fearlessly replacing entrenched views that no longer serve us with new ones that do. Howard Zehr is such a thinker.”

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Like baliga, countless restorative justice practitioners have found in Zehr a mentor and a friend. Frequently called the “grandfather of the restorative justice movement,” Zehr published Changing Lenses: A New Focus for Crime and Justice, with Herald Press in 1990.

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It fast became the central text of the restorative justice movement, in use in classrooms and workshops and a variety of settings across the world. Zehr has led hundreds of events in more than twenty-five countries and thirty-five states. His work has included trainings and consultations on restorative justice, victim-offender conferencing, judicial reform, and other criminal justice matters. He has had particular influence in the United States, Brazil, Japan, Jamaica, Northern Ireland, Britain, the Ukraine, and New Zealand, the latter which has restructured its juvenile justice system into a family-focused, restorative approach. “Changing Lenses has done more to shape my understanding of justice and peacemaking and to define my scholarly career and sense of vocation than any other,” Chris Marshall, professor of restorative justice at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, says. “It remains my first choice when people ask me what they should read to learn more about restorative justice.”

The twenty-fifth anniversary edition of Changing Lenses: Restorative Justice for Our Times, released in June 2015, gave Zehr the opportunity to add valuable updates to terminology and paradigms that have shifted in the twenty-five years since the book was first published. Language about victim-offender interaction has changed, as have the discussions surrounding mass incarceration, race, and poverty in the United States. A new resource section adds group exercises and discussion questions from leading restorative justice practitioners. Nobel Peace Prize-winner Leymah Gbowee, a former student of Zehr’s, says that the new edition of the book “will change how you think about wrongdoing and justice and mercy.” And Michelle Alexander, author of the groundbreaking book The New Jim Crow, says, “Now that our nation is finally beginning to come to terms with the immorality and irrationality of our criminal injustice system, I hope that we will reread Howard Zehr’s classic text, Changing Lenses, and accept his challenge to reimagine what justice ought to look like.”

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Undergirding all of his wisdom and experience in restorative justice is a commitment to the Christ who calls us to compassion—for both those who have been harmed and those who harm.  Changing Lenses has a robust theological and biblical rationale for restorative justice. And although he may be the grandfather of the movement, Zehr is hardly sitting in his rocking chair watching the world go by. As co-director of the Zehr Institute for Restorative Justice and a distinguished professor at the Center for Justice & Peacebuilding, Zehr remains active in speaking, teaching, writing, and consulting. He continues to be sought out by journalists and scholar for his expertise—for example being quoted extensively in this recent article about to the Charleston church shooting.

Zehr is one of many Herald Press authors with whom I’m privileged to work. Like Robert Weisburg and sujatha baliga, I wouldn’t mind being Howard Zehr when I grow up. After reading Changing Lenses, maybe you’ll think that too. As far as role models go, you could do a lot worse.

Changing Lenses: Restorative Justice for Our Times is available for purchase here.

headshotValerie Weaver-Zercher is managing editor of Herald Press trade books.

25th anniversary edition of Changing Lenses launched by Herald Press

ChangingLenses72News Release
July 1, 2015

Howard Zehr, author, known as “grandfather of restorative justice”

HARRISONBURG, Va., and KITCHENER, Ontario— Changing Lenses: Restorative Justice for Our Times by Howard Zehr remains the go-to text in the restorative justice field even twenty-five years after it was first published. Herald Press launched this updated edition in June. The book’s original subtitle was A New Focus for Crime and Justice.

Uncovering widespread assumptions about crime, the courts, retributive justice, and the legal process, Changing Lenses offers provocative new paradigms and proven alternatives for public policy and judicial reform.

Changing Lenses has been endorsed by 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee, saying, “This book will change how you think about wrongdoing and justice and mercy.”

Michelle Alexander, author of the groundbreaking book The New Jim Crow, says “Now that our nation is finally beginning to come to terms with the immorality and irrationality of our criminal injustice system, I hope that we will reread Howard Zehr’s classic text, Changing Lenses, and accept his challenge to reimagine what justice ought to look like.”

Now with updates by the author and resources for teachers and practitioners, Changing Lenses offers a framework for understanding crime, injury, accountability, and healing from a restorative perspective. “It offers a distinctly Christian viewpoint to understanding reconciliation as part of faith,” states Herald Press Editorial Director Amy Gingerich.

Zehr himself updated terminology and some of the book’s paradigms, and provided additional recommended reading on the topic. Restorative justice practitioner sujatha baliga [who prefers her name uncapitalized] wrote a new foreword, and resources for teachers, facilitators, and practitioners have been added as well. A new chapter on victim-offender approaches has been added in light of significant changes in the field in the last 25 years.

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Zehr has led hundreds of events in more than 25 countries and 35 U.S. states. His work has included trainings and consultations on restorative justice, victim-offender conferencing, judicial reform, and other criminal justice matters. He has had particular influence in the United States, Brazil, Japan, Jamaica, Northern Ireland, Britain, the Ukraine, and New Zealand, the latter of which has restructured its juvenile justice system into a family-focused, restorative approach.  The University of Alabama also awarded Zehr the 2015 Ireland Distinguished Visiting Scholar Award for his work.

A joint retirement party and book launch for Changing Lenses was held May 23 at Eastern Mennonite University, where Zehr taught for 19 years. Zehr will remain codirector of the Zehr Institute of Restorative Justice alongside Carl Stauffer. Both Stauffer and Zehr were tapped by national media for comments after the shootings targeting the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17.

At the retirement event, Charito Calvachi-Mateyko, a founding member of the nonprofit Latino Initiative on Restorative Justice, spoke of Zehr’s influence on her personal journey from her native Ecuador to her current work as an educator and restorative justice trainer in many Latin American countries.

Sister Helen Prejean, whose work was featured in the book and film Dead Man Walking, says of Changing Lenses, “Maybe one day we’ll integrate some of the principles of civil law into criminal justice, as Howard Zehr advises in his book.”

Changing Lenses has been widely used in undergraduate and graduate courses on restorative justice, criminology, peacebuilding, and conflict transformation at Protestant and Catholic universities. It has been translated to Russian, Japanese, Ukranian, Korean, Arabic, Portuguese, and Italian.

Zehr is also the editor, coeditor, or author of numerous books on the subject of crime, peacebuilding and restorative justice.

Changing Lenses is available for $21.99 USD from MennoMedia at 800-245-7894 or www.MennoMedia.org and at local bookstores.

High resolution photo available upon request.

MennoMedia Staff

For more information on press release:
Melodie Davis
MennoMedia
540-574-4874
MelodieD@MennoMedia.org