The Center for Community Justice in Elkhart, Indiana, honored Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz, Mennonite Church USA’ denominational minister for Peace & Justice, for her work in restorative justice at an October 21 event celebrating the 45th anniversary of its Victim-Offender Reconciliation Program (VORP), the first restorative justice program of its kind in the U.S.
Irwin Larrier, executive director of the Center for Community Justice, presented Stutzman Amstutz with the VORP Founding Partner Award for her outstanding work with the Center as a recent college graduate in the 1980s and her ongoing contributions to restorative justice.
“The coordination of VORP was one of Lorraine’s first professional investments,” said Larrier. “She brought a passion for VORP’s alternative perspective on crime and punishment, and strong relational skills to this effort. She understood the importance of the values that undergird restorative practices: respect, responsibility and relationship. Over the past 45 years, her life has reflected the skills and values that she developed in that effort.”
Stuzman Amstutz, who also delivered the keynote address at the event, shared about her early work with VORP — working so closely with probation officers that they thought she was a colleague, training volunteers, and reaching out to victims who were often unwilling to engage with mediators or offender(s).
“The work I did at CCJ provided the foundation for the way I wanted to live out what we were asking of others. If I couldn’t do this in my own life, then how was I able to honestly talk to others?” she asked.
These experiences impacted her career in the years and decades that followed.
“One of my areas of passion was restorative discipline in schools,” she said. “When I had three children in the educational system, I realized that the school disciplinary responses often mirrored the legal system, and we knew how that system was working out.” She described how, as a guidance counselor at a Mennonite high school, she employed restorative discipline to help students work out their differences and avoid more serious conflicts.
Stutzman Amstutz went on to serve as the coordinator of Mennonite Central Committee’s Restorative Justice program for over 25 years and co-authored “The Little Book of Restorative Discipline for Schools” and “What Will Happen to Me?” Prior to joining MC USA Executive Board staff in 2022, she served as the foster care supervisor for COBYS Family Services, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Stutzman Amstutz graduated from Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, Virginia, with a bachelor’s degree in social work. She earned her master’s in social work from Marywood University, Scranton, Pennsylvania.
The Center for Community Justice is rooted in the principles of Restorative Justice and assists Elkhart County through Restorative Mediation and Facilitation, Restorative Reentry work and Restorative Training.
Mennonite Church USA is an Anabaptist Christian denomination, founded in 2002 by the merger of the Mennonite Church and the General Conference Mennonite Church. Members of this historic peace church seek to follow Jesus by rejecting violence and resisting injustice. MC USA’s Renewed Commitments state the following shared commitments among its diverse body of believers: to follow Jesus, witness to God’s peace and experience the transformation of the Holy Spirit. Mennoniteusa.org
Written by Camille Dager.
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