JUSTINE DARLING HAS FOUND HER MISSION IN LIFE
“The year after I graduated from USD was the hardest, most important year of my life.
Working with homeless youth in Newark, N.J., I was spit on, hit, pushed … basically, everything they did to each other, they did to me too, because they were so angry. These kids were from the streets of one of the harshest cities in our country. I was in court with them every day as their legal advocate.
I believe in justice. I thought the most powerful way I could create justice would be as a lawyer, and I wanted to try out the system. After that year, I realized that the juvenile justice system is broken and I needed to find an alternative way to help our youth.
The master’s program in peace and justice here was perfect. Within the first week or two, I stumbled upon restorative justice. I get so excited when I talk about it. It brings victims and offenders together in a face-to-face conference so everyone has a voice and together we can address the needs of all parties.
We mend the harm caused to the victim. We address what led to the offender’s actions. It’s a beautiful process.
Right now, I’m putting together a student-led restorative justice program at USD through the student conduct system, and we are working on setting up its home in the Center for Conflict Resolution at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice.
I have a lot to do. I’ll be in Northern Ireland soon for an internship with their youth justice agency, which is converting to a system based on restorative justice. I’m working with a mediation program in San Diego that is studying the effects of restorative justice on our youth and advocating for restorative justice in the juvenile justice system. And for my thesis, I’ll be surveying all of the U.S. universities using restorative justice to figure out best practices so we can have the best program in the country.
It’s important to start at universities. If our educated youth — who are ultimately going to be our country’s leaders and policymakers — understand the power of restorative justice as a way to resolve conflict, then our country’s culture will slowly start to change. That’s how we’ll eventually be able to transform the juvenile justice system in San Diego, the U.S. and hopefully, in time, around the world.
There are so many people here at USD who are making this possible. It’s almost like we all have had the same vision and now are finally coming together and saying, ‘Yeah, I think it’s time.’
I came into USD my freshman year as a very shy, unsure, anxiety-filled person. But I knew I had the passion and the drive to do something really wonderful and that God would put me on the path to find my mission in life. I really believe that USD helped me find it. I’ve been met with nothing but encouragement to do the right thing and to do what I love.
Now that I know how I will create justice in the world, I have peace in my heart.”
— Justine Darling, BA, Psychology ’08, MA,
Peace and Justice Studies, ’11