We are an architecture and design firm, real estate development firm, and non-profit working to end mass incarceration. Our mission and vision is to use architecture to address the racism, poverty, and unequal access to resources caused by the criminal legal system itself. Our work counters the traditional adversarial and punitive architecture of justice—courthouses, prisons, and jails—by creating spaces and buildings for restorative justice, community building, and housing for people coming out of incarceration.
Our Bold Idea
Our bold idea is that by transforming the spaces and places where we do justice, we can help our society make the shift from a punitive justice system to a restorative justice system. We hope to see peacemaking centers in every community in this country and end the age of mass incarceration.
Restorative justice seeks to restore and repair the people and relationships impacted by crime by understanding victims’ needs and holding offenders accountable in a way that meets these needs. It brings victims and offenders together for face-to-face meetings to discuss impacts, needs, and, when appropriate, ways to repair damages. Thousands of these processes operate in the US, Canada, and Europe, with many dialogues occurring in prisons when the offender is incarcerated and the crimes have been violent. Research suggests that these encounters contribute to increased empathy, improved restitution completion, and reduced offending.
Rather than focused on punishment, this philosophical approach to justice relies on values such as respect, participation, trust, accountability, and healing. Just as the principles and values of our punitive approach to justice manifest in our current justice architectural typologies, the philosophies of a restorative model can inform the design of justice spaces in a radically different way.
At DJDS our work is informed by these values and beliefs. Using the philosophy of restorative justice, we design physical environments in such a way that the environmental design supports the programs which occur within the space.
This concern for the design of the spaces in which restorative justice occurs is important, but not all that a truly restorative community requires. It also requires that we support the development of new types of housing and resource centers to address the root causes of mass incarceration and the decades of disinvestment, trauma, and harm done to our communities of color.