Restoring justice into the lives of marginalized populations

Julie Thompson

Although she didn’t graduate from our Public Health program, Julie Thompson’s (BA '89) occupation is an example of the type of work you will be well-prepared to do with a Bachelor of Public Health. A Therapeutic Recreation graduate, Julie is now the Director of Programs for Community Justice Initiatives (CJI), where she oversees many programs that utilize restorative justice to work with people affected by conflict and crime. The Stride program, in addition to being a program Julie oversees, was founded by her and uses restorative justice to help reintegrate previously incarcerated women back into the community. 

Julie credits the University of Waterloo for setting her on a path of program development. Using what she learned through her leisure studies courses, Julie works to minimize the stigmas associated with being incarcerated by focusing on the strengths and abilities of the individual. Further, Julie uses engagement in leisure activities to connect incarcerated women with community volunteers in a way that is natural and authentic.

Many women in the justice system have never experienced positive social supports, and have few opportunities for sufficient employment and decent housing - all of which have an impact on overall health. In addition, most are challenged by longstanding issues related to poverty, inadequate education, abuse, addiction, and mental health concerns.

Through the Stride program and other initiative at CJI, Julie and her peers work to engage women in prison and in the greater community to work together to decrease the prevalence of these issues.

With a growing prison population, Julie foresees demand for individuals working in restorative justice and reintegration support to expand; in fact, CJI’s Stride model is already being adopted to help other marginalized populations like youth. Julie’s pioneering work in Stride has merited her selection as the recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award.