Saturday, December 27, 2014

How dangerous is policing?


Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at

December 27, 2014


                At the December 26 memorial for the two murdered police officers in New York City, Vice President Biden highlighted the dangers of policing, citing how families of police officers must worry every day whether their loved ones will come home safely.  The FBI reports that in 2013, 76 police officers died while on duty, 49 in traffic accidents (not counting one officer intentionally run down), 27 feloniously killed.  The quadrennial FBI census reports that in 2008, there were 765,000 sworn officers in the US, an increase of 9,500 over 2007.  That suggests that there were approximately 800,000 officers in 2013.  That suggests that the occupational death rate for police officers was approximately 9 per hundred thousand officers, 6/100,000 traffic deaths, 3/100,000 killed by murder or manslaughter, while the rate of all US inhabitants killed by murder or non-negligent manslaughter was 4.7/100,000.

                Overall, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2013, the on-the-job death rate for construction workers was about the same as for police officers, 9.4/100,000, roughly equal to the risk of dying while policing.  For those working in construction and warehousing, and in mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction was 13.1/100,000, and for those working in agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, the rate was 22.2/100,000.

                In sum, family members of those working in construction have as much reason to fear their loved ones dying on the job as do family members of police officers, and police officers are less likely to be criminal homicide victims on the job than to become victims simply for living in the country.  The FBI only reports “justifiable” homicides by police, 320 in 2013, more than 10 times the rate at which they were unlawfully slain.

                Fortunately, the number of police officers killed on duty has steadily declined in recent years.  Any wrongful homicide or death on the job is a tragedy, but occupational risk scarcely accounts for patterns of police use of excessive force in communities of color.  Love and peace, hal

Friday, December 19, 2014

Celebrating US-Cuban Normalization


Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at

December 19, 2014


                President Obama has just finished his last press conference of 2014 in a good mood.  The agreement to normalize US-Cuban relations is indeed a milestone in making peace between two countries whose formal state of war began in the Bay of Pigs more than two months before this president was born.  As far as personal credit goes, the agreement he and President Castro announced this week, this will surely rank as his major foreign policy peacemaking accomplishment.  It belies the historical reality of how many Cuban and US individuals, groups, and no doubt many diplomatic contacts have connected to rise from grassroots peacemaking to formal diplomatic recognition of the Cuban state, including, ways that individuals persuaded Pope Francis and the Canadian government to do their parts to persuade the two presidents and their advisers to announce what amounts to an unratified treaty of peace.  It took two generations for that formal and informal peacemaking force reached a tipping point at the top of the political culture.

                By contrast, in our domestic war on crime and excessive use of police force against people of color, and in our wars to “destroy” the Islamic State and “combat terrorism,” the prevailing logic is one of fighting warfare with warfare, with punishment, with containment if not extermination.  Causes for public recognition and celebration of turning away from war toward peace such as this week’s agreement between the presidents of Cuba and the US, including exchange of prisoners of war, come seldom.  In the spirit of Hanukah and Christmas, I take this moment to enjoy the light of peace and mutual understanding that now shines on our relations.  Love and peace, hal

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Beyond Incrimination


Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at

December 9, 2014


                The main problem I see in the recently highlighted wave of white police killings of unarmed young black men is that the police don’t know the people they are policing.  How hard would it be to arrange for police to be trained in part by spending time in civilian clothes in the neighborhoods they will police, at community gatherings, participating in community projects, visiting schools, getting to know the people they will police in their full humanity, rather than as suspects and complainants?  Police on patrol are not so bombarded with calls for service that half shifts could not be arranged once or twice a week for patrol officers to continue their civic engagement.  As Nils Christie suggested in his book Limits to Pain (1981), people who know one another in more respects are less likely to treat one another according to stereotype.

                The US stereotype that poor young black and brown men are especially suspect and violent will not fade.  No amount of punishment of police officers who have killed unarmed black men and boys will change that prejudice so deeply within us, including among my fellow criminologists.  On the contrary, a belief that punishing homicidal police does justice, rests on the premise on which the criminal justice system operates, the system that has given us mass incarceration.  The police cannot be regulated and supervised into overcoming the ignorance of those they police that they bring to bear.  They can be taught to know the real people they police.  Love and peace, hal

Friday, December 5, 2014

policing driven by the numbers


Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at

December 5, 2014


                Since my dissertation on police decisions to report offenses (summarized in July 1976 in the Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency), my criminological focus has been on effects of how we measure crime and criminality.  The latest great awakening to police brutality in communities of color is at hand, the underlying fear, demonization, and use of excessive police force against young members of today’s dangerous classes is in our faces once again.  I believe that a police accountability system called CompStat, first utilized for officer and precinct evaluation in 1995 in New York City in 1995, now adopted by police departments across the country, has further institutionalized and rewarded arrests, especially on felony charges, and punished crime reporting and recording.  I wrote an early critique of CompStat and its early effects in a 2001 book chapter, “living criminologically with naked emperors,” under books (A Criminologist’s Quest for Peace) at; a summary of my conclusions also appears as an epilogue to Myths That Cause Crime, another book at the same website.

                Under CompStat, every shift sergeant gets a monthly printout of his or her officers’ patrol performance: how many arrests they have made, and how many reports of any of seven federally defined offenses: murder and non-negligent homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny-theft, arson, and auto theft.  Most arrests are for public order or drug offenses that don’t count as index crimes.  From the individual officer on up the managerial chain, the pressure is on to keep arrests up, and crime counts down.  When I rode with police forty years ago in a “high-crime” area, some officers already recognized that their opinion of those they supposedly served was distorted by hearing complaints and by seeing people at their worst all the time.  Doing the paperwork was an added burden on those who filed offense reports.  CompStat further discourages officers from what little opportunity they have to get to know people they police personally, from being at all responsive to those among whom they patrol.  Meanwhile, what counts most is finding bad guys out on the streets where it is relatively safe.  As CompStat heightens attention to law enforcement, policing becomes more proactive, and for better or worse, less reactive…more impersonal, more subject to stereotypes, more self-fulfillingly dangerous in police minds and to black and brown bodies in police practice.

                Now, from NYC Mayor De Blasio and from President Obama, we hear calls and movement to get police to know, feel and respect the full humanity of people of color they work among.  Since the late 1960s, there have been models of “service-style” policing cited, notably in middle-class neighborhoods with children, for treating community members in the manner of social workers who know their clients and the groups to which they belong.  The perceived and learned needs of community members play a larger role in officers’ lives and professional advancement than crime-fighting numbers.  But where CompStat has taken hold, it will take conscious effort to substitute the importance of community members’ police evaluations, in their own terms and words, for the importance of CompStat numbers they create.  Here as elsewhere, peacemaking entails letting go of attachment to counting crime and criminality.  Love and peace, hal

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Failure to Indict

Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at
November 25, 2014

 The conclusion reached yesterday by the grand jury not to indict Darren Wilson amounts to this:  It was reasonable of Mr. Wilson to suppose that he was under continuing threat of death or serious bodily injury when he shot Michael Brown dead.  All we know is that no more than 4 of 12 grand jurors concluded that Mr. Brown still presented a reasonable threat to Mr. Wilson when Mr. Wilson fired the fatal shot(s).  The jurors remain anonymous, their deliberations and questions asked of prosecutors during deliberations are secrets all involved are legally obliged not to reveal.  As I argued in the first chapter of my 1976 book (Crime and Conflict: A Study of Law and Society, under books at, belief in the fairness of jury decisions rests on being unable to show manifest bias, that is on failing to explain jurors’ decisions.  That is the position taken by the prosecutor in this case.  In true fairness, we have no basis for concluding anything personal about what the majority of the jurors felt or concluded.  Their decision was expected a week ago or more.  The deliberations must have been hard, and probably heated.  I hope they rest well and somehow get to share their burden and feel safe.
 Mr. Wilson’s testimony that he felt threatened is uncontradicted.  So is the long history of white people like me growing up knowing black people as different, and if black, different at least, physically threatened if also big, like Mr. Brown.  The tragedy of Mr. Brown’s death has aroused such anger because it reflects an underlying truth about being black and unarmed in a white world—that black folks know and feel firsthand, that we white folks can at best acknowledge among ourselves and learn better.
 Policing takes prejudice to a new level, for police are trained to look for trouble, to be suspicious, to establish they are in charge of “situations,” and when they fire in fear for themselves or others, to shoot only to kill.  In the forty years since I spent hundreds of hours on police patrol, I am sure that police are more estranged from the people they patrol than ever.  Where nearly all-white, predominantly young officers police communities of color, it is to be expected that the police will fear, suspect, and intimidate neighborhoods they grew believing are full of dangerous people.
 Practically nothing in police training introduced police to those they patrol.  A remedy would be to make community orientation basic rookie police training.  Out of the academy, officers would spend time in the district they would patrol first being introduced by senior partners in local community centers where they could meet residents and businesspeople personally and hear their concerns.  Community and school representatives might invite them to social events, to get acquainted.   It’s one idea.  The point is that the problem that led Mr. Wilson to suppose an unarmed big black man threatened to kill him reflects a continuing problem of police not knowing the people they police as full human beings rather than as suspects.  Today, if anything, greater reliance on technology and increased firepower have increased that distance everywhere.
 Thirty years ago when a white officer shot a black football player dead in Bloomington, Indiana, where I lived and worked, I recommended that police leave all firearms secure in their cars, to be removed only on approval from a superior officer, in this case one who fired the fatal shot during a scuffle.  I believed then for Denver Smith, as I do now for Mr. Wilson, that it is a danger to themselves and others for police to carry deadly arms.  I am aware of the political gap between what logically could most reduce the death toll for young men of color by police on one hand, and in fact reduce the chances of officers putting themselves in positions where they, unarmed, might be shot.  It would be as prudent as it is culturally unimaginable.
 I have been interested to hear that the US Justice Department’s Community Relations Service has been at work in the St. Louis area.  The first director of the CRS, Calvin Kytle, was a long-time friend and publisher of Paul Jesilow’s and my Myths That Cause Crime, focused on civil rights issues in the South in the mid-sixties.  Communication of the kind police and their communities need is their mission.  The death of Michael Brown, and the exoneration of Mr. Wilson, bring to our attention once again how ingrained the image of black dangerousness is in us white folks is, and of how militarized our police have been since the 19th century.  So is the idea of police as a military force for order, impartially, without attachment to those they police.  We cannot change or stop this reality in its tracks.  We can recognize, as many in policing and criminology did in the late sixties and early seventies, that what can most readily change is for police and their communities to become personally acquainted, to know those they police more and fear them less, as those they police get a chance to do likewise.  Whether by outreach by community leaders, or by police, getting to know one another outside street encounters is one remedy that doesn’t have to await cultural shift.  Love and peace, hal

Monday, November 24, 2014

Resignation of Chuck Hagel


Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at

November 24, 20146


                Today, Chuck Hagel formally resigned as Defense Secretary, yet agreed to stay on until a replacement is confirmed (or until President Obama leaves office, whichever comes first.  Mr. Hagel leaves quietly, like a good soldier, expressing nothing but gratitude for the honor of service and affection for his commander-in-chief.  And yet it is easy to imagine why he is resigning.

                Nebraska Senator Hagel, who came into office a highly decorated Vietnam war veteran, was the lone Republican in 2007 to vote for a resolution giving President Bush 120 days to clear out of Iraq, citing “the corrupt al-Maliki regime.”  He was a veteran who sought to avoid the tragedy of Vietnam. He was appointed by a president who ran for office on a pledge to leave Iraq and end the war in Afghanistan.  He came into office to aid in reducing the size of the armed forces.

                Chuck Hagel leaves office the day after the New York Times reports that President Obama has “secretly” expanded the role of Afghan ground troops.  I wonder if the timing is more than coincidence.

                The sad fact is that with Secretary Clinton the only visible candidate other than Senator Bernie Sanders for the Democrats for president in 2016, and her rhetoric on fighting terrorism has been tougher than President Obama’s.  Meanwhile, there is only one identified Republican presidential candidate or spokesperson on the media, Rand Paul, who has steadfastly opposed expanded military involvement abroad.  Apart from, I can scarcely find any US national news network that presents any of the US anti-war sentiment that exists.  Notwithstanding the blessing of President Obama’s temporary amnesty for a limited number of undocumented immigrants, border security and deportations and detention continue to grow.  I see no prospect that in 2016 or 2020, a major party candidate who will propose a major reinvestment of the resources, including our soldiers, to fighting “terrorism” bigger and harder.  As for 2024, who knows?

                Last night, CBS “Sixty Minutes” had a segment on deterioration of the US infrastructure, and of how hopeless it was to foresee Congress finding the money anywhere, as by raising gas taxes or raising “wealth” taxes.  I’m taken back to the supposed call for military “economic conversion” as the Cold War ended in 1989.  Suppose we bring the troops home in large numbers, and deploy them to repair bridges, roads, and sewer systems, to clean and repair waterways and water systems, to help engineer and deploy solar, wind and water energy sources both large and small enough for individual consumer use.  Suppose military arms production was shifted domestic transport, and for production of machinery for domestic military and civilian use, toward the end of making development economically and environmentally sustainable and inclusive.  Suppose troop redeployments home were supplemented by expansion of programs for US youth to serve needs for education and other social services, including time with the elderly and infirm.  Imagine using troops abroad as US infantry are doing building field hospitals for ebola patients in Liberia, or in general supplementing the Peace Corps.  Imagine a party or a major party presidential candidate who would run on a platform of converting military service to maintaining and sustaining ourselves.  Eventually, public service, including military service, could become a major source of employment, education, and career development for our youth.

                It wouldn’t have to cost taxpayers any more than we now pay for US warfare and “counterterrorism” abroad.  It is easy in theory to see how to meet our needs primarily to assume a duty of care for all our relations and for our sustenance simply by executive action of our commander-in-chief.  But for the time being, we are stuck as a political culture in the conviction that the way to resolve social problems is to stop, end, or abolish them.  Discourse and action are dominated by fear.  Chuck Hagel’s resignation is a sign, I think, of quiet despair, a sign that the growth of US warfare appears for this political moment to be unstoppable.  Mr. Hagel, thanks for trying.  Love and peace, hal

Wednesday, November 5, 2014



Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at

November 5, 2014


                I recently received this message from an old friend, Neil Brick, with a list of references to anyone, notably to criminologists who study and try to measure “murder,” on evidence against claims that recovered memories, notably those like Neil’s of having been raised in a homicidal satanic ritual cult:


Ritual Abuse Evidence - Statistics, Research, Legal Cases and Studies                      

Child Abuse Wiki - Ritual Abuse
Ritual abuse exists all over the world. There have been reports, journal articles, web pages and criminal convictions of crimes against children and adults.

Proof That Ritual Abuse Exists

Large List of Ritual Abuse and Satanic Ritual Abuse References

Child Abuse Wiki – Recovered Memories

There is very strong scientific evidence that recovered memories exist. This has been shown in many scientific studies. The content of recovered memories have fairly high corroboration rates.

The Dark Tunnels of McMartin – Dr. Roland C. Summit

The McMartin Preschool Case – What Really Happened and the Cover-up

Denying Ritual Abuse of Children – Catherine Gould The Journal of Psychohistory 22 (3) 1995

Believe the children (1997). “Conviction List: Ritual Child Abuse”.

2008 Publications on Ritual Abuse and Mind Control

Lacter, E (2008-02-11). “Brief Synopsis of the Literature on the Existence of Ritualistic Abuse”.

Bottoms, Shaver and Goodman in their 1993 study to evaluate ritual abuse claims found that in 2,292 alleged ritual abuse cases, 15% of the perpetrators in adult cases and 30% of the perpetrators in child cases confessed to the abuse. Data from Brown, Scheflin and Hammond (1998).”Memory, Trauma Treatment, And the Law” (W. W. Norton) ISBN 0-393-70254-5 (p.62) Bottoms, B. Shaver, P. & Goodman, G. (1993) Profile of ritual abuse and religion related abuse allegations in the United States. Updated findings provided via personal communication from B. Bottoms. Cited in K.C. Faller (1994), Ritual Abuse; A Review of the research. The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children Advisor , 7, 1, 19-27

On Page 170 (first edition), of Cult and Ritual Abuse – Noblitt and Perskin (Praeger, 1995) states “One of the best sources of evaluative research on ritual abuse is the article “Ritual Abuse: A Review of Research” by Kathleen Coulborn Faller (1994)….in a survey of 2,709 members of the American Psychological Association, it was found that 30 percent of these professionals had seen cases of ritual or religion-related abuse (Bottoms, Shaver & Goodman, 1991). Of those psychologists who have seen cases of ritual abuse, 93 percent believed that the reported harm took place and 93 percent believed that the alleged ritualism occurred. This is a remarkable finding. Mental health professionals are known to be divergent in their thinking and frequently do not agree with one another regarding questions of the diagnosis and etiology of psychiatric problems…this level of concurrence in a large national sample of psychologists…would be impressive….the similar research of Nancy Perry (1992) which further supports (the previous findings)…Perry also conducted a national survey of therapists who work with clients with dissociative disorders and she found that 88 percent of the 1,185 respondents indicated”belief in ritual abuse, involving mind control and programming” (p.3).”

Craighead, W. E.; Corsini, R.J.; Nemeroff, C. B. (2002) The Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology and Behavioral Science Published by John Wiley and Sons ISBN 0471270830 – Sadistic Ritual Abuse (p.1435 – 1438)

Sexual Abuse in Day Care: A National Study – Executive Summary – March 1988 – Finklehor, Williams, Burns, Kalinowski “The study identified 270 “cases” of sexual abuse in day care meaning 270 facilities where substantiated abuse had occurred involving a total of 1639 victimized children….This yielded an estimate of 500 to 550 reported and substantiated cases and 2500 victims for the three-year period. Although this is a large number, it must be put in the context of 229,000 day care facilities nationwide service seven million children….allegations of ritual abuse (“the invocation of religious, magical or supernatural symbols of activities”) occurred in 13% of the cases.” The authors divided these cases into “true cult-based ritual,” pseudo-ritualism” with a primary goal of sexual gratification and ritual being used to intimidate the children from disclosing and “psychopathological ritualism” the activities being “primarily the expression of an individuals obsessional or delusional system.”

Books on Ritual Abuse

Johnson Davis, Anne  “Hell Minus One: My Story of Deliverance From Satanic Ritual Abuse and My Journey to Freedom” Transcript Bulletin Publishing – ISBN 978-0-9788348-0-7 – 2008  “Anne’s parents confessed their atrocities—both in writing and verbally—to clergymen, and to detectives from the Utah Attorney General’s Office.  Anne’s suppressed memories, which erupted when she was in her mid-30s, were fully substantiated by her mother and stepfather….The book’s foreword was written by Lt. Detective Matt Jacobson, who was the lead investigator with the Utah Attorney General’s Office on Anne’s case in 1995.”

Hell Minus One – signed verified confessions of satanic ritual abuse – Anne’s parents confessed their atrocities – both in writing and verbally.

Epstein, O., Schwartz, J., Schwartz, R.  Ritual Abuse and Mind Control: The Manipulation of Attachment Needs 2011 Karnac Books. London ISBN 1-85575-839-3  Google Books Version

Noblitt, J.R.; Perskin, P. S. (eds) (2008). Ritual Abuse in the Twenty-first Century: Psychological, Forensic, Social and Political Considerations. Bandor, OR: Robert Reed, 552. ISBN 1-934759-12-0.

Noblitt, JR; Perskin PS (2000). Cult and ritual abuse: its history, anthropology, and recent discovery in contemporary America. New York:Praeger. ISBN 0-275-96665-8.

Cult and Ritual Abuse – James Randall Noblitt – Chapter 6 – Empirical Evidence of Ritual Abuse,M1

Rutz, Carol (2001). A Nation Betrayed. Grass Lake, MI: Fidelity Publishing. ISBN 0-9710102-0-X.
The Chilling True Story of Secret Cold War Experiments Performed on our Children and Other Innocent People by Carol Rutz

Ryder, Daniel. (1992). Breaking the Circle of Satanic Ritual Abuse: Recognizing and Recovering - CompCare Pub.

Secret Weapons – Two Sisters’ Terrifying True Story of Sex, Spies and Sabotage by Cheryl and Lynn Hersha with Dale Griffis, Ph D. and Ted Schwartz. New Horizon Press, P O Box 669 Far Hills, NJ 07931 – ISBN0-88282-196-2 Is a well-documented, verifiable account of not one, but two childrens’ long untold stories of being CHILD subjects of Project MKUltra. Quotes from the book: “By the time Cheryl Hersha came to the facility, knowledge of multiple personality was so complete that doctors understood how the mind separated into distinct ego states,each unaware of the other. First, the person traumatized had to be both extremely intelligent and under the age of seven, two conditions not yet understood though remaining consistent as factors. The trauma was almost always of a sexual nature…” p. 52 “The government researchers,aware of the information in the professional journals, decided to reverse the process (of healing from hysteric dissociation). They decided to use selective trauma on healthy children to create personalities capable of committing acts desired for national security and defense.” p. 53 – 54 The book also contains a variety of documents on mk-ultra and different projects as well as reports to the Presidential Committee on Radiation and Mind Control, including information on the five Canadians’ lawsuit against the U.S. Government.

Sinason, V (1994). Treating Survivors of Satanist Abuse. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-10543-9. 


                I met Neil Brick at a ritual abuse conference in Indianapolis in 1996, where we both presented, he as a survivor, I having just discovered two active satanic ritual sites, presented on the seminar that included, eventually was team-taught by, survivors of ritual abuse, and protective parents of sexually assaulted children.  Neil founded the organization SMART (stop mind control and ritual abuse today) and began a conference in which I presented and participated from the first year of the conference in 1998, until I retired in 2009, except for 2006 when my daughter was getting married.  Neil repeatedly visited my classes during those years.  The address of the SMART website is  Neil provides the most comprehensive online library on the subject of ritual abuse of anyone I know.  He also provides audio tape of some of my presentations.

                You’ll see if you google my name that my experiences with survivors, advocates, and the wide array of mutually confirming evidence I saw revolutionized my profile of the murderer.  Having become convinced that as I am that likely as not in your community as I have known it to be in mine, there is at least one, intergenerationally based, group performing ritual human sacrifices on several high holidays, and for disciplinary reasons, who know quite well how to dispose of human remains they don’t eat and drink. Child prostitution and human trafficking, pornography and snuff films, are among its enterprises.  I also know many intergenerational survivors who in childhood, proven able to split into “multiple personalities” to compartmentalize secrets about what was done to them, to perform undercover, notably CIA/NSA-affiliated missions from drug muling to blackmail to assassination.  At fringes are teens and children brought in.  At its core are implicitly white supremacist men, many of whom are prominent in everyday life.  The numbers of victims across the US could easily number in the tens of thousands.

                When I put this empirical reality of mine together with the freedom with which my government’s missiles kill innocent people abroad, I cannot accept the profile of the killer as a young man of color, foreign or domestic.  When it comes to extreme, organized serial violence, the first image that comes to my mind is an otherwise established middle-aged white guy like me, whose murders are immune from detection, let alone prosecution.  To, the most extreme personal violence we in my country commit is at once denied at home and excused abroad.  The denial implicit in our selection of offenders whose characteristics we criminologists study reflects the cultural assumption which so culturally binds our discourse: that violence is an individual personality trait, rather than a matter of social circumstance.  When people ask me, as students often have done, “What would you do with a serial killer?” I would respond: first, I would want people to notice that the serial killing exists. And to notice the serial killing I find the most gruesome and sadistice, I have had to get over the notion that it takes a certain kind of person to be a serial killer.

                Neil Brick, thanks for all you are doing to help people notice ritual violence and its associates.  And thanks to the many survivors strong and brave enough to tell it like it is.  Love and peace, hal

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Individualizing versus Individuating


Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at

October 31, 2014


                Ernst A. Wenk and Robert L. Emrich published what remains for me the most authoritative study of the potential for predicting individual behavior to this day: “Assaultive Youth: an exploratory study of assaultive experience and assaultive potential of California Youth Authority wards,” Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 9 (July 1972), pp. 171-196.  The 4,146 youths admitted to the CYA’s Reception and Diagnostic Center 1964-65 were followed up for 15 months after release on parole, when 104 of them became violent parole violators.  The 104 violators and the rest of the sample were randomly split in two.  One half were used to infer a weighted series of 18 variables predicting parole violation, from prior history of violence to months incarcerated.  The predictors were applied to the other sample.  False positives and false negatives were calculated as successive predictor variables were added to prediction equations.  At all levels, trade-offs between falsely predicting “recidivism” and failing to predict it were substantial.  More significantly, the predictors added to the equation, the more errors there were overall—the worse the trade-off.  (I discuss the significance of this study at length in chapter 10 of my 1980 Crime Control Strategies book.)

                At the time the study was published, I had just met and was about to become team-teacher with Leslie T. Wilkins.  Les and Herman Mannheim had won the British Statistical Society’s research award for their study of Prediction Methods in Relation to Borstal Training (HMSO, 1955).  By the time I met him, Les had long since renounced his own quest to predict behavior, concentrating on decision-making.  He was working with Don Gottfredson to design the first federal parole guidelines (which design later became perverted into parole prediction).  My recollection is that Les gave me a reprint of the Wenk and Emrich article the day I as a new assistant professor at SUNY-Albany walked into Les’s office to introduce myself.  He pointed out that he had written a foreword to the article, which read in part:

Something different must be attempted if we are to seek to control the behaviors we find repulsive….Perhaps this study should be “the last word” for some time in the attempt to “predict” violence potential for individuals.

Les got his two years of post-secondary education in engineering during his period analyzing

plane crashes for the Royal Air Force during World War II.  As he explained the systems analysis he applied, “the question was whether to reconfigure the instrument panel or replace (i.e. blame) the pilot.”  From WWII he went to the Statistical Unit of the British Home Office, thence to the UN research unit in Tokyo, thence to a brief stint in the closing days of the School of Criminology at Berkeley, and thence to become a founding member of the School of Criminal Justice at Albany in 1968, where we met and spent a lot of time together for our four years together.  He was a true mentor.

                Les taught me to recognize it fundamental to statistics—generalizing from one situation or sample to a larger population—rest on units of variance, which require that you have a sample of at least three data.  This took me back to the beginning of my intro statistics course (in grad school): the probability attached to any point on a sampling distribution is zero.  Translated into human science, as E.F. Schumacher (creator of the concept of “appropriate/intermediate” technology) put it in Small is Beautiful: economics as if people mattered, individual behavior is in principle unpredictable.

                The dominant culture in my part of the world is individualism.  Individualism is a paradox.  On one hand, as in blaming, holding accountable, holding liable, holding responsible, punishing, rewarding, correcting, treating, disciplining, evaluating, diagnosing and grading individuals as discrete bodies.  On the other hand, it reduces each individual to a classification based on prior behavior.  As individuals, at our scientific frontier, as in criminology, we seek to correct that individual by evidence-based best practices, for what has worked for more individuals who have the same profile, who are treated as “like that” group of persons in the latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, or in that “risk group.”  As Les Wilkins pointed out, this modeling of human behavior is deterministic, as against the stochastic modeling he found “useful.”

                Survivors who had adapted to severe, repeated childhood trauma by “splitting” into “multiple personalities” or “dissociative identities,” many of whom had in safety “reintegrated” their “parts” or “alters” with a core sense of self, made me aware that in myself, as in other “onesies,” there are also many parts that are variously “triggered” by circumstance, that may for example act out in anger, as though a piece of the past is present.  For the survivors, healing entails learning to differentiate between the circumstances that brought out angry or submissive alters in the past and this or that present relationship.  As they build trust in some relations, to distinguish these relations from those they defended themselves against, they come to know and let out other parts that can afford compassion, empathy, responsiveness to the needs and sensibilities of others in that context.  More subtly, less consciously perhaps, from moment to moment within relations let alone among our relations, different parts of ourselves get triggered, or more consciously get acted upon.  As we get to know and accept one another in many respects, as Nils Christie proposed in his 1981 book Limits to Pain, we become less capable of pigeonholing what kind of person we are dealing with, in particular less capable of inflicting pain or punishment on them for being a certain kind of person.  In Christie’s terms, we become less able to punish (or for that matter elevate or reward) someone as that kind of person.  Placing limits on the pain or control over others we exercise entails individuating our relationships, both among and from moment to moment in each of our relations.  As Les Wilkins recognized, in matters of conflict resolution, it is how the direction of our relations shifts moment to moment—apart or together—here and now rather than there and then.  In my criminological career, I have most strikingly noticed this in the many relationships I have had with (ex-)prisoners.  In my first year as a student public defender in law school, I had had the uncomfortable duty of doing intake interviews with detainees, which of course, began with offense charged and prior record.  And so, by the time I met Fred Villaume who volunteered to teach a “project group” in my criminology class the spring quarter of 1971, I figured I no more wanted to ask an “offender” what s/he had done than I would ask anyone else I met about her/his personal past.  In Fred’s case, we eventually learned a whole lot about each other’s past, including his telling me, a year before he died, that he had shortly after we met killed a guy and his buddies to save me from being killed as a suspected narc.  If I am writing in support of a prisoner’s release, knowing about the “offense” matters.  Otherwise, even in long-term relations, prior record may no more come up for discussion any more than I would inquire freely into the past of any other friend, let alone acquaintance.  That is not to say that I make friends with all prisoners I meet; I have had unpleasant encounters among relations in all walks of life.  I do know enough to know that some of my friends fit the profile of the serious violent offender, and yet, at present, whether in or out of prison, are gentle, honest and empathic with others as they are with me.  It reminds me of what Shadd Maruna found in his 2001 study, Making Good: how ex-convicts reform and rebuild their lives, that those who made it after release found parts of themselves with others that they liked better than the parts associated with their incarceration.  It is not that (ex-)prisoners become different individuals; it is that they individuate, drawing on the parts of themselves that enjoy requited honesty, trust, respect and support.  This is individuation at a situational level.

                Situational individuation interacts with interpersonal individuation.  My parents, Harold B. and Pauline N. Pepinsky, taught me the lesson they sought to teach in their 1954 book, Counseling: Theory and Practice.  In a truly therapeutic relationship, therapists differentiate their own feelings, their own sense of right and wrong, of good and bad, of reasonability and sanity (which requires personal insight on their part), from those of their clients.  In all discourse, individuation of others from ourselves is essential for honesty, for building and affirming that relations are trustworthy as against telling others what you think they want or need to hear.

What in child trauma survivors are called “multiple personalities” exist more subtly in all of us.  I find it rare at best that what Robert K. Merton called “role sets” don’t exist—distinct parts of ourselves, things we feel and express, at home, at work, at play, in public…  And different parts of our past are triggered in some situations rather than others, with some people rather than others.   At all moments, individual behavior becomes action, a vector of feeling and expression which reacts to an interaction of relations past and present.  Whether within or among relations, any of us who has lived and feared even the horrors of sadistic ritual torture, or any grievance, may respond to offers of understanding, trust and acceptance in kind.  That change of attitude and direction is not a matter of learning a fast code of right and wrong, but of having one’s awareness and concern for the effects of one’s reactions to others awakened and returned.  In matters of conflict and human division (as I put it in a chapter of A Criminologist’s Quest for Peace, 2001, under books at, in the face of violence, empathy works, obedience doesn’t.  Empathy presupposes that at any moment, we individuate our circumstances and ourselves, treating one another as unique rather than as a defective or otherwise categorized, unitary individuals.

                Becoming safe to others entails becoming safe with others, entails a sense of belonging with and  being accepted by at least a single other person for being one’s honest self rather than having to defend one’s honest existence.  That in turn entails forsaking trying to change a whole person or personality, for coming to terms with matters at hand, which trust itself permits.  I see individuating ourselves and others as being moved by the force of human connection I call love, implying a give-and-take process of interaction I call peacemaking.  I see human interaction as a balance of that force against the force I call fear, when habituated or institutionalized I call violence, doing what we feel needs to get done, must be done, or minimally, should be done.  That includes individualizing social problems—reducing conflict and discord to separating, correcting, incapacitating, or eliminating entire individuals for their misdeeds.  In the field of criminology, we seek to suppress target behaviors by an array of physical and medical (from urinalyses to psycho-tropics) means of confinement, or in the extreme, extermination.  When confinement or medical suppression ends (professional relations end as well), recidivism is the individual’s “responsibility,” requiring further confinement or extended probation.

                Fortunately, individualization cannot entirely suppression individuation within controllers, their humanity.  And so among prisoners as among survivors of extreme childhood trauma I have known, moments of compassion and empathy among a range of professionals (other prisoners and students too) are recognized as catalysts for beginning to form safe and lasting sets of relations, to find “normal,” fulfilling lives.  Or coming out of prison, some create those lives in spite of the time they served—often a combination of the two.

                The problem with reshaping people as individual machine models is, as Newton tells us, entropy—distrust, secrecy, anger, depression, dissociation, manifestations of fear and human separation.  Each time we add an “evidence-based” program to (re)habilitate offenders as a group, we create failures we call recidivists or label relapsed.  In the 1970s, these failures in a wave of “exemplary” “diversion programs” were compounded as by three-strikes laws to make the world’s third highest incarcerator what we now call “mass incarceration.”  An expanded, increasingly for-profit privatized “corrections” industry is increasingly impervious to abolition, if ever it was.  Today US prison populations are falling some, but we are creating the human industrial fodder for future record incarceration rates.  In the past, as in the former Soviet region, the only way the upward cycle has been broken is by mass amnesty or clemency.  From stigmatizing to credentialing one another as by standardizing education, we in the US are locked tightly into a culture of individualizing our social problems and our successes…just not entirely.

                When we individualize, we treat one another as categories.  When we individuate, we engage in a process of mutual discovery, mutual learning, about issues and problems at hand, as in circle processes.  In this process that I call “peacemaking,” coming to terms is a journey with no pre-conceived end, except to build and requite trust.  The less time and attention we give to individualizing one another, the more time and room we have to individuate.  Love and peace, hal

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Elise Boulding


Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at

October 14, 2014


                Today, from Richard Quinney, I received a copy of an obituary in The Norwegian American Weekly for Elise Boulding that appears online at .  It is based on an interview with her son Russ, who living in neighboring rural Brown County, Indiana, hosted participants at the International Conference on Penal Abolition I organized in 1991 in Bloomington.  My wife Jill and I know Elise and Ken Boulding best as Quaker activists we met and heard at the International Peace Research Association (IPRA), which they co-founded.  One insight that I heard and later read by Elise was the 5-generation window of history in which we live—that among the living there are numbers of great grandparents of children who are old enough to remember people of their great grandparents’ generation, and learn history and past traditions from their elders before they die.  Beyond that, for Jill and me both, our years in IPRA were richly rewarding, both to gain a global understanding of peace studies traditions and work, but to make lasting friendships and ties.  Elise, I join Russ: you live in me, you are remembered.  Love and peace, hal

Monday, October 13, 2014



Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at

October 13, 2014


                "Sharia" means law, or in religious terms, law that follows Islam. In political and social life, and among Muslim legal theorists, many are the ways of interpreting and applying the Koran to today's world, far richer and more diverse than schools of interpreting the US constitution. To say "Sharia law" is at once redundant and disrespectful to the peacemaking premises by which many devout Muslims whom I know interpret the law. Among Islamic interpretations of law, ISIL law enforcement ranks far more fundamentalist and retributivist than its Saudi neighbor.  I cringe when I hear that “they” impose “Sharia law” with a capital S, as though fundamentalist retributivism in the name of God, and more generally the assumption that violence “naturally” demands punishment, isn’t acted out and justified in all religious and ethical traditions.  There is nothing inherently Islamic about ISIL interpretation of law.  There is nothing inherently more civilized than their indiscriminate summary executions in the way we hold one in four of the world’s prisoners, indiscriminately incarcerating in the industrial process we call plea bargaining, caging more and more of them for life without parole, letting some among them linger for a decade or more before they get the needle.  I propose that we take the “Sharia” out of our criticism of ISIL’s version of law and order.  The fact that they cite the Koran is beside the moral point: belief that punishment is morally and practically justified is the problem, there and here.  To say that ISIL imposes “Sharia law” is an ethnocentric, religious slur.  Love and peace, hal

Indigenous People's Day


Hal Pepinsky,, “pepinsky” at

October 13, 2014


                Today in Minneapolis and Seattle, it is Indigenous People’s Day.  Let’s be frank: My country is founded on genocide and enslavement by Anglo and Dutch Protestant immigrants, economically grounded in agricultural and military-industrial for-profit enterprises, aka corporate capitalists.  In the wake of the US civil war, the military-industrial enterprises, now for-profit corporations as persons who now control political advertising and sponsorship at local and state levels.  Today my country commonly names itself (so I was taught in elementary schools after the Spanish Explorer, Amerigo Vespucci, who “discovered” that the Western Hemisphere went all the way to the Pacific.  The celebration of Indigenous People’s Day is a substitution for the nationally recognized Columbus Day, not to dishonor Italians, but to recognize as Italians have what it means to be economically and politically exploited as foreigners, as immigrants, by corporate capitalism and the hold it has over who holds office and what s/he does there.  That phenomenon reflects a culture of national pride and identity that we know as individualism—a belief that life depends on demonstrating one’s ability (whether one is a human being or a corporation) to stay ahead of others by whatever standards the market or authorities we happen to accept.  It is a way we judge and place one another as early as the third grade by national standards where failure occurs by statistical assumption, according to private corporate standards.  For many of us, it represents an Anglo-Christian tradition.  Implicitly, the US war on ISIL is religiously rooted in a sense of sense of inherent capacity to represent civility, of righteousness.  Max Weber didn’t live to see it: Today, the US and its military represent the supreme spirit of capitalism.

                Today at, Amy Goodman interviewed Kshama Sawant, a member of the Seattle area city council who introduced both a resolution to raise the Seattle minimum wage to $15.00, and to follow Minneapolis in renaming Columbus Day, Indigenous People’s Day.  She is a socialist.  (The only nationally ranking political socialist I can think of is Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who created the country’s first urban land trust in Burlington.)  Describing the significance of honoring Indigenous People’s Day, Sawant pointed out the fact that the US is, as the British were in South Asia, one more nation state born of genocide and enslavement, creating a ground for a corporate power to take hold of cultures of exploitation at home and abroad…by extension, in Chinese terms, one more global dynastic cycle.

                A part of the interview focused on Malala Yousafzai, the 17-year-old Pakistani co-winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.  I have scarcely heard it mentioned on US news media, but before the UN, Yousafzai denounced global capitalism for creating inequality, oppression and war worldwide, and proclaimed herself, like Sawant, to be a socialist.  Sawant noted that the last Socialist to win the Nobel Peace Prize was Albert Einstein, and before him, Helen Keller.

                I draw a distinction between those publicly employed and publicly selected to represent constituents and the common good, and the non-profit/NGO’s incorporated to serve alongside on one hand, and contracting out social services to for-profit corporations, to alleviate inequities for the common good, rather than serving the God of profit.  Put in context, as Sawant and Yousafzai do, I guess that makes me a socialist too, just as it reflects the many forms of circle government indigenous to my homeland, which survive and which I honor today.  Love and peace, hal

Friday, October 3, 2014's US war teach-in


Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at

October 3, 2014


                The last two days, has offered a comprehensive teach-in on US warfare in Iraq and its wider history:

·         Yesterday’s first segment, an interview with Iraqi novelist and journalist Sinan Antoon, on how the US de-Ba’athified and divided occupied Iraq, .

·         Background: Henry Kissinger’s proposal that if elected to stay in office, President Ford bomb Cuba to destroy the state, .

·         First segment in today’s broadcast, home page at Iraq Veterans Against the War.  They are about to put out a statement condemning renewed US air bombardment there.

·         The second segment is a return interview with Jeremy Scahill, trained both in law and at itself.  Scahill, author of “Dirty Wars,” has been on the ground in virtually every recent war ground, from Iraq through Yemen.  His is the most well-nuanced, succinct summary of recent US involvement in Iraq and its results I have heard.  He is co-founder of The Intercept.


I return to a simile I drew when the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001.  The US has figured out how to kill without being killed, so spectacularly so that we fire Cruise missiles by the hundreds at over a million dollars a shot, and release bombs bursting to the media.  Scahill mentions that one ISIL leader is a former Iraqi Ba’athist general, cast out by Paul Bremer in May 2003.  Participants in all three segments agree that the bombardment creates more US enemies than it kills.  As I said of Afghanistan, US bombardment has the same effect as fighting a grease fire with a water hose.  Sad but true.  Love and peace, hal

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Barack Obama, the human being


Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at

October 1, 2014


                Notwithstanding the dismay I expressed in. yesterday’s blog post on “the emperor president,” at President Obama’s proclamation that “America leads,” I recognize the gifts that got him elected, and very much respect the integrity and dedication with he performs his duties of office.  He is in many ways extraordinary.

                Barack Obama is an extraordinary communicator.  He demonstrates skills at taking in, in law school terms, “briefing” or boiling down information to its logical essentials, to reach a reasoned conclusion, that earned him the editorship of the Harvard Law Review, and that well qualified him to teach constitutional law at the University of Chicago.  He is articulate and forthright, and he processes and boils down complex information with skill.

                He is also a consummate grassroots organizer, and is obviously deeply, pragmatically and spiritually committed, to performing his duties of office.  I have no question of his sincerity.  In his heart, he wants to leave office with honor, leaving the country he loves as safe as he can.

                I vaguely remember that around the time we got married, Jill and I had a little debate over whether the president should do something.  We agreed that “it” was something that should be done.  But, I argued, in reality, no person would qualify to be president and be able to do “it.”  Every president has human weaknesses.  Barack has two that stand out to me.


Obama has no demonstrable experience in international relations or world history, or domestic penal history.


He has no demonstrable in managing bureaucracies from the top down, rather than from the grassroots.


Hence, he must depend on information briefed to him on topics with which he has no independent background.  Living in Indonesia and having a Kenyan father may make him globally empathic at heart, but it says nothing about his knowledge of military and diplomatic history, nor of how “justice” operates at home.


                I know of no president since JFK who came into office with a deep sense of his country’s history, who presided over a much smaller, simpler government.  My point with Jill was, as it remains, that blaming gets in the way of peacemaking.  In my country, our violence is only represented at the highest level.  Over the years, time and again, I have found the punitive trajectory of the US to permeate in our culture, notably in our militaristic approach to parenting and teaching our children.  And so, as with Jill some time in the early seventies, I conclude that in some generation to come, the US president will be among the latter folks in my country to begin substantially lowering that sword and shield.  When the time comes, I wish this president a blessed rest.  Love and peace, hal