Reflecting on the AIA AAJ TransFORM/ReFORM Justice Conference

Senior Associate Clair Colburn shares her thoughts from the recent conference focused on reforming and transforming the judicial system.

November 10, 2021
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During the AIA AAJ TransFORM/ReFORM Justice Conference, I was reminded of a Brené Brown quote about how the “energy that we create holding opposite things (in tension) is the birthplace of transformation”. I felt both heartbreak and inspiration, which are certainly in tension, and I hope what follows is a sea change of transformation propelled by the projects and policies presented in this conference.

This year’s 3-day virtual conference provided the unique opportunity for architecture colleagues, along with allied professionals and partner organizations, across the country and internationally to discuss opportunities to reform and transform the status quo of the judicial system. Some of the topics discussed at the conference included new approaches to justice through the introduction of therapeutic courts, restorative and trauma-informed practices and opportunities for community-based alternatives to incarceration that support healing and recovery.  

I felt energized to act on behalf of so many whose voices are not (yet) audible to ensure that people are treated fairly and humanely. Below are a few takeaways that I hope will inspire you as well:

In The Forking Path: A City Reimages Public Safety, Brenda Gomez calmly referred to her teenage self as a “violent young lady” saved from incarceration and even death – an escape that too many of her friends were unable to avoid. Thanks to the support and coping skills that the Stack Center provided, instead of being locked up she works as a liaison for both her community and the local police to help others avoid early incarceration, forever impacting the trajectory of their lives.

In Creating Inclusive Spaces for People with Disabilities, Laurie Hallmark, a caseworker who fights tirelessly for people to understand her clients’ invisible disabilities so that their cases can be tried on facts rather than an outburst brought on by PTSD or the inability to focus with people sitting directly behind them, inspires me to fight for change that help break down barriers to justice.

And finally, the Sustainable Justice 2030: Green Guide to Justice provides resources to educate designers and clients about the intersectionality of justice facilities in an effort to foster humane, sustainable communities.