About Shawn Weneta
& Dustin Turner
RJBehindtheWire is a grassroots inmate initiative dedicated to the development and advancement of victim oriented offender rehabilitation through restorative justice principles and programming.
Recognizing a lack of restorative programming in prisons and correctional centers, Shawn Weneta and Dustin Turner (both incarcerated in the Virginia Department of Corrections) began researching restorative practices in 2013. The following year, Shawn and Dustin published a short program outline titled "Restorative Justice Behind the Wire" and launched RJBehindtheWire.org in hopes of fielding support and resources to bring restorative programming to the prisons they were housed. Though finding plenty of encouragement, they were surprised that there is very little programming that exists which fulfills both victim and offender needs as they understood them. With support and encouragement from many local restorative justice practitioners, Shawn and Dustin set out to develop a victim oriented offender rehabilitation program based on restorative practices that is tailored for the correctional environment.
In July of 2015, RJBehindtheWire.org was relaunched with new content and at the forefront is "Mending Fences: A Program Framework for Victim Oriented Offender Rehabilitation". Utilizing extensive reading, personal journaling, and face to face encounters with multiple victim impact panels, community members, and families of incarcerated individuals, program participants will better understand the far reaching impact of their actions upon victims, the community at large, and their own families and community of care. "Mending Fences" further addresses how restorative practices can be applied to daily prison life as well as various methods of restorative living in and out of prison.
Having gleaned both local and national support, including collaborative stakes in other correctional restorative justice programming with multiple universities, Shawn and Dustin continue to develop the "Mending Fences" curriculum with guidance from prominent restorative justice authors and practitioners. Upon completion, "Mending Fences" is scheduled to be piloted in prisons in multiple states, with university support and oversight.
RJBehindtheWire has also developed "Discovering Restorative Justice: A Convocation on Community Action & Offender Accountability". This program provides correctional practitioners with a blueprint to host a cooperative in-prison introductory restorative justice conference that brings offenders and community leaders together in dialogue in an effort to better understand and address issues of victim healing, offender rehabilitation, and community reintegration. Included in this convocation are presentations by restorative justice professionals, and community leaders, as well as small group workshops intended to catalyze discussion between community and offender participants.
RJBehindtheWire continues to grow and expand its mission to broader national goals. RJBehindtheWire and "Mending Fences" has been the subject of university criminal justice curriculums and was recently featured during victim advocate and DUI Promise founder Rene Napier's keynote address at the University of Wisconsin Conference on Restorative Justice. We are pleased to partner with Rene and The Meagan Napier Foundation in delivering the "Mending Fences" curriculum to an expanded audience in hopes of bringing healing to victims of crime and offenders alike.