Schoene Mahmood envisions justice outside the courtroom | Social justice

Schoene Mahmood facilitates the restorative methodology she has used in over 700 conferences. In 2013, Mahmood expanded his practice to LMU, local K-12 districts, and the entertainment industry.

Schoene Mahmood is the Program Director of the Restorative Justice Project at the Center for Urban Resilience (CURe). In 18 years of work, she has facilitated more than 700 restorative justice conferences and community circles in Maryland and California. His individual cases have included minor eviction, arrest, sexual harassment, K-12 behavioral disputes, and diversion cases. Mahmood has dedicated seven years to his work on the LMU campus, as well as his external projects in Los Angeles. Thirteen of those cases settled disputes on campus, including noise violations, vandalism, interpersonal disputes, and theft.

Mahmood’s dedication to proactive justice first manifested itself in a traditional office environment. “People would come up to me and ask me to meet other people or talk about conflicts and incidents of harm. My first instinct was to bring all the parties together to have a conversation around the incident or the tensions,” she recalls. “People were very reluctant to do that, and I didn’t have the skills to bring people together that way.”

Later, she found the skill she was looking for in restorative justice. Mahmood received formal training at the Community Conference Center under Dr. Lauren Abramson of Johns Hopkins Medical Institute. Dr. Abramson and his Australian colleagues have adapted this mythology from the approach to diversionary justice of the Maori people of New Zealand.

After learning from Dr. Abramson, Mahmood began working with her on cases. She recalled that exploring this methodology early on “was really exciting, because it felt very natural and it allowed us to provide a structure for people to come together.”

Mahmood has found that the emphasis on face-to-face conversation allows people to really “hold themselves accountable. [Restorative justice allows people] to identify how their actions affect each other, then find ways to make things better, to right the wrong.

She realized that the core elements of this practice aligned closely with her own values. As a result, she found that this practice can be used in more spaces and, in fact, restorative justice has been helpful in informing her own problem solving.

“You know, it’s such a relief to be able to use the questions we ask when, for example, a family member comes to me with a challenge, instead of offering unsolicited advice, which may seem like the right thing to do in the moment,” she admitted. “I can ask about what’s going on, how everyone’s been affected by this, and then what they think should be done to make things better or to take the next step to fix the problems.”

Throughout her practice, it has remained clear that including offenders and victims of all definitions in the conversation inspires a more engaging solution. “The response I get is that people feel heard and understood, and as a result, they’re more likely to move forward with the solution, because it’s their idea against me trying to impose my views on them. values ​​to understand it.”

After conducting more than 400 community conferences in Maryland, Mahmood took his diversion work to Los Angeles. “I learned that there were no diversion works at the time,” she explained. “And so I had the good advantage of meeting [then LMU] Professor Scott Wood,” Mahmood said.

Wood first established the Center for Restorative Justice at Loyola Law School. He would later arrive at LMU’s Playa Vista campus in 2013. Mahmood first worked under Professor Dr. Eric Strauss, Ph.D. Executive Director of CURes and Professor of Biology. and Wood. She officially joined the Restorative Justice Project as a consultant in 2013, and in 2015 as Program Manager for the project.

As part of the project, Mahmood partnered directly with the Office of Student Affairs to implement restorative practices campus-wide. LMU CURes recently received a grant to launch the Southern California Restorative Justice Consortium. Guided by Mahmood, the consortium seeks to “educate future generations of restorative justice leaders in scholarship, practice, and implementation, and to create a regional model that can be replicated nationally.”

“She makes a [community] session for us before each of our staff meetings,” Dr. Strauss said. “She will ask probing questions and things like that. And it changed the way we operate as a band.

Strauss may come from a different field of study than Mahmood, but he recognizes how burdensome the nature of that field can be. “It’s a humbling field, because you meet people who struggle through incredible challenges.”

Contrary to the landscape nature of this methodology, Dr. Strauss hails Mahmood’s resilience in today’s culture. “We now live in an environment with TikTok and Instagram where people are constantly promoting themselves, and that’s become the norm, but Schoene is humble and blemish-worthy, you know,” Strauss explained. “She always exceeds her professional abilities. The size of his heart is simply amazing. She finds an emotional empathy with almost everyone she meets.

Mahmood strongly believes that diversion is not only more productive, but also more effective for those who need the conversation the most. She explained that “my cases consistently prove the importance of offering such structure, as time and time again I encounter communities of people who have experienced conflict and are unable to find ways to undo the harm in their own way. .”

Although she has facilitated over 700 conferences on restorative justice, she carries with her some notable cases. Mahmood worked on cases in the entertainment industry, including helping employees of a TV show dealing with sexual assault and misconduct.

The restorative justice effort has also worked with more than 11 K-12 school districts under the leadership of Dr. Strauss and Mahmood.

She also hasn’t forgotten about a case she led in Baltimore while helping with diversion from juvenile court. Three teenagers had stolen and damaged a car, but two were legally minors, while the third was 19 years old. Due to the fact that the 19-year-old was a legal adult, a jury trial was requested. The car owner was willing to pursue the two minors in a restorative justice case, but Mahmood recalls the car owner was still reluctant. The incident had taken a toll on her life, but she affirmed the importance of the practice when she told him, “You know, this is your chance to have this conversation, to let them know how much you are affected, and also, for all of you. to collectively determine what you want to see happen to make things better. ‘”

Instead of meeting in court and placing the reins of punishment in the hands of a judge, she facilitated conversations where each side could really get along. She recalled that the minors “were able to hear from the owner of the car, and learn that he was really scared. He feared being targeted. »

Mahmood said the exercise inspired conversations that a court case might not have sparked. After the car’s owner shared his insight, Mahmood recalled that “young people got to talk about it being just a really practical car that was easy to get into. That’s why they chose it, and they just needed to drive through town. So it was nothing, they weren’t aiming at him.

She found it transformative after the chaos of the incident, seeing that “the young boys had to really think about how it was a mistake and they hadn’t thought about all the different ways it affected the whole thing. of the group. And so they apologized.

As the minors and the car owner bonded and grew in ways they may never have anticipated, the 19-year-old requested that his case be reviewed by judges and a jury. The judge concluded that the case was an absurd use of resources and dismissed it. “So the 19-year-old, you know, what did he learn?” Mahmood explained, “Instead of these two 16-year-olds, they had the chance to have a one-on-one with everyone. They learned valuable lessons.

She reflected on the case with pride, knowing that after stealing and damaging a car, the teenagers were truly able to fix their mistake and find peace with the car’s owner. She shared that the car owner “felt a sense of peace in a way our current system might not be able to allow.”

Mahmood said she sees the current legal system as deeply flawed, due to the way blame is placed without intervening between the parties. “In our current system, it’s usually an authority figure or the institution that determines what the punishment should be, rather than engaging with the person who was hurt.”

Looking ahead, Mahmood thinks wider practice of this methodology could greatly benefit the way people solve problems. “The starting point is for us to make systemic change, we need to be able to sit down together and share our stories, and also invite people to be part of the problem-solving process,” she said. declared. “If we don’t take the time to have this conversation, we’re missing out on some really creative problem solving.”

Elna M. Lemons