JSA History

In 1995 Dennis Sullivan and Larry Tifft discussed the possibility of creating a new journal that would publish work on justice that had a difficult time finding a home in conventional academic journals because of its view of the nation-state and the globalizing market economy. They began to outline an issue of the journal which they tentatively called Contemporary Criminology: A Journal of Ideas Predisposed Toward Radical Democratization. It was hoped that the first issue might arrive during the Fall of 1996.

About the same time, Dennis and Larry also spoke about creating a new association for scholars, activists, and practitioners that would serve as an alternative to the conventional academic criminology and criminal justice organizations. It was suggested that the members of this association might come together each year and share their ideas and discuss their current work in mostly plenary sessions. Great emphasis would be put on the participation of everyone present through extensive discussions. An invitation would be extended to all those associated with the restorative justice community who, though they met periodically around the globe, had no permanent home or community with which to share their ideas and find support.

It was also apparent that there were small groups of scholars in the academic fields of anthropology, political science, religious studies, and sociology among other academic disciplines which were grappling with nonviolent, non-state, non-power-economy-based approaches to justice. Moreover, many of the people interested in these issues were not limiting their concerns about justice to criminal or even restorative justice but were in fact extending them to matters within the family, the school, the workplace, and the neighborhood.

To help with the establishment of the new journal and the new association, the Institute for Economic and Restorative Justice was formed. It was intended to serve as a catalytic agent to bring the new journal and association into existence. After Larry and Dennis guest-edited a special issue of The Justice Professional on “Criminology as Peacemaking,” Dennis began negotiations with Gordon & Breach to publish a journal not on criminology or criminal justice but on justice issues generally. The journal would be called Contemporary Justice Review with a subtitle of Issues in Criminal, Social, and Restorative Justice. Thanks to G&B Editor, Kirsty Mackay, the journal soon became a reality. In the meantime, Dennis and Larry in collaboration with Peter Cordella and Peter Sanzen began work toward making a trial-run of the new association in the form of a conference in Albany, New York.

This three-day conference was held in early June 1997. Its theme was “Justice Without Violence: Views From Peacemaking Criminology and Restorative Justice.” It was cosponsored by the Institute for Economic and Restorative Justice and the Criminal Justice Department of Hudson Valley Community College. There was great uncertainty about how many people would come but in fact over 165 scholars, practitioners, and activists of justice from all parts of the U. S., Canada, New Zealand, England, and Australia, arrived to examine new ways to think about and practice justice without violence. And somewhat contradictory to the usual way of doing business at such meetings, at the conclusion of the conference, almost everyone who came was still present. Moreover, the full participatory format was well received and thoroughly enjoyed.

The following June (1998) about a dozen people were invited to Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire for a three-day symposium to discuss issues of restorative justice but also to talk about ways to further the development of the new association. Among those present were David Karp of Skidmore College, Javier Treviño of Wheaton College, Peter Sanzen of Hudson Valley Community College, Peter Cordella and Polly Smith of Saint Anselm College, Dennis Sullivan of the Institute for Economic and Restorative Justice, Fred Boehrer and Diana Conroy of the Albany Catholic Worker, and Frank Kirkpatrick of Trinity College, CT.

Then, in November of that year, during the 50th annual meeting of the American Society of Criminology in Washington, DC, Javier Treviño, Peter Sanzen, Peter Cordella, Larry Tifft, Dennis Sullivan, Hal Pepinsky (who was presenting at the time of the formal organizational meeting), and Fred Boehrer (who had to return home early) met to form the new international association which was named Justice Studies Association (JSA). The cofounders decided that, while the new association would be concerned about issues of criminology and criminal justice, its focus would extend globally to issues of justice in all areas of our lives.

The cofounders also emphasized how important it was that the association welcome activists and practitioners as well as scholars to share their ideas and current work and hopefully collaborate on projects. Hence, we continue to see members come from all fields of academic endeavor interested in justice: anthropology, social work, history, religion, criminal justice, sociology, psychology, law, among others. And the work that people come to share ranges from broad theories of social justice to specific restorative justice demonstration projects including direct action and practice. Members of JSA continue to reiterate that the association considers activists and practitioners to be an essential part of its makeup. They are seen as an integral part of the mix that gives depth to the exchanges that take place throughout each conference. The first formal conference of JSA was held in June 1999, also at Saint Anselm College. The 2000 conference was held in Albany, New York in May/June 2000, attracting participants internationally and from all parts of the U. S. At the membership meeting at the close of this conference, the association’s first officers were selected: A. Javier Treviño, president; Beverly Quist, vice president; Dan Okada, treasurer; and Hal Pepinsky, secretary