Guiding Principles – Plain Language

Incorporating Transformative & Restorative Justice into Our Work

AWN created these guiding principles in collaboration with Mia Mingus.

Guiding Principles on Transformative & Restorative Justice

Word Bank:  accountability, community, conditions, disability justice, disability rights, framework, harm, healing, intersectionality, liberation, neurodiversity, oppression, principles, processes, restorative justice, support, transformative justice, white supremacy.

AWN believes that our disability justice work is not complete without transformative justice and restorative justice. AWN believes that transformative justice and restorative justice belong in the AWN organization, and in our communities. That is why we have written our guiding principles. We also provide resources on restorative justice and transformative justice at the end of our guiding principles.

A framework is a kind of idea that helps us to understand other ideas better. Like how a map can help us to know how to get to where we want to go. Restorative justice and transformative justice are two different frameworks. They help us to map and understand harm, accountability, growth, and liberation.

Restorative justice framework

Restorative justice focuses on making a relationship better, or whole, after someone has cause harm. Being harmed can mean having your body or feelings hurt very badly.

Restorative justice believes that if a relationship is broken because someone was harmed, then we need to focus on the people who were in that relationship and their communities. Restorative justice believes that having them all work together can help heal the harm. These relationships could be friendships, romantic partners, parents and children, or another kind of relationship. "Repair", "restore", and "restoration" are words that are used often with restorative justice. These words can mean to make something better again, like it was before.

Transformative justice framework

Transformative justice focuses on what caused the harm to happen so that it does not happen again. Transformative justice believes that we should change the conditions that created the harm in the first place.

For example, if a queer child from a poor neighborhood stole money from a store late at night. Restorative justice would focus only on how someone was stolen from, and that someone stole.

Transformative justice also focuses on why the child stole money from the store. What if we learn that the child was kicked out of their home for being queer? What if the child also needs money for food, clothes, and a place to sleep? These are examples of we call conditions, and what transformative justice believes should also be fixed. "Transform" and "transformation" are words that are used often with transformative justice. These words can mean to change something to be better than what it was.

Transformative justice also understands that not all relationships can or should be fixed. This is because some relationships were broken for very bad reasons. If a relationship was broken because of something oppressive done to someone, it is more hard to change or fix.

Some people who cause harm make things better by being accountable. Being accountable can mean doing what is right. Other people who were harmed can still not like them or not want to be around them because of the harm that person caused. AWN believes that this is okay.

Both frameworks

Both restorative justice and transformative justice involve people and communities working together. This means we need to work hard together to make processes that help us to notice harm that is happening and to heal harm that has happened. A process can mean steps and rules that help us make something we want. There are also skills that help us to understand how to notice harm that could happen, stop harm that is happening, and help heal harm that has happened.

We need processes and skills to help people and groups who have been harmed to heal from the harm that happened to them.

We also need processes and skills to help people and groups who have caused harm to not do that harm anymore. Some people who have caused harm can also need help healing from harm they have experienced in life. The harm that they experienced in life could be why they caused someone else harm. If they get help to heal from the harm that has happened to them then they can learn to not to harm others like that anymore. But they have to choose to be accountable to the harm they have caused to get this help.

AWN believes that it is important to help people who have caused harm to make things better, and learn to be better. If we do not help people who have caused harm to change, then things cannot get better for people who have survived harm.

AWN is not a perfect organization, and that is why AWN is growing to be better. AWN community members are also not perfect, they are growing to be better too. This is why AWN is committed to these restorative justice and transformative justice principles:

The neurodiversity movement is a part of the disability rights movement. Disability rights is a movement that focuses on civil rights, and laws, for disabled people to live just as well as non-disabled people. AWN believes in and advocates for acceptance of neurodiversity and all neurodivergent people.

AWN also believes in and advocates for disability justice. Disability justice is an intersectional movement that focuses on disabled people of color, disabled queer and trans people, disabled poor people, and other disabled people who can get left out of the disability community because of white supremacy. This focus understands that not every struggle can be fixed by law or policy. It understands that we need community solutions outside of white supremacy.

It is important to AWN to support disability rights and neurodiversity organizations that want to move from disability rights to disability justice.  This is what AWN believes being a part of disability justice means with restorative justice and transformative justice:

a/ We all need to focus on making things better so that we can fix what has been made wrong.

b/ Anyone can harm someone, even if we do not mean to. But, we all can work hard so that we do not harm others. We can also work hard so that if we do harm others, even by accident, we can make things better.

c/ We must always be holding ourselves and others accountable. This is important for us to build stronger relationships and to care for each other as a community.

d/ Justice looks different every day. We are all growing and changing.

e/ It is important that organizations challenge what people believe is normal. This is important so that people don't get left out.

f/ It is important that organizations try to change or end harmful policies. It is also important that organizations try to change or end policies that don't help people anymore. This is important so that how people are treated can get better.

g/ It is important that everyone is honest about when they make a mistake. It is important that when we make a mistake we fix it. This is important because this is how we learn to be better.

h/ We can be kind while we help each other to be accountable.\

Below are more resources on restorative justice, transformative justice, and disability justice. These are not every resource that you can learn more from, just a few to start with.

We also really like the resources shared by the Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective. We think they are fantastic! Every written piece they have has a recording of someone reading aloud what is written.



  • Moving at the Speed of Trust: Disability Justice and Transformative Justice” with Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha and Elliott Fukui for the Barnard Center for Research on Women (two-hour video, with full transcript available)
  • The Building Accountable Communities Project and the Barnard Center for Research on Women have also included these shorter video resources:
    • “Intersections of Disability Justice and Transformative Justice” with Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha and Elliott Fukui (about 5 minutes)
    • “What is Transformative Justice?” with adrienne maree brown, Mia Mingus, Stas Schmiedt, Ann Russo, Esteban Kelly, Martina Kartman, Priya Rai, and Shira Hassan (about 11 minutes)
    • “What Does Justice Look Like for Survivors?” with Mimi Kim, Ann Russo, RJ Maccani, and Rachel Herzing (about 8 minutes)
    • Centering the Needs of Survivors (Part 1) with Sonya Shah, Elliott Fukui, adrienne maree brown, Stas Schmiedt, Lea Roth, nuri nusrat, and RJ Maccani (about 8 minutes)
    • Centering the Needs of Survivors (Part 2) with RJ Maccani, Priya Rai, Rachel Herzing, and Esteban Kelly (about 11 minutes)