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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
Circles in Prison
This is a 16 month circle program in California prisons where participants’ explore their relationship to intimate violence – which includes family abuse, sexual violence and domestic violence. Drawing on a 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, are presented with 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.
Realize is currently operating at Valley State Prison, the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility (SATF), Avenal State Prison and Mule Creek State Prison.
This year long program in California prisons is centered on and shaped
by victims’ stories, experiences and a deep exploration of the impacts on them. Participants will 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, loss, anger, loss of meaning in life, and potential
addictions. We’ll create space for the group of men or women to process victim impact statements and victim shares in processing circles and writing exercises in order to develop empathy, remorse and accountability and self healing. 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.
Empathize is currently operating at California Correctional Women’s Facility and Correctional Training Facility in Soledad.
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 like victim and offender can trap people in the identity, so we do not use them. Instead we use the terms, “person who committed a harm / responsible party” and “person who was harmed / harmed party,” or “survivor.” We write Victim Offender Dialogue (VOD) because it is the name for this nationally recognized process.
Survivors of violence need to be at the center of any conversation around harm.
At present, we offer:
1) One-on-one conversations and support for survivors, connection to resources, and the opportunities for survivors to share their stories with in-prison groups, if it’s appropriate. Survivors also have the opportunity to participate in a VOD (dialogue with a person who harmed them) process, if applicable. If you are a survivor of sexual violence or violent crime, please see our resources page or contact us.
2) Small Support Groups: we currently offer small online support groups to survivors through our MARJ program, and our VOD program. These support groups range from two to six months. Please contact us if you are interested in learning more about these groups.
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.
New Reentry House
In March 2021, we opened our first reentry house in Oakland for formerly incarcerated men.
Given the increase in releases, we offer rides home to people being released from any California State facility or jail in collaboration with the Anti-Recidivism Coalition.
Groups and One-on-One Support
Parole-mandated reentry services typically tell you what to do more than they ask you what you need. Our reentry group of formerly incarcerated people and their partners or loved ones in the Bay Area, Sacramento and Stockton, is centered on our own needs. At our monthly potlucks in person and online circles during Covid-19, we talk informally in groups about the issues we are facing. In general, we offer each other help with contacts for jobs, getting a driver’s license or driving lessons, info on public transportation, etc. We pay what we can into a fund for mutual help, share a closet for furniture needed to move into a new place, and drive newcomers to appointments.
If your loved one needs a ride home, if you have just been released and need some support, or you are interested in learning more about our new reentry home, please contact email@example.com.
Community Circles are a way to build community and/or work through conflict or harm in your family, university, organization, community group, or place of spiritual worship. Organizations might want to meet monthly to work through interpersonal conflicts in order to “walk their talk” and prevent large scale rupture. Student groups might choose to use Circle to strengthen their student organizing. Families might choose to use Circle to come together to deal with conflict. If you are trying to figure out how to get started, contact us.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, members of The Ahimsa Collective are collaborating with a new network called Mutual Aid & Restorative Justice (MARJ). MARJ was started by a coalition of people in the Bay Area of California. It is a network for everyone, regardless of geographic location, with a focus on those impacted by violence and trauma, crime survivors, formerly incarcerated people, and those with incarcerated loved ones. In addition to matching people for one-on-one calls, we offer weekly online check-in circles, support for those experiencing harm in the moment, local grocery drop-offs in the Bay Area, and, when possible, modest financial assistance to those in need.
Life Comes From It is a grantmaking circle that supports people of color led grassroots movement-building work rooted in lived experience and relationships for restorative justice, transformative justice, and indigenous peacemaking. The Ahimsa Collective coordinates the administrative tasks for Life Come From It. Tasks such as organizing meetings of the advisory circle, collecting and collating grant applications for the advisory circle, designing the website, coordinating logistics for future grantees are under our domain. The Ahimsa Collective is not a grantee of Life Comes From It, but has a contract from the Open Philanthropy project to implement the fund.