My experience at The Justice Initiative (TJI) has been life changing to say the least. I have not come across any other organistion that goes out of its way to do the right thing. I have been involved with TJI for the past 3 years through their Student Associate Programme, an initiative that welcomes students to form an interdisciplinary community.
Now as a graduate, I can clearly see the effects of being part of this programme in the way my perspective is not limited but well-rounded. TJI has always been a place for conversation and exchange of ideas where everyone is given importance and is respected. The people of TJI have the most unique and unheard-of experiences and they are always willing to share it. Conversations with them have been my favorite part while working with TJI. The learning has also never been limited to these conversations. We have always been guided to more sources to expand on what we learn.
TJI team, at all times, has made sure that we have access to every opportunity. Throughout the busy schedules, our personal growth has always been kept in mind. We are encouraged and pushed to have our own empirical experiences rather than just relying on their’s. TJI as an oraganisation has shown immense trust in me by getting me involved in sensitive cases and projects. It’s a place with endless opportunities.
Recently, I had the opportunity to accompany TJI team to the Shivamogga Central Prison for organising a graduation of sorts for the women prisoners who had completed their tailoring course. I could have never prepared myself for the amount of warmth I received in those 3 days. I slowly got accustomed to thinking and seeing beyond the smiles and laughter that these women so graciously shared with me. On a personal level, my appreciation for the freedom I hold has increased manifold.
TJI team has also been an excellent mentor to me. They have keenly listened to my interests and done their best to get me connected to the right opportunities. It has never happened that I have walked into TJI with a concern and come out without a solution to navigate that concern. I have always been pushed to use my capabilities to the maximum and watch how I grow from doing just that. My horizons have widened by leaps and bounds. I have only ever found intellectual and personal fulfillment working with TJI. It has always been a place of warmth and acceptance which is run by a team of passionate individuals who share the common goal of justice.
The Justice Initiative (TJI) as an organization has changed my life in so many ways as a person and as a student of law. I am immensely grateful for all the experiences and opportunities that I was fortunate to receive as a part of the Student Associate Programme. The rich exposure of practical fieldwork in the prisons within the state of Karnataka opened up an in-depth understanding of the various layers to human dignity and the continuous need for support in the lives of women prison inmates and how such efforts taken by the organization not only impact the lives of the women but also their families.
I had the opportunity to first-hand be a part of personal testimonies shared by persons who have themselves served various sentences in prison. This led to the meticulous comprehension of the intensity of their hardship and deprivation. The conversations surrounding their experiences also played a significant role in answering some of the intricate questions of what a person really goes through when they come into contact with the criminal justice system. I also realized through these conversations that the these experiences have life-long ramifications on a person and to see TJI work towards re-building a person’s whole life whether inside or outside the prison step by step has been an inspiring journey.
Through my association with TJI, I have been constantly encouraged to research and ask questions on various aspects of law and policy affecting people belonging to vulnerable communities of Indian society. As a law student, I was provided guidance in every step of my professional career, the core team of the organization has been integral in facilitating numerous career opportunities such as legal internships, leadership conferences and other professional opportunities all of which have certainly enhanced my overall development as a graduate.
I joined The Justice Initiative (TJI) as student associate in 2022. The organisation helped me with opportunities that I could only dream of in the past. TJI team first wanted me to be more aware of the struggles that women life convicts have gone through in their life. first wanted me to be more aware of the struggles that women life convicts have gone through in their life. We were first introduced to two of the women who were previously imprisoned. While the meeting was initially an overwhelming experience, speaking to them only gave me a different perspective on the challenges that women face in rural society.
We were then asked to conduct an activity for them where they were asked a few questions in order to bring out self-awareness. They were asked to name someone they looked up to and the reason behind it. Other things we discussed with the women were what they like about themselves, and what they want to achieve in life. This activity helped break ice and brought out an introspective look into oneself.
During my masters, I was struggling to decide the topic for my dissertation. It was then that TJI team asked me if I wanted to work with women who were previously incarcerated. In my research I went on to explore how these women’s lives were before, during and after incarceration. The people at TJI have been extremely helpful in many ways while I conducted my study. For this, they will always have my gratitude and appreciation.
I also had the opportunity to observe a Theatre of the Oppressed workshop for previously incarcerated women. This gave me an in-depth understanding of the oppression these women have faced throughout their life. I was really impressed by the way the workshop was cathartic in nature. I was so moved by the experience and was inspired to sign up for this workshop.
I also had the opportunity to attend a mental health workshop at the women’s central prison in Shivamogga. Later, I also had the chance to attend the graduation ceremony of the tailoring course, where I helped them with their portfolio and assisted with organising the event. The women were so welcoming. The conversations I had with them during the time, and their determination to rise above the circumstances, were awe inspiring.
As a mental health professional, my experience with TJI has helped me understand the struggles that women go through which are being unheard. It has made me introspect a lot about the systemic oppression of women in a patriarchal society and the impact that it has on their mental and emotional state. TJI Team are excellent mentors.
My conversations with TJI team have made me more empathic and be more aware of my privilege.They have always challenged me to think more about the different ways in which we could help with these women’s mental health in addition to traditional psychotherapy. The guidance, and the support that was provided to me during my time at TJI has been invaluable. I will always cherish my time at TJI.
My name is Vishesh Guru. I recently obtained a Master’s degree in Anthropology and Sociology from the Graduate Institute, Geneva.
I conducted ethnographic fieldwork at The Justice Initiative (TJI) in early 2022, observing and participating in the daily rhythms of work at the organisation.TJI team were very warm and welcoming of my presence as a student and researcher. They spent much time and effort in sharing their experiences and helping me understand the nuances of the criminal justice system. My time at Justice Initiative left me with lasting lessons about the human costs of crime and punishment – and the ways in which the criminal justice system misrecognizes the social problems that it claims to solve. Everyday encounters with rehabilitative work led me to reflect deeply on the meanings of forgiveness, redemption and hope. It was a transformative experience, and I learnt so much simply from being present at the Justice Initiative office.
As an organisation run by and for women in conflict with the law, the work of Justice Initiative also testifies to the gendered dimensions of incarceration – and the disproportionate material, social and emotional burden that women bear. The work of rehabilitation here foregrounds the well-being and dignity of the women, and seeks to form a community for support and togetherness. This is a novel approach, and I hope that it blossoms into an endeavour that offers solidarity, healing, and hope to its members. I am grateful to have encountered their work and experienced their warmth and friendship, and wish them the very best along this journey.