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JULY 21, 2011: Peg's Blogs on Hiatus...

As many friends and regular readers know, I've been dealing with a lot in my personal life, lately, while my workload has continued to grow. Rest assured that I'm in the best of company, and getting by with a little help from my friends. Still, I need to take a break and focus on centering myself. That means this site will be neglected even more than it has been.

Until I'm able to get a grip on blogging regularly and thoughtfully again here (or until someone else steps in to anchor the site), I encourage people to check out Carl Toersbijns' blog (he's a former Deputy Warden for the AZ Department of Corrections, and while not an abolitionist, he's a strong advocate for the prisoners with mental illness, and for broad-based prison reform in AZ). You may also want to drop in on Middle Ground Prison Reform's site for news.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Back from the Dark Side: pondering transformative justice.

I'm sharing the following post from the Prison Abolitionist because it comes from a new blog whose author takes a special interest in abolishing the practice of incarcerating youth. We really need to start challenging ourselves to do better than throwing people in prison for everything - especially children. This begins the dialogue as to how to do that. My own remarks below are in italics and precede the article I borrowed.

- Peg


A twitter by Solitary Watch (good site on solitary confinement) turned me on to this blog, Prison Culture, and this page below that I landed on there couldn't be more appropriate right now (I also lifted the picture to the right from their site). The correspondence I've had with the survivor of a murder victim, the Kingman escapes, and a gang's attack on a friend's son in the AZ Department of Juvenile Corrections have been disturbing of late - as have the assault on me in May and the recent theft of my laptop from my home. My faith has been challenged by my outrage - I even wrestled briefly with my opposition to both life without parole and the death penalty upon learning about the older couple murdered by those Arizona escapees.

I don't have the answers for what to do with all the "bad people" in the world. I do still believe that what we're doing in the way of crime and punishment in America is a colossal tragedy - far more people get victimized and brutalized by the state and corporate America than we have in prison for lesser crimes. In fact, many of those in prison are the ones who have been - and are being - victimized by our misplaced fear and rage, and targeted by the bad people in power.

That's not to say that there aren't bad people in prison - there are plenty enough there. Many such people I would vote myself to segregate from the rest of society somehow, lacking better options for protecting the community from sociopaths. But a lot of sociopaths are extremely successful business leaders, police officers, lawmakers, psychiatrists, and so on who aren't about to be stopped by the systems they currently control, even though they harm far more people in more torturous ways than your everyday burglar or street gang member. It is the legitimacy of their conduct, in fact, that makes them so much more dangerous than people who have been criminalized due to their poverty, race, or citizenship status. Abuse is abuse, whether it's called a crime or not. So is discrimination, exploitation, and slavery. Most good sociopaths are obsessive about following the letter of the law, in fact, because the law is what favors and protects them, not the rest of us. It is their law, by and large, not ours.

Anyway, this post from Mariame at Prison Culture touches on a lot of the issues that compelled me to start blogging on the prison industrial complex in the first place, a little over a year ago now. I've just had a lot on my hands getting involved in the lives of the people being chewed up by it. It makes sitting down and pondering things once in awhile more difficult, while at the same time it makes such pondering more relevant and necessary, too - otherwise my every action becomes reaction which all too often stems from my own fears. I guess even abolitionists aren't immune from thinking and acting from a place of indoctrination rather than deliberation at times.

With that, here's the start of the piece that helped me begin to get focused again tonight - don't worry, I didn't stray too far. I'd encourage you to follow the link and read it through, then explore their blog and other links a little further if prison abolition is something that really interests you. Their focus is on ending the incarceration of youth. I'm presuming Mariame won't mind the compliment and promotion, but will be dropping her a line about setting up a link so you can find the site again.


What Does Transformative/Restorative Justice Actually Look Like?

August 7th, 2010
by admin (Miriame Kabe, according to twitter)

Whenever I talk about my work with others, I make sure to stress that it focuses on developing community-based alternatives to the traditional criminal legal system. I add that we do this using a transformative justice approach and lens. Many have responded to me by saying: “that’s not something that I can wrap my mind around.” This is usually followed by the questions: “What does transformative justice look like?” and “How would it work?” Actually I should back up to say that the first question is usually: “What about the violent and bad people? Surely you are not advocating letting them out of prison!”

I understand the fear that people have of the so-called “unknown.” People would rather rely on a criminal legal system that they KNOW is ineffective and unjust than to move to an approach that they view as “unproven” and perhaps even Utopian. It provides them with a sense of safety, however fragile. Hence, the constant and persistent question: “What about the bad people?”

I understand that people want to have some sense of accountability for harm that was done. I often answer questions about the “bad people” by asking individuals whether they feel that every “bad” person is currently incarcerated. If they say, no, I ask them if it is realistic to incapacitate every “bad” person on the planet. In fact, what does it even mean to be a “bad” person? Then I ask them to think about what factors determine who ends up behind bars. This is intended to push people to acknowledge the fact that not every “crime” is punished and that certain groups always seem to be more of a target for punishment than others. I point out that the majority of people who are incarcerated are non-violent offenders. I tell them that if they would agree to release all of those people only then am I willing to entertain their questions about the “bad” people. This serves as a way not to get bogged down in the endless discussion about whether “bad” people need to go to prison. Once all of the non-violent prisoners are freed, I am confident that we would be able to make the case that prisons are in existence to mask our failure for addressing the root causes of oppression. As such, more people would be freed still. We need to start opening the doors of the prisons and this necessitates deploying alternative approaches to addressing violence and crime.

I am prompted to write this post today after reading an article in the Daily Progress about restorative justice. I wanted to write about this topic because it is past time that those of us who are anti-prison activists step up to the plate and create actual community-based alternatives that do not rely on the criminal legal system to solve issues of violence and crime. We cannot simply rely on analysis of the problem of mass incarceration as important as that work is. We have to test our theories about using transformative approaches to addressing violence and crime. We have to be willing to take some risks and to also be prepared to fail some times. More of us have to put our ideas in practice. It takes courage because it is lonely and difficult work but we cannot expect to dismantle the prison industrial complex if we do not develop vehicles for community accountability with respect to violence and crime. We can start small and that is exactly what we are attempting in our organization.

Many people of good will are looking for concrete examples of restorative and transformative practice in action. Restorative justice as an approach to addressing violence and crime is only one step on a continuum of community accountability. That continuum is ultimately pointing our society towards TRANSFORMATIVE justice...

(go here for the rest. It's worth it.)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Act for Juvenile Justice: Town Hall Meetings.

This comes to us from the Act for Juvenile Justice ( list-serve. It may also be a good opportunity to remind congress members of the role of federal oversight in state and local facilities if folks are having concerns about their children's treatment or safety that aren't being responded to by the appropriate court or institution.


Keep the Heat on Congress to Pass the JJDPA this Year!

Attend a Town Hall Meeting & Speak Out for Juvenile Justice Reform

During August, Members of Congress are heading to their home states for the “August recess” until September 13. While Congress may be leaving the record-breaking heat in Washington, DC, we need to keep the heat on them to pass Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Act reauthorization legislation this year!

The JJDPA was first enacted in 1974 and provides federal funding to states that comply with a set of best practices aimed at avoiding the detention and incarceration of young people in juvenile and adult facilities. However, this law is three years overdue for reauthorization! The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a JJDPA reauthorization bill (S. 678) but it is awaiting action on the Senate floor. We’re awaiting the introduction of a House measure, expected just after the House returns in September.

It's a good law, and is needed now more than ever to provide more protections for court-involve youth and support state and local efforts to develop and implement evidence-based practices that are in the best interests of youth, families and communities nationwide.

Please show your support for JJDPA reauthorization by attending a Town Hall meeting during the August recess and speaking out for juvenile justice reform.

Actions you can take:

(1) Find out when your Members of Congress are hosting Town Hall Meetings: Check the websites of your members to see if they have scheduled a Town Hall meeting in your area. For the House, visit For the Senate, visit You can also call the main congressional switchboard (202)-224-3121 to get connected to your members’ offices. Some members may have Town Hall information on their Facebook page or you can check local newspaper listings.

(2) Spread the Word: Once you know if and when your members are hosting a Town Hall meeting, get the word out! Invite others to join you.

(3) Speak out: Ask a question or make a comment during the Town Hall. Be sure to say that you are part of the Act 4 Juvenile Justice campaign to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA). Sample Question: “What actions will you take to ensure that the Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Act is reauthorized by Congress this year?”

(4) Give us feedback: If you attend a Town Hall, let us know how it went! Were you able to make a comment or ask a question? If so, what did your Member of Congress say in response? Send your comments to

(5) Share: Spread the word with your friends by sharing this Action Alert!

For additional information, visit:

Visit us online at
Act 4 Juvenile Justice care of Coalition for Juvenile Justice
1710 Rhode Island Ave. NW, 10th Floor, Washington, DC 20036
Main: 202-467-0864 Email: