The M List 2016: Eugenia Highland

Passion for justice
The M List 2016: Eugenia Highland

The Restorative Justice program gives youth the option to avoid fines and a conviction record through a creative initiative that focuses on accountability, community safety and competency development. The bigger goal, however, is to address the school-to-prison pipeline that disproportionately impacts students of color, students with disabilities and LGBTQ students.

Ali Treviño-Murphy, Eugenia Highland and Bill Baldon are managers of the YWCA Madison’s Restorative Justice program, which advocates that compassion and accountability are more effective in reversing a pattern of misbehavior than punitive measures and prison.

The program centers on youth ages 12 to 16 and uses a variety of methods, such as peer support and mentoring, to help those who need guidance. A primary tactic is the use of peacekeeping circles, which engage young people in open and safe discussions about relationships and feeling connected. Each person in the circle has an equal voice.

YWCA Madison created the Restorative Justice program after the 2007 Racial Justice Summit in Madison, and started the program in schools in 2010. Restorative Justice has gained support from members of the judicial system as well as the Madison Metropolitan School District and Madison Police Department. Youths who face convictions or fines in municipal court are also allowed to enter the program.

“It’s a shift from shame and blame,” Baldon says, adding that youth who feel connected are less likely to do harm.

“We don’t want to be adding to the suffering, but want to help make things right,” says Treviño-Murphy.

Highland says, “We want to inform the public that changing the culture is a philosophy and a process.”

The M List

Madison Magazine’s M List is a who’s who of organizations and individuals who are having an impact on our local culture and economy. In its fourth year, the M List recognizes those making strides as mentors and teachers. Last year’s list of honorees were making impacts in the area of social innovation. The original M List, in 2013, honored the technology sector. The 2014 M List honored “Foodtastic” entrepreneurs and innovators.

Click here to return to the 2016 M List homepage.