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Chelsea Human Rights Commission hears about restorative justice

By Lisa Carolin

The Chelsea Human Rights Commission invited Kathie Gourlay, a proponent of restorative justice, to its Oct. 2 meeting.

The topic of restorative justice was raised by Chelsea High School Principal Mike Kapolka, who said that the high school is trying to incorporate aspects of restorative justice with students and families.

Gourlay explained to HRC members that victims are a part of this type of justice and contribute their opinions to how offenders can be rehabilitated. Victims are able to tell their stories to the offenders, who also have a chance to tell why they did what they did.

She explained that she is not a professional in the field but has been interested in criminal justice reform for many years. She said that with restorative justice, the emphasis is on what harm was caused and how to repair it.

Gourlay is a member of Friends of Restorative Justice of Washtenaw County with the goal to bring restorative justice to the courts of Washtenaw County. She also had a family member who was incarcerated.

In a separate matter, HRC members disagreed about whether they could make a recommendation to the Chelsea City Council regarding the H.R. 5 Equality Act, which was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives in May and extends civil rights protections to LGBTQ people.

HRC member Rod Anderson objected to the motion, but was outvoted 4-1. The motion, which was to recommend to the Chelsea City Council that it draft a resolution to support the H.R.5 Equality Act as it is consistent with the HRC’s non-discrimination ordinance, was then approved by HRC members 4-1 (Anderson against it.)

The HRC will hold a work session on Thursday, Oct. 17 at 1:30 p.m. when Washtenaw County Racial Equity Officer Alize Asberry Payne will visit Chelsea.

The purpose of the session will be to learn what Payne’s office is doing and what kind of role the Chelsea HRC and the wider community could play.

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