Imagining Justice

Jisha  Menon
David Sklansky








What can a perspective grounded in arts and humanistic inquiry bring to the criminal justice system? How can insights from the arts open up new frameworks and practices in ways that attend to both grievance and grief, redress and restoration, accountability and forgiveness?

Imagining Justice is a new program designed to transform the racialized criminal justice system through an approach that focuses on humanizing rather than pathologizing so-called “offenders.” By harnessing the capacity of the arts, Imagining Justice offers an approach to justice that fosters creative capacities and community trust. In addition to its curricular and research agendas, Imagining Justice's arts-based diversion and prevention program offers an alternative to fines, incarceration and a criminal record for juveniles arrested for low-level misdemeanors and non-violent felonies. The program is led by Professor's Jisha Menon (Theater & Performance Studies) and David Sklansky (Stanford Law School) and is a partnership among the Center for Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity, the Stanford Criminal Justice Center, and the Stanford Arts Institute, the San Francisco District Attorney's Office, other local District Attorney's Offices and community partners.

The diversion and prevention program is designed to:

  1. Mitigate the collateral consequences of prosecution and a criminal record.
  2. Reduce the strain on the criminal justice system and cost to tax-payers.
  3. Develop creative and reflective capacities through culturally-relevant, trauma-informed activities.
  4. Foster community cohesion, trust and accountability through engagement with prosocial supports.

Participants in the program complete a multi-part arts workshop led by local teaching artists that includes critical reflection, creative expression, and dialogue. The program's research team evaluates program impacts on participants and the wider community to improve the program and develop models for other jurisdictions.

Funders: Stanford Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Stanford Criminal Justice Center, Stanford Arts Institute.