Fresno Metro Ministry, the Interfaith Alliance of Central California and the Fresno Ministerial Association sponsored the event. The award is named for Carl and Esther Robinson, Central Valley champions for social justice programs for more than 40 years.
"The world stage today is dominated by wars and other forms of violent conflict," says David E. Roy, chair of the award committee and past president of the Fresno Ministerial Association. "Certainly, anyone who promotes peaceful conflict resolution to the extent that Dr. Claassen has is serving the common good."
Claassen has dedicated his career to restorative justice. Instead of simply punishing an offender, restorative justice brings together the offender, victim and others to recognize the injustice, search for way to make things as right as possible and develop a plan for a safe and healthy future.
Among the efforts Claassen is most excited about are the creation and implementation of restorative discipline systems at FPU, Raisin City School (with his wife, Roxanne) and Immanuel High School, Reedley. "Until restorative justice is embedded in policy and structure, it will continue to be patronized by authorities and not seen as a primary way of dealing with violations and injustices," Claassen said.
Toward that end, Claassen is working to secure legislation that will embed restorative justice into the Fresno County Juvenile Justice system. Also involved are the county probation and sheriff's departments, San Joaquin College of Law, California State University, Fresno and CPACS.
A few other highpoints of Claassen's work:
* Co-founded the Victim Offender Reconciliation Program (VORP) for the Central Valley, CPACS and Mediation Associates. Directs CPACS and formerly directed VORP.
* Helped design and oversee a local pilot court program in which the VORP process was used to create restorative justice sentencing for non-violent felony offenders.
* Helped design and teach the first alternative dispute resolution classes at the San Joaquin College of Law.
The author of more than two-dozen articles and other publications, Claassen has conducted more than 150 teaching workshops and seminars locally, nationally and internationally on the topic of peacemaking and restorative justice. He has a B.A. from Fresno Pacific University (then college), an M.A. from Louisiana State University, an M.Div. in pastoral counseling from the Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries and a D.Min. from San Francisco Theological Seminary.
Claassen works frequently with wife Roxanne Harvin Claassen. They have been married almost 40 years and have two grown children and one grandchild.
Now in their 90s, Carl and Esther Robinson moved to Fresno in 1962. Carl was pastor to the Belmont Christian Church and later chaplain at Fresno Community Hospital. Esther worked with the League of Women Voters as well as local, regional and national boards of the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ. Both served on the board of Fresno Metro Ministry.
For more on the award, go to robinsoncommongood.org