Designing Justice + Designing Spaces is a U.S. non-profit that engages and designs around issues of mass incarceration. Founded by Deanna Van Buren and Kyle Rawlins, the organization is inspired by the idea of ‘restorative justice’ – the philosophy that when a crime has been committed, our priorities should center on making amends and healing, rather than punishment.
Much of the architectural apparatus within our communities and our criminal justice system are organized around punitive models of justice – the belief once a crime has been committed, the offender must be removed from society and that confinement will act as a deterrent against future crimes. High rates of recidivism strongly suggest that this model has failed.
More pointedly, the work of Designing Justice + Designing Spaces looks to the root causes of mass incarceration like poverty, racism, lack of access to resources and the criminal justice system itself. In doing so, it seeks to create progressive architecture in the form of peacemaking centers, traditional housing, and mobile villages.
Beyond the design of physical spaces, Designing Justice + Designing Spaces innovates at the process level as well. The organization leads workshops in correctional facilities where inmates are drawn into the conservation around restorative justice and the design of their spaces. The immediate aim of these workshops is healing – both for the offender and the victim, and ultimately getting all parties to reconceive of how the criminal justice could be built – both socially and physically.
We had a chance to speak with Deanna Van Buren about the philosophy of restorative justice and how it manifests as programs and spaces in the work of Designing Justice + Designing Spaces. You can listen to both full episodes here.