The Architecture of Justice: Reimagining Crime and Human Dignity
Since Richard Nixon launched the war on drugs, the U.S. prison population grew from 300,000 in 1972 to a staggering 2.3 million today, disproportionately impacting people of color. Along with the surge in numbers of incarcerated was the adoption of modernist, inhumane design of carceral architecture.
Today, leaders in the field of architecture and restorative justice are challenging the historical contribution their professions have had in the design of inhumane prisons, restoring the roles of individuals in society to foster healing and compassion. They’repushing for new approaches to justice that prioritize care and address the material and social needs that are rooted in interpersonal conflict.
This week, we highlight the work of architects and designers Deanna Van Buren and Raphael Sperry along with youth organizer Jodie Geddes who are on the leading edge of transforming our justice system in truly innovative ways.
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Deanna Van Buren: Designing Spaces for Restorative Justice
In a future without prisons, we confront the social and economic factors that manufacture crime and focus on working with people to restore their place in society. Deanna Van Buren is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Oakland based nonprofit Designing Justice and Designing Spaces, an organization that is working to end mass incarceration by building infrastructure that addresses its root causes – poverty, racism, unequal access to resources, and the criminal justice system itself.
Restorative Justice: Healing the Cycles of Violence, Incarceration and Wasted Lives of Youth of Color
For youth in school, infractions highlight a deeper structural need that must be met with a version of justice that interrupts the tragic cycles of violence, incarceration and wasted lives that disproportionately affect youth-of-color. Jodie Geddes, Community Youth Organizing Coordinator for Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth (RJOY), shares in the success of RJOY’s work in West Oakland Middle School which is illustrated by an 85% reduction in violence and suspensions – a task that could have only been accomplished through shifting the focus of justice from punishment to healing.
Architects: Stop Building Prisons! Fighting Human Rights Abuses Within One’s Own Profession
The U.S. is home to the largest prison population in the entire world. With the massive expansion of the American prison system since the start of the war on drugs, architects have been tasked with the job of designing these cruel and inhumane prisons that house a largely low-income population of color. Raphael Sperry is an architect who leads national campaigns with the Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility (ADRSR) to ban the design of spaces that violate human rights and to promote restorative alternatives to incarceration.
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