Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Barb Toews on “designing justice, designing spaces”

Anne Dalke's picture

Barb is talking right now about restorative justice on the rise....

some notes made while listening:

The program began by describing the “extraordinary contribution,” of the “amazing” Barb Toews, to work that attends to the relation between environmental design and behavior. Barb kicked off the program by talking about “changing the metaphor” from criminal justice as a “boxing match,” to imagining “restorative justice as a mountain lodge, a room in which you need to face the harm you had caused, and become accountable to victims…” so that in workshops she might ask, “are you sitting in the boxing ring right now? Then go to the ‘do no harm’ room…”

Realizing that the values they were seeking in this work--being receptive to accountability--were not expressed in the prison environment, Barb and her colleague began to think together about the intersection of restorative justice and design…

Barb said that "restorative justice is really a relational approach to justice--and also to daily life. How can we live our lives more in relationship--while recognizing the need, sometimes, to step away?" When we talk about these issues, we need to look at the larger patterns of how we live in separation and isolation. Can we think, for example, about arranging courtrooms differently, so that people can see one another better? Simple changes (such as putting people on the same level, or using soft surfaces rather than hard ones) can begin challenging the hierarchical ways we think about justice.



jccohen's picture


i love this point about a 'relational approach to justice,' including our physical selves.  it goes so against the grain of the current organization of prisons, schools, and lots else...

what great work barb is doing!

and hope you're all well!