Bert Thompson Pioneer Award for Faith-Based Community and Restorative Justice


Bert Thompson Award
Bert Thompson Pioneer Award

The National Association of Community and Restorative Justice will honor the memory of Bert Thompson with an award in his name. The award shall recognize individuals who embody the characteristics that Bert Thompson brought to his work to broaden the application of community and restorative justice principles and practices.

Bert Thompson embodied unwavering faith; his community and restorative justice work reflected his faith-filled efforts. He lived his faith.

Community and restorative justice thrive when community partnerships and collaborative networks are created with synergy and connectivity. Bert Thompson lived this principle as a consummate networker. His successes were the result of partnerships with people of many faiths to promote peace and justice. His efforts were to reintegrate offenders and assist victims through faith–based applications of community and restorative justice principles and practices.

Servant leadership and volunteerism were reflected in Bert’s life as he worked tirelessly simply for the satisfaction of being useful as a servant to his community and to the restorative justice movement. Mr. Thompson was a role model, mentor, and encourager urging people toward greater personal involvement in their communities. His work was to connect people and employ community and restorative justice principles and practice as to help others.

Vision and “forward” thinking combined with faith driven optimism described Bert’s desire to see that community and restorative justice principles and practices become integral problem solving strategies for individuals and their communities. Bert was a statesman, finding common interests that often brought opposites together by focusing on strategies to build safer, more livable communities that spend less on justice systems.

Award Criteria

  • The nominee for the award must have a record of important and sustained contributions to the faith-based programs and services that deliver community and restorative justice practices that produce safer and more livable communities.
  • The nominee’s life work should reflect leadership in the community as well as the restorative justice movement.
  • The nominee’s efforts in faith-based programs should reflect an ideal of encouragement to those offenders to reinvent their lives after imprisonment.
  • The nominee’s acts should embody steadfast faith and idealism.
  • The nominee’s successes in the community and the prison system should reveal examples of guidance, encouragement, and an ability to be a role model.
  • The nominee’s background should include volunteerism, leadership, and the capability to interact with a variety of individuals.
  • The nominee’s biography should include examples of innPovation.

Recipients of the Bert Thompson Pioneer Award

2017 Recipient

Eric Boldiszar - Inmate at Handlon Correctional Facility, Ionia, MI

Eric Baldaszar - Bert Thompson Pioneer Award recipient 2017 NACRJ

Eric Boldiszar and 19 other men are students in the Calvin Prison Initiative, a five year program after which inmates will receive a bachelor's degree from Calvin College. Eric invited Jared Ortiz, a professor from Hope College, to speak to this group about restorative justice. A friendship developed and Eric had the idea of organizing a conference on restorative justice which could be co-sponsored by Hope College, the Calvin Prison Initiative, and the Saint Benedict Institute, the local Catholic intellectual and spiritual ministry which serves Hope College. Eric and his friends at Handlon Correctional Facility organized the full-day conference set for March 4, 2017. They conceived it, chose the speakers, wrote to the speakers, picked the topics and the panels, and even insisted on providing hospitality for the participants.

Under Eric's leadership, these men invited ten different organizations (mostly faith-based organizations that serve prisoners) to be present so these people could learn more about the work of restorative justice and get involved. The inmates also wrote and recorded three talks: one on the meaning of restorative justice, another on the various vocational programs at Handlon, and a third which was a call to prayer for victims, communities, and offenders. More than 300 people attended the conference which is also now available on YouTube for people to keep learning.* These men at Handlon, locked behind bars, were able to be a gift to the outside world. They not only have learned about restorative justice, but are practicing it and teaching it to others.

2015 Recipient

Scott Wood, JD, Professor of Law, Founder of the Loyola Law School Center for Restorative Justice

Prof. Scott Wood receives the Bert Thompson Award Faith Based Program from Pres. Mark Umbreit

Professor Scott Wood is an unsung hero of restorative justice in Los Angeles. He has played a leadership role in his faith community for many years on promoting restorative justice in schools, courts, prisons, re-entry programs, as well as policy and sentencing reform. Scott has served as the Chair of the Board of the Jesuit Restorative Justice Initiative, as the Founder of the Loyola Law School Center for Restorative Justice, a leader in the Southern California Catholics Against the Death Penalty, in the promotion of Proposition 34 to end the Death Penalty, in the exoneration case of Francisco Carrillo, Jr. after 20 years of wrongful imprisonment, and an organizer for American Martyrs Catholic Parish in Manhattan Beach, CA – including 2 mission trips to visit prisoners in Guatemala, including the coordination of a visit to Guatemala by Fr. Gregory Boyle of Homeboy Industries. Scott has overcome numerous health challenges in the past years and yet remains a strong voice of the LA faith community for restorative justice.

2011 Recipient

Alexander McLean, JD, African Prisons Project, London, UK and Kampala, Uganda.

2009 Recipient

John Sage, Founder & Executive Director, Bridges to Life, Houston, TX.

Bert Thompson Award
John Sage receives Bert Thompson Pioneer Award