Updated: May 6, 2021
Transformative justice…is this the same thing as restorative justice? Not quite but they are rooted in similar principles such as respect, acceptance, and accountability. They both have the same goal of restoring relationships and building better communities. Imagine a square, we’ll name it RJ. Now imagine a rectangle, this is TJ. Does the square fit inside of the rectangle, yes. Similarly, RJ practices and philosophies fit within TJ but there is a distinct edge that differentiates transformative justice work.
So, what sets them apart? TJ expands on RJ because it accounts for the structural injustices that exist within the systems, or societies, we live in. What are some examples of structural injustices? Well, the presence of racist policies, strategic political and economic marginalization, poverty, hunger, lack of representation, inadequate trust, safety, or social cohesion, gender based (or any sort) of discrimination, and the list can go on. RJ aims to address harms caused by allowing time and space for the person(s) harmed and the person(s) who caused harm to explain what happened, why, and how they think it should be addressed. The goal of RJ is to address incidents but also build stronger communities by strengthening the bond or relationships between people. Transformative justice practices go deep down into the root of a problem. From here, TJ seeks to generate solutions and healing so that the original conditions that created the injustice are transformed.
There is a lot of discourse regarding the differences and similarities of RJ vs. TJ. The way these philosophies are practiced and interpreted varies depending on who you ask. What is worth holding onto is the fact that transformative justice seeks to include wider social systems and policies in the resolution of a harm caused. TJ asks, what circumstances may have incited the harmful behavior? What systemic commonalities exist between this incident and others like it? What can be done to prevent future occurrences of this harm? Whereas, restorative justice seeks to answer the questions to more localized harms, who has been hurt and what are their needs? Who is accountable for repairing this harm and how? Who else has an invested interest in repairing this harm to prevent future occurrences? Properly understood, both RJ and TJ approaches are similar but in practice they look different because TJ seeks to address broader, overlapping social harms.
Cover Art & post by: Melissa Peña
2020-2021 MSW Intern