Resources for teaching Just Mercy

Hello beloved colleagues! Here is a starter kit on teaching Just Mercy, mass incarceration, and racial reconciliation in the classroom. There’s more. There’s so much more. Just ask. Mass incarceration – the data:  “The Whole Pie” – Prison Policy Institute State-by-State incarceration data – The Sentencing Project State-by-State incarceration racial demographics – Prison Policy Institute One in … Continue reading Resources for teaching Just Mercy

Petition on Parole Review

Commission on Parole Review, Brian Moran, VA Secretary of Public Safety, Mark Earley, former VA Attorney General, Levar Stoney, Secretary of the Commonwealth: Virginia Voters Demand Parole Reinstatement and Repeal of Truth in Sentencing:

I’m not normally one for petitions, but I’m sharing this one because the last meeting of the Governor’s Commission on Parole Review is this month. 

So far public turnout for these sessions has been very low, in part due to time and access. I don’t want public support for parole reinstatement to be overlooked for this very important public issue. Sign and circulate as you feel comfortable.

The VA Commission on Parole Review is meeting this August. Please come show support for parole!

  • August 27th
  • 1pm
  • House Room 3, Virginia State Capitol

The governor’s commission on parole review will be meeting at the end of August. Truth-in-Sentencing laws have done a lot to expand mass incarceration in Virginia. It would be wonderful to see a large turnout in support of parole reinstatement. 

You can read quick statement on the reinstatement of parole here
Here is a short assessment of Truth in Sentencing Laws from TSP.
And here is a petition to reinstate parole in VA.

A friend who attended the last meeting of this commission reported that the turnout was very low and predominantly family members of people who are incarcerated today. I would love it if we could demonstrate more widespread support by showing up in larger numbers. 

Full details of the meeting are posted herePlease spread the word (active-rva).


Maybe we should not have any criminology…Maybe the social consequences of criminology are more dubious than we like to think.

I think they are. And I think this relates to my topic—conflicts as property. My suspicion is that criminology to some extent has amplified a process where conflicts have been taken away from the parties directly involved and thereby have either disappeared or become other people’s property. In both cases a deplorable outcome. Conflicts ought to be used, not only left in erosion. And they ought to be used, and become useful, for those originally involved in the
conflict. Conflicts might hurt individuals as well as social systems. That is what we learn in school. That is why we have officials. Without them, private vengeance and vendettas will blossom. We have learned this so solidly that we have lost track of the other side of the coin: our industrialised large-scale society is not one with too many internal conflicts. It is one with too little. Conflicts might kill, but too little of them might paralyse.

Nils Christie, “Conflict as Property of the State.” 

I’m prepping for our presentation next week at CRE’s international summit. It’s incredibly fascinating research that I’m going through. Every week I have new material that I would give anything to have had in graduate school. Even in an intensely interdisciplinary program I lost a wealth of research on conflict, trauma, and narrative theory to the tight silos of disciplinarity. With a slightly wider stance, my dissertation would have been totally different.

One gem I’m excavating this week is the above article, written in 1977 by a Norwegian criminologist and early advocate for the abolition of the criminal justice system. I’m focused on narrative theory this week, but the policy implications of his analysis are staggering:

The key
element in a criminal proceeding is that the proceeding is converted from
something between the concrete parties into a conflict between one of the
parties and the state. So, in a modern criminal trial, two important things
have happened. First, the parties are being represented. Secondly, the one
party that is represented by the state, namely the victim, is so thoroughly
represented that she or he for most of the proceedings is pushed completely
out of the arena, reduced to the triggerer-off of the whole thing. She or he is
a sort of double loser; first, vis-a-vis the offender, but secondly and often in a
more crippling manner by being denied rights to full participation in what
might have been one of the more important ritual encounters in life. The
victim has lost the case to the state.

Later this week I plan to read everything ever written by Sara Cobb, and (time permitting) blog it all here.

Also news: I’m an ASPiRE teaching fellow next year, so VCU students might just get ready for some community-oriented conflict resolution initiatives.

Dominic Barter

“My understanding is that when any of us are together for a certain period of time, a justice system starts to emerge, and if we don’t consciously choose the justice system that we’d like, the way in which we resolve our differences and disputes, then we will simply inherit the justice system in which we’ve been educated.”
– Dominic Barter

I’m getting ready to co-facilitate a workshop on restorative justice capacity building in Richmond at the CRE conference in DC next month.

“Violence is not even in our past.  Violence continues today. I was reading a stat that the…”

“Violence is not even in our past.  Violence continues today. I was reading a stat that the neighborhood where the “riots” popped-off earlier this week is in fact the most incarcerated portion of the state of Maryland. And this is not surprising. We live in a country where the incarceration rate is 750 per 100,000. Our nearest competitor is allegedly undemocratic Russia at 400 or 500 per 100,000. China has roughly a billion more people than America; America incarcerates 800,000 more people than China. And as bad as that national incarceration rate is, the incarceration rate for black men is somewhere around 4,000 per 100,000. So if you think the incarceration rate for America is bad, for black America it’s somewhere where there is no real historical parallel.”

Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Clock Didn’t Start With the Riots.”