Sunday, July 24, 2011 Unacknowledged Victims of State Executions
When the state executes an offender, many people see it as justice done. A harm has been answered with a proportional measure of harm. But for Susannah Sheffer, that is not the end of the matter. Sheffer works closely with survivors of homicide victims and the families of the executed, and has studied the impact of state executions on the attorneys who handle the appeals - the unacknowledged victims of state executions.
Monday, July 18, 2011 Vengeance: Cutting Off Your Nose to Spite Your Face? (4 comments)
When we seek vengeance in response to tyrants who are committing heinous crimes that are on-going, we confront a moral dilemma. Is it better to grant amnesty to the tyrant in return for an end of the crimes being committed or to pursue the perpetrator until he is held accountable for all of the past crimes he has committed, even though this means more innocent people will be harmed before this occurs?
Friday, July 15, 2011 Is There a Job for Lawyers as Healers of Conflict? (14 comments)
U. S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Berger told the American Bar Association in 1984 that lawyers should be healers, not warriors or hired guns. Here is the dilemma for lawyers. The model of justice that seeks healing and restoration instead of punishment or revenge is simple, not complex. It requires no legal degree to become a "facilitator" of the process. So is this a job for lawyers?
Saturday, March 5, 2011 Selective Conscientious Objection (3 comments)
As the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq drag on and the U.S. considers new wars in Arab nations fraught with political unrest, there is a serious debate around war growing at the grassroots level. As our engagement in war has long drawn its moral legitimacy from the blessings many of our religious institutions have given to it, the fact this movement primarily involves churches is of particular importance.
Saturday, January 15, 2011 Yes, Sarah, Context Does Matter (4 comments)
Immediately after the attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, there arose a new context in which U.S. political discourse occurs. As previous actions took on a different tenor, Sarah Palin sought to distance her previous actions from the tragic event, claiming they had no bearing on it. The context in which this particular crime occurred was contributed to by Palin, and context does matter.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011 Do Poor People Get Equal Justice? (3 comments)
The American legal system, in theory, delivers "equal justice under law." But equality implies an inclusiveness that does not exist in this punitive justice structure. Its unequal justice is being exacerbated by the current economic downturn.
Monday, January 10, 2011 Shooting in Tucson: the Real Answer (6 comments)
The Tucson shooting demonstrates how there are always two parties to crime: the actor and the context. We learn from our culture how to be violent. One reason justice is so often flawed is because our legal system ignores the context. Both the individual actor and the systemic context must be considered and held accountable if genuine justice is to be achieved.
Monday, January 3, 2011 The Moral Dilemma of Military Service (6 comments)
On the one hand, the U.S. armed forces are held to the level of individual moral accountability in war set out in Nuremberg Principle IV: you cannot blame your commanders or your government for your immoral acts in wartime. On the other hand, U.S. military personnel are denied the opportunity to make a number of personal moral choices in times of war. These are irreconcilable policies, and some call for consistency.
Sunday, December 26, 2010 War: What If Christians Took Jesus at His Word? (5 comments)
How to reconcile allegiance to the teachings of Jesus Christ with war is a dilemma that has faced Christians since the time of Constantine the Great. For nearly 2,000 years many Christians have resolved the conflict between Christ's teachings and war in favor of war. Are a growing number of Christian churches beginning to reassess how this balance should be struck?
Tuesday, December 21, 2010 The Close Battle, the Deep Battle or the Winning Battle?
In military parlance, the "close battle" is the battle being waged at the moment. The "deep battle" is the fight for hearts and minds. Ret. Gen. Michael Hayden, former CIA Director, says the close battle is the easy one for the U.S. to win. Despite our being the beacon of democracy, we have a hard time when it comes to winning on ideology. This would not be the case if we more frequently addressed human needs.
Thursday, December 9, 2010 Want to eliminate conflict? Think again! (8 comments)
Rio de Janeiro is in the headlines , as a Brazilian military operation seeks to clear a large slum ("favela" in Portugese) of drug traffickers. Military occupation of the area is expected to last at least through May of next year. With guns and military might, the government is seeking to "pacify" the area. There is another way to approach the problem.
Thursday, December 9, 2010 Incarceration Nation: Restorative Justice is a Better Way (6 comments)
With 25% of the world's prisoners, the U.S. is aptly called the incarceration nation. But what about the people behind the staggering figures, the people affected by this incarceration binge? This is the story of one of them, and unfortunately it is not an uncommon story.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010 New START Treaty: An Issue of Sanity and Morality (2 comments)
An arms control treaty with Russia known as New START is awaiting ratification by the U.S. Senate, but the fate of the treaty now hangs by a slender reed. The ratification of the New START treaty is both an issue of sanity and morality, and Senators hearing from their constituents. Please act!
Saturday, December 4, 2010 Time for Another Civil Rights Movement? (32 comments)
The U.S. Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s ended legalized segregation in the South, but it did not end racism and discrimination. In recent decades, one of the most destructive forms of racism seems to be manifesting in conjunction with this country's incarceration binge, and it is hitting the African American community the hardest. Is it time for a new civil rights movement to deal with issues like this?
Thursday, December 2, 2010 A Mother's Pain: Should It Matter? (2 comments)
We hear a lot about criminals and the terrible things they do. We sometimes hear about the pain the victims of crime experience. But we don't hear much about the pain of the offender's family. Should the pain felt by the mother of a "criminal" matter?
Sunday, November 28, 2010 What Is the Fair Measure of Justice? (11 comments)
We are so accustomed to the institution of criminal justice being as it is that we rarely notice it is a system of proportional revenge. This aspect of our legal system is grounded in the ancient measure of an eye for an eye. In the case of the death penalty, for example, one life is literally taken for another, measure for measure. A South African case provides an example of a different measure of justice.
Friday, November 26, 2010 Inseparable Bedfellows: Crime and Its Context
We often to fail to recognize the role that context plays in our patterns of crime and criminal conduct. In fact, if the context were changed, most crime would not happen as it does. For justice to be done, both individual choice and systemic context must be considered and held accountable.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010 We Must Do Justice Better (11 comments)
Our criminal justice system has been broken for a long time. It is defended with the argument that we could do worse. But our silent acceptance of a seriously flawed system extracts an enormous price. It's time to say no, we must do better.
Saturday, November 13, 2010 Unitive Justice: The Real "Get Tough on Crime" (1 comments)
In the political debate that has one politician claiming to be tougher on crime than the next, there is an underlying theme: anyone who is not tough on crime is soft on crime. When, instead of punitive justice, unitive justice is the option, this is far from the truth. Unitive justice is pragmatic and predictable. Its shared community values do not sanction hurting anyone, by anyone. When this standard is applied to everyone,
Sunday, November 7, 2010 Does the Rule of Law Guarantee Justice? (3 comments)
We Americans are proud that we live in a nation governed by the rule of law, often thinking this guarantees justice. But just what does the rule of law mean? Unfortunately, this is one of those terms that can obscure underlying patterns. How the rule of law is established versus what the substance of the rule of law achieves is a critical distinction.
Thursday, November 4, 2010 Why Die for War and Not the Golden Rule? (15 comments)
It seems curious how we send people off to war, even when we know that many will die, and accept that as a rational thing to do. But the suggestion that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us, or that we confront aggressors with nonviolent civil disobedience, is met with the objection that this is an irrational suggestion. Why do we think war is a more rational solution?
Monday, November 1, 2010 Is the Golden Rule Optional? (13 comments)
Polarizing speech in the U.S. is being used by talk show hosts to dig a canyon between the political right and the left. In addition to words, images are beginning to be used to demean and dehumanize "the other." Is the idea that we are to treat the other as we want to be treated dying? Talk show hosts, take heed.
Saturday, October 30, 2010 The Worst of the Worst - Part Five of a Series: Restoring the Nation's Integrity
The talk show hosts who are using divisive linguistic strategies to divide Americans may be improving their ratings, increasing their earnings or getting a lot of attention. Attacking others can be used to advance material interests, or heighten control. It is not a way to bring honor upon ourselves or our nation. There is no peace at the end of this road.
Thursday, October 28, 2010 Part Four in a Series, Restoring the Nation's Integrity: Turning Reality on Its Head
In the U.S. polarizing words are being used to divide us between warring camps of liberals and conservatives. One strategy is to make positive words negative, so we no longer have a vocabulary to discuss love, empathy or connectedness. Words, the tool we rely upon to communicate, are being robbed of their normal utility to be used instead to attack.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010 Part Three in a Series, Restoring the Nation's Integrity: What Do We Want? (2 comments)
Polarized speech is dividing the country. It doesn't happen by accident. Specific strategies are used to generate fear and then manipulate it. Within the macro strategy of setting up the "in group" against the "outside group," establishing a clear "us versus them," there are a number of sub strategies. When the strategies are known, it is easier to avoid being manipulated.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010 Part Two in a Series, Restoring the Nation's Integrity: An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure (2 comments)
When we watch the "talking heads" on TV, rudely interrupting each other, putting one another down, we are spectators to a word wrestling match designed to entertain as it plays on our fears. Considering how deeply divisive some of the rhetoric used in these word fights is, and the lessons history teaches us about where this can lead if it goes unchecked, we need to stay alert. It has gotten bad and it is getting worse.
Monday, October 25, 2010 Restoring the Nation's Integrity, Part One: To Solve A Problem We Must Know We Have A Problem (13 comments)
Words can be either powerful or controlling. When words are fear-based, they are used to promote separation and divisiveness to achieve control. When words are love-based, they promote a sense of community and connectedness, and are powerful. A destructive trend is arising in the United States. Words are being used by a growing number of conservatives and liberals to gain control through fear.
Thursday, October 21, 2010 Time to Get Tough on Get-tough-on-crime Politicians (7 comments)
We now have enough data to know that voting for candidates who promise to get tough on crime is a big mistake. That's political jingoism used to play on our fears, not because it is good public policy, but because it's good for getting themselves elected. It is time to get tough on politicians who promise to get tough on crime by getting rid of them.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010 Victims and Offenders are Valuable Resources (2 comments)
In our traditional criminal law system, victims are reduced to mere witnesses for the state and offenders are to play an intricate game of winner-take-all cat and mouse. But in the restorative justice process, victims and offenders are valuable resources who promote the safety and peace of our communities. Restorative justice makes far more sense.
Thursday, October 14, 2010 13th World RJ Conference, Day Two (2 comments)
The diversity of approaches being used to implement restorative practices was at the heart of the second day of the 13th IIRP World Conference on restorative justice in Hull, U.K. While punitive justice takes a one-size-fits all approach to conflict and crime, namely punishment, restorative justice comes in many forms.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010 13th World RJ Conference, Day One (2 comments)
The 13th International Institute of Restorative Practices World Conference on restorative justice opened today in Hull, U.K. Twenty four countries are represented among the 500 participants. The day long plenary session included reports on restorative justice programs in a number of countries. The take away is that this is a time of significant change.
Monday, October 11, 2010 A Unitive Justice Systems Theory
As our society has become more litigious, unitive models of justice are proving to be an important structure for enhancing institutional efficiency. To insure that unitive models, such restorative justice, collaborative law, transformative mediation and transformational justice are consistently effective, a systems theory for reliably predicting success and avoiding failure will help unitive justice achieve its potential.
Friday, October 8, 2010 Creating a Restorative City (11 comments)
The city of Hull, England, has declared it will be the world's first "restorative city." When this small city lost its thriving fishing industry several generations ago, it languished as the poverty rate rose and expectations fell. They decided to invest disproportionately in children and young people, using restorative practices (RP) as the core element. The results have been remarkable.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010 Are Assisted Living Prisons a Good Investment? (3 comments)
When politicians promise to "get tough on crime," they don't always tell us what the hefty price tag includes. Take assisted living prisons that house the elderly and infirm, long beyond the time they are a threat to anyone, as an example. Is that the best use of scarce tax dollars?
Sunday, October 3, 2010 Lessons from the Stanford Prison Experiment (6 comments)
The Stanford Prison Experiment, a 1970s college project designed to differentiate between what people bring into a prison environment from what that environment brings out in people, produced unexpected results. The most important lesson learned was that when good people do terrible things, it is the outgrowth of systems that provide the necessary institutional support, authority, and resources for such acts to be perpetrated.
Saturday, October 2, 2010 Punitive Justice Distilled: the Stanford Prison Experiment (7 comments)
Our prison industrial complex is plagued with problems so complex it is difficult to figure out where they begin. The Stanford Prison Experiment conducted by a group of social scientists in the early 1970s helps unravel the mystery
Thursday, September 30, 2010 Learning From the Talking Piece (1 comments)
Imagine 4th graders who have gotten into a dispute sitting in a circle resolving their differences. A talking piece, such as a ball, is passed from one student to another to facilitate a respectful discussion of the conflict. The dispute might be bullying, name calling, taking something that belonged to another student, or even a conflict between a student and a teacher. It works, and it is far better than Zero Tolerance.
Saturday, September 25, 2010 Time for Zero Tolerance of Zero Tolerance in Our Schools (6 comments)
The flaws found in the punitive system of justice at the adult level are the same flaws found in the punitive system when it is applied to schools in what they call Zero Tolerance. This is a good example of how punitive justice is grounded on a flawed moral compass that gives contradictory guidance, even when matters of simple justice are at stake. Fortunately, there is a better way.
Thursday, September 23, 2010 Execution Vigil for Teresa Lewis (1 comments)
Tonight I will be attending my first execution vigil. This is new for me. Before I understood that there are two models of justice, I thought the death penalty made sense. With this new understanding, I am no longer willing to be silent and inactive while the state carries out its act of proportional revenge, blindly gouging an eye for an eye, violating basic moral teachings.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010 One Woman's Journey from Retribution to Reconciliation (5 comments)
There are many compelling examples of how responding to conflict by employing the principles of unitive justice, instead of retribution and revenge, can be transformative. I am especially inspired by the journey taken by Thomas Ann Hines. She is Texan whose son was shot to death by a young man in a carjacking attempt.
Sunday, September 19, 2010 The Death Penalty: Un-Christian Barbarism (12 comments)
Teresa Lewis will be killed at 9 p.m. on Thursday, September 23, 2010 in an act of proportional revenge in which Virginia answers one killing with another. The Commonwealth will answer harm with harm, following the ancient law of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. State killing is modern barbarism that violates the lesson taught in the Sermon on the Mount.
Friday, September 17, 2010 How Did Our Criminal Law System Become So Broken? (30 comments)
How is it that a nation like the United States, known for its commitment to liberty and justice for all, became embedded in an incarceration binge that has 1 in every 100 adults in jail or prison? To find the answer, we need only step back in time to when pollsters and politicians became bedfellows.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010 How Lawyers Win: It's Not Always Pretty (12 comments)
TV dramas like Law and Order or Perry Mason often make the courtroom look like a heroic battle between good and evil. The good guys and the bad guys are easily identified. It is often not that way at all.
Monday, September 13, 2010 The Courtroom's Little Lie: It's About The Whole Truth (26 comments)
After you spend a little time in the courtroom, you realize that the ritual of having the witnesses swear to tell the truth is too often more about form than substance. In this win-lose arena, we make the stakes so high that people often rationalize that telling a little white lie in their case is less wrong than what they might lose if they tell the truth.
Sunday, September 12, 2010 The Best Defense Against Attacks Like 9-11 (24 comments)
It is time to realize that attack after attack is not our best defense. When we lash out to attack those who attack us, we are caught in the trap of dual morality, and our enemies are, as well. This is a moment in history when we can collectively choose to bend the arc of history toward love and compassion.
Friday, September 10, 2010 9 Years After 9-11, Justice on an International Scale (12 comments)
What were the lessons we learned from 9-11, and what lessons have we yet to learn? Perhaps giving consideration to how unitive and punitive justice play out on an international scale can provide helpful insight.
Thursday, September 9, 2010 What Do We Mean, Justice? (15 comments)
One reason justice so often fails to produce the happy ending we expect is because of widespread confusion about what the term justice actually means.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010 Utter Failure; It's Time to Rethink the Prison System (5 comments)
With 2.3 million people in America's prison system, we've literally become our own jailers. It's time to call for a compassionate -- and more effective -- judicial system.