What is Transformative Justice?

In practical terms Transformative Justice (TJ)  is “a liberatory approach to violence…[which] seeks safety and accountability without relying on alienation, punishment, or State or systemic violence, including incarceration or policing.” It is a set of practices  for responding to interpersonal and structural violence that relies on community relationships to protect the safety and needs of survivors, while building systems of support and accountability for those who have caused and enabled harm. 

As a political commitment and practice, Transformative Justice comes out of organizing movements and “marginalized communities, including Black, immigrant undocumented, queer and trans,  and indigenous communities who have built networks of mutual support as a way to survive and transform state and interpersonal violence. In the US, Black women in particular have been at the forefront of developing Transformative Justice and community accountability frameworks for ending gender-based violence outside of a penal system that has long exacted violence on Black and brown communities.”  

However, Transformative Justice is not just a political orientation, it is a way of being and moving through the world. One of the core tenets of TJ is its emphasis on living this practice in our relationships, which has derived from indigenous teachings from many different parts of the world, particularly North America.  When we choose to embody TJ, we: 

  • Engage in practices of self-reflection and healing; a process of decolonization that addresses trauma and oppressive beliefs–conscious and unconscious– that we have internalized based on our lineages, social identities, lived experiences, and conditioning.
  • Shift our consciousness and mindset away from punitive and retributive ways of responding to harm and toward a praxis of self and collective accountability that centers the needs of those who have been harmed while seeking to support transformation for those who have caused harm.
  • Honor the range of emotions, including anger and rage, that arise from experiences of trauma and harm as part of the healing journey 
  • Recognize how state violence perpetuates and reproduces interpersonal violence 
  • Actively imagine and engage in developing a range of different responses to harm that do not engage institutional punitive systems.

Transformative Justice is explicitly a values based framework. Some of the core values that guide our work as TJ practitioners are: 

  • Self and Collective Accountability
  • Embrace complexity and intersectionality
  • Interconnectedness
  • Self-determination 
  • Survivor Centered
  • Creative Problem Solving and Flexibility
  • Curiosity
  • Penal Abolition