The Spring 2014 President’s Peace Commission at St. Mary’s University examined the United States criminal justice system in a program titled “Contemporary Challenges, Reform and Respect: How Can We Build a Better Criminal Justice System?”
A highlight of the three-day program was the presentation of the Art of Peace Award to Karin Richmond, who through advocacy and art, has turned an act of violence into a positive force that helps others.
In 1983, Richmond was stabbed more than a dozen times by a male room service employee in a downtown Austin hotel. She continues to work through the trauma by driving legislation that protects others. In fact, during her presentation Wednesday, she announced the Victim Notification System – real-time text alerts regarding offenders on parole – which she lobbied for after receiving notification by mail days after authorities had lost contact with her paroled attacker.
Richmond also has written a novel, “Blood on the Threshold,” which blends fiction and nonfiction as it tells the story of a bright, young career woman who endures a brutal attack and the stressful legal process that follows.
“I had a story to tell, and it was cathartic to me,” she said.
The Art of Peace Award is given annually to an artist in any medium whose life work has promoted peace, justice and understanding. The President’s Peace Commission was established in 1984 with a mission to raise awareness in the St. Mary’s and San Antonio communities about issues of peace and justice. The Commission develops and hosts multi-day programs each fall and spring semester for students, faculty, staff and the San Antonio community.
Another highlight of the event is guest speaker Thomas Trantino, an artist, author, activist and convicted murderer whose death sentence was commuted and followed by a spiritual transformation.
The U.S. criminal justice system is a network of more than 50,000 agencies across federal, state and local levels of government. Those who are incarcerated are among the most marginalized people in society.
This President’s Peace Commission invites scholars, religious leaders and officials in the criminal justice system to discuss five key questions: What factors increase the crime rate in any given society? How has the U.S. criminal justice system fared in reducing crime? What contemporary challenges does the criminal justice system face in the reduction of crime? What reforms can be made to increase the effectiveness of the criminal justice system? And, most importantly, how can we as a society treat everyone involved in the criminal justice system with human dignity and respect?
Tuesday, Feb. 18
9:45 a.m.: Is the Criminal Justice System Effective? Past, Present and Future
11:10 a.m.: Handle with Discretion: Ethics in Police Decision-Making
12:35 p.m.: Civil Rights: Is the Process Fair?
Wednesday, Feb. 19
9:20 a.m.: Crimmigration: The Intersection of Criminal and Immigration Law
10:20 a.m.: Sexual Assault and the Criminal Justice System
11:20 a.m.: Treating Drug Addiction and Mental Health Disorders in the Criminal Justice System
12:20 p.m.: Debating the Death Penalty: Should We Have Capital Punishment?
2 p.m.: Art of Peace Award Recipient: Karin Richmond
7 p.m.: Guest lecture: Thomas Trantino
Thursday, Feb. 20
9:45 a.m.: Lowering the Incarceration Rate: How Do We Keep Children in School and Out of Prison?
11:10 a.m.: What Happens to the Families of Adults Who Are Incarcerated?
12:35 p.m.: Placing People before Prisons