Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Ohio AG's report on police training


Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at

April 29, 2015


                I recommend reading the report Ohio Attorney General Michael DeWine released today by his Advisory Group on Law Enforcement Training Group at . Recommendations coming from the subcommittee on community relations are a refreshing response to the problem of police violence in communities of color, summarized as follows at p. 6:

After reviewing currently available training, the Community Relations Subcommittee felt that

additional training on subjects such as implicit bias and procedural justice should be developed and offered to all officers in Ohio. The Subcommittee, as well as the full Advisory Group, spent considerable time discussing police relations in Ohio's African American communities. Training initiatives should not ignore this critical component. In addition to the training review, this subcommittee discussed the need for every agency to become more active in their community by fostering programs that increase positive, non-enforcement related, police-community interactions (my emphasis).


                I’m encouraged to see this move beyond the mindset of discipline, punishment and surveillance to bridge the dehumanization that “broken windows” law enforcement has reinforced.  Love and peace, hal

breaking out of "broken windows" policing


Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at

April 29, 2015


                The following abstract has been accepted for presentation at the annual conference of the European Group for the Study of Deviance and Social Control in August.   In Baltimore, in Ferguson, in New York, in Cleveland…, police killings of unarmed people of color are a manifestation of the problem of “proactive” policing that has been made worse by the way police have come to measure their performance as crime fighters, by increasing public order and drug arrests while reporting fewer Index crimes (as monitored by the CompStat system originating in NYC), used as evidence that “broken windows” policing reduces crime—where police meet community members as criminal suspects and as suspect complainants, a threat at worst and a nuisance at worst.  It is a problem of police and community members knowing one another as stereotypes rather than for real, in their fuller humanity and individuality.  Hence, this abstract:



Hal Pepinsky,,

For presentation at European Group for the Study of Deviance and Social Control conference

Talinn, Estonia





                What in the sixties was called “pro-active policing” in the US has become institutionalized in policy as “broken windows” policing, supported by CompStat-inspired boosts in stops, frisks and arrests paired with pressure not to report Index offenses, touted as evidence that broken-windows policing works.  It is not only that police become more aggressive, more dangerous in action.  Simultaneously, they have become more prone to inaction when it comes to responding to calls for assistance, let alone to reporting crimes.

                Homicides are but a symptom of the primary source of excessive police violence in communities of color: the police don’t know the people they police other than as suspect and disorderly, while people of color know police as threats.  This is not a new problem; technology has reified police stereotypes on one hand and has brought police violence into public view on the other.

Here I explore ways in which community service and being hosted in community projects and at community events and meetings could be sought out by police forces, both in training and then interwoven into patrol hours, of how these activities could be recognized administratively, as a way of making police and community members feel safer together, and of police getting recognized for service greater than law enforcement, to relax the grip that broken-windows theory holds on policing in communities of color, that black and brown lives may matter more, and that making crime statistics look good may matter less.


Friday, April 24, 2015

A Case of Prisoner Re-entry


Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at

April 24, 2015


                I started corresponding with a prisoner more than a decade ago.  He was in the Indiana Security Housing Unit—the super-max prison--in Carlisle, ten miles south of the federal death house in Terre Haute, where he had stabbed a guard.  He has shared a great of his life with me.  From an angry victim of sexual assault by his father who also beat his mother, he became a self-educated adviser to other prisoners, a counselor for non-violence, respected by staff.  Shortly before his transfer last year to a transitional unit at the privatized prison in New Castle, he asked to see a guard he had stabbed in 2001, apologized, apology accepted.  He is finishing his GED.  He is due for release in less than two years, having served twenty.  He plans to return to Elkhart, where he and his family lived when he was arrested, and is in touch with the Mennonite Community Center’s coaching program for newly released prisoners.  He is estranged from his siblings.  Under the circumstances, he is doing the best he can to prepare for successful release.

                Now that he is in New Castle, I use, newly acquired by Securus Technologies, the largest private, for-profit contractor with prisons and jails across the country.  Snail mail is still easier for him.  Recently I sent him an abstract I submitted to a conference, proposing that in training and at work, police ought to spend time with those they (will) patrol at community events and in community projects, to get to know each other, as Nils Christie advocated (Limits to Pain, 1981), “in many respects,” rather than as stop-and-frisk suspects (a proposition laid out also in this blog, Jan. 25, 2015, “Peacemaking Policing Made Real”).  My black friend responded both with anger, and with fear of what police may do to him when he is released.  Here is a copy of my attempt to reassure him:


  Thanks for your letter of April 19.  You ask, "How do you get others on board?"  The answer is that no one person--top, bottom or middle--creates a change like this...and yet, each of us who relates with others, who in Buddhist terms is peace in his or her relations is part of the force that builds that change, not only in ourselves but in the lives others we meet live in their other relations.  Why do so much to accomplish what takes lifetimes beyond our own to make for instance a  national difference in how police relate with brown and black folks?  Because it makes a difference in one's own relations in one's lifetime, like yours with prisoners and staff who give you respect and appreciation for rising above the violence you have endured, and the anger that has made you lash out yourself.  You are strong.  If you can learn to get respect from the police in the SHU, you may get hassled by the police on the street, but you won't get hurt or busted anywhere.  And in your own neighborhood, wherever that is, you'll soon gain the respect of the police on the street.

  The police violence against black and brown people that the public sees today is as old and outrageous as law enforcement itself in the US--not worse than before, just more visible.  So, too, is the reality I saw on patrol 40 years ago that many police never draw guns throughout their careers, and that many cops almost never resort to physical force.  When I start writing about a change like working neighborhood service and get-togethers into police training and patrol, I often begin to find examples to cite.  In my writing and my relations, I, like you in your relations, can only sow seeds of change in an institution like policing in black and brown neighborhoods, but doesn't it pay off in the quality of your life today as in mine?  love and peace, hal


                Back in 1980 when I wrote Crime Control Strategies, I proposed framing the problem of reducing recidivism as “making the community safe for the offender.”  Whatever threat police may pose to members of communities of color in general, the threats to those known by police to have criminal records are greater still.  It is ironic that the strength and support, the commitment to non-violence and respect, that my friend has managed to gain while in isolation in a super-max prison has reduced the threat he faces of police violence.  My friend Billy reinforces my belief that building safety and security in our relations and a commitment to non-violence can begin anywhere, despite the violence of the institution in which it occurs.  Love and peace, hal

Monday, April 6, 2015

Peacemaking for Homeboys


Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at

April 6, 2015


                The latest broadcast of “On Being” ( is Krista Tippett’s interview with Jesuit priest Greg Boyle, who describes Homeboy Industries, and the former gang members, many out of prison, employed in Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles.  The interview begins with Krista Tippett asking Father Greg to describe his early efforts to forge treaties among gangs in the area, which Boyle frames as his failed attempt at "peacemaking,” as treaties were routinely broken.  Beginning with a bakery, the non-profit bakery has become an incubator for enterprises catering especially to gang members leaving prison.

                I am reminded of Edwin’s CafĂ© ( outside Cleveland, created by a chef who is an ex-prisoner, which trains people out of prison in culinary arts, restaurant management and now in sustainable agriculture; reminded of the fact food services have been an avenue from prison to the free world, and so have food and other micro-services, notably in restaurants and bakeries, across the country.  With all the occupational barriers to employment for those who have been incarcerated, it is ironic that the avenue open widest for ex-prisoners is to pay them for the food they create, customers trusting that what they sustain themselves with is safe and healthful.

                I am reminded, too, of a utopian vision I wrote in Paul Jesilow’s and my Myths That Cause Crime 30 years ago ( , p. 190):


   Prison industries could be democratic, worker-owned enterprises including, as board members, other groups such as guards and crime victims. Worker-owner prisoners could leave prison belonging to the same enterprises extending into the free world. For instance, make a product in prison, and worker-owner prisoners could market the product upon release. Prisoners could own and be responsible for the major sources of their livelihoods inside and then outside prisons. They could share profi ts and business decisions with their guards and their victims in the process. As I see it, if and when such co-operation happens, there is no question whether it will work. The political challenge is whether powers that be dare try.


                That would be utopian.  Father Greg and others have created communities of employment and care that make peace with ex-prisoners and gang members real.  I’m sending this post to Fr. Greg and to Krista Tippett to suggest that Fr. Greg has not turned away from peacemaking.  He has turned from trying to make peace among gang members by getting them to stop violence in a way that created failure, by attracting them instead to a place of loving, mutual acceptance and respect.  He has turned from imposing a regime to creating what Lloyd Ohlin called a legitimate opportunity structure.  To my mind, peacemaking embraces the possibility of creating safe community—even as one trusted friend to another—as an alternative for victims of violent circumstances to find security.  To continue stuck on a path to making peace treaties enforceable was generating its own disorder.  To be responsive enough to failure on one path toward peace to respond in another direction is peacemaking itself—in the case of Homeboy Industries, peacemaking that works.  Father Greg, I’d say you have let the spirit of peacemaking lift you out of determination to impose peace.  Hearing you is a treat.  Love and peace, hal