Tag Archives: transformative justice

Death Penalty: Might Does Not Make Right

Please remember that this paper is in TurnItIn so do not plagerize. This paper was for my Criminal Law 1 class and I got a 99 on the final paper. I used to be pro-death penalty; however, as I’ve evolved in my philosophy and have come to know morality as being universal, I can no longer support it. Also, I did not include economics in this paper because there are reports that sort of cancel each other out. In other words, people saying the death penalty is less expensive have reports to show that is the case; however, those that claim LWOP (Life WithOut Parole) also have reports that show their stance is the case. I couldn’t find proof enough to satisfy me.

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Death Penalty: Might Does Not Make Right by Reagen Dandridge Desilets is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.


Death Penalty: Might Does Not Make Right

Reagen Dandridge Desilets

Trident Technical College

14SP_F2 CRJ115 Criminal Law I (W04)

April 6, 2014


The death penalty was brought to America by colonial settlers and continues more than 400 years later to this day. There are several studies that claim to justify the continued use of the death penalty; however, there is other research that explains how they do not hold up under scrutiny. In the interests of justice, we must follow through with due diligence to ensure that we are not allowing cruel and unusual punishments to be applied. This paper will explore some of the history and research into this topic and show why it needs careful reconsideration for abolishment.

Death Penalty: Might Does Not Make Right

The death penalty has been a tool used by authorities in an attempt to control the actions of people for centuries; the first codified death penalty laws go back to the Eighteenth Century B.C. in the Code of King Hammaurabi of Babylon (DPIC). In the United States of America, the death penalty was brought by European settlers. The first recorded execution occurred in Jamestown, Virginia in 1608 when Captain George Kendall was executed for being a Spanish spy (Winglfield). The types of crimes punishable by death were vast ranging from theological crimes such as denying the “true God”, to minor crimes like stealing grapes, killing a chicken or trading with natives, to major crimes such as murder (DPIC). Since we can see the absurdity of killing someone over religious beliefs or where the victim had little to no actual harm, it would be wise to continue to question the use of such an absolute form of punishment.

One of the prominent reasons stated for the continued use of the death penalty is that it is a deterrent (Mocan & Gittings, 2003). There have been some studies attempting to support such claims; however, there are others that question the methodologies used in those studies (Donohue & Wolfers, 2006) (Radelet & Lacock, 2009). If a study claims to prove that the death penalty is an effective deterrent, but uses incomplete or questionable methods, then their claims to empirical evidence are not truly empirical. With lives hanging in the balance, this is a vitally important distinction to make. Is their theory falsifiable and if it is, then they failed to prove their theory has any merit whatsoever (Booth, 2004). Donohue and Wolfers (2006) and Radelet and Lacock (2009) have done well to show the errors in several studies, thereby falsifying them. In fact, there are very few academics that support the death penalty as an acceptable form of punishment (Flanders, 2013).

Some claim that morality is upheld with the death penalty in place. Morality is frequently confused with social mores. Mores change from culture to culture and to say that mores are the same as morality denies that there is a universal morality (Gert, 2011). An example of social mores would be the prohibition of vices such as recreational marijuana use. While society frowns upon the recreational use of marijuana and may call those that do use it in such a fashion “immoral”, it is in fact not immoral as it does not cause harm to another person. There are five harms: “death, pain, disability, loss of freedom, and loss of pleasure” (Gert, 2004). So to call the death penalty moral is to say that the person administering it is not causing harm to another person. Compare that to someone smoking marijuana. The person getting high is not causing harm to anyone while the executioner most certainly is. The death penalty, therefore, is a social more, not a moral act. “The death penalty honors human dignity by treating the defendant as a free moral actor able to control his own destiny for good or for ill; it does not treat him as an animal with no moral sense” (Fein, 2001). This attempt to transfer the moral burden of killing a convicted offender to said offender falls short. Yes, there are indeed consequences to one’s actions; however, it does not relieve those initiating, cooperating, and conducting the executions of their responsibility of causing harm to another person.

There are a few people who claim that the death penalty is a form of self-defense. Self-defense, up to and including lethal force, is certainly an acceptable act when needed to protect oneself and other innocents from imminent harm (Gert, 2004). The idea equating the death penalty with self-defense was put forward by Gian Rinaldo Carli as a response to Cesare Beccaria’s 1764 treatise, On Crimes and Punishments (Maestro, 1980). Beccaria proposed a number of changes to the penal legal systems of the time including abolishing the death penalty. Carli rebutted saying that the victim, having been killed by the offender, would have killed the offender in the course of self-defense if they had the means to do so. The death of the offender is planned in advance and executed while the offender is unable to cause harm to anyone else involved, making the act not of self-defense but rather an immoral act of harm more akin to premeditated murder.

Legal definition is the only thing that defines the death penalty as something other than premeditated murder. The legal definition of murder can change from state to state but is usually something along the lines of the unlawful, intentional killing of a person with malice aforethought (Berman). Malice aforethought is the intent to harm or kill without justification, excuse, or mitigating circumstances. The key word we are looking at would be “unlawful”. The law allows for the intentional killing with malice aforethought in the instance of the death penalty. So the acceptance of a legal definition of murder is the only thing that society leans on to excuse the death penalty as an act different than murder. As such, the death penalty has become a social more and never was or could be a moral act. Legislating an immoral act doesn’t suddenly make it moral.

Another reason stated to support the death penalty is for justice. But is that really true? That depends on how someone defines justice. Dr. Budziszewski at the University of Texas at Austin claims, “Society is justly ordered when each person receives what is due to him” (2007). This is the model currently used in the United States of America and it is called the retributive model of justice (Krup, 1981). In retributive justice models, crime is breaking the law and not necessarily something that causes harm; offender accountability is about the offender accepting the infliction of harm and not the offender taking steps to repair the harm they have caused wherever possible; crime affects the government and the focus is taken from the victim and the people most closely affected by the criminal act; public safety is said to be attained by increasing laws and not by building community peace to maintain order (CRYJ). Retribution is based on revenge (The Ideology of the Death Penalty – Retribution and Revenge, 2005). Claims that retribution is a form of restitution, and not revenge, are not true as the state seeking retribution does nothing to help repair the harm to the victim and make them whole again (FindLaw). If efforts are focused on punishment instead of making the victim as whole again as possible and helping the offender to not reoffend, then there is no real justice. There isn’t any justice in revenge and it sets a bad example for citizens. It sends the message that revenge is okay; that revenge is sanctioned by the state and is to be trusted when done by the state. It attempts to cement the idea that the victim is made more whole by the state committing another premeditated murder in the name of the victim. It sends a confused message that justice and revenge are the same when they are not.

Why are revenge and justice not related? Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D. makes some good generalizations about the differences between justice and revenge (2014). The first of those are that revenge is emotional and justice is rational. Justice in its most logical and moral definition is not about “getting even”. It’s about righting a wrong. Second, revenge is personal while justice is impersonal and impartial. Justice is supposed to be blind and that cannot be achieved while someone is feeding a rage to get revenge. Next, revenge is vindictiveness while justice is vindication. Basically, it’s the old adage that two wrongs do not make a right. Revenge is also about cycles whereas justice is about closure. When someone wronged commits an act of revenge, then it’s possible the offender, now a victim, may also seek revenge. It’s a vicious cycle that turns over and over and, before anyone knows it, no one remembers how it all began. However, justice aims to get restitution, rehabilitation, resolution, and closure. This will end the cycle of violence that revenge would only perpetrate. Finally, revenge concerns retaliation and justice concerns restoring balance. Revenge tends to be disproportionate because of the emotion involved in such acts. Vigilantism is frequently fed by personal senses of what is right and wrong and can be fueled when multiplied by crowds of people, such as seen in riots and lynch mobs. However, such extremism on the part of revenge isn’t going to help and justice aims to “dispassionately” restore balance through equity. Restoration is about repairing harm with equal restitution, not restitution and then some. So the goal of the death penalty, revenge, is a dangerous path to tread that does not seek justice in the end, only more harm.

All of the above discussions do not even consider when an innocent person is executed by the state. It is hard to know how many innocent people have been executed as there usually isn’t a chance for exoneration after execution (DPIC, 2014). There have been, however, a total of 116 death row inmates exonerated from 1973 to 2004 (Dieter, 2004). This may point to the very likelihood of innocent people having been executed in the past, which is far from being just or moral. Even though there have been some exonerations now does not mean that there are no longer innocent people currently facing the death penalty. Nevertheless, death penalty proponents seem to accept this grave injustice as a part of the system. Judge Mark L. Wolf of the Federal District Court in Boston admitted to the fact that innocent people are executed but still refused to declare the death penalty unconstitutional (Liptak, 2003). Judge Michael Ponsor of the Federal District Court in Springfield once wrote, “(T)hat a legal regime relying on the death penalty will inevitably execute innocent people – not too often, one hopes, but undoubtedly sometimes. Mistakes will be made because it is simply not possible to do something this difficult perfectly, all the time. Any honest proponent of capital punishment must face this fact.” (2002) And yet, even when this frightening truth is acknowledged, people refuse to take a stance against it. Instead, the responsibility of killing innocent people is thrust into the hands of the system, which is fallible precisely because it is in the hands of human beings. The system cannot exist outside of human action as it is human action. Once this blame-shifting behavior is stopped, then people would have to be held accountable for the detention and death of innocent people. Support for the death penalty would have to stop so as to not continue to kill innocent people by mistake. This issue is something those that hold to the death penalty being moral and just cannot continue to hide behind.

After centuries of excusing the use of the death penalty through codified laws and social mores it is becoming less able to withstand the tests of effectiveness, justness, and morality. Other means need to be sought to find better ends, ends that will give everyone a real sense of achieving justice. The death penalty is not an effective deterrent; therefore, it serves the purpose of revenge instead of justice. The death penalty offers no restitution for the harms caused by the offender. The death penalty is an immoral act as it is the killing of someone that is not an imminent danger. The death penalty is also the ending of the life of some people that were truly innocent. It is time to evolve beyond the death penalty and adopt better ways of dealing with offenders and getting justice for victims and their families. Only then will people begin to heal and feel at peace.


Berman, S. J. (n.d.). Homicide: Murder and Manslaughter. Retrieved April 12, 2014, from Nolo: Law for All: http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/homicide-murder-manslaughter-32637.html

Booth, J. (2004, Summer). Scientific Knowledge: Truth, Induction, and Falsification. Richmond Journal of Philosophy(7), 44-49.

Budziszewski, J. (2007, January 6). Captial Punishment: The Case for Justice. Retrieved April 8, 2014, from First Things: http://www.firstthings.com/article/2007/01/capital-punishment-the-case-for-justice

CRYJ. (n.d.). What is Restorative Justice. Retrieved April 8, 2014, from Center for Youth Justice: http://www.restorativeyouthjustice.org/restorativejustice

Dieter, R. C. (2004, September). A Death Penalty Information Center Report. Retrieved April 12, 2014, from DPIC: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/innocence-and-crisis-american-death-penalty

Donohue, J. J., & Wolfers, J. (2006, January). Uses and Abuses of Empirical Evidence in the Death Penalty Debate. Stanford Law Review, 58, 791-846.

DPIC. (2014, March 12). Innocence and the Death Peanlty. Retrieved April 12, 2014, from Death Penalty Information Center: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/innocence-and-death-penalty

DPIC. (n.d.). Part I: History of the Death Penalty. Retrieved April 7, 2014, from Death Penalty Information Center: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/part-i-history-death-penalty#early

Fein, B. (2001, Summer). The Death Penalty, but Sparingly. Human Rights, 28(3), p. 18.

Flanders, C. (2013, Fall). The Case Against the Case Against the Death Penalty. New Criminal Law Revew: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal, 16(4), 595-620.

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Gert, B. (2011). The Definition of Morality. Retrieved April 8, 2014, from Stanford Encylopedia of Philosophy: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/morality-definition/

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Liptak, A. (2003, August 12). Signs Grow of Innocent People Being Executed, Judge Says. Retrieved April 12, 2014, from New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/08/12/national/12DEAT.html

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Ponsor, M. (2002, August 22). Measuring price of death penalty. Retrieved April 12, 2014, from UMass Amherst: http://people.umass.edu/leg485/ponsor.htm

Radelet, M. L., & Lacock, T. L. (2009, Spring). Recent Developments: Do Executions Lower Homicide Rates?: The Views of Leading Criminologists. The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 99(2), 489-508.

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Seltzer, L. F. (2014, February 6). Don’t Confuse Revenge with Justice: 5 Key Differences. Retrieved April 12, 2014, from Psychology Today: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolution-the-self/201402/don-t-confuse-revenge-justice-5-key-differences

Winglfield, E. M. (n.d.). First Hand Accounts of Virginia, 1575-1705: A Discourse of Virginia. Retrieved April 7, 2014, from University of Virginia Library: http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/etcbin/jamestown-browse?id=J1023

* Feature image in header from http://rt.com/files/news/20/b8/10/00/death-row-inmates-drug-cocktail.jpg


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.

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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


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.


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Jenkins, M. (2006, Nov.). Gullah Island Dispute Resolution: An Example of Afrocentric Restorative Justice. Journal of Black Studies, 37(2), 299-319. Retrieved October 30, 2013, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/40034415

Kurki, L. (2000). Restorative and Community Justice in the United States. Crime and Justice, 27, 235-303. Retrieved October 27, 2013, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/1147665

Langan, P. A., & Levin, D. J. (2002, June). Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 1994. Retrieved from Bureau of Justice Statistics: http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/rpr94.pdf

Peterson, R. D., & Krivo, L. J. (2009, May). Segregated Spatial Locations, Race-Ethnic Composition, and Neighborhood Violent Crime. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 623. Race, Crime, and Justice: Contexts and Complexities, 93-107. Retrieved October 30, 2013, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/40375889

Philly Stands Up. (2010). Retrieved October 27, 2013, from Philly Stands Up: http://www.phillystandsup.com/

Political Research Associates. (2005, May). The United States versus the World. Retrieved from PublicEye.org: http://www.publiceye.org/defendingjustice/pdfs/factsheets/9-Fact%20Sheet%20-%20US%20vs%20World.pdf

Ruback, R. B., & Shaffer, J. N. (2005, Dec.). The Role of Victim-Related Factors in Victim Restitution: A Multi-Method Analysis of Restitution in Pennsylvania. Law and Human Behavior, 29(6), 657-681. Retrieved October 30, 2013, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/4499449

Schmid, D. J. (2001, August). Restorative Justice in New Zealand: A Model For U.S. Criminal Justice. Retrieved from Fulbright New Zealand: http://www.fulbright.org.nz/publications/2001-schmid/

SOVA. (n.d.). Retrieved October 30, 2013, from State Office of Victim Assistance: http://www.sova.sc.gov/

Wenzel, M., Okimoto, T. G., & Feather, N. T. (2008, Oct.). Retributive and Restorative Justice. Law and Human Behavior, 32(5), 375-389. Retrieved October 30, 2013, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/25144639

Texas man who lost wife and daughter to rich kid drunk driver fuming over sentence | The Raw Story

Texas man who lost wife and daughter to rich kid drunk driver fuming over sentence | The Raw Story.

This is a situation where justice is very hard to define since there were lives lost. Transformative justice would likely be the best option; however, since the victims and surviving families of those that died have no part in this process, they have been left out and are feeling incomplete. They do not feel that justice has been served and have no way of knowing via first hand interactions if this kid has truly been rehabbed and has learned empathy over entitlement. That being said, there is seriously now a mental condition for being an entitled brat? “Affluenza”? That’s… just… okay, whatever. Sounds more like a strain of influenza but that’s just me I guess.

I pray these families can find peace and hope that the teen will truly be rehabbed and learn the value of all life.

via Texas man who lost wife and daughter to rich kid drunk driver fuming over sentence | The Raw Story.

Why Jails and Prisons Are Not Deterrents to Criminals

This was my second thesis. The teacher chose the topic and it is a great one. I had to shorten it to try and keep it within the page number guidelines, however, I still went over the limit. This is why restorative, rehabilitative, and transformative justice needs to be explored and implemented.

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Reducing Recidivism in Stalkers Diagnosed with Class “B” Personality Disorders by Reagen Dandridge Desilets is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at https://explorejustice.wordpress.com.


Why Jails and Prisons Are Not Deterrents to Criminals


Reagen Dandridge Desilets


Trident Technical College

13UR CRJ242 Correctional Systems (W02)

July 7, 2013


Jails and prisons, while having long been a fixture in criminal justice system, have not been a significant factor in the deterrence of crime and recidivism.  From its earliest existence as a form of detainment until punishment was doled out to its current mission as being part of the criminal justice and corrections function, they continue to be used despite their ineffectiveness. Other interventions, such as therapies, reintegration methods, restitution, rehabilitation and more, may have a greater effect at helping individuals convicted of crimes more than just putting them in a jail or prison.

Keywords:  prison, jail, deterrent, sanctions, interventions, rehabilitation, therapy

In the United States of America, we see incarceration rates that are anywhere from 4 to 32 percent higher than any other nation on the planet, with738 per 100,000 residents (Hartney, 2006). This is despite the criminal conviction rate being only about 332 per 100,000 residents, which is #31 on the list, not #1 (United Nations, 2001). This is an astonishing statistic for a country that claims to protect liberty and freedom of individuals and people are taking notice.  The reasons for this large rate of incarceration vary, from changing politics, media coverage of crime (fair or otherwise), increasing laws (such as concerned with the War on Drugs and “tough on crime” sentencing laws), and more.  The question is does this large rate of imprisonment really stop crime? It would seem the answer is no.

One notable reason why imprisonment fails as a significant deterrent could be that at least a portion of those committing crimes have issues with self-control and seek out instant gratification (Lee & McCrary, 2005). Evidence in studies suggest that the brain activity surrounding instant gratification increases with emotional responses (i.e. dopamine releases); whereas, future planning will stimulate the more rational processes (McClure, Laibson, Loewenstein, & Cohen, Oct. 2004).  The emotional response, if given into, can be the cause of problems ranging from taking on a loan you cannot afford to committing a crime despite knowing the potential consequences. Also, it has been shown that those with self-control problems tend to have overconsumption issues that lead to lower wealth over the long term (Ameriks, Caplin, Leahy, & Tyler, Jun., 2007). This overconsumption and lack of wealth can lead to a cycle that can repeat itself unless more self-control can be learned and exhibited.

Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) released a report that showed a recidivism rate within three years of prison release of 67.5% for felony offenses (Langan & Levin, 2002).  With nothing to help inmates learn self-control, future planning, life and career skills they are released back into a world they cannot cope with in order to stay within the letters of the law and succeed.  These are the areas where corrections policy needs to focus on. News headlines are rife with how corrections agency across the  nation are facing budget cuts, so these much needed services are virtually nonexistent in some places and woefully underfunded in others.  And since American corrections have included attempts at rehabilitation, why risk doing it again when it didn’t seem to work in the past? Perhaps it wasn’t done with the right mind set and in the right areas.

Some ideas that come from across the globe include a prison in Norway. Halden prison treats prisoners the most humane of any prison on the planet (Adams, 2010). Families can stay on site, maintaining the familial bonds that are so necessary for success after release. Are Hoidal, the prison’s governor, said, “We want to build them up, give them confidence through education and work and have them leave as better people.” The Norwegian system would seem to have a very positive effect as their recidivism rates are only about 20%.

In New Zealand, there is a huge focus on the victim and the inmate working together to come to terms with the crime and punishment (Schmid, 2001). With this program, less than 10% have to return to court for not fulfilling their end of the agreement. Perhaps this helps convicts learn empathy for their victims and helps to build more community ties.

Cuba has an extensive focus on rehabilitation and reentry that is greatly assisted with a conditional release program that inmates can become eligible for after serving half their sentence (Political Research Associates, 2005). Under this conditional release, they work off site at jobs out in the community, building skills and contacts, as well as being able to have unsupervised visits with family twice a month. This program’s recidivism rate is about 15%.

Laws are another area that can greatly reduce jail and prison populations. There are many countries that do not criminalize vices (drugs, prostitution, gambling, etc.). Aside from the percentage of the prison population that is there just for nonviolent vice crimes, there is sure to be a number of violent offenders there because of the nature of the black market of vices (gangs, abusive pimps, organized crime, etc.). Perhaps a change in laws decriminalizing vices will help reduce the prison population and help make available budgetary resources to help with things like addiction in a non-prison setting.

It seems there are many things to be considered and tried; however, so long as the focus on retribution in the criminal justice and corrections systems remains priority, this may not be easily attainable. Revenge hardly serves justice but when the majority of a nation’s people demand it, there is little that can be done successfully until something dramatic happens to begin to open hearts and eyes to the problems facing us.


Adams, W. L. (2010, May 10). Norway Builds the World’s Most Humane Prison. Retrieved from Time Magazine: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1986002,00.html

Ameriks, J., Caplin, A., Leahy, J., & Tyler, T. (Jun., 2007). Measuring Self-Control Problems. The American Economic Review, Vol. 97, No. 3, 966-972.

Hartney, C. (2006, Nov.). US Rates of Incarceration: A Global Perspective. Retrieved from National Council on Crime & Delinquency: http://www.nccdglobal.org/sites/default/files/publication_pdf/factsheet-us-incarceration.pdf

Langan, P. A., & Levin, D. J. (2002, June). Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 1994. Retrieved from Bureau of Justice Statistics: http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/rpr94.pdf

Lee, D. S., & McCrary, J. (2005, June). Crime, Punishment, and Myopia. Retrieved from National Bureau of Economic Research: http://www.nber.org/papers/w11491

McClure, S. M., Laibson, D. I., Loewenstein, G., & Cohen, J. D. (Oct. 2004). Separate Neural Systems Value Immediate and Delayed Monetary Rewards. Science Vol. 306 no. 5695, 503-507.

Political Research Associates. (2005, May). The United States versus the World. Retrieved from PublicEye.org: http://www.publiceye.org/defendingjustice/pdfs/factsheets/9-Fact%20Sheet%20-%20US%20vs%20World.pdf

Schmid, D. J. (2001, August). Restorative Justice in New Zealand: A Model For U.S. Criminal Justice. Retrieved from Fulbright New Zealand: http://www.fulbright.org.nz/publications/2001-schmid/

United Nations. (2001, June). Sixth United Nations Survey of Crime Trends and Operations of Criminal Justice Systems, covering the period 1995 – 1997. Retrieved from United Nations: http://www.unodc.org/pdf/crime/sixthsurvey/publication_by_variable_screen.pdf

Reducing Recidivism in Stalkers Diagnosed with Class “B” Personality Disorders

This was my first thesis. I know the topic I chose seems long and boring; however, stalkers with personality disorders, especially class B disorders, have the highest recidivism rate of any other stalker out there. I felt it was a great topic for my Crisis Intervention class. This would fit the idea of transformative justice.
Creative Commons License
Reducing Recidivism in Stalkers Diagnosed with Class “B” Personality Disorders by Reagen Dandridge Desilets is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at https://explorejustice.wordpress.com.

Reducing Recidivism in Stalkers Diagnosed with Class “B” Personality Disorders

Reagen Dandridge Desilets

Trident Technical College
13UR CRJ218 Crisis Intervention (W01)

June 30, 2013


Arrest and imprisonment is not a significant deterrent for stalkers, in particular those diagnosed with Class “B” personality disorders; therefore, other interventions need to be available to try and stop recidivism and protect victims.  Another goal to aspire to achieve would be to improve the quality of life for both victim and stalker.  The role of the criminal justice system may be able to be expanded from primarily just jail or prison time and fines to include other interventions based on other successes shown in previous studies. These other interventions can include mental health care, social work, community and substance abuse programs, and more.

Keywords: Stalking, stalkers, stalker, personality disorders, Class “B” personality disorders, recidivism in stalking, recidivism, obsessional harassment, harassment

Reducing Recidivism in Stalkers Diagnosed with Class “B” Personality Disorders

Stalking, in the criminal justice scope, generally can be defined as any behavior that is harassing but also presents a credible threat to the victim (Mullen & Pathé, 2002).  It was initially thought to affect primarily the famous (such as actress and murder victim Rebecca Shaeffer); however, it eventually began to encompass many other offender-victim relationships, such as former intimates, family members, co-workers, acquaintances, strangers, and more.  Most states have established laws regarding stalking and even harassment.

South Carolina, like most states, has laws where it defines different degrees of harassment and stalking to help in establishing punishment and corrections actions (South Carolina Code of Laws: SC 16-3-1700).  The penalties for stalking and harassment in South Carolina are primarily fines and/or imprisonment that vary with specific charges.  The only mention of mental health intervention is that a judge can order an evaluation and treatment plan after conviction and before sentencing, but it is not a requirement (South Carolina Code of Laws: SC 16-3-1740).

The question is will sanctions and corrections currently in the Code of Laws greatly reduce the chance of recidivism?  Typically speaking prison time, as well as other criminal justice injunctions such as protective orders and fines, does not greatly reduce recidivism.  The media is filled with stories of how a guy gunned down his former girlfriend after she got a protective order against him, or of a celebrity that has had to have one crazed fan arrested more than once, or of a disgruntled ex-employee destroying property or “going postal” after having been physically removed and banned from the property.  As we see that jail or prison time has done nothing to stop some of these stalkers, it is clear that further interventions may need to become a better focus in regards to those convicted of stalking and harassment.  In order to consider what interventions may be appropriate, it may be best to start the focus on those most prone to repeat offending.

Rosenfeld (Jun., 2003) has studied the number of stalkers with various psychiatric disorders as well as recidivism rates.  81.1% of those studied were diagnosed with some sort of psychiatric disorder.  They found that 36.5% had a personality disorder (52.1% of this subgroup had a Class “B” personality disorder), 17.2% had schizophrenia, 15.6% had delusional disorders (erotomanic or persecutory type), and 11.8% had mood disorders.

Out of those Rosenfeld (Jun., 2003) studied, he found that nearly half, 49%, reoffended.  80% of those that reoffended did so within a year of their first arrest.  Others that did not reoffend within the first year were at risk of recidivism that averaged almost 72 months before reoffending.  Out of his sample, 50% of those with a personality disorder reoffended and 29.2% of those with a Class “B” personality disorder also reoffended.  So, while the percentage of stalkers diagnosed with any personality disorder isn’t the majority of stalkers, their recidivism rates are higher compared to other stalkers not diagnosed with a personality disorder.  Recidivism was especially high when the stalker had both a personality disorder and a substance abuse problem.  In fact, nearly all those studied with both a personality disorder and substance abuse did reoffend during the study period.

While, overall, these numbers may seem better on paper, helping the public to settle feelings of fear and hysteria that may come with stalking cases (fearing violence and re-offense), the victims of those that do reoffend still have to suffer.  Another study points to an alarming fact that, in those stalking cases where the stalker has a personality disorder, they latch on to a casual acquaintance more than an intimate partner/ex-partner or a stranger (Dennison, Aug., 2007).  There is no way of being able to know who one of these stalkers may target and why. Unfortunately, the only ways to try and successfully intervene are through reactive methods, reacting to the offender’s previous and current actions, and not preventative.  Reactive methods victims may take to try and protect themselves range from learning to fight and to use weapons, to quitting a job, to moving, and even going so far as to change their identities completely (Mullen & Pathé, 2002).

Personality disorders have no known cause though theories range from life experiences to biological predisposition or a combination of both (Personality Disorders, © 2013).  The symptoms can be easily recognized in adolescents and young adults but they seem to be less noticeable by middle age.  People diagnosed with personality disorders seem to be more rigid, inflexible, and tend to have a very narrow world view.  Mental Health America (Personality Disorders, © 2013) lists three classes of personality disorders with a brief description of each:

  • Cluster A: Odd or eccentric behavior
  • Cluster B: Dramatic, emotional or erratic behavior
  • Cluster C: Anxious fearful behavior

Class “A” disorders are Schizoid personality disorder, Paranoid personality disorder, and Schizotypal personality disorder.  Class “B” disorders include Antisocial/Psychopath personality disorder, Borderline personality disorder, and Narcissistic personality disorder.  Class “C” disorders have Avoidant personality disorder, Dependent personality disorder, and Obsessive-Compulsive personality disorder (Personality Disorders, © 2013).

In Class “B” disorders, while each category differs, the basic premise is that they all have a hard time being able to reason through behaviors and tend to act before thinking things through logically.  There may also be a lack of empathy for their victims when it comes to crimes such as stalking so that may contribute to why there is a higher recidivism rate among those with these diagnoses.  They cannot relate to others without empathy, so they have no idea how much they are hurting their victim.  Generally speaking, treatment for personality disorders includes various forms of psychotherapy (family, group, cognitive behavior, etc.) and medication may help relieve symptoms from other mental illnesses such as depression, mania, and anxiety that can worsen personality disorder symptoms (Personality Disorders, © 2013).

Vermote, et al. (2011) suggest that long term hospitalization based therapies has a better effect at changing personality traits (based on several personality disorders, most being Class “B”).  They studied cases of patients that were in a hospital setting (residential and day-hospital) receiving various treatments for a maximum of one year.  Treatments included things such as group therapies, non-verbal therapies (music therapy, psychomotor therapy, and creative therapy), psychiatric consultation, social work, individual and group sessions with a nurse, and regular patient-staff meetings.  Treatments focused on establishing a sense of “inner self safety”, corrective emotional experiences and interpretation to correct impairments in representations of self and others, and mentalizations to create a way to reflect and understand oneself and others (such as feelings and intentions).  They found that there existed a stable group and fluctuating (but still improving) group that had the same results long term with these forms of treatment.  When comparing the stable group to the fluctuating group, they found that the fluctuating group had significantly more symptoms when treatment started.  Both groups, however, had significant improvement in their symptoms over time.  The thing that will help make treatment a success, however, is patient participation.

It is possible that a combination of interventions can greatly help manage stalking behaviors, especially when it comes to those identified as moderate- and high-risk of persistence in stalking.  McEwan, et al. (Apr. 2009) says that intervention and management will often need many sources such as “psychologists, psychiatrists, case managers, police, community corrections, and courts.”  The court’s and law enforcement’s roles could be to compel those convicted of stalking and obsessional harassment for evaluation as well as treatment if so recommended by those in the medical and social work fields.  This multifaceted intervention approach to tackling recidivism in stalking should, in theory, help to achieve a lower recidivism rate.  This will also help a percentage of those to actually overcome major problems such as substance abuse, mental illness, mood disorders, and personality disorders which affects more than just stalking behaviors.  This end result would be increased quality of life for both victim and stalker.

In the meantime finding ways to try and better predict recidivism continue to be developed (McEwan, Mullen, & MacKenzie, Apr. 2009).  This will help to pinpoint those with the most urgent needs of a multi-resource intervention approach to help curb any possibilities of re-offense.  Categories used in these prediction models range from offender-victim relationship, history of substance abuse, and psychiatric diagnoses.  Based on these risk assessments proper courses of treatments and corrections can be prescribed to further the success rate of the interventions.

It is perhaps worthwhile to further the discussion of the role of the criminal justice system working in tandem with social services and psychiatric care to help tackle the problem of stalking recidivism.  One of the most volatile elements in those convicted of stalking that reoffend is personality disorders, particularly Class “B” disorders.  With such a combination of various interventions, it is theorized that recidivism can indeed be reduced.  This will help the victims of those that would normally reoffend to be able to heal and move on with their lives as well as helping stalkers to be able to better adapt and live productive lives.


Personality Disorders. (© 2013). Retrieved from Mental Health America: http://www.nmha.org/go/information/get-info/personality-disorders

Dennison, S. M. (Aug., 2007). Interpersonal Relationships and Stalking: Identifying When to Intervene. Law and Human Behavior, Vol. 31, No. 4, 353-367.

McEwan, T. E., Mullen, P. E., & MacKenzie, R. (Apr. 2009). A Study of the Predictors of Persistence in Stalking Situations. Law and Human Behavior, Vol. 33, No. 2, 149-158.

Mullen, P. E., & Pathé, M. (2002). Stalking. Crime and Justice, Vol. 29, 273-318.

Rosenfeld, B. (Jun., 2003). Recidivism in Stalking and Obsessional Harassment. Law and Human Behavior, Vol. 27, No. 3, 251-265.

South Carolina Code of Laws: SC 16-3-1700. (n.d.). Retrieved from South Carolina Legislature Online: http://www.scstatehouse.gov/code/t16c003.php

South Carolina Code of Laws: SC 16-3-1740. (n.d.). Retrieved from South Carolina Legislature Online: http://www.scstatehouse.gov/code/t16c003.php

Vermote, R., Lowyck, B., Luyten, P., Verhaest, Y., Vertommen, H., Vandeneede, B., . . . Peuskens, J. (2011). Patterns of Inner Change and Their Relation with Patient Characteristics and Outcome in a Psychoanalytic Hospitalization-Based Treatement for Personality Disordered Patients. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy Volume 18, Issue 4, 303-313.