WHAT WE DO
THE AHIMSA COLLECTIVE OFFERS THE FOLLOWING PROGRAMS:
Restorative Justice in the Community
At its best, restorative justice is an approach to addressing harm that works with everyone involved toward true justice, healing, and accountability—without involving the legal system. Our program, Restorative Justice in the Community, is focused on those cases of harm that the legal system is least well-equipped and least-likely to address: sexual, intimate partner, and interpersonal violence. We work in deep community with people who’ve survived harm and abuse, those who’ve caused it, and families impacted by violence. In all of our work, we center agency, liberation, dignity, and transformation. While much of our work is around processes that lead to an eventual facilitated dialogue between people, we also work one-on-one with survivors on their healing journey, and also one-on-one with those who've caused harm who are looking to heal and explore accountability for themselves.
If you’re interested in a restorative approach to harm, please reach out to us at email@example.com. At first we’ll explore your wants and needs, any questions you have, and what we might be able to offer. Then, if we have capacity, we’ll draw on our team of facilitators to find the right match for you.
Land, Healing and Liberation Project
The Ahimsa Collective humbly stewards 25 acres of land nestled in redwoods in Santa Cruz, California. This space was lovingly created to foster healing, and movement-based work for BIPOC communities and all other folks (poor, queer, survivors, formerly incarcerated) who often don’t have access to land, time, space or resources for these kinds of things.
Reentry Housing and Support
In March 2021, we opened our first reentry house in Oakland for formerly incarcerated men.
Parole-mandated reentry services typically tell you what to do more than they ask you what you need. Our approach to reentry support is led by formerly incarcerated people, and is centered on our own needs. We cultivate a reentry community where we talk informally as peers about issues we’re facing. In general, we help each other with contacts for jobs, getting a driver’s license or driving lessons, info on public transportation, etc.
We offer rides home to people being released from any California state facility or jail in collaboration with the Anti-Recidivism Coalition.
If your loved one needs a ride home, if you’ve just been released and need support, or if you’re interested in learning more about our new reentry home, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
We offer trainings in Restorative Justice, Trauma Healing, Facilitation and Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence. We welcome requests from community groups, universities, prisons,or organizations to create a workshop that is specific to your locale. If we cannot do it ourselves we will do our best to refer you to someone who can.
Victim Offender Dialogues (VODs)
A victim offender dialogue* (VOD) is a face-to-face meeting between the person who was harmed and the person responsible for the harm. The experience of talking directly with the responsible party in a safe setting allows the survivor to give full voice to all they endured. They are finally able to say what they need to say and to get answers to questions only the person responsible for the harm can know. People responsible for harm, no matter how severe, are given the chance to hear the often wide-ranging and complex impact of their actions. Only then can they fully realize and understand the effects of their actions in their entirety and formulate their own response. Both parties are active participants in a reparative process, tailored to their needs. It allows them to expand on the meaning the tragic event had for them and explore a new purpose in their lives.
*A note about language: Labels such as “ victim” and “offender” can trap people in the identity. Many people don’t identify with these labels, and people’s life experiences are more than the worst moment in their lives. We generally do not use this term, but Victim Offender Dialogue (VOD) is the standard name used for this nationally recognized process. We use the terms “person who committed a harm / responsible person” and “person who was harmed / harmed person,” “survivor” or “person requesting the VOD.”
Survivor Engagement and Support
We are centering survivors of violence in our care and in conversations around harm.
At present, we offer:
One-on-one conversations to support survivors who have experienced any kind of harm for immediate support and to connect them to resources.
Monthly facilitated small online support groups for survivors of violence that last nine months and can continue as peer lead groups.
Opportunities for survivors to share their experience of harm in victim awareness groups held in multiple CA state prisons.
Facilitated dialogues with the person who harmed them through our Victim Offender Dialogue Program with the person who harmed them incarcerated in any CA state prison.
Facilitated dialogues for community members who want to adress harm they experienced or caused through our Restorative Justice in Community processes.
In Prison Programs Centered Around Healing
Currently we offer two in-prison programs for incarcerated people centered in a deep exploration of healing and accountability. These programs are at Valley State Prison, Mule Creek State Prison, California Correctional Women’s Facility, and Correctional Training Facility.
Realize is a 16-month circle program where participants explore their relationship to intimate violence – which includes family abuse, sexual violence, and domestic violence. Drawing on restorative justice practices and trauma healing philosophy in a supportive setting, we explore topics such as trauma, resiliency, accountability, gender socialization, structural and historical conditions of violence, shame and worth, breaking silence, cycles of harm, and impact on victims/survivors. In each session, we talk in circle, process in small groups, explore concepts, and utilize experiential exercises. We interact with guest speakers and survivors of violent crime. Our circles are co-facilitated by incarcerated leaders and free facilitators.
Empathize is a year-long program shaped by survivors’ stories and experiences, and centered on a deep exploration of the impacts on them. Participants explore the seen and unseen impacts on crime survivors, ranging from more visible medical, physical, and financial impacts to emotional and spiritual impacts such as abiding shame, trauma, grief, anger, loss of meaning in life, and potential addictions. We create space for the group to process victim impact statements and victim shares in processing circles and writing exercises, and to develop empathy, remorse and accountability, and self-healing through these practices. Each participant will work on writing an apology letter that we can vet and file with the OVSRS’s pilot program, which we have been developing with them and other VOD providers.
Life Comes From It is a grantmaking circle that supports Black, Indigenous and People of Color led work in restorative justice, transformative justice, indigenous peacemaking, and land-based projects that incorporate healing and justice. The Ahimsa Collective coordinates all of the administrative tasks for Life Come From It and employs its full-time program officer. Tasks include organizing activities and projects of the advisory circle, collecting and collating grant applications for the advisory circle, designing the website, and coordinating logistics for future grantees.
In response to COVID-19, The Ahimsa Collective started participating in mutual aid. At the start of the pandemic we offered online check-in circles, support for those experiencing harm at the moment, weekly grocery drop-offs, and, when possible, modest financial assistance to those in need. Currently we offer local weekly grocery drop-offs in the East Bay for people who cannot leave their homes to get groceries, and for other reentry homes. If you are interested in signing up for a local grocery drop off, please send us a note on our contact page.
Requesting a Community Circle or Organizational Support
The Ahimsa Collective is connected to a strong pool of facilitators who offer community circles and support for organizations in conflict. You can use Community Circles to build community and/or work through conflict or harm in your family, university, organization, community group, or place of spiritual worship. Organizations might be looking for facilitators to help them work through interpersonal conflicts or to address larger-scale rupture. Student groups might choose to use a Circle to strengthen their student organizing. Although we do not take on this kind of work as an organization, we’ll do our best to connect you to facilitators who can address your needs.