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Conversion and the Rehabilitation of the Penal System

Thu, Jan 28 at 7:00pm
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Sheriff Tom DartCook County

Andrew SkotnickiManhattan College

Thomas DonnellyCircuit Court of Cook County

*THIS EVENT WILL BE POSTPONED. Due to unavoidable conflicts, this event will be rescheduled for a later time in February. Schedule TBA*

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8 PM EST / 7 PM CST (GMT -6)

Free and open to the public. This event will be held online through Zoom (registration required) and live-streamed to YouTube. This event is co-sponsored by the Catholic Lawyers Guild of Chicago, the Boston College Law School, the National Center for the Laity, and Oxford University Press.

There is growing bipartisan awareness of the need to reform the American criminal justice system. Solutions have been sought for over-criminalization, over-incarceration, and the disproportionate effect of the system upon minority communities. Many have observed a difference between European models of criminal justice, such as that in Germany, and the unique harshness of their American counterpart.

Yet the answer to the ongoing crisis may lie beyond mere policy changes. Professor Andrew Skotnicki of Manhattan College argues that the problems inherent to our criminal justice system are rooted in misguided theology and anthropology. Join Professor Skotnicki and Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart for their discussion of Skotnicki’s book, Conversion and the Rehabilitation of the Penal System (Oxford University Press, 2019), moderated by Cook County Judge Tom Donnelly. They will consider the origins of the current criminal justice system, the challenges that it faces, and the resources from the Catholic tradition that may offer a way forward. 

Sheriff Tom Dart has lived a life dedicated to effecting change, protecting the unprotected and fighting for social justice. After serving the community as a prosecutor and state legislator, Sheriff Dart decided to run for Cook County Sheriff in 2006 on a promise of using this incredible platform to advocate on behalf of the most vulnerable and neglected communities among us. In the ensuing years, he has fulfilled that promise by enacting meaningful social justice reforms and has rewritten the book on what a Sheriff can accomplish. In particular, Sheriff Dart’s restorative justice vision has reduced the number of non-violent offenders detained at Cook County Jail – one of the largest jails in the nation – while spreading awareness nationally of the ongoing criminalization of mental illness. In 2017, Governing Magazine named Sheriff Dart a Public Official of the Year. TIME Magazine named him one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2009. Sheriff Dart and his wife Patricia live on Chicago’s South Side and are the proud parents of five children.


Andrew Skotnicki is professor in theological and criminological ethics at Manhattan College in New York City. He received an undergraduate degree in History from Marquette University, an MA in Ecclesiastical History from the Washington Theological Union, and a Ph.D. in Religion and Society from the Graduate Theological Union. He has published numerous essays on the theological and ethical implications of criminal justice as well as four books, the latest of which Conversion and the Rehabilitation of the Penal System: A Theological Rereading of Criminal Justice (Oxford, 2019) was the recipient of the 2019 Aldersgate Prize. His latest volume, The Prophets Are All Crazy: Injustice, Insight, Insanity, Incarceration is under review for Bristol University Press. He has spent many years working in the jails and prisons of America, including nine years as a chaplain at the Cook County Jail in Chicago. For the past nine years, he has taught an accredited college course in the jails of New York City. Over 70 of the confined students who have completed the course have received tuition free classes at Manhattan College. 


The Honorable Thomas More Donnelly serves as an Associate Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County. He is assigned to the Law Division. Sworn in as a judge in 2000, he currently serves in the Law Division, Trial Section.  He has tried over 300 jury trials.  He currently sits on Illinois Judicial College Board of Trustees with a term expiring 2023 and serves as liaison to the Committee on Judicial Education. From 2016 to 2019, he served as the inaugural chair of the Illinois Judicial College Board. Additionally, he serves on the faculty of the National Judicial College and teaches judges around the country. He served on the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Pretrial Practices from its inception until its final report 2018-2020. The Illinois Supreme Court appointed him as one of two judicial representatives on the Statutory Court Fee Task Force and he served on the task force from its inception until its final report 2016-2019.  He has taught at Loyola Law School for the past thirty years.  While he has taught five different courses, he currently teaches Illinois Civil Procedure. He has taught or lectured at many other law schools:  Marquette, University of Chicago, Washington & Lee, DePaul.  He teaches widely with bar associations and other groups.