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Deanna Van Buren    

Design Director & Co-Founder of Designing Justice + Designing Spaces

Deanna Van Buren is the design director and co-founder of Designing Justice + Designing Spaces (DJDS), an architecture and real estate development non-profit working to end mass incarceration by building infrastructure that attacks its root causes: poverty, racism, unequal access to resources, and the criminal justice system itself.

Unlike the traditional adversarial and punitive architecture of justice—courthouses, prisons and jails—the Oakland-based DJDS creates spaces and buildings for restorative justice, rehabilitation and community building. Examples include restorative justice centers, which bring offenders and victims together to repair the relationship breach caused by a crime and build pathways to reconciliation; mobile resource centers, which deliver economic, educational, and social resources to under-resourced communities; and re-entry housing for people coming out of incarceration.

Van Buren’s most notable projects include: the Near Westside Peacemaking Center in Syracuse, New York; Restore Oakland (opened July 2019), a multi-use hub for restorative justice and workforce development in East Oakland, created in collaboration with the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC United); Pop-Up Village, a mobile event that brings a constellation of resources to under-resourced communities; and The Women’s Mobile Refuge Center, a mobile overnight space for women who have recently been released from incarceration or are seeking refuge from human trafficking.

DJDS also operates the Concept Development Fund, an innovative program which helps nonprofits and advocates transform their ideas for community infrastructure reinvestment into fully realized designs complete with budgetary outlines, imagery, and other concrete details. The Fund receives charitable contributions that are used by DJDS to support the financial costs of the concept development.

A pioneering activist, Van Buren has been recognized internationally for her leadership in using architecture, design, and real estate innovations to address the social inequities behind the mass incarceration crisis. Her 2017 TEDWomen talk on what a world without prisons could look like has been viewed more than one million times, and she is the only architect to have been awarded the Rauschenberg Artist as Activist fellowship.

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