ABOUT US

The Conflict Resolution Institute of Louisiana offers high quality, uplifting and supportive community resources to all. CRIL takes a restorative approach to punitive and exclusionary options for addressing conflict within communities. Through restorative processes, CRIL advances ideas around the use of creative strategies, to shift the societal framework from one of violence to one of mutual understanding and collaboration. We use collaborative tools such as Mediation, restorative circles and training to expand the culture and accessibility of conflict resolution.

Our board is composed of 50% Black and indigenous people of color and majority women.  Board members represent Jewish, indigenous, shamanic, and Catholic faith and spiritual traditions. Board members include gender non-conforming and cis-folks, queer and straight orientations. We prioritize and include diversity, equity, and inclusion in every decision making process.

While the Conflict Resolution Institute of Louisiana is a nascent organization, its founding members have pioneered transformative conflict resolution programs throughout New Orleans over the past decade. Members of the Board include the Director of the first Restorative Justice Juvenile Diversion program in the state of Louisiana, the founding and current director of the New Orleans Community-Police Mediation Program, the founding Executive Director and board members of the ReEntry Mediation Institute of Louisiana, mediators with Community Mediation Services-NOLA,  and the founding and current Program Director of Tulane University’s Conflict Resolution Program.

CRIL BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Wendy T. Smith

Born in New Orleans and raised just across the river in Avondale, Louisiana; Wendy is a self-described Trailblazer, whose approach to life is simple, yet revolutionary. Wendy strives to live a life filled with unlimited acts of kindness.

 

Trained in psychological methods and counseling techniques, Wendy holds a bachelor's degree in Psychology and a Master's in Community Counseling. She is a self-motivated, highly skilled, mental health, and career counselor. She's drawn to working in communities, making a direct impact: by serving individuals and families via prevention and intervention programming.

 

As a State Certified Mediator, Wendy currently serves in the role of Conflict Resolution Specialist at Tulane University and as President of Resolve Mediation Group: A community mediation service that offers a safe space to resolve (personal and professional) conflicts and an alternative to litigation. She also works with the Office of the Independent Police Monitor in New Orleans, mediating citizen complaints against police officers in hopes of building better community-police relationships. 

 

Wendy desires to expand the work of Community Mediation in the city of New Orleans and beyond. Broadly speaking she would like to see restorative processes made available to all, regardless of their ability to pay.

Lauren Trout

Lauren Trout (also uses Trucha and Trout as names) (she/them) is a queer, native-southerner, Restorative Justice practitioner, facilitator, trainer, speaker, and consultant. Trout is a certified facilitator of Community Conferencing, a formal Restorative Justice process used in communities, schools, prisons, and other settings for conflict resolution and harm-repair; they also facilitate various Restorative-based circles for dialogue, active-listening, decision-making, organizing, and organizational culture.

Trout uses restorative theory as a tool for people, communities, and institutions to shift their paradigms of justice and embed RJ values and guiding principles into organizational culture and larger systems and infrastructure. 

Trout is also a licensed trainer of Restorative Practices through the International Institute for Restorative Practices and has worked with schools/school systems, juvenile justice agencies, collectives, and businesses around the country. They have spoken and served as a consultant about Restorative Justice on local and national levels and most recently served as the Restorative Justice Program Director in the Jefferson Parish District Attorney’s Office. They currently work for WestEd, a national consulting agency that works with local, state, and federal education and justice systems around equity, research, and policy. Trout has been doing Restorative Justice work for over a decade and specializes in using a Restorative Justice and Transformative Justice paradigm to think about liberatory accountability, systems of power, the spectrum of “harm,” and centering survivor’s healing.

Gahiji Lumamba

Arriving in New Orleans in 2010 Gahiji immersed himself in social justice work, collaborating within New Orleans Communities on many intersecting issues, especially around the criminal system. He joined the Independent Police Monitor of New Orleans as a mediator in 2015. He is also a Reiki teacher and spiritual creativity coach working to assist in balancing the elements of our planet.

Jules Griff

Jules has served as the Director of the New Orleans Community-Police Mediation Program (CPMP), a program of the Office of the Independent Police Monitor since October 2017.  She first began working with the CPMP in 2014, first as a volunteer and then as a mediator and as a contractor assisting with program operations. The program provides opportunities for community members and police officers to have facilitated face-to-face dialogues to be heard, build understanding, and resolve conflict they’ve had in their interactions with each other. In addition to her mediation work, Jules is a facilitator and trainer of Restorative Approaches and has worked with the Center for Restorative Approaches, providing conflict resolution in New Orleans schools and working to intervene in the school-to-prison pipeline. 

Previously, Jules’ work has encompassed issues regarding public health, human rights, and community education. She worked for four years for Breakthrough, a human rights organization that uses art and media to raise awareness on women’s rights, HIV/AIDS, immigrant rights, and racial justice in the US and India. She served as Program Director for the HeartRescue Project in Philadelphia and has worked on issues of food security and senior health at the The Elderly Project and Santropol Roulant in Montreal. She is a co-founder of the MoBo Bicycle Co-op, a community bicycle education project in Cincinnati. Jules received a BA in history and humanistic studies from McGill University in Montreal.

Alison McCrary

Alison McCrary is a tribal citizen of the Ani-Yun-Wiya United Cherokee Nation, a social justice movement lawyer, mediator, and an internationally sought-after speaker on social justice, spirituality, and liberation.  She currently serves as the Practitioner-In-Residence at Wake Forest University’s School of Divinity, a Spiritual Advisor on Louisiana’s death row, and the Movement Capacity Building Strategist supporting about 50 formerly-incarcerated-people-led non-profits in the United States. She formerly served as the Statewide Campaign Manager for the Unanimous Jury Coalition abolishing a 138-year-old Jim Crow law in Louisiana, the founding Director of the Louisiana Re-Entry Mediation Program, the Executive Director of the National Police Accountability Project, President of the Louisiana Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, and Founding Director of the New Orleans Community-Police Mediation.  As a 2010 Soros Justice Advocacy Fellowship in New Orleans, she challenged and changed policing practices and policies to transform relationships between police officers and the bearers of New Orleans’ indigenous cultural traditions.  She works on issues related to criminal justice reform, environmental justice, immigrant rights, international human rights, cultural preservation, voting rights, disaster recovery, housing rights, and provides support to various social justice movements and organizations locally, nationally, and internationally. Prior to law school, she worked at the Capital Post-Conviction Project of Louisiana providing litigation support on death penalty cases and at the United Nations monitoring the implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolutions relating to women, peace, and security.  In 2009, she was an Ella Baker Fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights.  She received her J.D. from Loyola University’s College of Law in New Orleans and her B.A. in English at Georgia State University in Atlanta. She also completed coursework and programs at Johannes Gutenburg Universität in Mainz, Germany, University of Surrey in London, Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, Loyola University Chicago, and Catholic Theological Union.

Melanie Merz

Melanie is a connector of people and ideas. She revels in every opportunity to sit beside people, hear their story, mission, and needs, and help find solutions. Her curiosity and desire to learn and understand have led her from being a Shariah compliant stock broker, to a compost educator, to working in development and partnership building for a one-of-a-kind community radio station.
 

Melanie currently works as the Stewardship and Donor Engagement Manager for WWOZ 90.7FM. She is a professional community mediator with Community Mediation Services New Orleans and the New Orleans Independent Police Monitor Community-Police Mediation Project. She has been trained the New York Peace Institute, Community Mediation Maryland, and Restorative Response Baltimore. Melanie received her BA in History with minors in French and East Asian Studies from Oberlin College in 2005.