Peter Borenstein
FOUNDER OF RESTORATIVE JUSTICE FUND

Peter Borenstein

Founder of Restorative Justice Fund

Culver City, California

rjfund.org
Facebook
Twitter

 

WHAT DO YOU DO?

I’m the founder of Restorative Justice Fund, a non-profit criminal justice reform incubator based in Los Angeles.

We design, develop, and deploy restorative programs at every intercept point of the criminal justice system, making it more equitable, effective, and cost-efficient. By learning from data and employing design principles, we hope to transform our criminal justice.

 

WHAT STEPS DID YOU TAKE TO GET TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW?

I've always been curious and a critical thinker and being a lawyer has really helped fulfill those two traits - I am constantly looking at how to improve systems and building the arguments for those improvements.

After I graduated from law school, I got a consulting gig with the Los Angeles City Attorney to design a pre-filing diversion for low-level adult offenders. As I began planning for the project, I realized that I was basically designing a restorative intervention and that I had design skills despite not having no visual arts aptitude. Despite a lack of artistic ability, I was still able to have an impact, creating a program that has diverted more than 2,000 people from the justice system who really shouldn't have been there in the first place, and saving millions of dollars in the process. 

This experience showed me that we can design other interventions to reduce how cruel, ineffective, and wasteful our traditional criminal justice system can be. Now at the Restorative Justice Fund, I'm working on ways to make it clear that design can play a role in criminal justice reform.

 

FOR OTHER PEOPLE IN YOUR FIELD, WHAT DO THEY USUALLY LACK?

Attorneys lack imagination. We have a criminal justice system that is nearly three hundred years old and that everyone knows is not very good at maintaining public safety. But, because it's the only justice system we know, it's been very hard to break out of the cycle we're in and create a new one.

I'd say that attorneys (and designers!) who want to do some good need to really think outside the box in order to create social impact. For attorneys, this often means some risk taking as we go off the beaten path to achieve our goals. But what I've learned is that for really broken systems (like, say, criminal justice!), even a little bit of effort and thoughtfulness goes a long way towards making a change.

 

WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON RIGHT NOW?

Our big project is a unique merging of technology and criminal justice to make sure that severely mentally ill people are always directed to treatment instead of jail.

 

WHAT'S YOUR STYLE/PERSPECTIVE/TASTE? DO YOU HAVE A PROJECT THAT REPRESENTS THIS? 

I am eager to learn from my designer brothers and sisters to determine what my style/taste is ;)

 

WE ARE ALL SLASHIES WITH MULTIPLE SKILLS, WHICH ONE DO YOU WISH YOU COULD DO MORE OFTEN?

In a perfect world, I think I would spend most of my time representing extremely vulnerable people in civil court against people who take advantage of them because they are vulnerable. I've been really enjoying the legal work and hope that I'll be able to make space to do more.

equality-vs-equity.jpg

 

WHAT IS FRUSTRATING YOU RIGHT NOW?

What's frustrating is how limiting a "donation" is and how empowering an "investment" is. In either case, if someone wants to support Restorative Justice Fund, they can be sure that their money will be multiplied and directed to the most vulnerable people in the country. I wish that people saw criminal justice reform as an investment opportunity as opposed to a sympathy vote.

 

IF YOU COULD HIRE SOMEONE FOR $20/HR, WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE THEM DO TO MAKE YOUR DAY EASIER?

I would have them help out with our big project I mentioned above by going to each law enforcement agency, getting their paper 5150 forms, and putting all of that data into a spreadsheet.

 

LET'S BRING OUT THE TIME MACHINE. WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU COULD HAVE TOLD YOURSELF, WHEN, AND WHY?

I would have told my fifth grade self to keep up the drum lessons because thirty years later you desperately will want a drum set.

Neighborhood Justice Program

Neighborhood Justice Program

 

IF YOU COULD TALK TO AN EXPERT TO GAIN MORE INSIGHT ON SOMETHING, WHAT WOULD IT BE ABOUT?

I'm curious about how writers collected and organized their research. I'm a big fan of non-fiction, biographies, and historical fiction and I'm so curious how authors in those genres keep their research organized. I'd love to pick the brain of someone like David Simon (creator of The Wire) or Edmud Morris (who wrote several great biographies of Teddy Roosevelt) and see how they managed all of that information that went into their work.

 

WHAT KIND OF OPPORTUNITIES/PROJECTS ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?

I'm looking to work with designers of all stripes to bring a design sensibility to criminal justice reform.

 

DESCRIBE YOUR IDEAL JOB/CLIENT/COLLABORATION.

I'm looking for a designer that can produce in multiple mediums from ideas that I come up with on the fly. I always have interesting thoughts that I wish that I could bounce off of someone who has the skill to actually make them a reality. Are you that somebody?

Blog

Blog

 

WHAT IS YOUR HOURLY RATE, RETAINER, OR SALARY RANGE? 

I would hope that any relationship could be mutually beneficial beyond financially; I'm interested in helping designers get a handle on their legal situation and make sure they don't walk into deals that hurt them in the long run. In exchange for legal support, I hope we'd be able to figure out a rate that makes sense for both of us.

 

HOW SHOULD SOMEONE APPROACH YOU ABOUT WORKING TOGETHER?

Please email me at pborenstein@rjfund.org and indicate how you're interested in social justice and have a kick ass portfolio.

 

HOW DO YOU STAY CREATIVE?

I drive around listening to Earth, Wind, and Fire.

 

Last one, Who's in your go-to squad?

I gotta give a shout out to Chris Danton of In Good Co. for putting me up on to ilovecreatives and being an overall amazing human being.


This member profile was originally published in November 2016.