An Infrastructure for Restorative Justice is a framework for designers of the built environment to promote equity, end mass incarceration, and begin healing in justice-involved communities.
Our project is founded on an acknowledgement that the racist structures that have produced the epidemic of mass incarceration in this country have for centuries been embedding in and shaping our built environment. From red-lining to zoning policy, school district funding to broken windows policing... we have seen clearly how space and geography, networks, and their related affordances (or lack-there-of) have had an outsized impact on which communities are now over-represented in the carceral system.

In an effort to understand how these environmental structures might be undone, and be replaced with "restorative" structures, we put forth this (evolving) framework. It result of ongoing design research, begun in 2019, and is intended to serve as an opening to a larger conversation on how designers of the built environment might play a role in ending mass incarceration by repairing the violence done by systemic spatial inequities.

The framework has two major components: TouchpointsNetwork Typologies. Touchpoints outline what the opportunities for intervention are, while Network Typologies illustrate how they are to be spatialized in the public realm.

The Touchpoints—Advocacy, Prevention, Intervention, Mitigation, and Re-entry—are programmatic categories that individually deconstruct, and together prescribe the scope for, programming needed to create equitable environments. Outlined below, they should be understood as points along a journey, each a necessary component, suggesting ways to shift communities toward restorative structures.

The Touchpoints


Humanizing incarcerated peoples and communities disproportionately affected by the current carceral system (often low-income people of color).

Change requires critical mass. Advocacy fosters educating the public and changing perceptions about justice-involved people and the communities they come from. The resulting public awareness can usher in policy change and funding.

As these stories are not ours to tell, these projects should be viewed as platforms to raise community voices. Proposed interventions include community forum spaces, art installations and exchanges, and community-generated journalism/storytelling.


Addressing poverty and trauma, two leading precursors to crime and incarceration.

Crime is rooted in environmental factors. Prevention attempts to remedy these environmental precursors via the four big categories of Housing, Education, Wellness, and Jobs.

Projects include mobile libraries and homework/tutoring buses, cooperative housing development support, job training and popup therapy and wellness networks.


Repairing wounds in communities via alternatives to the current criminal justice system.

A first interaction with the justice system can set a person's life for the wro

Programs focus on helping divert those who have been accused of a crime into restorative justice programs

Projects include family help centers, youth courts, peacekeeping and other restorative justice spaces.


Lessening the severity of the harms of incarceration for those already in jail or prison.


Welcoming people recently released from prison—helping them thrive when they rejoin society.

A Network Approach

An Infrastructure for Restorative Justice is a framework for designers of the built environment to promote equity, end mass incarceration, and begin healing in justice-involved communities.
New York City’s proposed "Borough-Based Jail" approach may in the end succeed in addressing some of the well-documented institutional failures at Rikers, but decentralizing the jail system won’t address the root causes leading to incarceration.  Stemming the rate of incarceration requires addressing community needs. 

Solutions should be situated in the community, informed by the community, and supportive of the community.  To date, these needs have been largely under-resourced and the effects have been treated as symptoms. To effect our alternative strategy, the Touchpoints were developed to be implemented via a network approach that locates these reparative structures within communities at three topological locations and scales: 


Hubs, which are collocated with existing borough institutions, such as courthouses and jails, in order to promote alternatives to the traditional system, while influencing positive change within the adjacent traditional institutions.


Nodes represent a new kind of local institution, at the scale of neighborhood libraries or schools. Nodes are familiar, trusted, integrated into the daily life of the community.  And finally


Satellites are easily deployed, often mobile or temporary interventions, distributed throughout the neighborhood and providing the most direct connection to people in public spaces. 

With the touchpoints, and a strategy for their spatialization established, student teams explored implementation via conceptual prototypes. Advocacy projects include a gallery space to highlight neighborhood creative expression, a neighborhood Forum to promote community workshops and political activism, and sidewalk kiosks, at the scale of bus stops or phone booths, to collect stories and promote neighborhood journalism.  Prevention projects include a Community Development Corporation storefront, mobile libraries and tutoring classrooms, and pop-up therapy pods.  The Intervention team focused on the components of community justice and peace-making by designing a Restorative Justice Welcome & Information Center, Community Justice Court, and spaces for peacemaking circles.  Migitaton projects look at ways of lessening the negative impacts of the current carceral system by reimagining parole preparation and hearing spaces, mental health access, and connections to family and community through physical and virtual visiting accommodations.  The ReEntry team focused on a single building in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, which provided returning citizens a safe, supportive environment to live, find work and find wellness through art and music.