Dennis Maloney Award for Youth-Based Community and Restorative Justice

2022 Award Recipient - Circles & Ciphers

Chicago, Illinois

Circles Ciphers

Akeem Soyan and AnnMarie Brown (left), pictured with Illinois Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton (right), accept the award on behalf of Circles & Ciphers at the 2022 NACRJ National Conference in Chicago, Illinois.

Circles & Ciphers is a Black youth-led organization that uses restorative practices, mutual aid, accompaniment, and the art of Hip-Hop expression to support, nurture, and teach young people of color (ages 14-29) suffering from the impact by violence. Created in 2011, Circles & Ciphers provides safe spaces for young people impacted by the criminal legal system and community violence to gather in Hip-Hop centric peace circles, build community, and heal. We offer opportunities to young people to express their emotions, build leadership skills, share their experiences, reflect and be free to be who they are without boundaries.

Award Background

NACRJ periodically recognizes individuals, groups, or programs for a record of important and sustained
contributions to youth-based community and restorative justice. This Dennis Maloney2Dennis MaloneyDennis Maloney award is named in the memory of Dennis Maloney, an individual whose dedication to youth-based restorative justice is still being heralded and followed today.

Dennis Maloney or “Denny” as he was better known, was a charismatic, larger-than-life leader who was influential
in the community and restorative justice movement. Having attended Ohio State University as a proud Buckeye, Denny served his alma mater and fellow community and restorative justice peers well.

His achievements included the establishment of community and restorative justice initiatives in the Deschutes County (Oregon) juvenile justice system. In addition, the Balanced and Restorative Justice (BARJ) project continues to influence the juvenile justice system in a number of states. His work has inspired many of the leaders in today’s community and restorative and justice fields.

Award Criteria

Recipients of this award have:

  • Compiled a record of important and sustained contributions to youth-based community and restorative justice programs.
  • A life’s work dedicated to the juvenile justice system or youth-based restorative justice programs.
  • Succeeded at being a role model in the community, providing needed guidance and encouragement.
  • A resume that demonstrates innovation in youth-based community and restorative justice practices.

Past Recipients of the Youth-Based Award

2019 Recipient

Cindy Bigbie


Community Connections, Tallahassee, FL

View video on YouTube

2017 Recipient

Ayesha Brooks

Restorative Practices in Schools, Los Angeles, CA

2017 Dennis Maloney award recipient, Ayesha Brooks

Ayesha Brooks, born and raised in the Compton neighborhood of Los Angeles, experienced many of the challenges that face urban youth, and thus she has used her compassion, ability, and training in the service of her community and others like it for over twenty-five years. Her commitment to working with all members of a community to build better relationships and change the culture and climate of her schools in positive ways led her to become involved with restorative practices as the most effective way to achieve her goals. Since receiving her MS degree from the International Institute of Restorative Practices she has pioneered the use of restorative practices first in Watts and Compton and then in the Fontana Unified School District.

While serving on the LAUSD’s Positive Behavior Intervention and Support Task Force, she co-drafted the School Climate Bill of Rights and worked to set district-wide student discipline policies and procedures. Additionally, while acting as Restorative Justice Coordinator and the PBIS Coordinator at Markham Middle School, she was able to succeed with a diverse student population that needed a multi-tiered approach to discipline, including support of the social and emotional growth of her students and the development of effective communication rather than suspension and expulsion and addressed the school-to-prison issue at its root. The number of suspensions at Markham dropped 50% under her guidance, side-by-side with a dramatic improvement in school climate. Similarly, her work with Truman Middle School resulted in the reduction of suspensions by 71%. When she extended her field to the Fontana School District as Coordinator of Climate and Culture, she was the only person trained in restorative practices; there are now over 100 trained practitioners. Ms. Brooks facilitates, co-facilitates, coaches, observes and provides feedback for everyone trained in her district, ensuring the continuation and spread of restorative practices.

2015 Recipients

Cheryl Graves, Ora Schub and Robert Spicer

Community Justice for Youth Institute

Cheryl Graves Ora Schub Receive the Dennis Maloney Award for Youth Programs and Services from Pres. Umbreit

The 2015 Dennis Maloney Award was presented to Community Justice for Youth Institute (CJYI) specifically recognizing the deep commitment and relational justice approaches used by its key personnel - Cheryl Graves, Ora Schub and Robert SpicerCollectively, they have been instrumental in providing a range of programs and services to youth residing in high crime areas of Chicago that employ relational strategies of community and restorative justice.  These include:

  • Street Law Peer Education Project
  • Girl Talk
  • Community Panels for Youth
  • Restorative Justice Peer Juries in Public Schools

Interestingly both Cheryl Graves and Ora Schub were good friends with Dennis Maloney, the name sake for this award.

2013 Recipients

Dr. Fania E. Davis & Mr. Eric Butler

Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth (RJOY)

Fania Davis w Eric Butler Maloney Award