TJ Philosophy

Transformative Justice: A Philosophical (Re)orientation for Universities

The #universityTJproject has been deeply informed by the transformative justice work of communities of color and collectivities like Generation Five, Incite!, Creative Interventions, Project Nia, Just Practice, Philly Stands Up, and the Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective. According to many of these practitioners, Transformative Justice (TJ) as a philosophy and orientation is clearly articulated by Kelly Hayes and Mariame Kaba who write,

Transformative justice is not a flowery phrase for a court proceeding that delivers an outcome we like. It is a community process developed by anti-violence activists of color, in particular, who wanted to create responses to violence that do what criminal punishment systems fail to do: build support and more safety for the person harmed, figure out how the broader context was set up for this harm to happen, and how that context can be changed so that this harm is less likely to happen again.

Rather than rely on alienation, vigilantism, and/or state-sanctioned violence, a transformative justice approach seeks to address harm in ways that do not further traumatize already marginalized communities. Transformative Justice instead calls us to create flexible and adjustable support and accountability models. It also calls us to create practices that help community members develop a sense of empathy and responsibility to and for each other. These are some of the preconditions that prepare us to respond to harm in a way that is trauma-informed while also being attentive to the structures and practices that currently enable harmful behavior to persist. One of its goals is to proactively and intentionally build communities of support and communities of accountability so that we are better able to respond to harm in a way that is sustainable and consistent over time.


[i] Hayes and Kaba, “The Sentencing of Larry Nassar Was Not ‘Transformative Justice.’ Here’s Why” The Appeal