Victor Jose Santana is an international restorative justice practitioner, facilitator, trainer, mentor, and leader. Victor Jose has worked with local, national, and international organizations that serve young people and families exposed to violence and poverty. Over the past twelve years, Victor Jose has been collaborating, consulting, and developing networks focused on youth development, racial equity, trauma neurology, and the peacemaking Circle process.
Victor Jose has a BA in science communication and a music minor degree from Salem State University. He currently holds a master of arts from Lesley University with a specialization in restorative justice through youth leadership development and trauma awareness. Victor Jose has been trained in the peacemaking Circle process by Mark Wedge, Elder/leader from the Tagish Tlingit Nation; Judge Barry Stuart, first chief judge of the Yukon Territory, now retired; and Kay Pranis, former restorative justice planner for the Minnesota Department of Corrections (author of the article “Empathy Development in Youth through Restorative Practices”).
Additionally, Victor Jose has a background in curricula development and public policy. He also works with an international Indigenous women’s network that brings people together through cultural revitalization and social justice movements globally. Victor Jose currently holds the position of chief program officer at the Trinity Boston Foundation. Prior to this position, Victor Jose was the director of the Defending Childhood Initiative, a program of the Boston Public Health Commission within the Division of Violence Prevention.
During his time at the commission, he collaboratively developed, wrote, designed, and implemented trainings for the City of Boston for anyone working with children exposed to trauma and violence. Through his leadership and community partnership, he and his team were able to train approximately 5,000 youth workers in the city. Victor Jose is passionate about collective leadership and enjoys innovative ways of communicating, building trust, and educating.
"Restorative Justice Through a Trauma-Informed, Racial-Equity Lens"
Victor Santana shares his detailed approach or methodology for engaging communities, whatever the issues or challenges a community may face. While each of the methodology’s four facets are important for trust and relationship- building, the introduction is the most critical, because it establishes a respectful entry point into a community. Santana reminds us that community introduction is more than physically coming into a community with good intentions. His methodology involves pre work that, among other things, addresses who might be the most appropriate people to lead the restorative justice work using Circle processes.
Santana is concerned about restorative justice’s increasing popularity within the mainstream, because this popularity may lead to deviations from restorative justice’s original purpose—namely, to do justice in more inclusive and transformative ways. For example, CRJ contributors, including Santana, note that professionalizing the field has sustained racial inequities between frontline practitioners of color and restorative justice programs that accept mainstream hiring norms, such as credentialing. Indeed, Santana notes a difference between using Circles to address a racial incident and using Circles to address systemic racism within groups or organizations. For the latter Circle, we return to the disparity problem: restorative groups and organizations seldom reflect the communities they serve. For many who do restorative justice work, identity signifiers—“tell us your story” or “who are you?”—become relevant: self-reflection is an integral part of letting community members know who you are.
Santana experiences restorative justice and Circles as having a spirit and culture of care. Circles are spaces created from people’s willingness to be vulnerable, to acknowledge triggers, and to own limitations. These are hallmarks of self-awareness and humility. Restorative justice can be both healing and harmful: which outcome emerges truly depends on the sense of self and self-awareness of those involved.