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Human Justice Theory: Brief Introduction

The concept of Human Justice was developed and presented by the Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions in 2012 to transcend the existing, traditional, criminal and social justice paradigms. It offers an instructive vision for what “justice” looks like in the context of the needs, aspirations and well-being of ordinary people.

Human Justice is defined as the merger between Human Rights and Human Development.

Human Justice is an outcome driven philosophy and resistance movement, created by the Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions, to deconstruct the prison industrial complex by redirecting human and financial resources away from punishment oriented systems towards long term sustainable solutions for social and economic equality.

The philosophy of Human Justice is created by uniting and integrating the basic principles of international human rights on to a platform for facilitating human development theory, methods and practice.

It is an innovative intervention for safer communities, balancing state budgets, reducing taxpayer burdens, halting the waste of finite law enforcement resources and constructing a system that truly reflects democratic values.

The concept of Human Justice articulates a new narrative for a major paradigm departure from the current punitive criminal “justice” model; a model responsible for rampant racial disparities that have criminalized poverty and people of color resulting in hyper-incarceration and its attendant social, political and economic damage; harm done primarily, but not exclusively, to under-served urban communities, not to mention its enormous costs to the state.

Human Justice is the organizing value or catalyst that drives a resistance movement seeking to re-mediate the damage done by 40 years of “tough on crime” and mass incarceration, to facilitate a reconstructive healing process in the individuals and the communities most harmed. The vision is to create a model of best practices that inspire national adoption and replication.

The merger seeks to anchor the pursuit of justice in the foundational principles of Human Rights, while ensuring that the course of justice is informed by the practice of Human Development. It is about enlarging one’s choices, achieving well-being and “combating processes that impoverish people or underpin oppression and structural injustice” (2011 Human Development Report published for the United Nations Development Programme).

The various aspects of Human Rights are articulated in the United Nations 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, especially articles 25 and 26. They outline the basic human needs including, but not limited to, adequate health care, affordable housing, nutritious food, quality education, meaningful social services and gainful employment.

Human Development is the integrative process and approach for achieving well-being through self determination. It focuses on improving and enhancing an individual’s capabilities, choices and opportunities. Well-being is defined as what people have or do not have (material); what people do or cannot do with what they have (relational); and what people think or feel (subjective).

The Center for NuLeadership’s concept of Human Justice presents a challenge to the underlying assumptions of existing criminal “justice” paradigms, especially punishment and welfare “risk based” and “needs based” models that often produce class bias, racially disparate consequences and questionable outcomes. One of the primary goals of human justice is to reduce reliance on the criminal punishment system as the only answer to solving socio-economic, substance abuse, health related and other problems arising as a result of diminishing institutional, community and individual capacity and sustainability in urban communities.

Human Justice is achieved through three avenues of social change: system realignment, community empowerment and individual transformation. Equally important, it is a process of allocating society’s resources towards serving the greatest good for the largest number of people. It is a people-oriented paradigm shift, away from simply addressing individual social infirmities, towards a more holistic and developmental approach that considers systems (institutions) and community as equal partners with individuals in the social change agenda.

It is the process of realizing self-defined goals that include relationships, capabilities, self-beliefs and the capacity to aspire to a more wholesome future orientation. It is material, relational and subjective simultaneously. Human Justice, anchored in Human Rights and Human Development, allows us to transcend the realm of criminal justice to achieve that higher and greater good in a more sensible and fulfilling human context.

A Human Justice concept paper is forthcoming for public review in 2014.  For more information, please contact us at

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