Transformative Justice Strategies for Addressing Police/Vigilante/Hate/White Supremacist Violence

Los Angeles Incite!/LA COIL/Youth Justice Coalition/Dignity and Power Now/ People’s Education Movement/CURB


Working Document
February 7, 2014

NOTE: These ideas have been generated from the Transformative Justice and White Supremacist Violence workshop held in LA (January 20, 2014) along with the twitter conversation that has emerged from it.  These groups do not necessarily endorse any particular strategy.  We recognize that what works in one community may not work in another community, and that some of these strategies may not work in any community.  The purpose of this document is to provide ideas and to spark the development of additional strategies that may help us think of ways to address white supremacist/hate/police/vigilante violence without relying on the criminal legal system.  This document will continue to grow as new ideas emerge.

Background Information
Transformative Justice emerged out of critiques of the criminal legal system’s response to gender violence and child sexual abuse.  There has been a growing movement to abolish the prison industrial complex because of its brutality, violence, and inability to address social problems in just manner.  Anti-violence advocates, however, have often relied on the criminal system as the primary strategy for ending gender violence. As a result, legislators could easily get “feminist” support for repressive anti-crime bills by putting violence against women provisions on them.  In response, increasingly more anti-violence organizers have resisted this co-option of the anti-violence movement by calling for strategies that address gender violence without relying on state violence.   Constantly, organizations began to develop strategies for community accountability that did not rely on the legal system.

One alternative to the criminal legal system has been the model of “restorative justice.”  “Restorative justice” is an umbrella term that describes a wide range of programs which attempt to address crime from a restorative and reconciliatory rather than a punitive framework.  That is, as opposed to the U.S. criminal justice system that focuses solely on punishing the perpetrator and removing him (or her) from society through incarceration, restorative justice attempts to involve all parties (perpetrators, victims, and community members) in determining the appropriate response to a crime in an effort to restore the community to wholeness. These models seem to have much greater potential for dealing with crime effectively because if we want perpetrators of violence to live in society peaceably, it makes sense to develop justice models in which the community is involved in holding him/her accountable.  Under the current incarceration model, perpetrators are taken away from their community and are further hindered from developing ethical relationships within a community context. The problem, however, with these models in addressing sexual/domestic is that they work only when the community unites in holding perpetrators accountable.  However, in cases of sexual and domestic violence, the community often sides with the perpetrator rather than the victim.   Thus, if we are going to develop “community” based responses to violence, we cannot presume a romanticized notion of community that is not sexist, homophobic or otherwise oppressive. And we cannot even presume a community to begin with.

Hence the “transformative” justice model builds on restorative justice to hold that our goal is not to restore a community to a state that was structure by oppression but to create and transform communities so that are less oppressive.  In addition, whereas restorative justice models generally operate through the state through sentence diversion programs, etc – transformative justice models operate outside the legal system all together.

For more on transformative justice, see this summary from Generation Five.,d.cGU

See also this Community Accountability Toolkit from Creative Interventions:

Many communities have begun developing transformative justice practices.  However, probably because this movement developed out of the anti-violence movement, these practices have generally presumed that the perpetrator is someone in the community or someone for whom that group has a connection.  But what happens when violence is committed by the police? Or a vigilate? Or by someone committing a hate crime?  We tend to default to the criminal legal system for these cases. And yet, as the verdicts for Trayvon Martin, Kelly Thomas, Oscar Grant and countless others show, the criminal legal system completely fails to enact justice.  So what would it mean if we did not presume the criminal legal system would have the last word on justice for these acts of violence?  What could we do instead?  The LA Workshop on Transformative Justice and White Supremacist violence was organized to begin brainstorming on what we might try to do.

Concerns/Questions to Ponder/Issues

1) How do we build our TJ organizing efforts to mass scale?  There are many small TJ local organizing projects, but these are not sufficient to challenge the prison industrial complex. How do we coordinate them and grow them so that they can challenge the current system?

2) When the police or vigilantes perpetrate violence, we see them as wholly outside of our communities. But these perpetrators live somewhere. What if we stopped seeing these perpetrators and wholly outside and began developing connections with their communities.  Part of the logic of the prison industrial complex is to expel people from society. Sometimes our TJ practices have followed the same logics of the PIC – we have been context to expel people without addressing fact that perpetrators will go somewhere else and perpetrate violence.  So what if we stopped seeing some communities as that to which we have no concern or connection and began to build those connections so accountability would be easier to create?

3) Large numbers of people see nothing wrong with the prison industrial complex and do not see themselves as people who would ever be affected by police or hate violence?  How would we build a mass movement for transformative justice that would appeal to peoples who do not see this as of concern to them?

4) Many TJ practices for violence within communities or organizations are not working that effectively? How do we address challenges of enacting them for violence outside the community?

5) When we try to address state violence directly, we will have to directly deal with state repression. In particular, people of color who fight back from attacks are often arrested (such as Marissa Alexander) How do we address these realities?

6) Restorative justice models often operate because they are backed up by the state if a perpetrator of violence does not follow agreements. What do we do as a back up if someone doesn’t follow accountability agreements without relying on the state?

Transformative Justice Strategies

1) Tie TJ to a larger praxis about beginning to run society ourselves – including our own education, health care, etc.  Thus, we can attract folks who might not have an issue with the PIC but would be interested in building better governance and economic systems they see directly impacting them.

2) Door-to-door organizing. Begin to know all the people in your neighborhood to be able to create more systems of accountability.

3) Develop city-wide TJ rapid response networks for cases of police violence.

4) Monthly conference calls/social networking to connect local groups with each other so we start building to a bigger scale from the beginning. Also, this breaks down isolation that can occur when one feels they are doing this work in isolation from others who are also struggling?

5) Learn from models both historically and today who don’t haven even a semblance of police protection.  What did people do under connections of slavery, indigenous genocide, etc, death squads, etc.

6) Integrate TJ into all the work we are doing, particularly in educational reform.  So people learn how to hold each other accountable as a matter of practice.

7) Develop our own abilities to do investigation – examples would be groups like Black And Missing

8) Develop a neighborhood check-in system (not a neighborhood watch).

9) Begin hosting TJ events that are not just in our comfort zone or the usual people we talk to

10) Expand our knowledge base of various TJ practices that exist around the world.

11) Begin community based tracking systems to document violence.

12) Organize peacebuilders, including youth peacebuilders who know community well and can address problems as they arise? We can also organize peacebuilders in the schools.

13) Develop networks with religious communities that might have connections to more conservative sectors of society where perpetrators of hate violence might live.

14) Need to broad-based education on need to divest from law enforcement and PIC

15) TJ is a positive project rather than a negative project. Until we have alternatives, we may have no other option but to go to police in some circumstances. That does not make us less radical.

16) Develop community centers that use tranformative justice

17) Develop processes in advance that can help violence from happening in first place. Don’t wait for the crisis to happen.

18) Develop alternative economies of trade so we have less direct contact with the state.

19) Develop effective conflict resolution and de-escalation skills/

20) Develop networks of resources for accountability

21) Reclaim streets – create “no police” zones.

22) Film officers

23) Engage in acts that disrupt criminal legal proceedings

24) Find where perpetrators live. Call them out in their own context.

25) Develop Truth Commissions where we hold our own trials.

26) Be open to trial and error and making mistakes.

27) Develop our own security systems and processes

28) Develop emergency responses teams in cases of natural disasters so we don’t have to rely on law enforcement.

29) Take over gentrifying spaces. Bring them into the community.

30) Develop a collective response team on each block in our neighborhoods.

31) One group that was being targeted by KKK decided to go to them directly instead of being mediated by the state. Try to take on hate groups directly.

32) Develop websites where we can exchange TJ ideas

33) Develop relationships with malcontents in the police who might be interested in holding other officers accountable.

34) Develop autonomous mental health resources and economic resources so people who are homeless or who have psychiatric disabilities are less likely to be in contact with the state./

35) Campaign to end police presence in the schools.

36) Know your rights campaigns for educators, youth, community members, etc.

37) Autonomous emergency response services

38) Co-counseling

39) Skill sharing spaces

40) Community-based 911s.

41) Document work we’re doing, including our failures

42) Push for the decriminalization of drug use

43) Change school discipline policies and get TJ programs in schools.

44) Social media campaigns to alert peoples of perpetrators of where we can find them

45) Connect to employers of perpetrators; find them in their social context.

46) Create structures of accountability using familiar structures to attract more people (such as alternative student councils or radical neighborhood watch programs)

47) Integrate anti-oppression education in work to a bigger scale to prevent this violence from happening.

48) Don’t try to reform police; try to replace it with something better.

49) We are taught to call police department but not to talk to one another?  Differences between DV and say witnessing ‘petty theft’

50) De-escalation strategies

51) Develop alternatives to criminalizing youth

52) Challenging policing in all areas of life

53) Challenge concept of property ownership. Protection of property leads to police intervention

54) Create economic shares to alleviate need for “stealing”

55) Create local, intergenerational, community based freedom schools.

56) Intergenerational conversations on accountability.

57) Develop tech based alert systems – cell phones, etc.

58) Create community safe (or safer) spaces

59) Theater of oppressed to brainstorm on ways to deal with the situation

60) Focus on strategies that stop the violence from happening rather than afterwards.

61) Response teams using all sectors (including business) such as Audre Lorde Proejct “Safe outside the system” in Brooklyn

62) Model TJ responses in our organizations

63) Take responsibility for safety of our communities by replacing police w/ community self-defense groups:

64) Develop responses to violence on campuses that don’t rely on campus administration or law enforcement

65) Start developing local responses then grow to regional, then to national, then to global responses to hate/police violence

66) Instead of trying to put someone in prison, have them financially support family for life.

67) As intermediary step, use civil rather than criminal approaches that allow for more creative forms of redress but also have less of burden of proof so more likely to get result you want

68) Look outside how the criminal justice defines “violence.” Many forms of violence that need redress that are not legally addressed at all in system.

69) If you come up with a relatively functioning TJ situation, have at least 2 of those folks leave and start another one so the models proliferate.

70) Document our work, including our failures

71) Build connections with groups that we don’t have anything in common with and even disagree with so we can build accountability when needed.

72) Don’t presume certain sectors are “permanent enemies.” Many Native peoples have developed successful campaigns with racist white people because they didn’t presume they would always be enemies, but start building connections.

73) Rethink what “justice” looks like on a mass scale so justice doesn’t equal going to prison.

74) Resist idea that best way to deal with a bad thing is to make it a crime.

75) TJ models often break down because so intensive. Need to build in self-care and long-term sustainability.

76) Need to learn our previous histories of TJ so we don’t always reinvent the wheel.  Archive our work.

77)   Shouldn’t just address law enforcement violence, but also military violence.

78) Begin organizing in sites of work, the way dentist associations passed resolutions against Vietnam.  Start planning TJ ideas wherever we are already working.

79) Develop small alternatives in a bigger way by connecting the small alternatives with each other.

80) Build more connections with those in PIC so we don’t think of it as “out there.”

81) Take collective responsibility for all who do harm.

82) Must address harm we do in our own orgs. How can we stop PIC when we can’t stop violence in the NPIC?

83) Need more common public spaces to interact with each other.

84) Watch out for TJ getting co-opted by stated and integrated into legal system.

85) Develop clear says to share experiments

86) TJ must address issues of accessibility – disability, age, who has access to social media, education, etc.

87) Address school to prison pipeline with teachers/students/community to stop folks from ending up in contact with law enforcement

88) For state officials, shut down the streets where they live. Got to churches they attend, etc.

89) Use social media to shame and expose but without focused on getting law enforcement to do something

90) Trauma puts limit on ability of our communities to be resilient. Need both structural change and healing.

91) You can organize an informal coalition to address IPV & bring whatever assets you have. Maybe it’s a car, access to space, food

92) Use families and social networks as places that will find justice rather than the police.


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