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March 27, 2012
Justice Advocate Gail Rice to Speak at University of Dubuque

On Thursday, March 29, the University of Dubuque's Justice League will sponsor lecturer Gail Rice to speak on her stance on restorative justice.  The title of her presentation is A Murder Victim Family Member Discovers Restorative Justice.  The lecture will take place at 7:00 p.m. in Blades Hall.  The event is free and open to the public.

"This is an outstanding opportunity to hear a stimulating speaker in her mission for restorative justice, prison reform, death penalty abolition, and victims' rights," commented Holly Kammiller, senior criminal justice and sociology major.  "We hope that her presentation will be thought-provoking for all who attend."

Gail Rice has been involved in prison and jail ministry and literacy work for 33 years through Prison Fellowship and through tutoring weekly in PACE, an educational program for adults at Chicago's Cook County Jail.  She has worked over 40 years as a teacher, tutor, trainer, workshop presenter, author, and consultant in adult literacy, having published several materials for adults who are learning to read and for teachers and tutors of adults.  Rice received her master's degree in education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Rice's passion for restorative justice and for death penalty abolition developed following the 1997 death of her brother, Bruce VanderJagt, a Denver police officer.  VanderJagt was killed in a botched burglary attempt by a white supremacist who later committed suicide with VanderJagt's service revolver.  The murderer's accomplice, Lisl Auman, was sentenced to life without parole under the felony murder law.  Despite the accomplice's involvement in the crime, Rice argued against the felony murder law and a lifetime sentence for Auman, whose conviction was overturned after she had spent eight years in prison. 

Rice's introduction to restorative justice came through her involvement with groups like Murder Victims' Family Members for Human Rights, a death penalty abolition group for murder victims' family members and family members of those who were on death row or who had been executed.  She proudly represented murder victims' family members and worked with the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty to repeal Illinois' death penalty in 2011.  Rice has worked through her denomination (the Christian Reformed Church) to help write a synodical report on restorative justice and to promote restorative justice.  She is also active in a campaign for enforceable victims' rights in Illinois (Marsy's Law for Illinois).