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AFSC launches restorative justice project in Michigan

Ron Simpson and Pete Martel, AFSC Michigan
Ron Simpson, left, and Pete Martel work with AFSC Michigan's Criminal Justice Program. Photo: AFSC

The Lifer Intern Project of AFSC in Michigan is embarking on an ambitious, long-term project in which restorative justice practices and principles are applied through various programs to offenders serving life sentences and long-indeterminate-sentences (LIDs) in Michigan prisons. The purpose of restorative justice in prisons is to assist with the offender's rehabilitation and eventual reintegration into society.

By repairing the harm to the relationships between offenders and victims, and offenders and the community that resulted from the crime, restorative justice seeks to understand and address the circumstances that contributed to the crime in order to prevent recidivism once the offender is released. It is our mission to transform these offenders/returning citizens into community assets both inside and outside of prison.

The ultimate goal of this project is two-fold. First, the overall Restorative Justice Project seeks to impact legislation and Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) policy affecting Lifers and LIDs. Through the project work with outside groups and community forums, we seek to shift public discourse on punishment in Michigan from one centered only on punishment and retribution to one that includes personal redemption, community restoration, and social duties.

Secondly, we are launching a program tentatively called the “Returning Citizen Project,” in which we will pair up individual offenders with a volunteer organization, group, or concerned citizen for a long-term mentoring and support relationship. The outside participants in this part of the project will be instructed on interacting with their “mentee” and will be provided comprehensive topics for letter and essay writing, as well as other extensive materials and information to facilitate the mentoring process.

Our goal is to help the offenders atone for their crimes against the community by helping them give back to the community through our programs and to prepare these offenders to be productive citizens upon their eventual return to society.

The project is in the early stages of development. We will be seeking input from the community and concerned citizens. We are also seeking volunteer churches, faith-based groups, civic groups, community organizations, businesses, and concerned individuals to participate in the long-term mentoring program. If you or anyone you know is interested or has questions, please contact Ron at:

Ronald D. Simpson
Lifer Intern Project, AFSC Michigan
1414 Hill St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
517-761-8283 ext. 1

Ronald D. Simpson II brings to the table a well-documented history as a staunch advocate, promoter, and defender of prisoner rights from having served a 27-year sentence with the MDOC (1985-2012). He worked as a staff paralegal in the criminal law division of the former Prison Legal Services of Michigan for approximately 13 years.

During this time he served as a named Plaintiff and class representative on the largest prisoner class action lawsuit in Michigan history, Cain v MDOC, tried in the Michigan Court of Claims from 1988-2005. He has headed up numerous organizations, developed and facilitated many prisoner self-help programs and activities ranging from juvenile at-risk youth deterrence, to parenting from prison, to parole for older prisoner projects.

Ron is a co-founder of the Chance For Life (CFL) organization operating out of downtown Detroit and currently serves as a CFL board member. He has attended Eastern Michigan University, Mott Community College, and Jackson Community College. He has a UAW journeyman's card as a diemaker and worked for almost ten years at General Motors' A.C. Spark Plug Division.

Ron operates Mechanics First, a small auto repair business with his brother in Flint, Michigan. He has a love for the written word and has a published book. He has four adult children and loves bicycling, exercising, fishing and boating.