Webinar: Sustaining Restorative Justice: exploring innovative funding approaches
Aleah Bacquie Vaughn, Founding Director of the Criminal Justice Initiative (CJI), was previously Deputy Director at the American Committee on Africa and The Africa Fund, where she championed the release of political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu, and divestment from companies doing business with South Africa’s apartheid government.
In South Africa, Aleah worked for the South African Council of Churches to decrease violence in the East Rand; on the Independent Electoral Commission, to educate communities about voting in the country’s historic first democratic elections; for the World Council on Religion and Peace, which first called for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission; and for the Women’s Development Foundation, which supported electing women to national government.
Returning to the US in 1996, Aleah worked on the Jubilee campaign to cancel African debt, and demand HIV/AIDS medication for African countries. As Director of Social Justice Ministries for Riverside Church, she created Sojourners, a ministry to support and advocate for releasing people detained in U.S. facilities.
Aleah is the granddaughter of Irene Morgan, of the Morgan v. Virginia Supreme Court decision against segregation in interstate travel. The Freedom Rides supported her case. Aleah is the proud, fierce mother of two black boys.
Seth Weiner is a restorative justice enthusiast and advocate based in New York City. Originally from Los Angeles, he came of age around incredible peacemakers and healers from the Shade Tree Multicultural Foundation, Homeboy Industries, Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural, the Western Gate Roots and Wings Foundation, the Watts Community Self-Determination Institute and others. Weiner earned a degree in Community Studies from the University of California at Santa Cruz and later a JD from Loyola Law School, where he helped run the Center for Restorative Justice. He served as a program officer for the Porticus Foundation between 2013 and 2018 working on initiatives pursuing restorative justice, criminal justice reform, immigration reform, homelessness and wellness in indigenous communities around the US and abroad. Weiner lives with his wife, Ngoc, and two baby boys, Shem and Sol.
Gretchen N. Rohr, prior to her arrival at Open Society, she served as a Magistrate Judge at the DC Superior Court, one of the country’s most powerful trial benches. Yet, like millions before her, she was powerless in her private battle to keep her own family members from cycling through the country’s debilitating criminal industrial complex. Gretchen joined Open Society Foundations in 2016 to regain a glimpse of justice outside the constraints of a punitive paradigm. Now she manages US grantmaking on community accountability, harm reduction and diversion resources to end arrests for drug involvement, sex work and street economies. She also contributes to the design of rapid response initiatives and OSF’s annual selection of the Soros Justice and Equality Fellows. Gretchen most enjoys working on a participatory fund alongside field and funding activists, developing infrastructure for a transformative justice movement led by survivors failed by policing, imprisonment and state surveillance. Gretchen has lectured extensively across the country on effective workforce and leadership development for incarcerated youth and adults, reconciliation and restorative practices for building safe communities, and legal procedures which resolve instead of add to people’s traumatic experience.
In her free time, Gretchen supports integration of contemplative practices while teaching at local law schools and with the Insight Meditation Community of Washington. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the faith-based activism of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship and mindfulness retreat programs under Inward Bound Mindfulness Education. Gretchen is one of 120 Buddhist leaders nationwide called to participate in the first Whitehouse Buddhist Leadership Conference in 2015. She is a graduate of the Insight Community Dharma Leadership Program (CDL5) and the Generative Somatics Transformative Leadership Training. Gretchen’s work and writings are featured in Mindful Magazine, the Lion’s Roar/BuddhaDharma Magazine and the Huffington Post Pioneers Series.
Gretchen’s first trainings in meditation were in 1994 while working alongside formerly imprisoned activists who developed techniques to free themselves from the ravages of abuse and rage within solitary confinement. These teachings in interdependent awakening supported her professional life restoring justice within communities in need of healing; they ultimately led to her life of public service. Her first exposure to Restorative Justice was through her graduate training at Oxford University and administration of the Rhodes Scholar targeted reparations fund. As a facilitator with Insight on the Inside, Gretchen helped launch the first expansion of meditation trainings within the D.C. Jail and subsequently led a weekly yoga and meditation gathering at the city’s only Prison Halfway House for Women. In 2013, she mobilized the meditation community to create accessible spaces in D.C. where meditation practitioners can take refuge after exiting jail and prison and train to become the next generation of teachers. Her work, in partnership with leaders in the reentry community, culminated in a meditation and reconciliation series integrated within DC neighborhoods experiencing a spike in gun violence and events where community members share meditation and mindfulness practices to restore personal balance and open-hearted healing.