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‘Everyone should have a Bobby in their corner’

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SAN DIEGO — And the award goes to …

Dr. Robert Ehnow, director of the diocesan Office for Life, Peace and Justice, is the recipient of Amplify Voices’ 2022 Impact Award.

The award, which will be presented Nov. 19 in Phoenix, recognizes an individual who has advanced the mission of Amplify Voices in a significant way. According to its website, the nonprofit “serves individuals historically oppressed, misunderstood or silenced, who want to use their voice as an instrument of change.”

Last summer, Ehnow partnered with Amplify Voices and the Center for Restorative Justice in the University of San Diego’s School of Leadership and Education Sciences to organize an event where six people shared their firsthand experience with the criminal justice system. Five were paroled after decades in prison; the sixth shared her perspective as the wife and sister of incarcerated men.

“Restoring Humanity: A Speaker Showcase on Restorative Reintegration” was held June 11 at USD and was also livestreamed. The six speakers went through a 90-day public-speaking training program run by Amplify Voices to help them prepare their talks. The entire program can be viewed online at https://rb.gy/10azim.

“From our very first planning meeting, Bobby’s passion and heart for what we were doing was apparent. He never wavered from his primary intention, which was to change the hearts and minds of those who listened — and will listen in the future — to these inspiring individuals,” said Amanda Schneider, executive director of Amplify Voices. “He is an inspiring, gentle and compassionate individual to work with, and it was his commitment to carrying out his vision, in collaboration with Amplify’s programming, that made this (selection of the 2022 Impact Award recipient) a very easy and confident choice.”

Amplify Voices founder Deborah Shapiro said, “Everyone should have a Bobby in their corner. He fights for what he believes in, and he believes in humanity. It has been an honor and privilege to work alongside him.”

A family commitment prevents Ehnow from attending the Impact Award presentation. His friend, Dr. David Karp, director of USD’s Center for Restorative Justice, will accept the award on his behalf.

For Ehnow, it’s appropriate that Karp will share in the recognition.

Though “honored” to receive the award, Ehnow said, “a lot of other folks made this (“Restoring Humanity” event) happen.” Ehnow said he may have been “the guy that put the spark out there” by reaching out to Amplify Voices with the idea of an event showcasing formerly incarcerated individuals, but the end result was “truly a team effort.”

“Bobby has profound empathy and concern for people who have been stigmatized and disenfranchised by our criminal legal system,” Karp said. “This award acknowledges not only his commitment to support their success but how he creates opportunities for justice-impacted people to share their stories in the service of education and change.”

“Restoring Humanity” is just one example of the work that the Office for Life, Peace and Justice is doing in the area of justice, which includes direct ministry, education and advocacy.

The diocese has more than 200 volunteers serving in detention ministry at 24 facilities in San Diego and Imperial counties, where Ehnow estimates about 15,000 baptized Catholics are among the incarcerated. And the ministry is looking for more volunteers.

“If our prison/jail ministry was a parish,” he said, “it would be, if not the largest, one of the largest parishes in our diocese.”

More information is available on the webpage https://sdcatholic.org/office-for/life-peace-and-justice/restorative-justice.

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