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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Therese Bartholomew

Therese Bartholomew admits that she never really had “reason” to contemplate her position on the death penalty.  Like many people across the globe, she falsely believed her life had been unaffected; the death penalty was not on her radar. Her brother’s 2003 death drastically changed her path.  Therese was a high school teacher when her younger brother Steve was shot and killed.  The event became the catalyst for her pursuing a Masters in criminal justice, becoming an outspoken advocate for restorative justice, writing a book, and making a documentary film.  

Navigating her own way through a broken system, experiencing the grief and anger first hand, and then educating herself on restorative justice, Therese joined the abolitionist movement in 2008.  “Harming someone else will never bring about my own healing.  There is nothing restorative about the death penalty – not on any side.” Therese became increasingly involved – most specifically, in her home state defending the North Carolina Racial Justice Act.  She repeatedly saw the importance of personal stories as a tool for change.     

Therese joined The Journey of Hope for its 20th Anniversary in Indiana. She was inspired and humbled by the family member and exoneree stories she heard and felt a genuine connection to the people who told them.  She stated, “This is the family I did not choose; the “club” I wouldn’t choose to be in, but here I am.  These are people who “get” me and “get” it.”  As a firm believer in restorative justice and the importance of a victim lead movement, joining The Journey of Hope’s board and then quickly accepting the position of chair, was a no-brainer.    

In April 2009, Therese’s memoir, Coffee Shop God was released; the essays detail her struggle to adjust in the weeks and months following her brother’s untimely death. The book is the companion piece to The Final Gift, documentary.  The film follows her pursuit to find meaning in her life after her brother’s murder.  Her vision for the film grew out of her desire to meet and understand the killer. In December 2010, that meeting occurred and was filmed in a South Carolina prison. The meeting was the first victim offender dialogue involving a violent crime in South Carolina’s adult system.  The film addresses universal ideas of forgiveness, redemption, as well as the larger societal questions – how do we make peace with crime, support the victims, and restore our communities? The documentary shows the impact of violence on a family and one survivor’s path to healing.  Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking, calls The Final Gift “a remarkable journey…intimate in the telling, honest and brave and true.”     

Bartholomew’s book and film are currently in use in several state departments of correction as an impact of crime tool – including use with juveniles - with victim’s advocacy and numerous restorative justice organizations across the country, in several provinces of Canada and in Germany’s Office of Victim Services as a training tool. Additionally, Therese continues to screen the film across the country in universities, churches, and high schools to spark dialogue and educate audiences on the power of restorative justice.  Her most recent talks and screenings include Princeton University, The Guggenheim Symposium on Crime in America, and Duke Divinity as well as numerous universities and law schools.  This spring her work takes her to Jamaica’s United Theological College of the West Indies to speak alongside members of the Ministry of Justice regarding the current system, a restorative justice climate, and the need for faith-based communities to be leaders in the movement.  

Therese resides in Charlotte, North Carolina with her husband Doug and holds a Masters in criminal justice from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.  She is an inspirational speaker, restorative justice educator, and fulltime activist.

Joined the following Journeys

2013 Indiana