Friday, July 17, 2009

JamFest - "Jammin"" for a Serious Cause

Playful “Jammin’”for a Serious Cause
Saturday, July 18th, 6-10pm at the John Waldron Arts Center in Bloomington, IN

Phone: 812-336-8677 - Admission: $10 for students and low income; $15 for adults; $25 for a couple; $50 for a family.

JamFest for Community Justice and Mediation Center Offers Family Friendly Evening of Local Talent

Everyone knows that the only place to work out a neighborhood conflict is in the courts, right? Especially when a crime has been committed, right? Some Monroe County citizens don’t think that’s the case. For example, a typical Healing Community Harm meeting at Community Justice and Mediation Center may bring an adult Victim of theft or property destruction to sit at a “mediation table” with the juvenile Offender they once perceived of as a “thoughtless kid.” With the help of mediation, neighbors can walk away from that table feeling like something worthwhile happened for both of them—a wrong was addressed, a conscience righted, harm was healed. At the mediation table agreements take all “sides” into account (sometimes there are many!) and all sides help to draft that agreement, signing it only because they believe in it. Perhaps this sounds like a good cause?

If you add a good cause to Bloomington summer strolling time, spice it up with artistic wealth, what do you get? The phenomenon of the Bloomington “’fest’.” One of the newest fests cooking up is JamFest: Jammin for Justice. On July 18 from 6- 10 p.m. at the Waldron Arts Auditorium, JamFest aims to raise greater awareness and necessary funds for restorative justice and mediation solutions through Community Justice and Mediation Center (also known as CJAM). The concert is a benefit to encourage “gettin’ down to get along,” said Judi Romaine, CJAM’s Board Secretary and Outreach Committee Chairperson. “Summer is a time when CJAM faces a downturn in an already bare-bones budget,” she explained. “So we thought we’d turn to the ‘townies’ and to the students who stay on to help us through that dry spell. Plus it’s a lot of fun getting ‘pun-ny’ with our name.” JamFest “jammers” include Sophia Travis, “socially conscious dub reggae” band Coyaba, electric blues /rock with Bated Breath, Steve Mascari and Sarah Flint, and the one-man band song loops of Eric Radoux. Comedian Brad Wilhelm joins in as Master of Ceremonies. “We’re still recruiting groovy sounds to create the right kind of vibe that promotes general peace and overall well being,” said CJAM VORP Case Manager David Nosko. “Please consider helping us spread the message that CJAM’s local alternative dispute resolution services can and do benefit Victims, Offenders, and the general community. CJAM’s jams may get even sweeter yet!”

In addition to raising funds through admission ($15 for individuals, $10 for student and low-income) CJAM is working collaboratively with FoodWorks to produce “Justice Jam” canned with locally raised fruits. The jam will be for sale at the concert and will be free to those who pay the “donor/family” rate of $50 ahead of time or at the door. “We want to recognize that sometimes folks are ready to donate significantly, with or without a party. This way our supporters can help us out by having some fun with the whole family and then they take home a jar of specially made jam to continuing spreading the love,” Romaine elaborated. “This is an ambitious inaugural event and we’re still putting the whole thing together, but folks can trust that the evening will be a family-friendly fun to promote a very unique and special social service.”

Underwriting is provided by Pizza X, and there will be a cash bar helped out by local wine distributor Manolos Wines and beers from World Class Beverages. In addition, there will be juices for the kids and non-drinkers and coffee selections from Brown County Coffee/Bloomington Coffee Roasters.

One of CJAM’s major programs is restorative justice work that provides adds an incredible tool to the Prosecutor and Probation Department’s tool kits. Specifically, the Healing Community Harm Program (also known as the Victim Offender Reconciliation Program—VORP) facilitates Victim-Offender conversations to work out restitution, prevent recidivism, and heal the community harm caused by crime.
CJAM’s primary focus with JamFest is to raise awareness and to recruit volunteers for the newest initiative called “Community Voices.” The Community Voices Program places a trained volunteer at the mediation table to serve as a Victim “proxy” and/or community Victim in cases where the actual Victim is either unwilling or unable to participate in the Healing Community Harm Program. “Both the community at-large and the criminal justice system benefit when victims, offenders, and community stakeholders all have a voice in healing the harm caused by crime,” Nosko said. “Public safety and the rule of law are values worth upholding in our community, and there is both short and long term benefit in encouraging community involvement in restoring Victims, empowering Offenders to not victimize themselves, and creative collaborations between local social service agencies and the county-wide criminal justice system.”

Restorative Justice is a national and worldwide movement to address crime while reducing recidivism, yet Restorative Justice does not oppose and instead can become an effective partner for current criminal justice practices. More than 2.3 million prisoners were held in federal, state, or local jails one year ago this month, more than 1 in 100 American adults, according to the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics. More than 7.3 million Americans are in prison, on parole or probation, a rate of 1 in every 31 American adults. To address the fact that the U.S. comprises five percent of the world’s population yet houses 25% of the world’s prisoners, Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) introduced the National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009. “We have an incarceration rate in the United States, the world's greatest democracy, that is five times as high as the average incarceration rate of the rest of the world,” Webb said during his March 26 floor speech to introduce the bill. “There are only two possibilities here: either we have the most evil people on earth living in the United States; or we are doing something dramatically wrong in terms of how we approach the issue of criminal justice.”
CJAM has been concerned about such trends in this community for more than 25 years. The agency began as Citizens for Community Justice, Inc. (CCJ) May 1980 with a meeting of a group of citizens concerned about conditions in the Monroe County jail. While most early activity was focused on ways to improve jail conditions and reduce the jail population, as early as June 1981 the group began working with others to establish a Victim Offender Reconciliation Program (VORP). The group’s 1989 annual meeting topic, “Juveniles, Justice and Jails,” was the beginning of a greater focus on youth. In June 1990 the group combined with the local Juvenile Justice Task Force and adopted a new name – Citizens for Jail Improvement and Juvenile Justice. CJAM conducts school mediations to enable alternatives to suspension and expulsion, provides small claims court mediations and community mediations with neighborhoods, families, and workplaces. Recently, however, CJAM’s services faced a critical punch to the gut when a grant from the State of Indiana that had provided nearly 70% of their funding was cut in a systemic move to eliminate funding for all Victim-Offender Reconciliation Programs. “It was a blow that kind of knocked our community’s restorative justice wind out,” Romaine said, “and JamFest is one way to breathe fresh air back into programs that very much benefit the greater public good. You might say we’re trying to get ourselves out of a difficult jam with all kinds of good jams!”

More information can be found at CJAM’s website:

Source on Prison stats:
Sources on Webb:

Author: Julia Dadds 14 year plus resident of Monroe County-- works and volunteers in the Non-Profit community while she finishes her work on a PhD in Education. She is the secretary for the Non-Profit Alliance for Monroe County, and serves on the boards of Step Ahead and the Youth Services Bureau as well as working with CJAM as Development Director.

Reprinted with permission of the Author, originally appearing in The Ryder Magazine

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