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Series on the Language of Community Justice: Part 1

Fatima Jayoma | Rural Projects Coordinator at SVJI @MNCASA

You have probably noticed the words “community accountability,” “restorative justice,” and “transformative justice” floating around in social media, work, and maybe even team meetings. But what do these words mean, and how do they relate to each other?

The next three blog posts will examine each of these phrases in turn. We will see how all three shift the focus away from traditional notions of justice, and instead emphasize community participation and centering of all people involved. Hopefully, these blogs will help in understanding other forms of justice.

Before I start, I want to acknowledge that these concepts are not new. These approaches and frameworks were created by and for communities experiencing systemic oppression. The Resource Sharing Project writes, “(…) the current iteration of transformative justice principles has a vague lineage based in communities of color, queer and trans communities, and groups visioning new justice practices rooted in equity and liberation.” It is important to be aware that while this might be new to some of us, this work has existed for many generations.

So, let’s talk about “community accountability.” Community accountability is any community-based strategy that addresses violence and justice without relying on police, prisons, or other state systems. The organization INCITE! defines community accountability as a process in which a community – a group of friends, a family, a church, a workplace, an apartment complex, a neighborhood, etc. – work together to do the following things: 

  • Create and affirm values & practices that resist abuse and oppression and encourage safety, support, and accountability
  • Develop sustainable strategies to address community members’ abusive behavior, creating a process for them to account for their actions and transform their behavior
  • Commit to ongoing development of all members of the community, and the community itself, to transform the political conditions that reinforce oppression and violence
  • Provide safety & support to community members who are violently targeted that respects their self-determination

So, why community accountability? Community accountability (alongside transformative and restorative justice) is an option outside of the criminal justice system. Often it is framed as an alternative to punitive justice.

Next week we’ll continue this series with a discussion of “transformative justice.” In the meantime, check out this video on accountability by the Barnard Center for Research on Women.

Stay tuned and let us know in the comments or by emailing svji@mncasa.org if you have any questions!