The Ahimsa Collective
Organizational Staff, Facilitators and Collaborators
sonya shah initiated the Ahimsa Collective in 2016. She is also an associate professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies. Central to her core values are nurturing community belonging and collective care, healing, compassion, love and transforming harm. She is a Buddhist, a first-generation immigrant from the Northwestern part of India and feels most at home in nature. She has two amazing children who remind her what it means to be in love all of the time, and currently resides in northern California.
Richard Cruz is a Substance Abuse Treatment Counselor and Mediator. He was a mentor to at-risk youth in the ReDirect Youth Diversion Program, Co-facilitator of Realize Restorative Justice Group and a Peer Counselor in the Substance Use Disorder Treatment Program at Valley State Prison. He organized, trained, and facilitated groups in Cognitive Behavior Treatment (Criminal Thinking, Anger Management, Family Relation, Denial Management, Victims Impact, Substance Abuse). Richard has facilitated and participated in numerous other classes such as N.A., A.A., VHOPE (Victims Healing Others People through Empathy), Domestic Violence, Peace Education Program and Prisoners of Peace. Which offer support, connection, life skills, support services for youth, and promote healing in the community. He currently holds a position as the Project Manager for the Ahimsa Collective. Richard believes that there is no right or wrong, there is only different.
Alison Espinosa-Setchko was born in Oakland, CA, received a degree in Community Healing and Social Engagement from Pitzer College, and has spent much of her adult life working with young people as a teacher, a mindfulness educator and a facilitator of restorative justice in schools, prisons, and communities. As a survivor of child sexual abuse whose family has been impacted by the criminal justice system, her life has shown her the power of restorative justice to transform lives and institutions. She is committed to making its healing potential manifest on a larger scale. Alison is currently a Program Manager at the Ahimsa Collective where she facilitates Victim Offender Dialogues, manages the Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence program at Valley State Prison, and is developing a women’s circle for survivors of sexual harm.
COORDINATOR & FACILITATOR
Julian Ward believes it is possible and necessary to heal from harm and restore our inherent connections with one another and the earth. His focus is on shifting a culture of fear, isolation, and domination to one of love, nurturance, and interdependence. He is working on a master’s in conflict transformation from the Center for Justice & Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University.
MARTINA LUTZ SCHNEIDER
Martina was introduced to Restorative Justice by Dominic Barter in 2003 through her engagement with Nonviolent Communication. She is a devoted RJ advocate and has volunteered in school and prison settings. She received her BA in Interdisciplinary Studies from the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco with a focus in Restorative Justice and a Conflict Resolution Certificate from Sonoma State University.
In 2015 Martina began facilitating Victim Offender Dialogues in severe and violent crimes in California State prisons through Insight Prison Project. She now collaborates directly with the Office of Victim and Survivors Rights and Services (OVSRS/CDCR) and serves as a VOD consultant and VOD lead facilitator.
Martina Lutz Schneider is a VOD Consultant and VOD Lead Facilitator.
MFT / FACILITATOR
Maegan Willan is a licensed psychotherapist working with activist and queer communities in private practice in Berkeley, CA. Since first falling in love with Restorative Justice she has been blessed to learn with many inspiring circle keepers in the field. She has worked in prisons, schools and with groups of survivors of crime, as well as facilitating Victim Offender Dialogues and community healing processes. Informed by the wild possibility of restoring safety and trust within families and communities impacted by gendered and intimate harm, and by her own history, this work has been the most transformative in her life and a place of deep belonging.
Maegan Willan co-created the Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence Program at Valley State Prison, and serves as the MFT for The Ahimsa Collective.
Bonnie Wills received her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Ecology at John F. Kennedy University, a Masters in Culture and Spirituality at Holy Names University, and a Masters in Religion and Philosophy at California Institute of Integral Studies. She is a Certified Diversity Facilitator, and a Restorative Justice Facilitator and Trainer. She has facilitated Restorative Justice Circles at San Quentin Prison, and COSA (Circles of Support and Accountability) groups for formerly incarcerated youth. She has facilitated healing/training circles at California Institute of Integral Studies, Cal State East Bay and Holy Names University. She completed the Merritt College Community Mental Health Advocates certification training. She currently facilitates training for the re-entry pod at San Francisco Jail, Valley State Prison. and various community organizations. Bonnie is committed to a compassionate, just, and inclusive planet. Through her work, she strives to support the eradication of social injustice and inspire. She currently facilitates training for healing within our homes, workplaces, communities, institutions, and the planet.
Bonnie Wills is a facilitator in the Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence program in prison and facilitates Restorative Circles for families and organizations.
Kashka Banjoko was granted a Master of Arts degree at Starr King School for the Ministry, Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, CA. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from San Francisco State University. He has facilitated Restorative Justice Circles at San Quentin Prison and currently facilitates circles in the re-entry pod at the San Francisco Jail and Valley State Prison. Kashka has also worked with COSA (Circles of Support and Accountability) with formerly incarcerated youth through RJOY. He has facilitated training circles at California Institute of Integral Studies, Cal State East Bay and Holy Names University. Kashka seeks to restore wholeness and purpose in the lives of individuals, including his own, one circle at a time.
Kashka Banjoko is a facilitator in the Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence program in prison and facilitates Restorative Circles for families and organizations.
GRANT WRITER / FACILITATOR
Dave Belden has been facilitating restorative justice oriented groups in prisons and jails since 2012. He is a writer, editor and occasional college teacher. His eclectic work life has included 20 years as a carpenter, 10 as a corporate writer for engineers, 4 as managing editor of the spiritual progressive magazine Tikkun, and two published science fiction novels. His heart is with restorative justice and peacemaking, as the most effective response to harms from the individual to societal levels, including the massive harms caused by Europeans’ centuries-long drive for dominance. He emigrated from England to marry his American love; they have been together over 35 years and have one son.
David Belden writes grants for The Ahimsa Collective and is a facilitator in the Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence program in prison.
nuri nusrat hopes to bring love and compassion to those she has the honor of working with. She has 6 years of experience in restorative justice and over 15 years supporting those impacted by the criminal legal system. She’s had the privilege of training incredible people in circle process and restorative community conferencing models and has co-facilitated direct dialogues about harm, accountability, and support. She believes the collective has more wisdom than she could ever hold alone and values collaboration as a fundamental part of restorative justice work. nuri’s parents were both child sexual abuse survivors, amongst many other identities, including fiercely loving and often hilarious parents. This motivates her to create opportunities that her parents didn’t have-for communities to work together to acknowledge harm, seek accountability without shaming, and to support those impacted and each other. She cares deeply for all those who have experienced, done, and been affected by harm. nuri currently works at the Ahimsa Collective where she facilitates the Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence Program at Valley State Prison and Avenal State Prison, facilitates "Victim Offender Dialogues", and collaborates with others on exploring the potential for restorative justice to support those impacted by domestic violence and other harms.
COLLABORATOR / TRAINING CO-FACILITATOR
Troy Williams is a media expert who develops transformative stories for social change through his production company and nonprofit in the Bay Area, California. When incarcerated he directed the San Quentin Prison Restorative Justice Roundtable, raising prisoner participation from less than 40 to over 200, and founded the award-winning San Quentin Prison Report media production company.
Troy Williams is a collaborator on restorative justice movement building and training co-facilitator.
SAMANTHA LYNNE WILSON
RESTORATIVE PRACTICES CONSULTANT / FACILITATOR
Samantha Lynne Wilson (MA, M.Div, PhD ABD) is a community psychologist, spiritual care provider, and restorative practices consultant and facilitator in Los Angeles, CA. From 2008-2013, she founded an international youth organizing collective, collaborating with other young adults to organize over 500 youth across the USA, India, and Mexico on transnational dialogues and action in their local communities. Experiences of inequity and abuse within families, communities, and institutions led her to pursue her Masters in Divinity at Claremont School of Theology, focusing her work on faith-rooted organizing and nonprofit management. Informed by her spiritual call, she worked as an intern chaplain, completing 1200 hours of clinical pastoral education in Los Angeles, providing interfaith care in public hospitals, jails, and in re-entry nonprofits. She is a candidate for Unitarian Universalist ministry and a PhD candidate in Community, Liberation, and Ecological Depth Psychologies at Pacifica Graduate Institute. She does her work in honor of generations of family members who caused and experienced harm in the midst of systemic oppressions, and to the incarcerated great-grandfather her family never met.
Samantha Lynne Wilson is a consultant for restorative practices in faith-based and community organizations as well as a facilitator in the Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence program in prison.
Kazu Haga is the founder and Coordinator of the East Point Peace Academy, is a trainer in Kingian Nonviolence and teaches various aspects of nonviolence, restorative justice and mindfulness. Born in Tokyo, Japan, he has been engaged in social change work since the age of 17, and has played leading roles in various social movements. He works to empower incarcerated communities, young people and activists around the country. He currently resides in Oakland, CA.
Kazu Haga is a facilitator in the Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence program in prison.
Sachi Maniar runs a non-profit, Ashiyana, which aims to transform the lives of vulnerable children and children in conflict with the law within closed institutions in India. Her journey to build peace began as a student and continued through her film making career and her equally committed volunteer work. She works with diverse stakeholders in Mumbai's complex juvenile justice system which often includes other national and international agencies. No matter the role she inhabits she manages to bring hope to the children and to be a catalyst for inner transformation for all.
Sachi Maniar is a collaborator on restorative justice movement building in India.
Ian Navas is formerly incarcerated and served a nine year sentence. Ian went to jail when he was 18 years old. During his time in prison he experienced multiple instances of violence and abuse, which caused profound psychological and emotional trauma. While participating in one of The Ahimsa Collective's programs at Valley State Prison, Ian was able to engage in courageous conversations that helped him transform his negative experiences into a powerful tool to help others. After release from prison, Ian has been active in helping others who have suffered traumatic experiences like himself with the goal to transform victimization into survival.
Ian Navas is a trainer for the Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence program.
Karen Lischinsky is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at Curry College, where she teaches on issues of social justice. She founded the Transformational Prison Project (TPP) to bring the principles and practices of restorative justice to the Massachusetts prison system. Restorative Justice is founded on making possible courageous conversations that have the power to be transformative and connecting for survivors, for those who are subject to incarceration, and to the society as a whole. The power of restorative justice is that it centers the voices of those who have been harmed, while supporting those who are willing to take responsibility for the harm they have caused. Kischinsky received her PhD in Sociology from Northeastern University, and her MSW from Boston University.
Karen Lischinsky is a collaborator on the Trauma Education Project for Law Enforcement and Systems Professionals.
My name is Steven Hua, I’m 49 years old. I work for the Bay Area Community Services (BACS) as a Housing Coordinator at Fremont South County Wellness Center. There I get to serve the homeless, facilitate groups (Anger Management and Stress Management) and give one-on-one support services. I love my job because I get to do something I enjoy and am meant for. I was given a second chance so that helps me have understanding for what it’s like to be helpless and hopeless. More importantly, to have compassion and empathy. At BACS our mission is to uplift under-served individuals and their families by doing whatever it takes.
Steven Hua is a facilitator in the Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence program in prison.
sujatha baliga’s work is characterized by an equal dedication to victims and persons accused of crimes. She speaks publicly and inside prisons about her own experiences as a survivor of child sexual abuse and her path to forgiveness. A former victim advocate and public defender in New York and New Mexico, baliga was awarded a Soros Justice Fellowship in 2008 which she used to launch a pre-charge restorative juvenile diversion program in Alameda County. Through the Restorative Justice Project baliga helps communities implement restorative justice alternatives to juvenile detention and zero-tolerance school discipline policies. She is also dedicated to using this approach to end child sexual abuse and intimate partner violence. sujatha is a frequent guest lecturer at universities and conferences; she’s been a guest on NPR and the Today Show; and The New York Times Magazine and The Atlantic have profiled her work. She earned her A.B. from Harvard College, her J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, and has held two federal clerkships. A long-time Buddhist practitioner, she is a lay member of the Gyuto Foundation, a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery in Richmond, CA, where she teaches meditation on Monday nights.
sujatha baliga is a collaborator.
VALLEY STATE PRISON INCARCERATED FACILITATORS
The Ahimsa collective has seven in-prison facilitators at Valley State prison who are equally responsible for the Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence program at Valley State Prison. They co-lead the curriculum, have an in-depth understanding of restorative justice and trauma healing, foster the agency of each participant, and critically-self reflect on their own process of teaching and learning. In addition to technical facilitation skills, they have the wisdom of personal experience and knowledge about their incarcerated community that makes them excellent facilitators.
DANIEL JACOB SELF
FACILITATOR / COORDINATOR
daniel jacob self is a dancer, performing artist, group facilitator, and therapist in training currently pursuing his Master's degree in Counseling Psychology with an emphasis in Somatic Psychotherapy. His undergraduate degree is in Interdisciplinary Studies from the California Institute of Integral Studies, focusing on privilege, positionality, and embodiment. Coming from a family with a legacy of sexual abuse, daniel is a firm believer in the power of relationships, community, and courageous vulnerability to help heal trauma, isolation, and shame.
ANA MARIA HURTADO
FACILITATOR / COLLABORATOR
Born and raised in Colombia with a multicultural educational background, Ana Maria was introduced to Restorative Justice while she was completing her Master’s Degree on East and West Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. Restorative Justice has added another layer of meaning to the work she does in the world and an opportunity to reconcile with paradox. She is also a SoulCollage® and Guided Imagery Facilitator and is committed to holding space for soul and spiritual inquiry. Ana Maria is also convinced humor is a key component to healing.
Ana Maria Hurtado is a facilitator in the Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence program in prison and a collaborator for restorative practices in Colombia.
For 16 years, Nicole Pittman worked solely on stopping the abusive practice of placing children on sex offender registries. Nicole has seen how our most vulnerable children get caught in the crosshairs of legislation intended to combat crimes against children, and how this practice perpetuates the cycle of abuse. This led Nicole to think deeply about how to move her work beyond fixing the existing system to addressing the root causes of sexual harm. To this end, Nicole is now focusing on co-creating a “Roadmap” to the future of ending child sexual abuse that is bold, exciting, healing &, does not depend on or center the carceral system. She is excited to imagine and build with partners like Ahimsa Collective, a world where we work upstream and transform the conditions that allow child sexual abuse to occur.
Nicole Pittman is a VOD facilitator with the Ahimsa Collective.
AJ achieved his Bachelors of Science Degree in Financial Accounting at Far Eastern University, Philippines. He also graduated with high honors in achieving his degree in Sociology. He received his Customer Service Specialist Certification from Electronics Technician Association (ETA). AJ is a facilitator of Restorative Justice, Anger Management and Domestic Violence. As a facilitator, he is never afraid to share his insights and vulnerability. He is supportive of every member of the group - warm, available to talk, seeking connection, healing and accountability. According to AJ, “I believe in championing all beauty, living with courage, and standing fearlessly together to celebrate our differences. I will never stop building a community where diversity is expected, self-expression is honored, and equality is valued. ALL are welcomed, and YOU are included. Because I believe we belong to something beautiful.”
A.J. Urriza is a collaborator with the Ahimsa Collective for restorative justice practices in the Philippines.