Mar 11, 2014

Transforming Lives: Robyn Buseman

by: Rachel Quimby

Robyn Buseman (far left) poses with graduating members of the Guild Program in August 2012

Growing up during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s, Robyn Buseman was affected by assassinations of public figures, and in college at UC Berkeley, by prison rights activists such as George Jackson. Now the Restorative Justice Program Manager at Mural Arts Philadelphia, Robyn has seen a lot of change in the Restorative Justice field since she started as a young Criminology student in California where she helped reform sentencing laws.

Robyn became involved in the Restorative Justice field in the early 90’s while she was working as a Juvenile Probation Office in Chester County, Pennsylvania when the law was changed to include restorative justice work. Since then, Robyn has directed a residential program at St. Gabriel’s Hall for male juveniles placed by the court that incorporated mural painting through a collaboration with the Philadelphia Mural Arts Philadelphia. Six years ago, she joined Mural Arts and has been molding the Restorative Justice Program ever since.

Now, she says, the Restorative Justice Field is facing historical problems such as changing public opinion that “people who commit crimes shouldn’t have opportunities like this”. The Restorative Justice Program is changing that through public education and awareness around social justice issues within the criminal justice system. The program has a large campaign right now about mass incarcerations. Through art, posters, and a mural, they’re addressing the question, “why does this country have more people in jail than any other country per capita?” Robyn also manages the Restorative Justice Program’s partnership with local jails and a detention center to provide art programming for inmates, and the Guild Program that mentors and educates people coming out of prison through employment services and re-integration into the community. Robyn manages one full-time staff that coordinates the Guild Program, a part-time employment specialist, a number of teaching artists, and one part-time administrative assistant.

Robyn is excited for two events happening this month. On March 11, the Annual Restorative Justice Arts Show and Sale will display visual work that has been going on all year in the art programs through this department. Most of the art will be for sale and there will be exhibits about mural projects the program has made. Proceeds are split 90% to inmates and 10% to the inmate welfare fund, or 100% to the artist if they are not incarcerated. In attendance will be program participants and their family, staff, and policy makers. Everyone from the public is invited! And on April 15th, the Beyond the Wall symposium will engage criminal justice advocates, students, artists, returning citizens, others involved in the criminal justice system, and professionals in pointed discussions and special presentations about the complex issues surrounding the rise in incarceration rates throughout the country.

Speakers at the symposium include founder of JustLeadershipUSA Glen Martin, Secretary of the Department of Corrections John Wetzel, filmmaker El Sawyer, and vocal performer Bryonn Bain. Workshops topics include research and evaluation of programming, best practices in reentry work, and there will be a panel of formerly incarcerated people speaking about what their needs are when they come out.

Last updated: Mar 21, 2016

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