Dates of Project: July 2009 through December 2012 (RWJF grant)
Description: Common Justice brings those responsible for crimes and those harmed by them together to work to meet the needs of those harmed and determine sanctions other than incarceration to hold the responsible person accountable, such as engagement in employment and/or education, restitution, community service, apologies, and referrals to counseling. The program also connects responsible and harmed parties with necessary mental health and other support services.
“We call it ‘Common’ Justice because while the process is a cutting-edge innovation in the field...it is a simple, centuries-old accessible process that draws on basic human capacities to address harm and make things as right as possible.”—Project Director, Danielle Sered
In Common Justice, the Vera Institute of Justice applies participatory justice to serious cases in the adult criminal justice system, intervening in cycles of violence and helping to avoid the harmful effects of incarceration. This is the first such program, according to Vera Institute of Justice staff.
During the RWJF grant period, Common Justice worked with 43 responsible parties and 47 harmed parties in Brooklyn, N.Y. By the end of 2012, 24 responsible parties or 56 percent had graduated from the program. Fewer than 5 percent had been terminated and sentenced for new crimes. As one responsible party said, “You owe your harmed party twice: once for what you did, and once for the chance they gave you to make it right. And both debts take your whole life to repay.”
Common Justice connected those harmed by crime, particularly men of color who rarely seek or receive help afterwards, with a wide array of mental health and support services. Despite many popular misperceptions, the people most likely to be harmed by violent crime both nationally and in New York City are 16- to 24-year-old black men—the same people most likely to commit those crimes.
The U.S. Department of Justice has recognized Common Justice as a leader in crime victim services through an Encouraging Innovation: Field-Initiated Programs grant and the Award for Professional Innovation in Victim Services.