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Challenging the Criminalization of Trauma Survivors

The criminal legal system traumatizes survivors. Noncarceral alternatives are key to breaking the cycle of violence.

What do successful alternatives to policing, prosecution and prison actually look like? And how would they work? A group of Chicago’s leading public safety, health and justice innovators gathered at the DePaul Art Museum last summer to provide much-needed clarity on these crucial questions.

Artists, survivors of violence, entrepreneurs and business leaders, public defenders, policy experts, restorative justice practitioners, and system-impacted people sat down for a series of conversations while exploring Remaking the Exceptional, a groundbreaking exhibition on torture and incarceration.

The conversations expose common myths about crime and punishment and explain a range of critical issues and innovations, including restorative justice, violence interruption, copaganda, pretrial detention and the criminalization of trauma survivors, among others.

The following short film — the final in a series named after the exhibition and produced by Zealous, Truthout and Teen Vogue — focuses on the criminalization of trauma survivors. It explains the cycle of violence and how people who cause harm are often survivors of violence themselves; how the criminal legal system further traumatizes survivors; and why noncarceral alternatives are necessary to break this cycle.

The film features health advocate and entrepreneur Tanya Lozano; Takenya Nixon from the Cook County Public Defender’s Office; entrepreneur and trauma specialist Johnny Page; advocate and policy expert Briana Payton from the Chicago Appleseed Center for Fair Courts; and Love & Protect member Chez Rumpf.

Read more on the criminalization of trauma survivors from Teen Vogue and Truthout.

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