About 30 community members gathered to listen and talk with Father Robert Oldershaw and Susan Trieschmann about their expertise in restorative justice and vision of a peaceable city. The forum at the Gibbs-Morrison Cultural Center elicited discussion of preventive measures members of the Evanston community are taking to decrease violence and assist in the rehabilitation of offenders with victims and the community.
Since May 2012, Ms. Trieschmann has served as Executive Director at Curt’s Café, a business that employs young adults living in at-risk situations. When answering a question about the implementation of restorative techniques at Curt’s Café, Ms. Trieschmann said, “We do our best to do everything at the café restoratively; we try to teach them different ways to deal with frustration, disappointment, and mistakes.” She added, “We hold people accountable. Instead of screaming and making them feel lesser, it is important to sit down and talk with them. It is all about modeling be-havior and teaching them. If we misdirect our anger and don’t forgive individuals, then that means there are angry people out there and angry people can’t make things better.”
A community member asked how the café dealt with the death of its crewmember and Evanstonian, Bejamin “Bo” Mandujano-Bradford on Jan. 17, 2017. Ms. Trieschmann said, “When we lost Bejamin that was one of the worst days of my life. But the good thing is that after it happened, a ton of community members came to the café to support and help us heal. I have forgiven the child who committed the crime, but I do not know if I could handle another one of my students being killed.”
Fr. Oldershaw shared his experience in dealing with a death that affected Evanston and specifically St. Nicholas Parish in 1996. The forum showed three video clips of a WTTW documentary called “Justice That Heals.” The film examined the aftermath of the fatal shooting of a 19-year-old Evanston man, Andrew Young, by an 18-year-old Evanstonian, Mario Ramos, on June 10, 1996. Mario Ramos served as an altar boy for St. Nicholas Parish, and his family still attends the church.
Fr. Oldershaw talked of his role in bringing the afflicted families together and his attempts to reconcile a violent situation that affected members of his faith community. A community member asked Fr. Oldershaw how he deals with individuals having trouble with forgiveness or reconciliation.
He said, “People come to me saying they have a grudge against a mother or father, or one thing or another. And I sort of have a stock answer to them. I ask them, ‘Is it working?’ The answer I get back is ‘No.’”
After the film concluded, Fr. Oldershaw asked Ms. Trieschmann, “How does this film strike you?” In response, she said, “There is always something new. What strikes me is that we really stink at this stuff, stink at reconciliation. As a society, we don’t allow ourselves to forgive ourselves for hating someone or a situation.” Fr. Oldershaw added that, “Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. That is key in this thing. If you don’t forgive yourself first, that hurt will continue within you.”
Audience members continued to ask questions about violence prevention methods and restorative justice practices in Evanston. Conversation began to shift as members asked advice on how to deal with conditions of mass shootings in the United States and the current political climate. When the forum ended, Fr. Oldershaw and Ms. Trieschmann conversed and visited with the crowd members late into the evening.