What does this fund mean by transformative justice?

From Ferguson to Baltimore, from Rikers Island to Guantánamo Bay, our prison nation ensures expensive and profound precarity and violence. Yet the current interventions posited as “alternatives to incarceration”—including drug-treatment programs, boot camps, community-based supervision or probation, electronic monitoring, and community service—still depend on carceral logics of surveillance, containment, and sometimes punishment. We must create new forms of justice defined by principles of respect, interrelatedness, and mutuality.

Across the country, there is a growing community-accountability/restorative & transformative justice movement that needs more people. Organizations and individuals have and are creating local projects and initiatives that offer alternative ideas and structures for mediating conflicts and addressing harms without relying on police or prisons. Part of the work is also focused on creating the conditions necessary to ensure the possibility of more safety in our communities.

As there is no blueprint for transformative justice however, we must spend time imagining, strategizing, and practicing other futures. This encompasses many facets: We must organize and mobilize to address the root causes of oppression and violence. We need to test the limits of our imagination of what’s possible in terms of addressing violence and harm. We must creatively rethink our current structures of policing and warehousing individuals. We need to expose the brutality and abject failure of the current system. We must foreground a revolutionary transformation of ideas while demanding that our resources be radically reallocated. Collectively envisioned and determined, community safety and transformative justice will look different from one community to the next. There are many vexing questions and unknowns to puzzle through. We envision the P2P Leadership Development Program as one space to do this.

Definitions and Concepts

The goals of Transformative Justice are: a) Safety, healing, and agency for survivors; b) Accountability and transformation for people who harm; c) Community action, healing, and accountability; d) Transformation of the social conditions that perpetuate violence – systems of oppression and exploitation, domination, and state violence.

The Peer2Peer Exchange supports non-punitive justice paradigms erected to either address harms, needs and obligations after a specific violent offense (i.e. community conferencing circles , victim-offender dialogues etc) OR to address systemic harms, individual/societal needs and obligations after a broader structural injustice (i.e. Greensboro Truth & Reconciliation, Burge Torture Reparations Ordinance ).

The distinction between new and old paradigms of justice is illustrated in the graph below:

Retributive Paradigm Restorative Paradigm
Crime defined by violation of law/rules Crime defined by harm to people
State as victim in the abstract People as survivors with concrete relational needs
Survivor’s healing, safety & agency secondary Survivor’s healing, safety & agency central
Wounds of harm doer & community peripheral Accountability by and for those who do harm
Offense defined in technical legal terms- interpersonal, social economic, policy dimensions are irrelevant Offense understood in context of social conditions that perpetuate violence in order to transform root causes
Competitive, adversarial process with goal of punishing thereby reducing likelihood of future offenses by defendant Inclusive, collaborative process with goal of repairing thereby reducing likelihood of future offenses by everyone involved
Transformative Justice: Uses the restorative paradigm of accountability and healing to resist oppressive root causes of harm, including the criminal legal system itself.
If restorative justice is the compass; transformative justice is the map.
Restorative Justice: “is a process to involve, to the extent possible, those who have a stake in a specific offence and to collectively identify and address harms, needs and obligations, in order to heal and put things as right as possible.” [Howard Zehr]
Community Accountability: strategies aim at preventing, intervening in, responding to, and healing from violence through strengthening relationships and communities, emphasizing mutual responsibility for addressing the conditions that allow violence to take place, and holding people accountable for violence and harm. This includes a wide range of creative strategies for addressing violence as part of organizing efforts in communities when you can’t or don’t want to access state systems for safety (The Audre Lorde Project, National Gathering on Transformative and Community Accountability, 9/2010).”