Our team holds healing and accountability circles both in prison and in community for people on all sides of harm. Community members who join our circles share and witness each other’s stories as we move together through individually-held pain to a journey of collective healing. Drawing on restorative justice practices and transformative justice principles, we build skills and wellness around coping with triggers, self and community-care, and building resilience.
For our circles with those who have experienced harm, participants share their stories of grief and loss, paving the way for healing and relationship. For our circles for those who have caused harm, participants engage in a rigorous process of unpacking the dynamics that led to harm, and finally, dialoguing with community members who have experienced similar harms. This program was launched at the Washington State Reformatory (WSR) and is now co-facilitated by imprisoned graduates of our founding cohort and outside facilitators.
We facilitate healing and accountability processes where people who have survived or lost loved ones to violence can have face to face dialogues with those who have caused them harm. Talking in a safe setting can allow those harmed to give full voice to their experience and all that they endured. Survivors may want to ask questions about what happened, express the impact, and make requests for repair. People responsible for harm, no matter how severe, are given the opportunity to face the often wide-ranging and complex impact of their actions and work towards their own accountability.
The desired outcome of a dialogue is determined by the participants and varies depending on the needs of those involved. These dialogues and processes may also involve bystanders and/or people who enabled the harm, alongside intentional support networks of the individuals impacted and involved. We work with people in community and with people who are already in the criminal legal system, including people in jail and prison.
Through embodied leadership development and political education, we support community members who are left feeling powerless without a channel to influence legislation and public policy that aligns with the needs and values of their communities.
We elevate the visions of justice and safety as defined by members of the most vulnerable communities whose lives are at stake in the criminal legal system’s response to harm and violence — we understand violence as connected to a broader historical context, recognizes state as well as interpersonal violence, and is grounded in racial equity. More effective paths forward emerge when advocacy and organizing are led directly by survivors of harm and violence, from the communities most targeted by the criminal legal system.
In 2021, we launched our Heal2Action program, an intergenerational organizing academy for survivors. We invite those who have been deeply impacted by violence to come together in a network of healing, politicized BIPOC survivors to build the kind of power we need to build safe and thriving communities. These survivor-leaders want to build real power and heart-centered relationships, they are willing to engage in principled struggle and have unwavering commitment to our communities.
In our inaugural cohort, we build relationships and trust with one another over regular weekly sessions. Witnessing each other’s stories, each session is imbued with our resilience wisdom and is always first in service of our collective healing and wellbeing. In the first half of our six months together, we explore theory under the frameworks of politics and organizing, transformative and healing justice, and narrative and storytelling. We are joined by BIPOC community leaders who ground, guide, and lead us to be our most imaginative and creative.
Once our relationships and theoretical understanding are firmer, we share our dreams for our communities and plan their realization together. Whether the development of a HEAL or HEAL2Action circles in their own backyards, incubations of new collectives, or creation and collaboration on power- and base-building campaigns, our leaders are supported to have what they need.
Our organization is dedicated to ensuring that the future of change surrounding the criminal legal system in Washington is responsive to the needs of survivors of interpersonal and state violence and guided by their visions of justice, healing, and safety. When decided by our membership, we engage with the legal and legislative systems and advocate for changes that acknowledge the system’s traumatizing history and make room for our collective healing.
As experts in restorative and transformative justice practice, we offer trainings and public education to individuals and agencies. The latter centers building a broad understanding of restorative justice and why it matters, elevating what it truly means to shift our societal responses to harm toward community healing practice. To ensure this shift takes place as expansively as possible, we also train practitioners to facilitate restorative justice within their own agencies and communities.
This scales our work, building the collective skillset of our community to prevent serious harm, intervene when necessary, and heal in the aftermath of violence that does take place.