Traditionally, the architecture of courtrooms and prisons reinforces an intimidating, top-down, punitive system. DJDS, led by Deanna Van Buren, believe that by re-thinking architecture, the actions and policies of law enforcement agencies can be transformed.
The United States has the highest rate of incarceration of any developed nation. This is not indicative of more crime, but of long-standing stigmas and attitudes towards people of color and low-income communities. Among these groups, even minor, non-violent crimes can lead to incarceration, resulting in a loss of access to employment, housing and other opportunities even after release. This can spark a vicious cycle of incarceration rather than supporting people to participate fully in the community.
DJDS initiatives across the United States include adaptive reuse of former criminal justice infrastructure in the service of local communities and their needs, helping recently released prisoners shelter and reintegrate into their communities, supporting peacebuilding dialogues between victims and offenders by designing or building safe environments for them to convene in, and designing mobile assets for communities, such as a bus that contains classrooms and access to guidance counselors.