RJ Hubs is a Chicago collective that believes restorative justice is part of the solution to reducing crime and mass incarceration. Their new campaign highlights the impact of systematic racism in the criminal justice and legal system. The Restorative Justice Works campaign features messaging showing restorative justice in action. By equipping neighborhoods with resources that focus on healing and support, RJ Hubs believes community building is the key to addressing broader issues surrounding crime and violence in communities.
Illinois has one of the highest rates of incarceration in the county. 564 per 100,000 people are incarcerated in Illinois, according to the Prison Policy initiative. That is more than some countries. The UK, Canada, and France have lower incarceration rates than the State of Illinois. The incarnation rates among black people are even higher, with black people making up 15% of the Illinois population but 62.9% of the prison population. Activists have long stated the disparity in the criminal justice and legal system regarding black people.
The restorative justice model used by RJ Hubs combines a scientific approach and community lead effort. Currently, there are seven RJ Hub agencies in some of the city’s most crime-ridden communities. The RJ Hubs’ philosophy is centered around five pillars.
- Radical Hospitality
- Relentless engagement of systems and stakeholders
- Building relationships with youth, families
- Learning community
RJ Hubs believes in investing in people instead of punishment. According to them, it costs $172,000 to incarcerate a young person in Illinois versus $6000 to invest in youth through community-based alternatives. The Prison Industrial complex is a big business funded by taxpayer dollars. The cost associated with incarceration extends beyond supplying basic needs such as food, shelter, medical care, and clothing. It includes the costs of maintaining the prisons, including staffing, utilities, and operations. However, it does not appear that Illinois residents see positive results with the increased spending allocated towards incarceration. When low-level, non-violent offenders are incarcerated instead of given supervised release, they are more likely to commit new crimes once they are released from prison.” Recidivism rates are currently over 50%. Why not redirect some tax dollars into methods that help to prevent crime and build and strengthen communities?
“It just goes to show how well funded criminalizing people is versus how poorly funded community work is”- Elena Quintana, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Institute on Public Safety and Social Justice (Alder University)
RJ Hubs is centered on outreach with programs individualized for the community. They stress that restorative justice is not about avoiding accountability and responsibility but instead is about addressing harm and trauma inflicted on communities for generations. By providing access to resources while addressing responsibility and accountability issues, RJ Hubs believes it is part of the solution to address the root of violence, focusing on socio-economic issues, poverty, and racism. It is about attacking the problem and healing it at the source instead of covering generations of trauma, poverty and violence with a band-aid.
“RJ Hubs’ mission is to create access and repair harm, even the harm caused by the system. That takes work. It takes all of us in it together”. -Joshua Brooks, RJ Hubs Coordinator
RJ Hubs does not believe isolation and punishment are the answer or the long-term solution in crime prevention. They believe in connecting people with their communities, providing access to resources to help address trauma, generations of poverty, and more. Residents of these communities should have a safe space where they are supported, affirmed, and encouraged.
“The safest communities are not the ones with the most police…they are the ones with the most resources…and we know what works because it happens all the time in white or wealthier suburbs…we’ve seen it.”- Elena Quintana.
Community building includes connecting residents with one another, providing access to much needed resources such as childcare, after-school programs, quality food and nutrition, mentoring, mental and physical health support, medical health support, and more. Building strong communities also requires working in partnership with law enforcement in the community as well. A system that focuses on isolation and punishment often becomes a trap, locking an individual into a lifetime of various levels of punishment even after “doing the time.”
“If you think of a community as a beautiful tapestry, you don’t strengthen it by pulling out the fibers and throwing it away…we need the types of support and intervention that promote human preservation instead of curtailing it.”- Elena Quintana
For more information on RJ Hubs and Restorative Justice, visit their website rjhubs.org.
Danielle Sanders is a writer and journalist living in Chicago. Find her on social media @daniesandersofficial.