Unitive Justice Expanding into Education and Business

As we have worked with the twelve structures of unitive justice, we realized that they apply in other realms, as well. In June 2017 we offered our first Unitive Education workshop and it went well. One of the structures, from episode to epicenter, had to be tweaked to fit this particular system, but most were directly applicable. The episode to epicenter issue relates to how those in the traditional educational system limit consideration of the context (epicenter) and maintain a narrow focus (episode) that keeps the context from being considered. It became clear that the research that is used to legitimize the present educational system often examines only student conduct and achievement (episode) and does not examine the context or epicenter, including the school culture, that may be impacting students’ conduct and achievement. We found that using the 12 structures to analyze the system is a way to bring the problems into a much clearer focus.

Our next endeavor is to offer a workshop on Unitive Business in November, 2917. It appears that two structures will need some tweaking to make them specific to the business arena: first, the structures relating to moral principles and second, as in education, the structures that take us from episode to epicenter. What is especially exciting about this work in the field of business is that both justice and education are large institutional structures that do not change easily, but business includes many small businesses that will be able to more easily implement system change.  We are excited about expanding our work into business!

Mosby Court Restorative Circles Program

It has been a long journey, but at last the paper work is done! AUJ is now able to provide Restorative Circle processes for residents in Mosby Court, an RRHA public housing community in the east end of Richmond. Restorative Circles provide the opportunity for adults and/or youth and persons affected by a conflict to:

  • Meet in a safe environment with a trained facilitator to talk about the conflict, how they were affected, and the harm that was caused
  • Decide what is necessary to resolve the harm and its consequences
  • Reflect the agreement reached by the participants in a written agreement

If you have questions about The Mosby Court  Restorative Circles Program, please email us at a4uj.org@gmail.com.

Performing Statistics continues their work with fall advocacy events throughout Virginia

Upcoming events:

Wednesday, September 2, 6-9pm
ART 180’s ATLAS Gallery

Help us organize the October parade from the General Assembly and our fall school tour. RSVP Here. Note that there are two organizing meetings scheduled. You only need to attend one.

Friday, September 4, 6-9pm
ART 180’s ATLAS Gallery

The Performing Statistics exhibition officially opens at ART 180’s youth art gallery, ATLAS. Join us to support the teens and create your own posters and stencils for the October parade. ATLAS is located at 114 W. Marshall St. More info here

Tuesday, September 15, 6:30-8 p.m 
ART 180, Atlas, 114 W Marshall St, Richmond, VA

Join us for an organizational meeting for the Performing Statistics parade. Our first step is making sure we can get as many people organized for the October 2nd Justice Parade as possible! Come learn how, meet other local artists, educators, and activists, and help us envision a more safe, equitable, and just world for us all.

WHY JOIN?: Because there are over ten thousand youth locked up each year in VA. Because we spend over $135,000 to incarcerate one teen for one year, while spending only $11,000 to educate them. Because 40% of youth locked up are between 8 and 14 years old. Because 70% of incarcerated youth are re-arrested after 3 years. Let’s say it together…PRISONS DON’T WORK!

These youth are the future of our world and we all need to work together to reinvest in our communities, keep our families together, and stop supporting punitive systems that are expensive, unsafe, and don’t work!

Find out more information about the Justice Parade here.

Wednesday, September 30, Northern Virginia
Performing Statistics travels to Northern Virginia for Legal Aid Justice Center’s “Do Justice” event featuring Bryan Stevenson. More info here

Friday, October 2, 6-9pm
VA General Assembly
Join Performing Statistics and a large coalition of individuals and organizations as we parade from the General Assembly building to ART 180’s youth art gallery, ATLAS, in solidarity of the voices of incarcerated youth calling for juvenile justice reform. Details TBD. Plan to gather somewhere on Broad St. near the General Assembly building with a press conference potentially kicking everything off at 5:45pm and parade beginning at 6pm.

Find out more here.

The AUJ to offer a new round of training Aug 2-8.

The training will be offered in three parts. Participants may choose to attend only Part I, the Introduction (2 hrs.). Or they may attend only Parts I & II, the Introduction and the Five Corner Stones (16 hrs.). The third alternative is to attend Parts I, II and III, (44 hrs., comparable to a 3 credit college level course):

I. Introduction Aug. 2 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

II. Five Corner Stones Aug. 3-4 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

III. Seven Building Blocks Aug. 5- 8 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Aug. 8 9a.m. to 1 p.m.

Place: The Friends Meeting House, 4500 Kensington Ave., Richmond, VA 23221

There is no set fee, but participants will be offered an opportunity to share in co-financial responsibility for this and other AUJ activities. AUJ is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

You can register online by following this link. This training will be led by organizational members Sylvia Clute, Pamela McCarthy, and Shelli Jost Brady.

Questions? Contact Sylvia Clute at sylviaclute at gmail dot com or call 804-332-1194.

The Meaning of Moral Injury

AUJ is a sponsor of a program about moral injury Oct 24 at the Friends Meeting House in Richmond. See announcement Quaker House Moral Injury Richmond. Moral injury is a new diagnosis arising out of our recent wars in the Middle East.

The military has been plagued in recent years with a rising rate of suicide: about 45 suicides per 100,000 veterans among men ages 18-29 in 2005; nearly 57 per 100,000 in 2007. An average of eighteen veterans kill themselves each day. Of the 30,000 suicides each year in America, about 20 percent are committed by veterans. These are tragic and staggering figures.

Former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki recommended that more stringent protocols, similar to those used when someone is having a heart attack, be put into place at VA facilities for handling potentially suicidal veterans. But to date, there is no definitive explanation for this disproportionate rate of suicide among those serving in the military. New research, however, suggests one possible contributing factor: moral injury.

One of the first research projects involving moral injury is reported in an article in the Clinical Psychology Review entitled Moral injury and moral repair in veterans. The authors define moral injury as “an act of transgression that creates dissonance and conflict because it violates assumptions and beliefs about right and wrong and personal goodness.” (p. 698)

Because of the moral dissonance that is experienced, the conflict gives rise to feelings of guilt, shame, and fear of being ostracized. An individual with moral injury may come to feel immoral, irredeemable, and un-reparable, or struggle with the belief that he lives in an immoral world.

Many of us are familiar with the harm done to our soldiers when they are injured in war. We hear a lot about the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) experienced by many of the injured soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Moral injury generates symptoms similar to those associated with this type of PTSD, but moral injury is caused by the harm done to others by our armed forces, not the harm done to them.

The authors of this cutting edge research describe the circumstances that can give rise to moral injury as, “[p]erpetrating, failing to prevent, bearing witness to, or learning about acts that transgress deeply held moral beliefs and expectations. This may entail participating in or witnessing inhumane or cruel actions, failing to prevent the immoral acts of others, as well as engaging in subtle acts or experiencing reactions that, upon reflection, transgress a moral code. We also consider bearing witness to the aftermath of violence and human carnage to be potentially morally injurious.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19683376 (p. 700)

The researchers indicate that the type of warfare that today’s troops most often encounter, counterinsurgency and guerilla warfare, especially in urban contexts, poses greater risks of moral injury. Unlike conventional warfare, the enemy is often unmarked, there are civilian threats, and improvised explosive devices produce greater uncertainty. In addition, non-combat troops and civilians face greater risk of harm.

Those fighting in unconventional warfare are more likely to mistakenly take the life of a civilian they believed to be an insurgent. Killing enemy combatants in close range fighting can cause feelings of personal responsibility. Unexpectedly seeing dead bodies or human remains, or seeing ill or wounded women and children who they cannot help may be traumatizing. The “lasting psychological, biological, spiritual, behavioral, and social impact of perpetrating, failing to prevent, or bearing witness to acts that transgress deeply held moral beliefs and expectations” warrant more attention. (p. 697)

Longer and more frequent deployments also further exacerbate the problem. Anger and frustration about losses, sacrifices, and adversities are compounded by longer time away from home, and may impair the ability of some to make ethical decisions. (p. 697)

There is a difference between human-generated traumatic events and harm that humans have not caused. The human-generated events reflect a breakdown of social norms and a greater sense of insecurity. (p. 699) They are, therefore, more traumatizing. How transgressions by humans against humans impact the social bond, and possibly the suicide rate of those in the military, is in need of far more consideration.

The Oct. 24 presentation by Lynn and Steve Newsom is an opportunity to learn more about moral injury, and to consider what can be done about it.

Restorative Justice and Systemic Change: To Do or Not to Do?

When we are facilitating restorative justice circles and discover that there are patterns within the system that are causing conflict, trauma or dysfunction, should circle facilitators take measures to help the systemic problems be addressed? Here is a situation that I encountered and I’m not sure what the answer to this question is.

We were doing restorative justice circles in a high school that was primarily a zero tolerance system. Students who got into fights and were then disciplined had to sign a “no contact contract”, agreeing to have no verbal or physical contact with the other student for the remainder of the school year. If contact was had, the contract said the punishment would be increased and they might be sent to the police. As a result, after a fight the students did not communicate.

We quickly discovered, as the students talked to each other in circles held after a fight, that setting other kids up for a fight was easy to do. By saying to Tom, “Joe is going to get his brother and fight you,” then reporting back to Joe that “Tom said he is going to get his two brothers and fight you,” bravado required that the challenge to fight not be turned down. In this way, the school process could be disrupted and the student who set them up would not be discovered because Joe and Tom could not talk to each other. We saw this pattern occur repeatedly. Setting up a fight was the perfect crime in this punitive justice environment.

We quickly saw this was part of the school culture, but we never raised it as a systemic issue with anyone, including the students who brought the issue to the circles. I now feel like this was a lost opportunity, but I’m not sure what an appropriate way to make this systemic problem known and to perhaps be addressed would have been.

Not ever having had a conversation about how facilitators might help systemic issues that they discover be addressed, or even a discussion about whether or not that would be appropriate, we did nothing about it.

How do you think a situation like this should be handled?

Performing Statistics Opens this week!

A coalition of artists, students, and policy advocates in Richmond have put together an interactive music and art project in response to issues surrounding mass incarceration in our communities. From their website:

Performing Statistics, New Monuments is a city-wide collaborative project that connects incarcerated men, women, and teens with an incredible array of artists, musicians, community activists, and policy advocates. Working with the Legal Aid Justice Center, the project will generate media campaigns, photo-based public installations and performances to support juvenile justice reform across Virginia. Merging art, education, and community activism, the project works with individuals most affected by mass incarceration (incarcerated men and women, and teens in a sentencing diversion program) to develop the tools, skills, and networks to positively impact their lives and communities.

Here are some events to look forward to:

Cradle to Prison_postcard final

Learn more at their website.

VA Historical Society to Host a Screening of “Meet Me in the Bottom”

Meet Me At The Bottom charts the struggle of Richmond activists to reclaim the burial ground located at 15th and Broad. This screening is part of the Created Equal Film Series that runs through October of this year. More details at the VA Historical Society’s Website.

Thursday, June 18, 6:00pm9:00pm
Virginia Historical Society, Robins Family Forum
The event is free to the public