Friday, June 21, 2013

replies to "ordination addiction" on div. on people of color and crime, amer. soc. of crim.: thanks Mike and Darnell

Thank you Darnell.  I can honestly say that I don't know that I somehow just plain know better than any fellow criminologist.  And it would be presumptuous of me to think that in many ways they too have also practiced peacemaking in their daily lives, especially among "best friends" who may or may not happen to be fellow criminologists.  People take me for living in an imaginary world--a world of analogies (all that nominalism allows) rather than along digitized paths, the only "realistic" way they see.  And plenty of times, what I don't expect to work in my "knowledge" of human affairs often, like my most heartwarming victim-offender mediation settlements--surprise me.  That includes enjoying every way, at any moment, that a fellow criminologist seems to resonate to an assertion of mine, regardless of whether we interpret my words the same way.  So to me, there is and never has been an inferior criminologist, although I have struggled to come to grips with the anger I feel that fellows who dismiss my work seem to not even want to hear what I regard as most obvious, explainable in different moments in different ways especially these days with my wide open and honest 3-year-old grandson.  I suspect many of my colleagues in cj at iu thought I was weird if not dangerous when I too a rather lonely position that the candidate who most differed from the rest of would most contribute to our intellectual community.  I am satisfied in my own conscience that when colleagues even getting mad at simply receiving stuff I've written whether or not they read (as I suspect many of them can't help doing), it's their loss at free inquiry, not mine.  To any readers here who have felt down by my straightforwardness, I'm sorry, but I refuse to shut up.  Betrayals of trust aside, words alone, including who is the good, true and beautiful criminologist, scarcely hurt me any more.  Thanks again for bringing these thoughts to mind.  l&p

Hal Pepinsky,, skype name halpep, "Peacemaking" at
519 Evergreen Circle, Worthington, OH 43085-3667, 1-614-885-6341

Please note:  My mind isn't big enough to handle social networking.  I do not respond to requests to befriend on Facebook or to become Linked In.  That leaves me free to take time to respond to email on this one account, and to answer home phone calls, which I very much enjoy receiving.  Thanks for your understanding.  love and peace--hal

From: [] on behalf of Arkvark@AOL.COM [Arkvark@AOL.COM]
Sent: Friday, June 21, 2013 3:20 PM
Subject: Re: [dpcc-asc] RE: a critical methodology
As you know I have read and commented on lots of your postings over the years. My choosing to respond indicates that I often find significant kernels of truth and common sense in all of your usually  critical assessments of mainstream criminology. The same applies to this posting. I too have always believed that most of mainstream criminology is off-track in terms of helping us understand what "crime" is and "who are the criminals"--the latter being the title of a  book by John Hagan written several years ago, and one that all on this list should read. It fleshes out some of the historical/political and person-centered forces that underlie the kind of criminology we often describe as "mainstream".
However, over the years I have come to a slightly different conclusion about mainstream criminology and criminologists than that  reflected in your commentaries and the work of Hagan.  Based on my interactions at interpersonal levels with fellow criminologists, especially those highly regarded in the discipline, more and more I  tend see criminology as nothing more than a con-game used to protect jobs/gigs/professional statuses. The ways that criminologists and other academics go about their  own "lived lives" is often at odds with the kinds of conceptual/theoretic, analytic, and rhetorical paradigms that permeate mainstream criminological thought. When all is said and done, academic criminology is  not primarily about describing evil-doers and saving society from the perils of criminal offending, it is about the accumulation of paychecks and social status. Criminologists  (in their hearts of hearts) know very well that they (  including their families and all of their closest friends and associates)are no less likely than the "criminals" they study to engage in the very behaviors they and the criminal laws describe as "crimes". Indeed, criminologists as a group seem to resemble those hard-core politically conservative politicians  and religious leaders who consistently  take punitive stances toward homosexual conduct and the rights of gays, while also engaging in the very conduct they purport to condemn.
Perhaps  this means that we should not take criminology or criminologists too seriously, even though I continue to do so in some of my own writings.  After all is said and done, criminology is "but a tissue of lies"---to quote a character from Ingmar Bergman's  classic movie "Cries and Whispers".  Mainstream criminology, as a body of ideas is a fiction, but also is at times a very "dangerous" fiction in terms of its impacts on people, especially people of color in present day USA. Buts, as for criminologists as a group, we are all about chasing the very same financial, psychological and social rewards and goodies as those sought after by inner city black and Latino gangbangers,  white ethnic mobsters, and Wall Street bankers and brokers.
In a message dated 6/21/2013 1:38:14 P.M. Central Daylight Time, writes:
Nice, Michael, and works for me except for thinking things must be done or accomplished rather than celebrating what my dad's colleague Karl Weick came to call "small wins," or bits of progress.  I settle for that--l&p

Hal Pepinsky,, skype name halpep, "Peacemaking" at
519 Evergreen Circle, Worthington, OH 43085-3667, 1-614-885-6341

Please note:  My mind isn't big enough to handle social networking.  I do not respond to requests to befriend on Facebook or to become Linked In.  That leaves me free to take time to respond to email on this one account, and to answer home phone calls, which I very much enjoy receiving.  Thanks for your understanding.  love and peace--hal

From: [] on behalf of DeValve, Michael []
Sent: Friday, June 21, 2013 2:16 PM
Subject: [dpcc-asc] RE: a critical methodology


Brilliant. I hear Simone Weil loudly in this entry.

Criminology has a real opportunity to prove it is worth its salt - by working to shift the justice paradigm finally, fundamentally, and fully toward love.  Justice predicated on authority and fear is built on wet sand, just as assuredly as our confusion of individual and collective measures and analyses is founded on specious, ham-handed thinking.  When criminology can truly help respond intelligently and compassionately to Weil's question "Why am I being hurt?"  - only then can we say our discipline and all the work we all have done has real value.   Only love, only the careful examination of and attention to needs can ever produce a true system of justice.  And criminology has some important tasks before it.  First, criminology would help facilitate this most daunting shift to love/need and away from authority/fear.  Second, probably co-occurring with the first task (in order to show the practical, shoeleather value and effectiveness of it), criminology must craft ways of understanding suffering, of both victims and offenders.  Some of what has been done in our field has this quality, but it must be assembled, framed and deepened with need-identification and nurturance as its organizing principle.  Third, criminology must understand the transformation process - the process by which suffering becomes insight.  Although I balk at the idea of best-practices, there seem to be common themes in the process of turning harm into wellness.  Taleb's (2012) idea of antifragility likely will find warm welcome in criminology then, and I can envision a rich study of human antifragility in the context of human harm and healing.


Michael J. DeValve, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Department of Criminal Justice
Fayetteville State University
1200 Murchison Road
Fayetteville, NC 28301
910-672-2191 (office)
910-489-9157 (cell)
910-672-1908 (facsimile)

"Love is the voice under all silences,
the hope which has no opposite in fear,
the strength so strong mere force is feebleness...."   - e.e. cummings

Fayetteville State University is a constituent institution of the University of North Carolina
From: [] On Behalf Of Pepinsky, Harold E. []
Sent: Friday, June 21, 2013 1:23 PM
Subject: [dpcc-asc] a critical methodology

Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at
June 21, 2013 (summer solstice in Ohio)

                When I took my required year of research methods in graduate school, I became fascinated by how the studies I was reading in other classes blatantly violated basic assumptions of the statistics they used to get results.   The most glaring example in criminology is applying actuarial predictors of recidivism for groups of people to individuals.  All statistics by definition assume that the probability of any single case falling at any particular point along a distribution is zero; hence the fallacy of affirming the null hypothesis (that one thing equals or is another, which as Gregory Bateson pointed out is true only as a tautology—true by definition).   Regardless of the “fact” that someone has offended, the odds that s/he is now an offender are 50/50: either s/he is or s/he isn’t, period.  Whether s/he is an offender is ultimately a matter of whether s/he is so named, as in “being duly convicted of a crime,” or in “self-report studies,” whether s/he admits doing what the researcher defines as an offense.  In the language of statistics, “offender” is a “nominal variable.”
                We criminologists and our audiences won’t settle for treating who we “are” as a nominal variable.  I surmise we implicitly agree that laws and their applications are so numerous that practically all of us have broken the criminal law.  To “treat” offenders, criminologists and the lay public all assume that some offenses are worse than others, and that by extrapolation, some entire people are worse offenders than others, more “at risk.”  Even self-proclaimed “penal abolitionists” generally concede that prison is necessary for “the worst of the worst,” for “the most violent offenders.”  That leaves many “critical criminologists” in the position of arguing whether other people—wealthy people, powerful people, or “persons” known as “corporations”--are worse offenders than those we incarcerate.  We may settle for not being able to set a zero to 100% scale from those whom “we know” to be perfectly law abiding, we virtually insist that “meaningful” results be scaled ordinally, that is, be ranked.   And from there, we slip into cardinal scales—forsaking “better” and “worse” ranking of events and people for “best” and “worst,” without noticing the leap in logic.
                In this respect, criminologists sound like conversations I hear all the time in everyday life and news.  In lawyer-speak, we tend to ask each other leading questions about experiences we have had and people we refer to.  “What is your favorite movie/song/composer/vacation spot?”  “Who are you best of friends with?”  “What is your greatest fear?”  “Are you doing your best?”  “Are we the greatest nation on earth?”  “How do we achieve justice?”  “I have some really good students this term.”  “Who is the top-ranked [fill in the blank]?”  “What are you doing to better yourself?”  “What or who is the greatest threat to national security?”  “Who have been our greatest presidents?”  “Are we maximizing return on our investment?”  “Who is the world’s richest person?”  “Are you spending/using your time efficiently and effectively?”  And ultimately, “How do I rate?” “What value do I have to the people, whose opinion of me I depend of me on, place on whether I live or die, eat or starve, suffer at my lack of productivity?”  Commodifying the value of our lives in cardinal or absolute terms entails setting beginning and end points to our lives—a fruitless effort that among other things leads to eternal debates in the face of physical ambiguity over when life begins and ends, our ultimate fear that of dying, let alone becoming, a nobody.  Whether we surrender or not, pressure on ourselves from birth is enormous for us to show others that we rank high enough on some reference group’s scale that we have social worth.  And given that we never get high and mighty enough to ensure our social status, we tend to rely heavily on invidious comparisons of others to “ourselves” to “belong” somewhere with like-minded people, in Erving Goffman’s terms, stigmatize others for the sake of “status identification.”
                The more I allow myself to settle for living nominally rather than ordinally, the more I recognize not only that every person is uniquely situated and experienced, but that no one has a single personality, let alone is deviant or “perfectly normal” (that is, has arrived at some statistically arbitrary midpoint where no one really exists).   Centrally, this enables me to forgive myself for my own mistakes and missteps, most dramatically, recently, of validating my resistance to being labeled “an alcoholic” by embracing and thus being able to negotiate with my own conscience the possibility that I was not only a drunkard, but had always also been one to appreciate that another part of me was equally capable—if only I acknowledged it—of enjoying life without drinking.  I notice these days that social scientists are recognizing this if only as a personality trait as “resiliency” among communities that are “socially resilient”—in Darwin’s or systems analysts’ terms to accommodate uncertainty.  And so, in the criminological part of me, I have repeatedly found myself able to gain mutual respect and trust with prisoners who are known as incorrigibly violent or sociopathic, in one case as it turned out literally to have had my trust requited by a “career offender” who saved my life when he saw (as I see it in retrospect) that he had no alternative but to kill someone before he killed me.  For over forty years until he died of cancer at 64, Fred Villaume became an enduring, close friend and companion.
                For 10 years until she too died of cancer, my friendship with Mable Linder in Bloomington led me to join her in singing with older people in “skilled care” and “adult daycare.”  Repeatedly, I met great grandmothers who had spent their lives devoted to family well-being seldom being visited by those they had known including family, dying sadly and in isolation.  It dawned on me how precious it was to reach a point in life with assurance that I knew in my soul that I had made a significant difference in the life of even a single other person.  More than that, once I gave myself credit for being of such seemingly minor “accomplishments” in my life, it became easier for me to accept that I didn’t have to prove my worth by this or that professional recognition.  Living to learn how to respond to conflict rather than eliminating it turns out to be pretty relaxing in its own right, to let go of defending the rightness or wrongness of what I do, and to embrace my many mistakes rather than trying to make sure I never make that mistake again.  What a relief that is.  Love and peace--hal

Hal Pepinsky,, skype name halpep, "Peacemaking" at
519 Evergreen Circle, Worthington, OH 43085-3667, 1-614-885-6341

Please note:  My mind isn't big enough to handle social networking.  I do not respond to requests to befriend on Facebook or to become Linked In.  That leaves me free to take time to respond to email on this one account, and to answer home phone calls, which I very much enjoy receiving.  Thanks for your understanding.  love and peace--hal


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