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Institutes + Centers

Institute on Public Safety and Social Justice




To meet public safety challenges with socially just solutions.

Philosophical Grounding

Much of the nation’s investment has been in addressing public safety through surveillance and punishment. We seek to go farther upstream to understand the role of trauma in creating challenges to community wellbeing and safety, and how to address trauma. Restorative Justice is a philosophy that underlies our practices that heal trauma.


We work with community groups, peer institutions, and systems partners to address public safety challenges. By forging creative collaborations, we can devise effective methods – beyond mere suppression – to create environments where a more lasting and meaningful sense of peace and wellness can prevail. We believe that by working together, bringing all concerned into the mix, we can improve urban safety outcomes by enhancing human potential and community wellness.

The Institute on Public Safety and Social Justice builds communities, partnerships, and coalitions to advance social, racial, and restorative justice through direct service to youth, individuals who are incarcerated, and communities; training and technical assistance; policy and advocacy; coordination and capacity building; and research and evaluation.

Projects and Partnerships

Projects and Partnerships

Institute on Public Safety and Social Justice seeks to create momentum for effective solutions that transform and improve community safety. Our areas of focus include:

  • Addressing Trauma – We build public safety systems that heal and address trauma rather than recreate it
  • Decriminalization of Communities – We support a cultural shift away from punishment toward real accountability
  • Building Community Capacity – We help organizations and communities plan safety strategies that promote wellness

Projects and Partnerships

  • Community Restorative Justice Hubs (RJ Hubs) – A collective of 11 Chicago organizations guided by a community-led restorative justice approach to reduce violence and mass incarceration. The work of the RJ Hubs is directly informed by the latest science on childhood trauma. All partners commit to using restorative practices to uphold 5 Pillars: Radical Hospitality, Accompaniment, Building Relationships, Relentless Engagement, and participating in a Learning Community. Learn more about the RJ Hubs here.
  • Illinois Coalition for Higher Education in Prison (IL-CHEP) – The Illinois Coalition for Higher Education in Prison was created by a group of college educators who wished to provide support and technical assistance to increase and strengthen upper-division college classes in Illinois prisons. IL-CHEP advocates to support better access and learning conditions within prisons. Learn more about IL-CHEP here.
  • Healing Beyond Harm – In the wake of a crime, all involved often continue to have unresolved feelings. Healing Beyond Harm is a restorative justice program that creates healing spaces within the community and legal system after serious harm has occurred through accountability groups, an Apology Letter Bank, and Harm Dialogues. A curriculum that is created to support accountability is implemented in two Illinois prisons. The Apology Letter Bank allows those that have harmed others to write a letter to those they harmed. For crime survivors, Harm Dialogues, or mediated conversations with the person who caused harm, can be arranged with the goal of holistic healing for all involved. Learn more here.
  • Quintana Last Mile Scholarship – This is an opportunity created for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals to overcome financial barriers to education completion. For those who have started a course of study, or who are blocked by past debt, this scholarship is given annually. Learn more here.



“This program allowed me to see myself as a better person. It helped me overcome my fears, overcome my shame, but most of all be accountable for what I did to others.” – Healing Beyond Harm Participant

“As a restorative justice community-based organization, PBMR’s collaboration with IPSSJ has been critical in our ability to respond to the growing needs of our community. IPSSJ breaches the divide between a university and community. Given the experience and commitment to community, especially disinvested communities, IPSSJ has been an invaluable partner.” – Fr. Dave Kelly, Executive Director of PBMR



IPSSJ has created a variety of publications and reports on topics in community mental health, restorative justice, trauma-informed care, and urban planning. Contact IPSSJ to learn how to partner with us to develop a publication or report.

RJ Hubs


Healing Beyond Harm

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Support the Institute on Public Safety and Social Justice and its stakeholders with approaches to reduce violence in neighborhoods and address trauma through restorative justice best practices.

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Explore More

Adler University Receives Grants to Promote Community Health and Social Justice

Adler University was recently awarded several grants from foundations and corporations to support our work to engage communities and advance social justice.

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Advocating for COVID-19 Prevention and Protection in Prisons

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Larry Barrett, Program Assistant for the Institute on Public Safety and Social Justice at Adler University, has been at the forefront of daily activism to help protect Illinois prisoners.

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Dr. Quintana Advocates for Racial Equity

Elena Quintana, Ph.D., Executive Director for the Adler University Institute on Public Safety and Social Justice, penned a letter to the editor in The Chicago Sun-Times

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