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Grandma crim student chooses SFU for Fulbright

June 24, 2010

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Grandmother-of-three Tamera Jenkins of Independence, Mo., who is heading to SFU’s Centre for Restorative Justice this fall as a 2010–11 Fulbright student scholar, will use her $20,000 award money to help finance a master’s degree in criminology.

The 49-year-old, self-described late bloomer completed an undergraduate degree in criminal justice at Park University (Parkville, Mo.) and hopes to ultimately introduce the practice of restorative justice to the American corrections system.

"In restorative justice, all parties, including victims, come together to work out what they believe is right. Otherwise it is a revolving door with criminals entering and exiting prison," she says.

"In the U.S. we like to say we rehabilitate criminals while they are in prison, but the statistics don’t bear that out."

She says she chose SFU’s School of Criminology because it’s one of the world’s top criminal justice teaching and research centres and "Canada is a pioneer in the field of restorative justice."

She adds, "The Correctional Service of Canada supports a number of restorative justice initiatives in their federal prisons that don’t exist in the U.S."

Working with the Langley-based non-profit, Fraser Region Community Justice Initiatives, Jenkins will compare recidivism rates in the retribution-based U.S. correctional system with those in Canada’s victim-offender mediation programs. Her analysis will include a review of federal prisoners’ criminal histories and levels of participation in restorative or rehabilitative programs during their incarceration.

During internships at a federal prison and a county prosecutor’s office in Missouri, Jenkins concluded that victim-offender mediation would greatly improve the chances of offenders reintegrating into American communities.

Jenkins waited until the younger of her two children, her 18-year-old son, finished high school before launching herself into academia.

Now, she says, "It’s time my husband of 30 years and I spread our wings not just outside of our hometown, but also outside of our country."

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