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Transformative Justice ~ A Testament and Resources

In a time when we are faced with the disheartening truth that our government and society have often neither been righteous nor equitable, how do we rebuild relationship, repair harms caused and return to trust? “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.” Many of us have heard and even used this this quotation attributed to one of the greatest icons of peace of the 21st century, Gandhi. Even so, somehow in our society, when conflict arises, we blindly follow the “justice” systems in place that present and promote punitive consequences, criminalization, and cycles of oppression. What is an alternative? Transformative justice.

Finding transformative justice, or TJ, changed my life and made the seemingly impossible possible. It was a light in the void, gifting hope after a lifetime of desperation. At a young age I was harmed by an adult in my family. I disclosed this harm to my mama, and she immediately sought help with the “authorities.” The police, Child Protective Services, and the public defender were all involved, with the promise of “justice.” It took over a year to go through all the legal battles, which of and in themselves were traumatic, and in the end, the harm was dismissed and the perpetrator found not guilty.

Our government system failed my family and me, “victimized” us, tore us and our community apart, and uprooted every belief I’d had in justice. A deep mistrust in our government and how wrongs were “righted” was seeded. The adults around me followed the system like sheep following the herd off the cliff.  There were no other models to help us move towards a deeper, more holistic kind of justice, forgiveness and reparation based on love.

After wandering in a field of pain and mistrust for over a decade afterwards, I still had the longing for peace and chose to reconnect with the one who had caused me harm. I thought that love and determination for healing would be enough to repair the relationship and the pain. I was wrong. The renewed contact was hopeful, but I felt unable to address the harm and work toward the repair needed. A stronger container was needed with witnesses, companions, allies who believed in us and the re-union we hoped for.

And then the way of transformative justice came to me and the teaching that harm (like most things) has to be held within a community for transformative healing to be attained. It is a model where each has an understanding of both the effects of the harm that was caused and the history or story behind the harm. Through using TJ, I have felt empowered. Conflict still has not been easy, but at least it’s easier. And in the rebuilding of my relationship with that loved relative, TJ has given the opportunity for a greater healing within our community as well, as they have taken their part in our conversations. It does take a village!

In our times, TJ is regenerating in many places, and there are increasingly more resources. Below are organizations, links, books and articles I’ve found or been gifted along the way. My prayer is n all relationships we can begin to open our eyes, our hearts and open up the possibility for true healing. Let’s practice and live in what justice truly is, simultaneously empowering and strengthening individuals and communities!

YPW Partners Doing the Work:

Youth Justice Organizations:

*Many of these were found at http://savethekidsgroup.org/resource-links/


*Many of these were found at http://savethekidsgroup.org/resource-links/


  • Ruth Morris, (2000) Stories of Transformative Justice
  • John F. Wozniak, Michael C. Braswell, Ronald E. Vogel and Kristie R. Blevins. (2008). Transformative Justice: Critical and Peacemaking Themes Influenced by Richard Quinney.


About the Author: Marisa Taborga Byrne

Marisa (Sasa) Taborga Byrne, born and raised in California, comes from an Irish, German, Bolivian and Spanish lineage. She is a Nature Connection Guide, Rites of Passage Facilitator and Holistic Sexual Health Educator. Marisa has been working with youth since she was one herself, and began to hold ceremonial rites of passage for adolescents and adults in 2012. She has worked for Pacific Quest in Hawaii, Rites of Awareness and Outside now in California, Rites of Passage Journeys in Washington, and has been a part of Youth Passageways as a volunteer and Stewardship Council Member. As a recipient of the powerful healing attributes of nature, she is a strong advocate for soul discovery in the wild. Marisa is now fully dedicated to empowering youth through the lens of holistic sexual health education, believing that education is the preventative medicine of potential trauma and the key to fully embracing and embodying our wild, natural selves.


  1. Your story is compelling and admirable. So glad you found the shift to do something different. Nowhere within it did I see “restorative justice” referenced. Can you describe the difference between “restorative justice” and “transformative justice”.

  2. Thank you Leslie for your comment and question. (As I was introduced first to transformative justice, I probably do have a bit of a bias about the difference between restorative and transformative justice.) How I understand it is restorative justice engages all parties in naming the harm caused and to work together towards reparation, while transformative justice does this and includes the consideration of how societal and cultural differences can and do affect the harm and reparation. I hope this is clear. Thanks again!

    If wanting to learn more, here is a website that explores the differences:
    Center for Justice and Reconciliation: http://restorativejustice.org/rj-library/restorative-justice-and-transformative-justice-definitions-and-debates/11558/#sthash.LwxHk5RZ.dpbs

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