HB 2204 &
an alternative to the
criminal legal system
In 2021, House Bill 2204 passed and formed the Criminal Justice Commission (CJC)'s Restorative Justice Grant Program. This was a historic moment for Restorative Justice in Oregon, and $4M were allocated for redistribution.
The CJC appointed an Advisory Committee which was tasked with creating a process that would fund pilot diversion programs across the state of Oregon. After months of discussion, a Request for Grant Proposals was released to the public. A wide range of impressive organizations applied and were recommended for funding.
Conflict Artistry was one of two programs that the Advisory Committee recommended against funding, though we were identified by the CJC as eligible, and even managed to address 7 of 7 funding priorities. The primary reason for disqualifying our program was its lack of system partnership, despite CJC staff clarifying that there was no requirement for programs to partner with criminal legal systems.
By recommending against funding our practitioner collective during the grant review process the Criminal Justice Commission’s Advisory Committee has unfortunately:
Contradicted the CJC RFGP that clearly places “harm in community” within the “green zone” for funding, before any criminal justice system contact.
Disqualified our program based on “lack of system partnership” which was explicitly named in the RFGP as an optional choice and not a factor that would make a proposal ineligible. (Conflict Artistry recognizes police accountability as one of our intended areas of engagement, illustrating an ability to work with system agents.
Disregarded the 4 MOUs we created with community-based organizations/networks and our intentions to collaborate with several other social service providers currently interested in our program.
Ignored that we successfully addressed all 7 priority funding areas and even proposed a Reparation Fund to facilitate direct action healing.
Reinforced the power and authority of racist and colonial law enforcement bodies like police, DAs offices, and criminal courts.
Demonstrated a biased willingness to make accommodations and stipulations for harmful systems without any consideration for what might make our unique proposal fundable
Re-centered punitive legal institutions as the legitimate facilitators of accountability processes.
Undermined strong accountability processes that occur between community stakeholders.
Negated the consent and individual sovereignty of people involved in harmful conflict by suggesting that Restorative Justice can only occur when it is overseen and enforced by a legal authority, thereby preventing a crucial restorative element of voluntary participation.
Proved they are more comfortable continuing to withhold public funds (far into the biennium) rather than redistributing resources to people who have been doing, and continue to do this work as unpaid activism. Total requests did not reach the $4M available so applicants were not competing for funding.
If the Criminal Justice Commission believes in the eligibility of our programming, they should go forward with funding us and support us in securing necessary protection from criminal prosecution.
Additionally - the one tribal court that applied to the grant program should be funded 2-3x the requested amount. Theirs was the smallest request placed and Restorative Justice methods are ancestrally indigenous practices. We were appalled to observe an assumably white woman Committee member make a comment suggesting tribal courts could be using practices like "caning" that oppose restorative principles. This serious kind of unchecked micro-aggression is completely unacceptable, particularly at such high levels of government.
We stand for the decolonization of all governing bodies and the abolition of harmful systems.