In the aftermath of serious harm, the responses offered by the criminal legal system and its racialized mass incarceration are typically to contain, to incapacitate, and to punish—harshly and swiftly. The criminal legal system does not start from a premise of making the person who was harmed whole, nor does it typically create room for exploring the social and economic and interpersonal conditions that may have led to violence—including prior experiences of victimization. Restorative justice has a different starting point. As speaker Danielle Sered has written in her book Until We Reckon, “almost no one’s entry point into violence is committing it.” After a career working with people and communities affected by the criminal legal system, Danielle developed Common Justice to advance solutions to violence that transform the lives of those harmed and foster racial equity without relying on incarceration. The program operates in New York City as the first alternative-to-incarceration and victim-service program in the United States that focuses on violent felonies in adult courts. Across the country, restorative justice practices are sprouting up in communities and being used to tackle even the most serious forms of harm and violence. For example, in a recent case in North Carolina, a family pursued a resolution through restorative justice after a son killed his father and faced a life sentence for murder. Please join us for a conversation about reckoning with violence on the path toward healing—and how processes of restorative and transformative justice can promote safety and disrupt cycles of violence while reducing or eliminating reliance on incarceration.
Danielle Sered envisioned, launched, and directs Common Justice. She leads the project’s efforts locally and nationally to develop and advance practical and groundbreaking solutions to violence that advance racial equity, meet the needs of those harmed, and do not rely on incarceration. Before planning the launch of Common Justice, Danielle served as the deputy director of the Vera Institute of Justice’s Adolescent Reentry Initiative, a program for young men returning from incarceration on Rikers Island. Prior to joining Vera, she worked at the Center for Court Innovation’s Harlem Community Justice Center, where she led its programs for court-involved and recently incarcerated youth. An Ashoka fellow and Stoneleigh fellow, Danielle received her BA from Emory University and her master’s degrees from New York University and Oxford University (UK), where she studied as a Rhodes Scholar. Her book, Until We Reckon, was honored with the Award for Journalism from the National Association for Community and Restorative Justice and selected by the National Book Foundation for its Literature for Justice recognition. Danielle has been featured widely in the public conversation about mass incarceration and violence, including the Aspen Ideas Festival the Atlantic Magazine Summit on Race and Justice, in the New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today, Democracy Now, NPR, and On Second Thought with Trevor Noah. Danielle is the author of the reports The Other Side of Harm: Addressing Disparities in our Responses to Violence, of Accounting for Violence: How to Increase Safety and Break Our Failed Reliance on Mass Incarceration, and the book Until We Reckon: Violence, Mass Incarceration, and a Road to Repair.
Moderated by Sandra Susan Smith, Guggenheim Professor of Criminal Justice; Faculty Director, Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management; Director, Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy.