Transformative justice

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Transformative justice is a series of practices and philosophies designed to create change in social systems. Mostly, they are alternatives to criminal justice in cases of interpersonal violence, or are used for dealing with socioeconomic issues in societies transitioning away from conflict or repression. Other fields of practice have adopted transformative justice, including to address groups' work on other social issues and climate justice.

Alternative to criminal justice[edit]

Transformative justice takes the principles and practices of restorative justice beyond the criminal justice system.[1] It applies to areas such as environmental law, corporate law, labor-management relations, consumer bankruptcy and debt, and family law. Transformative justice uses a systems approach, seeking to see problems, as not only the beginning of the crime but also the causes of crime, and tries to treat an offense as a transformative relational and educational opportunity for victims, offenders and all other members of the affected community. In theory, a transformative justice model can apply even between peoples with no prior contact.[2]

Transformative justice can be seen as a general philosophical strategy for responding to conflicts akin to peacemaking.[3] Transformative justice is concerned with root causes and comprehensive outcomes. It is akin to healing justice more than other alternatives to imprisonment.

In contrast to restorative justice, no quantification or assessment of loss or harms or any assignment of the role of victim is made, and no attempt to compare the past (historical) and future (normative or predicted) conditions is made either.[4] The victim is not normally part of the transformative process, but can choose to be. Participants agree only on what constitutes effective harms reduction, which may include separating or isolating perpetrator and victim.

In contrast to equity-restorative justice, there is no social definition of equity imposed on participants. Each is free to decide on some "new normal" state of being for themselves, and is not pressured to agree on it.[5] A victim may continue to seek revenge or desire punishment, e.g. as in retributive justice systems. A perpetrator may lack remorse and may say that they lack remorse.

As in transformative learning, one works from desired future states back to the present steps required to reach them. The issue is not whether the perpetrator may make a choice to do something similar again, but whether the community is willing to support the victim and perpetrator in some form of contact.[6] It is possible for the community to choose to support the perpetrator and not the victim as defined by the law, but if they do so they may be obligated to support some re-definition of "equity" so that law comes back into line with the social concept of equity. For example, it is possible for the community to support imprisonment as a means of isolation but not punishment.

This model for decarceration may have roots in the work of Samuel Tuke and B. F. Skinner but departs by relying on individual volunteers' caring and supporting capacity, not any socially imposed etiquette derived from civilization. Transformative justice theory has been advanced by Ruth Morris[7] and Giselle Dias of the Canadian Quakers.

Anarchist criminology tends to favour holistic transformative justice approaches over restorative justice, which it tends to argue is too beholden to the existing criminal justice system.[8]

Socioeconomic issues in transitional and post-conflict settings[edit]

Transformative justice also refers to policy and practice responses to socioeconomic issues in societies transitioning away from conflict or repression. It is closely associated with the scholarship and practice of transitional justice, and refers to "transformative change that emphasises local agency and resources, the prioritisation of process rather than preconceived outcomes, and the challenging of unequal and intersecting power relationships and structures of exclusion at both local and global levels".[9]

Climate justice[edit]

Some climate justice approaches promote transformative justice where advocates focus on how vulnerability to climate change reflects various structural injustices in society, such as the exclusion of marginalized groups from decision-making and from climate resilient livelihoods, and that climate action must explicitly address these structural power imbalances. For these advocates, climate change provide an opportunity to reinforce democratic governance at all scales, and drive the achievement of gender equality and social inclusion. At a minimum, priority is placed on ensuring that responses to climate change do not repeat or reinforce existing injustices, which has both distributive justice and procedural justice dimensions. Other conceptions frame climate justice in terms of the need to curb climate change within certain limits, like the Paris Climate Agreement targets of 1.5C, otherwise the impacts of climate change on natural ecosystems will be so severe as to preclude the possibility of justice for many populations [10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Toward Transformative Justice: A Liberatory Approach to Child Sexual Abuse and other forms of Intimate and Community Violence" (PDF). Generation Five. June 2007. Retrieved October 11, 2019.
  2. ^ Morris, Ruth (2000). Stories of Transformative Justice. Toronto: Canadian Scholars' Press and Women's Press. p. 3.
  3. ^ "Creative Interventions Toolkit: A Practical Guide to Stop Interpersonal Violence" (PDF). Creative Interventions. 2012. p. Section 2, Page 12. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2019-10-11. Retrieved October 11, 2019.
  4. ^ Morris, Ruth (2000). Stories of transformative justice. Toronto: Canadian Scholars' Press. ISBN 9781551301747. OCLC 43279287.
  5. ^ Smith, Candace (2013-03-05). "Restorative Justice and Transformative Justice: Definitions and Debates". Sociology Lens. Retrieved 2019-10-11.
  6. ^ Ritchie, Andrea (February 2019). "Expanding Our Frame: Deepening our Demands for Safety and Healing for Black Survivors of Sexual Violence, A Policy Brief" (PDF). Incite National. pp. 17–18. Retrieved October 11, 2019.
  7. ^ "Ruth Rittenhouse Morris". Retrieved 2017-12-12.
  8. ^ Nocella, Anthony J. II; Seis, Mark; Shantz, Jeff (2018). "Introduction: The Rise of Anarchist Criminology". In Nocella, Anthony J. II; Seis, Mark; Shantz, Jeff (eds.). Contemporary Anarchist Criminology: Against Authoritarianism and Punishment. Peter Lang. p. 3.
  9. ^ "From transitional justice to transformative justice". 2014.
  10. ^ Edward Cameron, Tara Shine, and Wendi Bevins, "Climate Justice: Equity and justice informing a new climate agreement," Working Paper (Washington, DC: World Resources Institute & Mary Robinson Foundation, September 2013) [1]

Further reading[edit]

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