(Photo courtesy: Nate Coady) “Dennis Everett Jr. educated students on the importance of restorative justice.”
On Tuesday, October 24, Dennis Everett Jr, spoke in Coburn Hall on South Campus as part of the College of Fine Arts and Social Sciences Dean’s Speaker Series. He is the Director of Restorative Justice at the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS). He is also the Director of Reentry for UTEC, a non-profit organization that serves Lowell, Lawrence, and Haverhill. The organization promotes wellness and success for individuals involved in the Justice System.
Everett grew up in Haverhill and had an upbringing of crime and instability, even becoming a gang enforcer, before turning around and supporting others with similar experiences using the virtues of restorative justice. Students may also know him by his rap name, “Green Monstar.” He makes music about positivity and growth, inspiring people to become their best selves.
He believes in restorative justice, which places rebuilding communities and reforming justice-involved people on a high pedestal. Everett describes it as, “The one thing about restorative justice is you come together and you build collective values, you build collective agreements. This is a great container for people to work together… when we come together restoratively, it’s all about the collective group… what’s best for the collective.” Working with UTEC, he is able to connect with people and help them get on track to becoming a better person.
In this way, restoring power and agency to the individual is prioritized, which is not always so in the justice system today. Everett says, “The criminal justice system, you know, it’s crime and punishment. What we do is repair harm. So, it’s harm-focused, it’s victim-focused… [restorative justice] is more focused on repairing the harm as much as possible. Some harm can’t be repaired… if someone lost their child to homicide, some people will never forget, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t work all around.”
Everett says “Massachusetts is leading” in the effort to combat mass incarceration and prioritize reentry into society, acknowledging how hard it is to “fight something and pay attention to humanitarian needs.” UTEC plays a pivotal part in that, as they reform young people who were involved in the justice system and guide them away from gang life. In Everett’s words, “They do a bunch of reentry work and they pretty much meet young people who are gang-involved and deter them– or bring them home– and deter them from going back to the gang lifestyle.”
“I work with them professionally… I go into the prisons. Anything restorative justice, I scale it through the whole criminal justice system… to solve gang violence we have to engage everyone,” says Everett. He and other UTEC professionals will go to jails or juvenile detention centers and facilitate group talking circles, where people can share their experiences and receive feedback on how to deal with and address their common struggles.
Everett is also teaching a course with the Massachusetts Police Training Committee to help police officers understand the goals of restorative justice. The course is aimed at
“equip[ing] officers with new tools to build community trust and apply trauma-informed strategies,” and will take place on November 6.