Garrett Jacobs
Interviewer: Greg Labrosse
Language of interview: English
Country of practice: United States
Profession: Architect

Garrett Jacobs is an architect and director of research and evaluation at Designing Justice + Designing Spaces (DJDS), an Oakland-based architecture nonprofit with a mission to contribute to end mass incarceration and structural inequity. Since graduating from architecture school, Jacobs has focused on community-based projects, including designing spaces for restorative justice, in relation to issues of race, accessibility, and the implications of individuals and communities interacting with these spaces.

During our interview, Jacobs talks about the work of evaluation implemented by DJDS, and the difficulties faced during their designs. First, he explains how the organisation has recently adopted a participatory approach, in which members of the community are part of the post-construction assessment. Second, he explains how obtaining financial support for building spaces for restorative justice is one of the main obstacles for the organisation. He manifests how most funders allocate budgets to the development of programs and are not interested in financing the design and construction of physical spaces where restorative activities occur. 

Further, Jacobs explains some of the strategies for a successful restorative space, including finding a good location and ensuring a collaborative approach with partners and participants. According to Jacobs, location is important because of the non-physical divisions a space can impose, and how a site can be charged with negative connotations. He focuses on how, in the current judicial system, the harmed person is not represented by the space, even when they should be at the centre of the process. He then explains why the design process must be collaborative and have community-based organisations as partners, to ensure that community members feel welcome. To illustrate, he provides two examples of collaborative projects, one where the partner was a prosecutor’s office in New Jersey, and another where they worked with a newly-built school in California.