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Showing posts from February, 2009

Restorative Justice

Last week I wrote about the failings of our current justice system as I see them. Today I'd like to offer an alternative for the phase of criminal justice that deals with how consequences are decided and implemented and then take a brief look at deterrence (or crime prevention).

Our current system is typically referred to as a "retributive justice" system. As such, crime is defined as a breaking of the rules/law. The state (or government) steps in and, through an adversarial relationship, determines guilt and establishes punishment.

It might surprise you to know that most all Native and even some Western European cultures (prior to about 1,000 AD) practiced what we now refer to as "restorative justice." In restorative systems, the crime is primarily seen as something that harms people and disrupts the fabric of relationships and community. A cooperative process is used to bring the offender face-to-face with those they have harmed (victim and/or community) to det…

On Justice

I've heard it said that approximately the same number of people control 95 percent of the world's economy as are in solitary confinement in the United States. There can be little doubt as to which group has killed the greatest number of people. The same would hold true for which group has stolen the most, especially if we include resources, and which group has most damaged the planet. It is entirely possible that we have the wrong population in solitary. But, of course, so long as those in power decide who goes to prison, those in power will not go to prison.

-Derek Jensen, The Culture of Make Believe

I think that most of us learn from an early age to view the world as it is presented to us and part of that means an implicit agreement about when to be outraged and when to be fearful. We've created whole belief systems and myths about this that we assume are designed to both punish criminals and protect ourselves. And yet, as Jensen points out in his book and as buhdy noted a…

On being authoritative

Last Sunday, I wrote an essay on power, talking about moving our culture from one where power is based on dominance to one of partnership. I'd like to dig a little deeper on that topic this week. In my professional life I've been exposed to some knowledge that has helped me understand the dilemmas we face in understanding what partnership looks like.

A psychologist by the name of Diana Baumrind developed a theory about types of parenting based on two factors: demandingness and responsiveness. With that, she developed four styles of parenting:

1. Rejecting - not demanding or responsive
2. Permissive - responsive but not demanding
3. Authoritarian - demanding but not responsive
4. Authoritative - both responsive and demanding

For our purposes, I'll simply ignore the rejecting style. That's because, in a system where power is based on dominance, we tend to focus on a style of relating that is either authoritarian or permissive. The former are the dominators and the later are …

On Power

Underneath all the complex and seemingly random currents and crosscurrents, is the struggle between two very different ways of relating, of viewing our world and living in it. It is the struggle between two underlying possibilities for relations: the partnership model and the domination model.

Riane Eisler

I have written often about Riane Eisler, the author of The Chalice and the Blade. That's because I think her concept of partnership vs. dominance is critical to understanding both the challenges we're facing as a culture as well as the possibilities for change.

Last week I wrote about Saul Alinsky, who based his model of community organizing on understanding and working with the dynamics of power. He knew that the only kind of power folks in the forgotten areas of Chicago had was the power of large groups of people working together in partnership - especially when they came up against the monied interests.

All of that merged with what I've learned from Eisler when I read a d…