At a jail in San Francisco, architects, academics, designers, and incarcerated men work together to design spaces that match the tenets of restorative justice. A class on space design was led by Oakland-based architect/designer Deanna VanBuren and academic Barb Toews as part of a four-day workshop on restorative justice. The workshop was composed of 18 men, most charged with violent crimes, who agreed to participate in a program called “Resolve to Stop the Violence,” which emphasizes restorative justice, focused on healing victims and offenders alike, as an alternative to the traditional criminal punishment model.
An excerpt from an article about the program featured in the L.A. Times reads:
In 2000, [Toews] conducted a workshop in a Pennsylvania prison with 13 inmates serving life sentences, most of whom had committed murder.The men were defensive, reluctant to share their feelings. So she shifted to metaphor: The traditional system, she told them, is like a boxing ring, with a winner and loser and outsiders determining the outcome.
“What would a room look like,”[Toews] asked, “where you could face anything you’ve done and be accountable for it?” Together, they created a vision and called it “Do No Harm” room. A picture window with a mountain view. A door that locks from the inside. Plants and rugs. The workshop dynamic shifted. Later, Toews wondered, “If we treated it as a potential for something literal, if the environment were different, how might that change how we do justice?”
Van Buren hopes that other architecture firms that build jails and prisons will adopt a more collaborative model, involving people who are incarcerated as well as correctional officers. As Van Buren states in the aforementioned article, “The goal is to empower those inside the institutions and prod architects to actually talk to the people they are designing for,” she said. “That’s how an architect would practice in any other setting.”
Read more about the program, and its design focus, in this in-depth article featured in the L.A. Times.