In 2010 AFSC’s Healing Justice Programs in New England and New York held three gatherings to discuss the transition from “criminal justice” work to “healing justice” work. We continue this work with listening project in the Northeast so that individuals and communities harmed by violence and the institutions of criminal justice will heal and transform that harm into wholeness.
Our working definition of Healing justice is that you: are implementing the principles of responsibility, mutuality and love; are able to care for yourself, your family and all your relations by providing protection from immediate danger by providing sustained emotional, physical and economic support; are repairing harm at all levels—personal, communal, governmental and international; have the right and mechanisms of self-determination to transform pain and anger to empowerment and action; are able to lead your life in a good way; have the access to the mechanisms to hold community and governmental entities to these same principles and actions when they cause harm.
We had to shift the conversation from “crime” to “harm” to challenge our thinking about crime. When one asks the question: “What do we do about crime,” we are often drawn into a discussion about penalties or punishment. Instead, when we ask the question, “What do we do when someone or some community is harmed,” we are drawn into a conversation about healing and reparations.
There is collective wisdom that can lead to the transformation of communities impacted by oppression and the prison industrial complex. This wisdom is in aboriginal communities who have used traditional healing practices to survive over 500 years of oppression and genocide; communities of color, most particularly communities of African descent, who are most impacted by the prison industrial complex; and among Quakers and others that are concerned about issues of crime and punishment.
We were charged with continuing this conversation and we are doing so by building Communities of Learning.