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MEMO: The Case for People First Reentry: A Just Approach to Support People Coming Home From Prison

May 2023

We are practitioners of community-based, resident-centered reentry housing and care, and we are formerly incarcerated people with personal experience with these systems. We wrote this memo to share our core values and principles that we have developed over years of personal and professional experience. We call this approach People First Reentry. It is based on six key principles: (1) agency, (2) leadership by people with lived experience, (3) a commitment to meeting basic human needs, (4) trauma awareness, (5) flexible arrangements, and (6) an overall restorative approach to harm. 

In this session, panelists shared the principles of people first reentry as formerly incarcerated reentry practitioners and leaders across the country who currently run reentry houses with a people first approach. Panelists included Terah Lawyer-Harper - Executive Director of Creating Restorative Opportunities & Programs (CROP), Stacey Borden - Founder of New Beginnings Reentry Services, Marlo Da Motivator - Executive Director of Motivating and Transforming Lives, Rasheed Stanley Lockheart - Reentry Director and Richard Cruz - Co-Executive Director of The Ahimsa Collective.

WEBINAR: Briefing for Philanthropic Funders 

June 28, 2023

If you are in philanthropy and would like to request a copy of this webinar briefing on June 28, 2023, please email and we will send you a link. Panelists included: Ken Oliver: Executive Director of Checkr Foundation, Richard Cruz and Rasheed Stanley-Lockheart of The Ahimsa Collective, Armand Coleman: Executive Director of the Transformational Prison Project,  and Courtney Santesero:  Director of Residential Programs Peaceprints of NY. Hosted by Maisha Quint with the Libra Foundation and Chloe Cockburn, CEO of Just Impact Advisors.

Prison From Paradigm To Policy: Restorative Justice Symposium Panel

February 5, 2024

The Ahimsa Collective's Richard Cruz on a panel for a discussion of Why Choose RJ? with the perspectives of people with lived experiences of either participating in a restorative process (as a survivor or person who has caused harm), holding restorative processes (as practitioner), or choosing RJ in their capacity as a system actor (prosecutor, defense attorney/PD, and judge.)

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ARTICLE: A place to be free
October 12, 2023

INQUEST | Three formerly incarcerated men explain that “If the reentry housing across the country were to follow what we like to call a “people-first reentry model,” then many thousands fewer people would return to prison each year, and would instead be on a path to success, agency, human dignity, and connection.” Two of the authors, David Carranza, Ahimsa’s Senior Accountant, and Anthony Ammons, of the CARE unit at the CA Department of Justice, tell their stories of attending the Ahimsa reentry house started by the third, Richard Cruz, Ahimsa’s co-ED

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WEBINAR: DVSA Utah conference 

September 6, 2023

2023 Domestic Violence Solutions | This may be the best online description of Ahimsa’s work. In a two-hour webinar Richard and sonya, our co-EDs, dive deeply into their experiences of what does and does not work in responding to and preventing harm. They are talking with people working in domestic violence, for many of whom police and prison appear to be the only way to keep child and adult DV survivors safe. So the questions and answers—about prison, accountability, agency, listening, safety, healing, and much more—are profound. The gratitude expressed in the chat is heartfelt.

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RADIO SHOW: Show talk with the Ahimsa Collective case for person centered reentry

February 15, 2023

Prison Radio Show | This show features a long news section about a recent class-action lawsuit as well as an interview with Rasheed Stanley-Lockheart, the Reentry Director with the Ahimsa Collective. He is one of the authors of the recently released memo called "The Case for People First Reentry" and our interview focused on that memo. Heads up we downloaded the audio from CKUT's archives and so there are 2 minutes of audio from the previous show at the top of the hour. .

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ARTICLE: How do we address sexual violence without contributing to the harms of mass incarceration?
June 13, 2023

BostonGlobe | A conversation with Sonya Shah, founder of Ahimsa Collective, on restorative practices to address harm. Sonya is asked to comment on the case of Brock Turner, the privileged young man who raped an unconscious student and only served 3 months inside, which led to the recall of the judge by popular vote. Her responses express her empathy for survivors of sexual violence, and her awareness that we have a long way to go in inventing the best ways to respond. See the film, which is included, as well as her interview.

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RADIO SHOW: UpFront "What does restorative justice work look like?"

February 15, 2023

94.1 KPFA | Julian Ward, restorative justice facilitator who’s run victim-offender dialogues in California’s prisons, and community-based restorative justice processes, mostly working through the Ahimsa Collective. Trino Jimenez, went through a restorative justice process with the man who killed his oldest brother. He now gives talks about restorative justice in prisons.

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ARTICLE: "Colleges experiment with restorative justice in sexual assault cases" 

December 28, 2022

CAL MATTERS | Some California colleges are responding to campus sexual assault and harassment with restorative justice: a process that brings together the student who was harmed, the person who harmed them and the community to seek solutions.

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ARTICLE: "Ahimsa Collective offers ‘a new way’ forward for reentry" 

December 23, 2022

THE OAKLANDSIDE | For people released from prison, reentry housing can often feel like another form of incarceration. This East Bay group is taking a different approach, and getting results.

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PODCAST: "Restorative Justice: a conversation with Sonya Shah"

October 21, 2022

A New Legacy | In 1993 Polly Klaas, aged 12, was abducted and murdered in Petaluma, California. The public outrage had a major impact in increasing harsh prison sentences and growing the prison system. Polly’s sisters are now dedicated to finding alternative responses to harm. In this podcast they find some of sonya’s ideas about RJ surprising: e.g., that sonya sees RJ as an option not a panacea, and that forgiveness is not mandated by RJ but is both rare and complex.


RADIO SERIES: Crime Survivor Stories

August 22, 2022

KCBS RADIO | This five part series by KCBS follows a group of survivors and kin of victims who have gone through the VOD Program with The Ahimsa Collective. The piece documents their interaction with incarcerated people at Soledad State Prison around a collective journey of healing and accountability.

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ARTICLE: "He befriended his brother’s murderer. In each other, they found healingOctober 11, 2021

LA TIMES | This story of two men provides a window onto California's Victim Offender Dialogue program, which facilitates meetings between people in prison and the individuals they harmed. This dialog was facilitated by Ahimsa VOD Program Director Martina Lutz Schneider.


ARTICLE: "Can face-to-face meetings between a victim and an abuser help a society overwhelmed with bad behavior?" July 21, 2021

THE CUT | An in-depth article about bringing healing to people who have caused and been subjected to intimate violence, told in the context of the #MeToo and restorative justice movements. This article sites Executive Director, sonya shah.

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VIDEO: Adrienne Maree Brown in Conversation with sonya shah

February 12, 2021

California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) | sonya shah interviews adrienne maree brown about transformative justice, cancel culture, and pleasure activism.


VIDEO: Rasheed Stanley-Lockheart on the Today Show 

February 1, 2021

TODAY SHOW | Rasheed shares his journey after being incarcerated at age 15 to becoming a mentor to men and women upon their release from prison.

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ARTICLE: "Being a Prison Firefighter Taught Me to Save Lives"

October 1, 2020

THE MARSHALL PROJECT | Rasheed Stanley-Lockheart, Ahimsa Program Manager, tells how he became a first responder.

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VIDEOS: Centering the Needs of Survivors

March 2020

Building Accountable Communities Project with the Barnard Center for Research on Women | Featuring nuri nusrat, sonya shah, Elliott Fukui, adrienne maree brown, Stas Schmiedt, Lea Roth, RJ Maccani, Priya Rai, Rachel Herzing, and Esteban Kelly


WEBINAR: How do we walk our talk? Exploring restorative organizational practices. October 16, 2019


PODCAST: "Tell Christy I love her"

October 16, 2019

Ear Hustle | Featuring VOD participants, Jason Samuel and Tom & Christy Morgan and VOD Director, Martina Lutz-Schneider.


DOCUMENTARY: The Prison Within

December 2019

Featuring Troy Williams, Sam Johnson, Barry Splillman, Eddie Herrena, sujatha baliga, sonya shah and others. | Watch trailer here.


ARTICLE: Unseen 2019 - Smashing the Patriarchy with Kindness

December 28, 2019

Live Mint | Featuring Sachi Maniar from the Ashiyana Foundation and organizations The Ahimsa Collective has supported and collaborated with in India. 

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VIDEO: What are obstacles to accountability?

October 2019

Building Accountable Communities Project with the Barnard Center for Research on Women | Featuring nuri nusrat, sonya shah, Mimi Kim, Ann Russo, Esteban Kelly, adrienne maree brown, Rachel Herzing, Stas Schmiedt, Lea Roth, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, and Mia Mingus

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PLENARY: What is accountability?

April, 2019

Barnard Center for Research for Women co-sponsored Building Accountable Communities: A National Gathering to Transform Harm | Shannon Perez-Darby, Esteban Kelly, RJ Maccani, Mia Mingus, sonya shah, and Leah Todd. Moderated by Piper Anderson. 


CNN SERIES: The Redemption Project with Van Jones

April 28th, 2019 

CNN | Features a dialogue facilitated by Martina Lutz Schneider and Alison Espinosa-Setchko that premiered June 2, 2019


PODCAST: Episode 19 - Restorative Justice with sonya shah

March 13, 2019

JUSTICE IN AMERICA  | Josie Duffy Rice & Clint Smith     


WEBINAR: Adult Survivors as Movement Leaders

January 23, 2019

PreventConnect CALCASA |  Sonya Shah, Aishah Shahidah Simmons & Amita Swadin


ARTICLE: "Sonoma's Martina Lutz Schneider to share stage with victims who have found forgiveness" 

January 10, 2019

SONOMA INDEX TRIBUNE  |  Featuring Martina Lutz Schneider             

WEBINAR: Centering Survivors - A Critical Conversation   

April 18th, 2018

Zehr Institute for Restorative Justice | Featuring Kazu Haga, Alison Espinosa-Setchko, and

Richard Smith            

ARTICLE: "Enough with Naming and Shaming: It's Time for Restorative Justice in Hollywood"   

February 1, 2018

THE WASHINGTON POST  |  Ann Hornaday, featuring sonya shah                 

RADIO: In the Trump Era   

November 16th, 2017

APEX EXPRESS  |  Miko Lee and Jalena Keane-Lee, featuring sonya shah        

WORLD TRUST: Social Impact through Film & Dialogue | Director: Shakti Butler

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