Common Justice develops and advances solutions to violence that transform the lives of those harmed and foster racial equity without relying on incarceration.
In New York City, we operate the first alternative-to-incarceration and victim-service program in the United States that focuses on violent felonies in the adult courts. Locally and nationally, we leverage the lessons from our direct service to transform the justice system through partnerships, advocacy, and elevating the experience and power of those most impacted.
Rigorous and hopeful, we build practical strategies to hold people accountable for harm, break cycles of violence, and secure safety, healing, and justice for survivors and their communities.
At Common Justice, we work to build transformative solutions to violence that can displace incarceration. Pragmatic and optimistic, we begin this work in practice. In Brooklyn and the Bronx, Common Justice engages younger adults (ages 16 to 26) and those they have harmed in a rigorous and cutting-edge alternative to incarceration and victim service program. If the harmed parties agree, violent felony cases such as robbery and assault are diverted from the criminal legal system into a restorative justice process that gives participants the power and opportunity to collectively identify and address impacts, needs, and obligations, in order to heal and make things as right as possible. The agreements that emerge from these dialogues, together with the violence intervention curriculum, replace the prison sentences our responsible parties would otherwise have served, and we provide wraparound supports to our harmed parties to support them in coming through what happened to them and in their lives generally.
United for Healing Equity (UHE) is the organizing and policy arm of Common Justice. UHE aims to build the collective power and capacity of the Black and Latnix community and other communities of color to ensure healing equity and to catalyze systemic change to support every community’s inherent right to heal. Common Justice knows that communities impacted by crime and violence—including crime survivors—have the power and right to define for themselves what produces safety, what constitutes accountability, and what facilitates healing. Common Justice is working with a growing member base to set priorities rooted in the needs and experiences of the communities most impacted by violence, and to draw on the lessons of local solutions that stand to be brought to larger scale through collaboration, advocacy, and organizing.
At Common Justice, we know that stories shape what policies and solutions we can imagine and secure for our communities, and that our stories about violence have long been distorted and incomplete. Common Justice is committed to telling the truth about violence—about the people who survive it, the people who cause it, and the strategies that will work to end it. We are sharing what we have learned in our decade of work addressing violence without prison. We are working with our partners to establish a new way forward. In doing so, we know no one can tell these stories better than the people whose lives are at stake, so we are working to create broad new platforms to elevate their voices and leadership from the block to the Capitol.
Accounting for Violence
The United States faces two distinct but interconnected challenges: violence and mass incarceration. Ensuring safety is an urgent and essential responsibility of a society and is a core dimension of delivering on the promise of justice.
The United States has been remiss in attempts to fulfill that responsibility because of an overreliance on incarceration as the primary pathway to ensuring safety.
Substantially reducing violence will require acknowledging the limitations of prisons as a strategy to deliver safety or justice. And ending mass incarceration in America will require taking on the question of violence. Mass incarceration cannot end violence.
The Fair Access To Victim Compensation Campaign is a state-wide campaign, led by several local New York-based groups and national organizations who are fighting for expanded and equitable access to victim compensation funds. Currently in New York State, survivors of violence are subject to onerous law enforcement reporting requirements when filing for victim compensation funds, and barred from access if they allegedly contributed to the crime in question or failed to show physical injury associated with their harm. This denies resources to countless survivors that could be used to pay for medical bills, funeral expenses, replacement of personal property, relocation expenses, and other costs associated with the harm they experienced.