How do restorative and transformative justice processes work in practice?
In April, the anarchist collective CrimethInc published a new pamphlet critiquing accountability processes and suggesting ways forward. “Accounting for Ourselves” is not an introduction to accountability processes, nor to the concepts of restorative or transformative justice, but an attempt to evaluate the current implementation of these concepts in political subcultures.
My interest in this topic has come from participating and supporting friends and comrades in this work over the last ten or so years. Accountability processes attempt to put many of my values into practice—mutual aid, respect, direct action, a DIY ethic, an acknowledgement that “crime,” safety, harm, and support are complex. Accountability processes haven’t been a perfect solution, however, and many of the participants I know have left these processes frustrated. At the same time, a lot of the collective knowledge about what works and what doesn’t work is scattered, unwritten, and lost as ad-hoc groups come and go around particular crises.
I started thinking about doing a writing or research project on accountability processes, motivated by the urgent feeling that we must do this better. After I began talking with friends and comrades about collecting best practices, I discovered that a friend had already done a lot of good thinking in this area, and I read some early drafts of this pamphlet.
“Accounting for Ourselves” is a necessary critique done in an effort to move us toward a better process. Though written as a reflection of the practice of accountability processes in Anarchist circles, the writing offers accessible insights to anyone interested in these issues. I find this type of honest self-reflection both rare and urgently important.
If you are unfamiliar with accountability processes, the following Q & A with Nikita, one of the primary authors of the pamphlet, is an introduction to these ideas and to the pamphlet. The pamphlet itself (available for free) also gives historical context for how these concepts have developed over time and how they have been put into practice. It includes an excellent (and thorough) list of articles, books, ‘zines, and organizations. We recommend starting with these five resources:
- For theoretical background, read “Toward Transformative Justice” by Generation Five (PDF)
- For detailed models and examples, consult the Creative Interventions Toolkit
- For info and FAQs from a collective that facilitates community accountability processes, check out Philly Stands Up
- For articles on responding to gender violence in activist communities, read The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Partner Abuse in Activist Communities, edited by Ching-In Chen, Jai Dulani, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha and Andrea Smith
- For a thoughtful discussion of a specific community accountability effort and how it played out, read “Beautiful, Difficult, Powerful: Ending Sexual Assault Through Transformative Justice” by the Chrysalis Collective (PDF)
“Accounting for Ourselves – Breaking the Impasse Around Assault and Abuse in Anarchist Scenes” and is available for free online here: http://www.crimethinc.com/texts/recentfeatures/accounting.php
This interview was conducted in May 2013.
Q: Could you give us an idea of what an “accountability process” is?
A: “Accountability process” is a broad term for alternative methods for responding to harm on a community level. Instead of focusing on punishment through the criminal legal system, these processes try to actually address the harm that was done, on the terms of the person harmed rather than those of the state. These processes can be as simple as a few friends coming together to support someone and confronting a person who’s hurt them, or can involve more complex mediation between collectives of people who support and intervene.
“Accounting For Ourselves” focuses on these alternative processes as they’re applied in situations of sexual assault and abuse. We chose this focus because these are some of the primary forms of harm that folks have attempted to address through accountability processes, in part because the criminal legal system is notoriously ineffective at providing resolution and preventing harm in these situations.
Q: How do accountability processes fit into your political framework? How did you come to be involved with this work?
A: I first got involved in men’s anti-violence education and rape crisis support work because so many of my friends and loved ones had experienced sexual violence. I was also getting involved in anarchist organizing and prison abolition work, and community accountability brought together these visions on an intimate level.
Accountability processes attempt to put anti-authoritarian ideals into action. If we’re struggling against police violence and the prison industrial complex, but we don’t have tools to address harm in our own circles, we’re unlikely to dismantle this society or successfully create alternatives.
Folk is the new Punk: An Interview with members of the Riot-Folk collective
I first heard Ryan Harvey and Evan Greer in April 2006, in a crowded living room in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I was there for the Counter Recruitment Conference organized by the Pittsburgh Organizing Group. My friend had been telling me about Riot-Folk for months, but I just never got around to checking them out. But after seeing them in the living room, I went immediately to their website and started downloading all the music they had posted there. I was in love.
Riot-Folk is a collective of nine radical musicians who live all around the United States. They each have their own identities and sounds and styles, but they often play or tour together and sometimes record songs together. More than that, they are forging a new way of making music, combining anti-capitalist and ant-authoritarian politics with art and culture. By working together to promote their music, book tours, share contacts, and share equipment, they are setting an example of innovation and creativity, putting their politics into their actions. From their website: “We are an anti-profit mutual-aid collective of radical artists and musicians. We make music to provoke, educate, heal and inspire.”