Palmer Jones, BMC, ’24

Healing Futures Through Restorative & Transformative Justice Practices

Semester: Fall 2023

Faculty Advisor: James Martin

Field Site: Youth Art & Self-Empowerment Project (YASP)

Field Supervisor: Felix Rosado

Praxis Poster: 

Healing Futures Poster (5)


Further Context:

This was my third semester working with Healing Futures in the Youth Art & Self-Empowerment Project. This program aims to focus on connecting with youth to teach them the importance of accountability and engagement with their community. The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office sends eligible cases to the Healing Futures team and if the capacity and resources are there (often a challenge with non-profits such as this), the responsible youth (demeaning language is avoided) will be enrolled and immediately begin meeting with a team of two facilitators. We then connect with the person harmed (notice the dignifying language) to begin making connections and assisting them with their needs throughout the process. By the end of the sessions, the responsible youth will have written an apology letter and have been prepared to share it with the person harmed at their Restorative Community Conference. This conference utilizes the indigenous circle process, highlighting the importance of creating an intentional space. Using restorative and transformative practices, facilitators guide the circle and provide people a chance to share how this impacted them or caused harm. All involved will then create a restorative plan that the responsible youth typically spend 4-8 weeks completing.

Throughout this entire process, we continue to provide transportation, food, or any other support (within our means) needed in order for them to be successful. Once completed, there is a community celebration where we present a personalized award to honor the responsible youth (and occasionally the person harmed) for their strength and determination. This semester, I focused on gaining confidence in my facilitation skills through learning from the program manuals. I worked one on one with other facilitators to brainstorm how the current curriculum could be expanded or made more accessible and implemented new workshop materials. Guided by my mentors, I focused on the nature of healing connections and how programs that engage with the community help people to build ecosystems of care. I previously compared the youth in the program to seeds, reflecting the health of their environment and the things that pour into them.

If we continue to pour positive, confidence-building energy into the youth, they will learn to better care for themselves, which allows them to better care for their community. Through this, there is a reimagination of what community care can look like and hope beyond our current systems of accountability.