Morris Jenkins said he directly benefited from the African proverb it takes a village to raise a child.
The assistant professor in the University of Toledo s criminal justice department said his tight-knit community kept an eye on him when his parents were off working long hours to make ends meet. He said incidents that today would have been turned over to the police were taken care of by a watchful and caring neighborhood.
Oh, I would have become part of the [criminal justice] system, growing up today, said Mr. Morris, who has taught at the University of Toledo for five years. If there were problems in the community, it was taken care of in the community, and the community came up with its own solutions.
Mr. Jenkins, 53, the legal redress chairman of the Toledo branch NAACP, said the idea of the community playing a positive role in the social problems of the community restorative justice could be the answer to a lot of problems facing young people in urban settings.
The idea of restorative justice and working with the community to take on its own issues of crime is nothing new, Mr. Jenkins said. He said restorative justice was prominent in Africa and many African-Americans carried those ideas with them once they were free from slavery and started establishing their own communities and neighborhoods.
He said restorative justice can take various forms. But it derives from the point of view that crime harms the community and the victim must be restored, often with restitution from the offender. The victim and the offender can participate in the process.
Mr. Jenkins grew up in Detroit and graduated from Pershing High School. He started his collegiate career at Michigan State before serving four years in the Army and two years in the Marines. After his military service, he enrolled in Chaflin College, a historically black institution in Orangeburg, S.C., and graduated with a bachelor s degree.
He earned his law degree from Stetson University college of law in Florida in 1985. He started practicing law but became disenchanted with the legal system. He did some adjunct teaching and returned to school at Northeastern University in Boston and earned his doctorate in 1994.
Mr. Jenkins said he has done research on gangs in cities like Boston and said efforts to incorporate some type of restorative justice programs in some of those neighborhoods were received well. He said he doesn t see a gang problem in Toledo after living here for five years.
I think you have a lot of wannabes, Mr. Jenkins said. Now, there are groups of kids hanging together, but are they gangs? I don t know. I just haven t seen a lot of these groups with the sophistication of gangs like you would find in bigger cities.
Mr. Jenkins said for restorative justice to work in Toledo, or anywhere, it would take the involvement of a variety of institutions, from churches, schools, to businesses. He said Toledo has a lot of components that would make restorative justice work, but he doesn t see a lot of collaboration between institutions and organizations.
WilliAnn Moore, president of the NAACP s Toledo branch, said she feels the organization is blessed to have Mr. Jenkins.
Dr. Jenkins has been a breath of fresh air, Ms. Moore said. He has brought a new perspective to the NAACP. He has brought to us a diverse community from UT, along with students and graduate students, to help us pursue some of our goals.
Mr. Jenkins said he hopes that his idea of restorative justice not only can find a home with the NAACP, but with his students and the local community. He said he believes it can make a difference, reducing crime and keeping jails and prisons from filling up with people who could be an asset to society and not a burden to it like himself.
Contact Clyde Hughes at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6095.