In 2016, the UWCHR’s Rethinking Punishment project supported research in restorative justice by Prof Katherine Beckett and third year law student Martina Kartman. Beckett and Kartman analyzed various restorative justice projects in the country, and drew conclusions that later informed the creation of an innovative restorative justice program designed for Washington State. Collective Justice (formerly known as the Community Justice Project), which Kartman currently directs, is based at the Public Defender Association, and works in Washington prisons and communities to encourage healing and accountability as alternative approaches to repairing the harm caused by violence. In the below, 2019 UW graduate Satory Adams, recipient of the UWCHR’s Osheroff-Clark Award for students, describes this innovative initiative, which UWCHR helped launch, and reflects on her growing involvement with the Community Justice Project and Public Defender Association over the past year.
Collective Justice was founded by Martina Kartman, a Soros Justice Fellow and University of Washington alumna, who was driven to this work by her own experience with the criminal legal system. Our organization aims to reduce harm caused by violence and mass imprisonment by building effective and trauma-informed healing responses that reflect restorative justice principles. In hopes to steer away from the traditional victim advocacy model that exists today, our organization is investing in the leadership of survivors and people directly impacted by violence. We strive to empower the most impacted and marginalized communities to drive this work.
I first came to this work a year ago, as someone who cares deeply about the impacts of mass imprisonment on communities, families, and individuals. My personal experience of having a parent in prison had led me to seek changes in the criminal legal system, recognizing that it perpetuates more violence and harm for all parties involved.
Since 2017, our organization has piloted three different programs, all of which come together to make an integrated whole. The first program is our Healing Education and Accountability for Liberation (HEAL) circles. These circles take place inside the Washington State Reformatory Unit at Monroe Correctional Complex. From 2017 to 2019, we have had about 30 participants between our three groups. In collaboration with our facilitators, the participants in these circles undertake a rigorous journey of reflection, healing, and accountability while exploring topics such as trauma, gender socialization, cycles of violence, and victim/survivor impacts. The groups reflect on their own experiences and engage in an accountability process in a supportive setting.
To parallel our HEAL circles, our second program involves a healing circle process for survivors of violence. Our Survivor Advisory Board consists of ten crime survivors who come together monthly to share, grieve, and heal with one another while also building relationships and skills to organize and make change in the legal system. These participants represent a diverse group of people who have been impacted by violence in various ways. Through this process, they are also collectively creating responses to violence that do not rely on systems that perpetuate further violence, such as imprisonment and the criminal legal system.
Lastly, through leadership development, training, and political education, we are striving to provide survivors of crime with a real channel to influence public policy. Through our upcoming Heal 2 Action Leadership Academy, we hope to elevate the visions of safety and justice as defined by members of the most marginalized and vulnerable communities. Our hope is that with the right tools, survivors can lead the policy change and advocacy needed to directly and accurately represent the needs of the communities most impacted by violence.
This past summer, with the financial support from the UWCHR’s Abe Osheroff and Gunnel Clark Endowed Human Rights Fund, I was able to launch a visual arts project based on interviews with people directly impacted by crime and the criminal justice system. Our organization recognizes that many people who have caused harm in their communities are also victims of violence themselves—a truth that is often left out of that public narrative. With this in mind, we invited a diverse group of crime survivors to be featured in a video series to speak on their thoughts and lived experiences. In our interviews, we covered topics such as accountability, justice, and healing. We hope these videos can elevate the current and future advocacy and policy work led by survivors in our community, helping to shift the conventional narrative about crime that all too frequently pits crime survivors and people who have caused harm against one another.
For updates, visit the Rethinking Punishment project page.