Public Education: The greatest part of our mandate is to provide public education around healing alternatives to prison.
- We can provide presentations/workshops on penal abolition, transformative justice (TJ), and community-based alternatives to prison such as mediation, family group conferencing, sentencing circles, etc. All of the TJ process currently being used in Canada are based on traditional Aboriginal justice practices.
- We have developed a training to be used in community agencies whose service users have been in contact with the criminal justice system. The training explains the history and philosophy of transformative justice, talks about some of the intersecting issues that may be faced by service users (homelessness, mental health issues, substance use, experiences of racism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, etc.), and how these issues impact on people’s access to and use of services. The training also practically illustrates the ways in which TJ processes can be used to deal with conflict between staff and staff, or staff and service users.
- Newsletter: We put out an educational newsletter 3 times a year. Submissions are always welcome, particularly by prisoners/ex-prisoners.
- Pamphlets: We are currently updating a series of educational pamphlets on “Penal Abolition and Transformative Justice”, “How Do We Convince the Public”, “What are the Alternatives to Prison?” and “What About the Dangerous Few?”
- Just Blog: This is the Rittenhouse blog that is devoted to the discussion and promotion of justice issues. Topics include: the prison system, prisoners’ rights and penal abolition; immigration detention/security certificates; other types of carceral spaces where people are held against their will (eg. psychiatric institutions); harm reduction (safer sex, drug use, tattooing, etc.); how the media creates and perpetuates myths related to crime, drug use, homelessness, race, class (the list goes on and on); legislation and other government actions related to justice issues; root causes of crime, such as social inequalities; drug policy reform; event listings; prisoner/ex-prisoner writing and art. Submissions are always welcome. The blog can be found at: joanr73.wordpress.com
- Rittenhouse Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/joan.ruzsa#!/Rittenhouseanewvision
Pen Pal Program: We run a pen pal program linking isolated prisoners with community volunteers. The purpose is to provide positive and supportive correspondence for prisoners with people in the community, and to provide a better understanding of the prison experience to the community volunteers.
Ongoing Support: We accept collect calls from any institution in Canada and provide ongoing, support, counselling and advocacy to prisoners, ex-prisoners and their families. We ran a weekly family support group for several years, but this program is currently on hold while we seek to secure additional funding.
Prison Justice Project: We advocate for prisoners whose rights are being violated while inside. As our staff is not made up of lawyers, we are limited in the amount of advocacy we can do. We are looking to partner with a law program at a university, where students would be willing to volunteer their time to look over cases or to provide legal advice.