DJDS Institute - DJDS
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The DJDS Institute

The DJDS Institute flips the think tank model into a “do” tank, operating as an activist abolitionist “lab” to achieve an end to mass incarceration. The Institute, which is a component of every DJDS team member’s work, draws on the expertise of the real estate developers, designers, architects, community engagement specialists, researchers, evaluators, communications specialists, and permaculture designers on our team. We intentionally employ a multi-disciplinary design-led approach to generating new ideas, with and for communities, so they can build — and own — the infrastructure they need to thrive.


Each day, DJDS’s work within the framework of the Institute enables us to collaboratively rethink our broken systems and actively visualize and create reimagined environments for justice, care, and the wellbeing of all people — starting with the most marginalized and vulnerable. We lead with creativity, work across disciplines, carefully listen to the community, and implement inclusive, trauma-informed methodologies to provide vibrant examples of how to invest, design, and build to overcome the racist infrastructure that keeps us locked in an unjust world.


Breaking free from the structures and processes that are ingrained in our society requires courage, support, and radical creativity, and the DJDS Institute gives us the freedom and flexibility we need to execute our vision.


The DJDS Institute incubates, develops, and disseminates ideas across the country through the following four key strategies: Concept Development, Research & Evaluation, Product & Prototype Development, and Communication & Advocacy.

The Four Core Strategies of the DJDS Institute

Concept Development Icon

Concept Development

A co-learning creative R&D process through which we work with communities to develop solutionary spaces and buildings that address the root causes of mass incarceration. Concept development is the first step on the path to constructing a building.

Research and Evaluation

Research & Evaluation

Evaluation to show the impact of our project typologies, laying the foundation for stronger advocacy and systems change work at DJDS and building evidence for the efficacy of trauma-informed architecture.

Product and Prototype Development

Product & Prototype Development

The development and production of physical and digital products (toolkits, prototypes) that support the core mission of DJDS.

Communication & Advocacy

Communication & Advocacy

Elevation of DJDS projects as steps for achieving abolition, and advocacy for decarceration via DJDS media channels (text, photo, video).

The DJDS Institute encompasses our technical knowledge, tools, abundance mindset, and imagination, which shake traditional thinking and institutional approaches to problem-solving. Each building or planning effort is an opportunity to open minds to alternative solutions. The goal of all of these efforts, which go far beyond the typical bread-and-butter work of a standard architectural firm, is to facilitate the design, completion, and widespread adoption of spaces that will abolish the architecture of the criminal legal system.