Family of Executed Man Plans to Sue State – ABC News

I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on the attached article. I am against the death penalty for many reasons and this is one of them – there is no humane way to kill someone.

I’m not sure why it is okay for the government to do things that you and I would be imprisoned (or even executed) for doing. Revenge is not justice, so why are people condoning state-sponsored revenge?

What are your thoughts?

via Family of Executed Man Plans to Sue State – ABC News.

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“On Death Row”

I’m currently watching On Death Row on Netflix and find it to be pretty compelling so far.

Werner Herzog On Death Row
Werner Herzog – filmmaker and narrator of “On Death Row”

I’m hoping to do a paper on capital punishment but to sum it up, I’m against it. There are many reasons why including it’s existence for retribution (as it is not an effective deterrent), innocent people being on death row, and the fact that, as a Christian, I cannot accept the Old Testament declaration of “eye for an eye” at a human level. God wants revenge, fine. He can have it. As humans capable of mistakes, I don’t find it’s within my power to declare who should live and who should not. There are other issues and I will cover them later. Take a moment to watch On Death Row and see if it challenges what you know of the death penalty in the United States.

Man Accused Of Skinning, Baking Pet Cat With Onions « CBS Minnesota

Man Accused Of Skinning, Baking Pet Cat With Onions « CBS Minnesota.

So basically according to this article, a man kills, skins, and roasts his own cat and then was arrested for animal cruelty. I really don’t see how this is going to hold up in court. What’s next? Arresting farmers? How about hunters? I don’t eat cats but others do. Others eat dogs. Others eat horses. The list goes on. Cats are not an endangered species so this charge is weak at best. Also if they try to claim torture because he killed and skinned it, then they need to start arresting factory farmers that mistreat animals their entire lives and give them a torturous death. This is the perfect case for jury nullification if it goes to court. I have yet to introduce that concept on this site and will work on that this weekend.

via Man Accused Of Skinning, Baking Pet Cat With Onions « CBS Minnesota.

On the Issue of Forensics Mistakes and Fraud

The following research paper was for my Crime Scene Investigation and Reconstruction class. I chose a topic that I felt needed attention and solutions. Reminder: my college uses Turnitin so if you plagiarize, you will be caught. I publish my work here on this blog because I don’t want my work and ideas to disappear into academia oblivion. It’s not just a grade for a class to me – it’s my entire philosophy.

 Creative Commons License
On the Issue of Forensics Mistakes and Fraud by Reagen Dandridge Desilets is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

 

On the Issue of Forensics Mistakes and Fraud

Reagen Dandridge Desilets

Trident Technical College

13FA_F2 CRJ235 Practical Crime Scene Inv. (W03)

November 17, 2013

Abstract

In the pursuit of justice, all parties involved from the prosecution to the defense claim to aim to seek justice. In this pursuit, both parties attempt to provide solid evidence to either prove or disprove a person’s involvement in crime. In the past several years new, more scientific ways of doing so have burgeoned and taken root doing both to prove someone’s guilt as well as prove the innocence of others. However, methods must be employed to ensure the viability of various forms of forensic analyses to keep the system neutral and for the benefit of truth and justice. Looking at other research, past efforts, and suggestions of professionals in the criminal justice and forensic fields we can ascertain whether or not enough is being done to protect against mistakes and outright fraud and if not, discuss what could be done to increase protections.

On the Issue of Forensics Mistakes and Fraud

The Innocence Project reports that there have been 311 prisoners exonerated using DNA evidence that may or may not have been available during the initial trials (Innocence Project). In theory, if the evidence is followed, then the conviction is based on that and that alone, which is supposed to mean that a jury is convinced beyond a shadow of doubt that the person is guilty. If an innocent person is convicted, ideally, it was because there was not enough evidence to make the jury have any doubt as to his involvement or execution of the crime.

Despite that, there can be a problem with evidence and it is possible for the wrong person to face a sentence for a crime they did not commit. It is estimated that 2.3% to 5% of those in prison are actually innocent (Innocence Project). It sounds like a small number considering recent reports of 7.2 million adults under correctional supervision (Glaze, 2010); however, it could mean anywhere from roughly 165,600 to 360,000 innocent people are currently facing some sort of correctional action. That is a lot of potentially innocent people and it has been said many times over, since Biblical times, that it is better for any number of guilty people to go free than for even one innocent person to suffer (Volokh, 1997). The sentiment is that it is wrong for an innocent person to suffer that which is meant for the guilty. So what can go wrong that we may possibly have over a third of a million innocent people in the corrections system?

June 10, 2013, it was reported that the Laboratory Services Division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, who does the forensics testing for prosecutors, has been investigated for a number of problems (Greene, 2013). Problems listed included the following:

  • “Employees perceive they are ‘not adequately trained to provide fact or expert testimony in court’.”
  • “Employees justifiably perceive that blood-alcohol training protocols for toxicology lab analysts are inadequate.”
  • “Refrigerators used to store blood and urine samples are not locked, making them accessible by unauthorized personnel.”
  • A supervisor “had toxicology lab employees help him/her with his/her master’s thesis during working hours.”
  • That same supervisor “made statements that suggest s/he is biased against defendants in criminal cases” and “imposes unreasonable burdens on toxicology analysts by making excessive accommodations for prosecutors and law enforcement agencies.”
  • And that “employees justifiably perceive that the toxicology lab is not sufficiently staffed to handle the work load.”

Problems began at least as soon as August 2011 so that means that potentially hundreds, maybe thousands, of criminal cases could be affected (Greene, 2013).

It was also reported on September 28, 2012 that Annie Dookhan, a chemist with Hinton State Laboratory Institute in Boston was arrested (Crimesider Staff, 2012).  She stated her motive for her outright fraud was that she wanted to seem like a good worker. Co-workers began questioning supervisors about her several years ago but they did nothing. Along with the shutdown of the lab due to Dookhan’s actions, three officials resigned, including the state’s public health commissioner.

The above reports highlight the potentials for problems in forensic science; however, misuse of evidence is not limited to only laboratories. On November 8, 2013 a former Texas prosecutor and judge, Ken Anderson, pleaded guilty to intentionally failing to disclose evidence and that led to the wrongful conviction of Michael Morton in the murder of his wife (Godsey, 2013). His only punishment was the loss of his law license, performing 500 hours of community service, and a 10 day stint in jail. That pales in comparison to the 25 years Morton spent in prison. This sort of violation of withholding evidence is known as Brady violations and they are cited as being one of the main causes of wrongful convictions.

In the Brady v. Maryland case, the United States Supreme court ruled that the prosecution must disclose all evidence in a case, even evidence favorable to the defendant (Dewar, 2006). To withhold such exculpatory evidence violates the Constitutional guarantee of a fair trial with due process. The Fifth Amendment of the Bill of Rights in the United States Constitution includes that a person “nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law…” (Legal Information Institute [LII]).

Brady violations are against this amendment and represent serious misconduct on the part of the prosecution. Yet few are ever called out on it and even less are punished for it. A recent empirical study of the capital convictions from 1973 to 1995 found that about 16% of reversals at the post-conviction stage were as a result of Brady violations (Dewar, 2006). It has been said that there are a number of motives behind these violations, some of which include inexperience, the desire to win, political gain, ensuring guilt for the sake of closing the case, and the natural conflict of their job of being an advocate while at the same time finding evidence that is detrimental to their own cases. Even cognitive psychology has been noted wherein a prosecutor may fully believe in the guilt of the defendant, which may interfere with understanding the exculpatory value of evidence.

There is also a question of how sound some forensic science methods are, such as with those used to convict someone but they were later exonerated with DNA. Some of these methods “included bite marks, shoe prints, soil, fiber, and fingerprint comparisons, and several included DNA testing” (Garrett & Neufeld, 2009). In their study, Garrett and Neufeld found that 82 of the 137 cases where there was exoneration (60%), the prosecutions’ forensics analysts gave testimony with conclusions using misstated empirical data or conclusions that were unsupported by empirical data. The rate of problems was not insignificant at all. This study included 72 forensic analysts, employed by 52 laboratories, practices, or hospitals from 25 states. Procedures tend to feed this sort of misconduct as defense attorneys rarely can hire their own experts and do not know when to object to misleading expert testimony.  When the expert evidence is challenged, judges rarely relent. Below is a table from their study, showing types of evidence and invalid testimony on behalf of a scientific expert.

Table 1: Invalid Forensic Science Testimony by Type of Analysis

Type of Forensic Analysis Cases with trial transcripts Cases involving invalid science testimony Percentage of cases with trial transcripts involving invalid science testimony
Serology

100

57

57

Hair comparison

65

25

38

Soil comparison

6

0

0

Fingerprint comparison

13

1

8

Bite mark comparison

6

4

67

Shoe print comparison

3

1

33

DNA testing

11

3

27

Voice comparison

1

1

100

In today’s time, the scientific method acknowledges and allows for consideration of things such as observer effects (Risinger, Saks, Thompson, & Rosenthal, 2002). Observer effects can be described when “the results of observation depend upon the state of the observer as well as the thing observed.”  It is also not uncommon for there to be extensive communication between detectives and forensic personnel, which can taint the view point of the forensics examiners on the case, such as with the case mentioned above from Colorado (Greene, 2013).

Falsifiability is vitally important to the scientific process and helps to test the refutability of a theory (Princeton University). If the examiner works to find only the facts, and is able to prove the theory false or is unable to prove it false, rather than working to prove it true, then the findings remain unbiased and offer far more validity and reliability as evidence. Blind and double blind testing are ways that science has tried to thwart observer effects (Risinger, Saks, Thompson, & Rosenthal, 2002). It was also suggested that, in addition to blind studies of evidence in a case, that the model include a method dubbed “an evidence lineup”. This presents the examiner with the evidence along with “foils”, evidence not a part of the case. The examiner would be blind to which evidence is related evidence and which the foils are. This solves the problem of approaching forensics testing and examination from a single-suspect viewpoint in which there is an assumption that the correct person is in custody and it is just a matter of technicality to prove it in court.

In regards to DNA analysis, there is a concern that DNA kits suffer from errors and that this may result false positives (Mellon, 2001).  The kits, made by private companies, seek to not reveal too much about their methods to avoid copycat productions; however, this makes it much like a VCR. The examiner uses it based on instructions and not based on any knowledge and understanding of how it works scientifically. They are “happy to push a button and get results”. This removes the scientific method from the process and out of the hands of the examiner. It is suggested that if the defendant is not granted via discovery the science behind the kit, then any DNA evidence should be ruled as inadmissible. Most often times, the defense has to subpoena the information instead of it being part of the discovery process. If the defense cannot seek to validate the DNA evidence, how can it ever be considered as inculpatory?

Database dependency is another issue with a lot of today’s forensics, such as large DNA databases (Murphy, 2007). This brings about concerns of privacy and protection of data as well as potential misuse of data. When there is a lack of standards being enforced in crime laboratories, other issues arise such as contamination and destruction of samples. An example of such mishandling is seen with a crime lab in Houston, where 280 boxes of evidence covering approximately 8,000 criminal cases were misplaced (Blumenthal, 2005).

Another issue in forensic science is the lack of treatment as an “ordinary” science (Murphy, 2007). It is a field that does not typically arise out of other collaborative or competitive environments. Instead, it is dominated by the government, which is also the entity that almost exclusively administers it.  It has been stated that a peer review in forensics science is the equivalent to self-congratulations and validation comes from those that will benefit the most from a method’s approval. Because of this, crime laboratories rarely engage in self-criticism and they work to keep their clients, such as police departments, happy. Many of those working in the field have an undergraduate degree and are not qualified to conduct proper research, even when encouraged to do so. As a result, the science of forensics can be in a state of “arrested development”.

There are many more concerns with forensic evidence, its misuse, and the impacts that it has on society as a whole, such as the innocent people suffering, the victim and their families not having a sense of peace and justice, and the legal costs involved in such cases. The goal of demanding standards in incriminating expert evidence is not for making it difficult; but rather to support criminal justice values, such as a presumption of innocence and the burden on the state to prove one guilty beyond reasonable doubt (Edmond & Roach, 2011). Until these issues are taken into account and questioned on a regular basis by all involved, including the prosecution, the courts, the defense and the public, these sorts of problems will continue to arise. Public accountability could include opening up books for public scrutiny, such as is done with other public agencies. Independent laboratories could help by creating competition instead of the government retaining a monopoly on forensic science. This would separate the missions of a laboratory, truth seeking, and law enforcement, prosecution, and take the pressure off examiners to prove the prosecutions’ cases (Turvey, 2013). They can then remain unbiased and get to the truth.

References

Blumenthal, R. (2005, January 5). In Texas, Oversight for Crime Labs Is Urged. Retrieved November 11, 2013, from New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/05/politics/05labs.html?_r=0

Crimesider Staff. (2012, September 28). Annie Dookhan, chemist at Mass. crime lab, arrested for allegedly mishandling over 60,000 samples. Retrieved from CBS News: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504083_162-57522579-504083/annie-dookhan-chemist-at-mass-crime-lab-arrested-for-allegedly-mishandling-over-60000-samples/

Dewar, E. N. (2006, Apr.). A Fair Trial Remedy for Brady Violations. The Yale Law Journal, 115(6), 1450-1469. Retrieved November 9, 2013, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20455658

Edmond, G., & Roach, K. (2011, Summer). A Contextual Approach to the Admissibility of the State’s Forensic Science and Medical Evidence. University of Toronto Law Journal, 61(3), 343-409. Retrieved October 29, 2013, from http://www.law.unsw.edu.au/sites/law.unsw.edu.au/files/pre/f/docs/pubs/unsw_edmond_contextual_approach.pdf

Garrett, B. L., & Neufeld, P. J. (2009, Mar.). Invalid Foresnsic Science Testimony and Wrongful Convictions. Virginia Law Review, 95(1), 1-97. Retrieved November 9, 2013, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/25475240

Glaze, L. E. (2010). Correction Populations in the United States, 2010. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics. Retrieved November 9, 2013, from http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/cpus10.pdf

Godsey, M. (2013, November 8). For the First Time Ever, a Prosecutor Will Go to Jail for Wrongfully Convicting an Innocent Man. Retrieved November 9, 2013, from Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mark-godsey/for-the-first-time-ever-a_b_4221000.html

Greene, S. (2013, June 10). Colorado Forensic Lab Under Fire For Alleged Mismanagement, Lab Bias, and ‘Cover Up’. Retrieved November 10, 2013, from Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/10/colorado-forensic-lab-und_n_3416143.html

Innocence Project. (n.d.). Retrieved November 9, 2013, from Innocence Project: http://www.innocenceproject.org

Legal Information Institute [LII]. (n.d.). Fifth Amendment. Retrieved November 9, 2013, from Cornell University Law School: http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/fifth_amendment

Mellon, J. N. (2001, Dec.). Manufacturing Convictions: Why Defendants Are Entitled to the Data Underlying Forensic DNA Kits. Duke Law Journal, 51(3, Thirty-First Annual Administrative Law Issue), 1097-1137. Retrieved October 29, 2013, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/1373185

Murphy, E. (2007, Jun.). The New Forensics: Criminal Justice, False Certainty, and the Second Generation of Scientific Evidence. California Law Review, 95(3), 721-797. Retrieved October 29, 2013, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20439109

Princeton University. (n.d.). Falsifiability. Retrieved November 9, 2013, from Princeton University: http://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Falsifiability.html

Risinger, D. M., Saks, M. J., Thompson, W. C., & Rosenthal, R. (2002, Jan.). The Daubert/Kumho Implications of Observer Effects in Forensic Science: Hidden Problems of Expectation and Suggestion. California Law Review, 90(1), 1-56. Retrieved November 9, 2013, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3481305

Turvey, B. (2013). Turvey – Forensic Fraud Promotional. OnQ Film.

Volokh, A. (1997). n Guilty Men. Retrieved November 9, 2013, from UCLA Law (University of California): http://www2.law.ucla.edu/volokh/guilty.htm

Here Are the Rights You Have When Interacting With a Police Officer in One Detailed Infographic | TheBlaze.com

Here Are the Rights You Have When Interacting With a Police Officer in One Detailed Infographic | TheBlaze.com.

The linked article is awesome! I love this! Everyone should know their rights, especially when it comes to interactions with the law enforcement and criminal justice systems. Check it out, save it to your phone or print it and keep it available for any time you may need it. I am interested to see if indeed in my state (South Carolina) that refusing a breathalyzer is an automatic suspension of license. That is ridiculous because, as the infographic points out, there are legitimate reasons for a false positive. My husband is a diabetic whose sugar levels quickly get out of control and are hard to manage. I would NOT be a happy person if he were jailed basically for being a diabetic…

via Here Are the Rights You Have When Interacting With a Police Officer in One Detailed Infographic | TheBlaze.com.

The Application of Peacemaking Criminology

The following research paper was for my Criminology class. We had to choose from the various types of criminology and assess it and report on it. I have a big interest in peacemaking criminology, which includes transformative and restorative justice, because the retributive model of criminal justice is a failure. It rips apart families and communities especially with vice laws.

 Creative Commons License
The Application of Peacemaking Criminology by Reagen Dandridge Desilets is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

The Application of Peacemaking Criminology

Reagen Dandridge Desilets

Trident Technical College

13FA CRJ125 Criminology (W01)

November 11, 2013

Abstract

Within social conflict theories lies the realm of peacemaking criminology. Peacemaking criminology seeks to end crime through transformative and restorative justice methods to help people become more “whole” again. It focuses on healing families currently touched by crime in an effort to break a cycle that repeats itself the way things currently operate. By looking at research already available as well as current programs running with the same or similar goals, one can determine its effective and worthiness of investment of time and funds.

 The Application of Peacemaking Criminology

There is a set of theories in criminology that promote ideas such as restorative justice instead of retributive justice. In the face of the failures of retributive justice, such as the high incarceration and recidivism rates (Hartney, 2006) (Langan & Levin, 2002), it is time to try something else and peacemaking theories provide a radically different path to justice. There are efforts in place for the application of transformative and restorative justice already underway. Some of these include Philly Stands Up, a collective working with sex crime offenders and victims for healing and transformation (Philly Stands Up, 2010); Critical Resistance, a movement challenging the belief that “caging and controlling people makes us safe” (Critical Resistance, 2013); and 360 Degrees, a team dedicated to changing public perception of the nation’s prisoners in the hopes of being able to help analyze what works and what doesn’t (360 Degrees, 2011). Other countries have delved into this as well including Cuba (Political Research Associates, 2005) with a focus on intense offender rehabilitation and community integration and New Zealand (Schmid, 2001) with a focus on restoration for both victim and offender. Focuses in restorative and transformative justice could include things such as family conferencing, family violence court, mental health court, drug assessment and aid panels, and victim offender reconciliation programs (Barnes).

Having roots in ancient Arab, Greek, and Roman civilizations (Braithwaite, 1999) restorative justice can encompass many things ranging from victim services to help them heal, up through offender integrative programs such as community service instead of prison for an offense (Kurki, 2000). The phrase is commonly used interchangeably with community justice since the focus of restitution is primarily on community service and offender integration. The monopoly that various levels of government have on the prison industrial complex is let go of with restorative justice in favor of locals handling services and restitution to victims, keeping the needs of those most closely affected by the offense on the top of the list of what is important. Healing for all involved is the focus of restorative justice instead of revenge, such as with the current retributive justice model. Restorative justice focuses on the shared values of a community for healing justice while retributive justice concerns itself with power and status in the imposition of punishments of offenders (Wenzel, Okimoto, & Feather, 2008).

It was stated early on in this nation’s history that local forms of government should be concerned with local matters and that centralizing power can be a dangerous path to take (Jefferson, 2011). This includes everything from federal, to state, to county, to city levels, down to the individual person and their farm. Perhaps leaving the people in the smaller community in charge more so than federal, state, and county level courts and detention centers would help improve the increasingly difficult situation in regards to incarceration in the United States. Each community has very specific needs and desires in regards to every aspect of their lives. What would work in Los Angeles may not work for Knoxville and what works in Honolulu may not work in Anchorage. That can be further subdivided into individual neighborhoods as well. What works for an inner city type of neighborhood may not be able to work with solutions utilized in a middle class or upper class section of the same city. The idea is that the people truly control the criminal justice system and can customize it to better meet their needs as much as the victim’s needs and the offender’s needs.

Most people would not have a difficult time understanding and wanting to meet the needs of a victim. Recently, the victim has begun to become a better focus in criminal justice whereas before, they were more or less just treated as a source of evidence (Henderson, 1985). Many jurisdictions have set up their own victim advocacy programs to help assist victims, such as the South Carolina State Office of Victim Assistance, also known as SOVA (SOVA).  They offer programs that help victims do anything from counseling, to tending to monetary needs as a result of crime, to updates on offender activities (such as when being released from prison) and more. They also have outreach programs to the general public to bring about awareness about victim advocacy and what it brings to those in need of help. There are numerous other jurisdictions that have begun victim-centered restitution ideas with a good deal of success. The more those in the criminal justice system, such as police, prosecutors and judges, learn of the losses victims suffer, the more they can help them find the resources to heal and experience a real sense of justice in their lives (Ruback & Shaffer, 2005). It is a fairly new concept in the story of the American justice system, but one that most people support without a second thought. Previously, while the offender was afforded every right under the Constitution, victims rarely had help and their treatment was more “cold” rather than “professional” as viewed by a victim (Henderson, 1985). Some victims, especially rape victims, may have even suffered injustice during the retributive justice process (Feild, 1979). The appearance and presentation of both offender and victim may influence the jurors and serve to sway them, whether they realize it or not, to vote in favor of whomever they personally like as opposed to depending on the evidence alone. There may still be issues in regards to victims getting the help they need (Henderson, 1985), but it is evolving and growing, especially with the emergence of restorative justice.

More difficult, however, may be spreading a message that offenders have needs not being met as well. As previously mentioned, offenders are offered a lot to help in their defense and always at the taxpayer’s expense (Henderson, 1985), including the victim’s. They get an attorney, even when they cannot afford one, and then are housed during trial and after sentencing to a jail or prison. They are given food and other basic necessities including health care, where some people outside of prison, including victims, may not have access to such resources. It is not hard to understand how a victim may feel re-traumatized by the entire process and how the public at large may view offenders as already getting what they need. What more could be done for an offender and how would it affect the victim as well as the community at large? Methods to keep ties to the community would go a long way to keeping an offender from falling into further, and likely increasingly violent, crime as a result of time in prison. For example, a father being able to stay in constant contact with his family outside of prison would go a long way to keeping those bonds tight and give him a reason to work towards community integration and stay away from crime (Political Research Associates, 2005). Working outside of a prison would give the offender a learned job skill and would help to increase his chances of successfully keeping that job when his time is served. Restorative measures would have, under a consensual arrangement, the offender and victim work together for victim restitution which may increase the offender’s awareness and empathy (Schmid, 2001). Offenders are treated as equal human beings with needs just as much as the victims and society at large and their needs.

An example of how a community can better affect offender outcome is that it is not hard to see that there is a large disparity in minority representation in prison versus outside populations (Hartney, 2006). Being able to focus on the needs of each community, which may have larger minority populations may help bring a reduction in harm in the community (Jenkins, 2006). It has been shown that different neighborhoods can have different struggles that can greatly affect crime levels (Peterson & Krivo, 2009). There are a number of high minority populated communities that suffer from a number of social and economic disadvantages and trying to overcome those conditions tends to lead to criminal activity. So, for example, someone trying to obtain money to better their position in life and provide for their families can easily turn to the black market activities of drug and gun trade to do that quickly and efficiently. Robbery and burglary are other methods of quickly attaining money. Motive for that can range from a drug addiction needing to be fed to rent needing to be paid. With restorative justice, there is a far better chance of the offender being able to, not only make restitution to the victim, but to better their situation in life and integrate back into the community. Offers for counseling, drug rehabilitation, learning job skills and more can be offered to an offender to better themselves and contribute to the community.

Empowerment and transformation are powerful motivators for success, particularly for those that feel disenfranchised or oppressed. In Afghanistan, there was launched a program to stimulate “transformative learning” in the rural communities. It focused on building up the nation’s infrastructure (Affolter, Richter, Daudzai, Massood, & Rahimi, 2009). It proved that the methods used, which included transformative learning as well as “mind-change”, a process of getting people to rethink customary thought processes regarding an issue of importance and thinking in new ways, helped to give the people a sense of pride and project ownership. This pushed them to become more proactive in dealing with local development problems. This is a great example of how restorative justice models can work and motivate people to improve, not just their own lives, but the lives of those around them in their community.

To further look at peacemaking criminology as a whole, John Fuller listed a “Peacemaking Pyramid Paradigm” that shows the overall philosophy in peacemaking criminology (Barnes). They include the following:

  1. Nonviolence – For example, peacemaking criminology is opposed to the death penalty. It cites that the premeditated violence (murder) of the offender is just as wrong as the offender’s violence.
  2. Social justice – Social justice would be able to tackle issues such as racism, sexism, and inequalities in the community.
  3. Inclusion – There is more at stake in justice than just the offender versus the state. The victim and their families as well as the offender and their families have a stake in what happens. There may be others in the communities that are willing to step in and offer alternatives. The state handling the justice paradigm robs these people of the chance to find a unique and creative solution to the problems at hand. Inclusion offers longer lasting solutions than just sending someone off to prison.
  4. Correct means – “The ends don’t justify the means.” This is very true and something that is of particular interest to peacemaking criminology. Settling cases may leave someone feeling victimized in one way or another. A victim may feel a lack of justice when an offender pleas out and an offender that is innocent and fearing a lengthy prison sentence may also plea out to get less time to serve. These are not acceptable means (force) to get to an end (clearance rates).
  5. Ascertainable criteria – This issue surrounds language barriers in the justice system. This includes immigrants that are not familiar with the English language as well as legal jargon heard in the court room. There must be an understanding of the procedures and the terms being used. One cannot effectively participate in anything if they do not understand what is going on. This method seeks to fully inform all parties involved of what is happening.
  6. Categorical imperative – This is based on Kant’s concept of the categorical imperative. People know what will happen and can guess the outcome. This would be “an underlying philosophy of nonviolence and social justice throughout the criminal justice system.” Everyone involved including offenders, victims, and the public would be treated with the “respect and dignity we all deserve.” Peacemaking criminology “aims at providing true equality under the law that is tempered by appositive view of humankind.” It does not treat society higher than victim and victim higher than offender. We are all the same and are in this together.

Perhaps the answer to the problems that ail the American criminal justice system are rooted in the communities and the people that are most affected by crime. Not the judges, not the police departments, not the prison administrators. Perhaps looking inward is the best way to move forward. This can work to not only improve the lives of the victims and offenders of crime but also heal the communities in which these people live. Bridges can be built by one person reaching out to another. The more the people in these communities learn to transform and experience a “mind-change”, the more proactive and involved they can become. This will help to keep several categories of people out of America’s jails and prisons and keep them at home with their families who need them. Their bonds with family and community can be maintained and their life skills can be changed. In the meantime, the victim-centered process of restitution can also take place where people see each other’s faces on a day-to-day basis, keeping accountability at the forefront of restitution and resolution enforcement.

Considering the ancient roots of restorative justice (Braithwaite, 1999), and considering the failures of the retributive model, such as lack of victim care and offender rehabilitation, then it is not a stretch to see that peacemaking theories in criminology are a viable and even necessary step to take moving into the future. Our prison numbers need to shrink and our communities need to heal. We can do this without suffering the oppressive costs of prison operation and upkeep. It is possible that there will always be a place for prisons for those that refuse to collaborate with their communities, but until we get nonviolent offenders and rehabilitative offenders out of prisons, and until victims have a real sense of restitution, families across America will continue to be break and never heal. The cycle repeats.

References

360 Degrees. (2011). Retrieved October 27, 2013, from 360 Degrees: http://www.360degrees.org/

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