All of us cause harm and we all experience harm at some point in our lives. In our punitive culture, the solutions offered often rely on the criminal legal system to evaluate and adjudicate harms. Yet many harms are not crimes and many crimes are not necessarily harmful. But we know that harm demands a response.
How might we more readily account for and respond to harms in our communities? Perhaps we can begin by asking some restorative questions. Asking restorative questions offers a path that can encourage new ways of addressing harms.
Inspired by a set of restorative questions, a group of (mostly Chicago-based) artists created beautiful posters. The posters are now available for free downloading on this site. The goal of this project, spearheaded by Project NIA, is to widely disseminate the art so that more people might ask new and different questions when harms are done in their communities.
As Howard Zehr has written: “Restorative justice is a process to involve, to the extent possible, those who have a stake in a specific offense and to collectively identify and address harms, needs and obligations, in order to heal and put things right as possible.” Restorative justice is not a program; instead it is a way of thinking about harm and healing.
We are hoping that people will use the posters and the questions in every community. We want the questions to foster dialogue and lead to less punishment and more accountability in our communities. We have to pre-figure the world in which we want to live. Through this project, we are disseminating a different set of questions that might transform our punitive mindsets and perhaps push more people to embrace a more restorative model of addressing harms.
We invite you to download the posters and put them up in your local libraries, classrooms, houses of worship, supermarkets, cafes, everywhere.
Make sure that you take photos of the posters once they are up in your community spaces and share them with us. We are excited to see where they show up and most importantly we’d love to hear what new conversations they spark! Send us your photos, thoughts and reflections at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you to our friend Sarah Jane Rhee for designing this site. We are very very grateful to all of the artists who contributed to this project. Artists help us to imagine new worlds. Let’s keep imagining together.