Monday, October 9, 2017

"We have got to do what we said we would do"


Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at

October 9, 2017


                On September 22, North Korean Party Chair and President Kim Jong-un called President Trump “a dotard,” someone in dotage, in today’s usage, senile, his latest retort to a president who most has since called him “Rocket Man.”  Usually, he speaks for the Party, for the people, speaking of what “we” say.  This time, Mr. Kim made a point of speaking in the first person, for himself alone.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Tillerson has persisted in expressed willingness to talk (as perhaps via the Chinese), backed presumably by the Defense Secretary, to arrange a new truce on the Korean Peninsula, with the tacit backing of President Trump.

                Two days ago, Trump tweeted “only one thing will work.”  Just now, to reporters, he has simply said, “We have got to do what said we would do,” and when asked to clarify, simply repeated the phrase, and walked away.

                It comes across like a covert game of diplomacy, where it has been agreed, and I’m thinking affirmed by a code Tillerson has arranged for the US president to confirm “secretly” that Tillerson has his full trust and authority to negotiate a stand-down, and arrange dependable, covert diplomatic communications (if indeed that hasn’t already been arranged via China or Russia, for example).  And Tennessee US Senator, the Foreign Relations Committee chair, who is due to retire from office, tweeted of the president, “It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning [meaning those he trusted to Trump has put in charge of State, Defense and National Security]”

                I’m reminded of the “good cop/bad cop” police interrogation method.  In this case, the US president’s insistence on saying and repeating one phrase, period, to say nothing of covert diplomacy—that the US president has just assured the North Korean leadership that Tillerson—backed and supported by the Secretary of Defense—has the power and authority to arrange a nuclear stand-down.  I hope this turns out to be a mutual accommodation, relief from threat on all sides.  It appears to be another indication of the limitations of assuming that the US president has a great deal of individual power to get done whatever he (or someday she) chooses, on a whim.  I’m also thinking that governmentally naïve US president may have been drawn into the intrigue and power of sending secret signals that his secretary of state represents him in coming to terms he is prepared to agree to, no matter his tweets.  Today I hear reports that sources from other national governments are also prepared to trust what Trump’s agents say and do more than what the president says…unless perhaps it comes in code.  In the social and political sciences as in real life, we do play games.  I hope this one works out.  Love and peace, hal

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Why did Stephen Braddock commit the Las Vegas massacre?


Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at

October 3, 2017


                In the fall of 1993, thanks to a protective mother, Debbie Dugan, who had lost custody of her children to an apparently sexually assaultive father, and her mother (Mary Cunningham), a pair of with 3 other protective parents were referred to for assistance by similarly parents in fighting to maintain or retain custody of children who reported similar sexual assault, who agreed for free to team up with me to focus a “seminar on feminist justice” on “children’s rights and safety.”  By the second semester, Mary and Debbie provided me and other seminar members with visits by two survivors born to intergenerational, Satanically, Luciferian religiously grounded intergenerational participation in rituals up to and including daughters of cult leaders who were impregnated at age 13, with sons delivered by caesarian section to have the heart ground and blood drained into the satanic literal equivalent of Christian communion by bread and wine.  One, a friend to this day, was Jeanette Westbrook, ritually tortured like so many others I came to know into “multiple personalities,” later called “dissociative identities.”  Like other survivors I met who have found safety, who became “co-conscious” with the programming they had received to carry out a mixture of private and government organized crime, including getting video of sexual activity with minors on people, principally white men, with private and public power and prominence, from local and trans-national law enforcement and espionage activity, and programming some of them instead to kill or to carry contraband, or classified information in a personality/identity that could be called out by a specific handler or signal.  I met survivors who had “reintegrated” their memories and found safe companionship livelihoods, often as therapists, first at “Survivorship” ( and then at “SMART” (Stop Mind Control and Ritual Abuse Today) conferences organized by survivors, , organizer Neil Brick became a regular seminar visitor beginning in 1998) conferences, from where many of my seminar guests came from across the US and Canada, plus therapists who worked with survivors, until I retired in 2009. A more detailed account of the seminar and what students and I learned there can be found in an article, “Sharing and Responding to Memories, [“Sharing and Responding to Memories.”  Pp. 1360-1374, American Behavioral Scientist 48 (10) (June 2005)].

                Jeanette and other survivors pointed to the 1962 film, “The Manchurian Candidate,” [], saying it reflected their own experience at being trained by early childhood torture to split into secret parts to perform any of the various jobs mentioned above.  Tortured into splitting, being trained to “switch” into a covert world, to do as trained; whether perhaps with a phone call with a certain number of rings or other form of contact or signal like a bit of graffiti, the equivalent of the Queen of Diamonds in the film—not by Korean Communists, but by their own kind.  To survivors and in turn to me, in the case of mass shootings when out of nowhere, people with no record of violence suddenly launched mass shootings, in cases like Las Vegas where relatives deny any suspicion that the shooters to be were accumulating stores of weapons (given that among survivors I have known, they alone among siblings have been singled out as especially capable of dissociation and therefore candidates to inherit and serves the sacred, covert cause, or who have been experimented on and programmed as prisoners and mental health patients, as by the CIA, then the NSA in the US and Canada.

                What would be the motive for programming, then triggering, Stephen Braddock to come out of nowhere to commit mass murder/suicide?  In satanic terms, the followers of Lucifer, who have learned to hold supposedly honest power to bring about the day when the followers of extreme violence prevail over the God of love and trust.  Promoting mass fear and punitive, fear-induced security measures becomes the religious calling.

Like Jeanette, many who are tortured and shaped into dissociated violence find safety and support sufficient to escape and survive in safety and openness.  They find and report that others fail the test of becoming Satanists either self-destruct or are put away as dangerously insane when they act out on their own.  Finding safety and healing can be a long and hard process, but I know a remarkable number of well-healed, strong and compassionate survivors, especially when they are believed and trusted by safe and loving friends and companions.

                At a time when no “expert” can identify what led Stephen Braddock to set up and emerge from nowhere suspect to die in the glory of having killed so many, I offer the possibility that somehow, in some remaining network of raising children to commit mass murder of innocents and die, he was raised to be one more Manchurian candidate.  We’ll see if Braddock’s “motive” ever comes to light.  For myself, many of my colleagues think I’m an irrational conspiracy theorist in this and other cases.  Still, it’s a plausible hypothesis to me, the only one I’ve heard.  Love and peace, hal


Monday, July 31, 2017

Justice or fairness?


Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at

July 31, 2017


                “That’s not fair!” come across as a child’s outburst.  It takes a lot of adult training to learn and internalize what “justice” requires, to many it requires a legal education, to know the difference between right and wrong behavior toward others.

                Doing “justice” in moments of conflict implies that some human agent has greater authority than others involved to reach the right result, backed up by the power to impose it.  Imposition entails exerting power over others.  It begins with the authority we grant adults like parents and teachers to teach children to “do as I say, or else…”  It evolves into legal institutions, both public and private.  In moments of rule violation, it implies the need for confinement, confiscation, or teaching a lesson both to the violator and to others who might consider doing wrong, as by punishment, or to sound gentler, penalty or loss.

                I call myself a recovering lawyer.  I have spent time in criminal and civil courts as defense counsel, civil counsel, and as a party to a failed civil lawsuit to build a “justice facility” including an expanded jail, and qualified as an expert witness especially in child custody cases on behalf of the best interest of the children.  But as I found myself dabbling in diplomacy—an aspiration that failed when I become persona non grata as a critic of US legal defense of the war in Vietnam during my internship in the US State Department Office of East Asian Legal Affairs in 1967—so as I got settled teaching criminal justice, I turned to victim-offender mediation, to me, a legal form of the response to conflict Richard Quinney and I came to call “peacemaking.”  As I look back now on that departure from “the rule of law,” I see it as a return to that childhood sense I shared: that what matters most is not doing justice, whose results may hurt or offend me, but seeking fairness.

                It is common for us to seek “solutions” to social problems, human conflict included.  They are by definition final, as in a “final solution.”  As Gregory Bateson noted, in mathematics as in everyday life, only closed systems have solutions, meaning that the solution is tautological, true by definition, as when an “offender” is defined as “guilty” in criminological research as in law by virtue of a “lawful verdict.”  True by definition, whether by courts or as presented and coded by victim and self-report surveyors.  Solutions are found in deterministic models, models of human interaction included, subject at law to appeal, generally on matters of legal procedure, seldom on “questions of fact,” until the verdict becomes “final.”

                And as I have recently written, seeking fairness is what Les Wilkins taught me to call “stochastic” process, where the focus of one’s interests from one moment to the next depends on the unpredictable, independent response of the other.  In the case of mediation as it seemed to work for parties I heard, Resolution—the content of any agreement parties reached—where terms of agreement were created by the parties themselves, as they moved from expression of fear and pain, acknowledgment and regret, to working out what satisfied all concerned.  There were times at the latter stage that I as mediator threw out an idea that to me encapsulated a particular issue, but to me, the most promising “agreements” were on terms the parties themselves made up as they got to know each other, as they reached for terms.  Ideally, they became the agents of their own change.  Realistically, coming to ownership of terms of settlement didn’t always happen.  Practically, the challenge was to make it feel safe for parties to open up, to feel safe.

                Thinking deterministically, we “hold people responsible.”  Thinking stochastically, we invite parties to assume responsibility for resolving their problems with others concerned.

Basic rules of safety were to ask for no name-calling, no interruptions, and to express my willingness to continue the process, reconvening if necessary, until everyone in the room--“victims” and “offenders,” parents or companions, principals or teachers, co-mediators—felt that everything that needed to be said, had been said.  Otherwise, there were no rules as to what was admissible, no directions as to what evidence to consider, no instructions as to terms on which parties can speak.  Like Quaker meetings, ideally, mediation ended by mutual consent.  Terms of resolution, like resolving a chord in a musical piece, are momentary to be sure, while whether terms of settlement are following through in any continuing relationship, objectively, remains in principle unpredictable—a matter of reciprocity of trust.  To borrow from Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s aspiration for facing one’s own impending death, the aim of the process of mediation is to make it open and safe enough for parties to move from anger and denial to acceptance, by assuming mutual responsibility for moving forward.

At the extreme of personal violence, Murder Victims (families) for Reconciliation,, includes members who have met and made peace with their convicted murderers, and oppose the death penalty.  The process of healing is represented also in the Australian award-winning video of a conference in prison between those convicted of murdering a teenaged worker in a Pizza Hut during an armed robbery and their supporters; the parents, co-workers and friends of the victim, and a police mediator, and a follow-up, “Facing the Demons,” which for instance in the victim’s mother’s terms, led her to remember her son as he had lived rather than as she identified him in the morgue, and the father took on one of the offenders to work with him on educating against violence.  MVFR members have been heard to say that they enjoy a healing that victims who watch their murderers get executed do not.  On the other hand, after Ohio’s first execution of a man who raped and killed his partner’s child, when the warden had read the convict’s statement of apology and appealed for forgiveness, victim’s family members attending the execution told reporters they were relieved of their suffering, granted closure, by their murderer’s being put to death, and surely many other victims gain satisfaction from “bringing their offenders to justice.”  Surely, too, it would provoke consider fear and violence simply to “abolish” legal systems which place limits on how much retaliate and inflict pain (Nils Christie’s definition of the problem of violence) on those who hurt and frighten us, on vengeance, on war.  But for my own safety and the safety of those I love and care about, I hope to redirect our desire to punish and confine those who offend and hurt us, toward feeling safe enough to embrace each other in the face of our differences, violence included—as by making law enforcement and punishment less necessary, and generally, to reconcile violence rather than being limited by responding in kind.  As among nations, groups and individuals, I aim for making our relations—materially and socially—fairer, interpersonally and structurally, where heterogeneity and differences become assets, while confinement and separation in the face of difference and conflict becomes an anachronism, as fighting abroad and incarcerating at home abated in Norway in the nineteenth century, where now the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded.  In Darwin’s terms, accommodating our differences and diversifying our human relations, ultimately, promotes survival of our species; while in principle punishment, confinement and enforced segregation aren’t so necessary.   Love and peace, hal




Friday, July 21, 2017

Beyond "crime" and "criminality" (again)


Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at

July 21, 2017


                On the American Society of Criminology Division on People of Color and Crime listserv, there has recently been a critical outburst against yet another research journal article finding—as Travis Hirschi and Mike Hindelang did in the early seventies—that race is associated with “intelligence” and “crime.” I am reminded of the first 20 years I spent as a criminologist, explaining levels and trends in levels of crime and criminality as behavior of those who recorded offenses and offenders, rather than as indicators of the deviance of those whose behavior they recorded.  I haven’t received much direct response, but Darnell Hawkins has responded by aptly noting the distinction between criminologist who focus on causes of crime and those who focus on responses, on administration of justice.

                At the time the moment when I decided that by all measures, from police to victim to self reports to studies of white-collar crime, “crime” and “criminality” were socio-political artifacts, biased by class, race, gender and age, at a moment when my students in a course required for criminal justice majors challenged me:  “If you’re so critical of the criminal justice system, what do you propose instead?”, Richard Quinney proposed that we solicit contributions for an edited volume on “criminology as peace,” which we agreed instead to reframe as a process of conflict resolution and call Criminology as Peacemaking (1990); which I had at the moment defined as a process in which victims and victimizers alike became “responsive” to one another’s concerns and needs by reorienting them toward creating and negotiating terms of settlement, as against the “violence” of remaining stuck on who had done what to whom, of holding on to the distrust, harm, anger and disregard parties involved brought to the table, from heated or entropic relations to cooperative or synergistic release of social heat.  As I entered a period of victim-offender mediation a decade later, and as I looked across social systems and networks, the process of transforming the intransigence of “violence” in which the actions of some frightened and hurt or threatened others which constitutes the transformation of hurtful exercises of power over others into the “peacemaking” process Richard Quinney and I sought to identify and engender, where attention turns from consequences that have happened toward repairing damage that has been acknowledged by all concerned.  True to a phenomenon chaos theorists call “scaling,” I have proposed that the process that makes peace in the face of violence at one level of our relations, parallels the process by which we make peace intra-personally, interpersonally, at all social levels from dyads to globally, and in our relations with our natural environment.

                As for policing, recent experience in such cities as Cincinnati, Dallas and Richmond, California, indicates that as administrative leadership shifts toward getting to know and respond to needs of community members for safety, security and service, overriding emphasis on reporting crime and making arrests, happens implicitly, if not explicitly as I proposed more than thirty years ago drawing on citizens to define police performance on their own terms, subject to legal limitations on power over those entering communities from outside, on “strangers.”  As for researchers and policy analysts, I continue to advocate transforming our criminological assumption that levels and trends in “crime” and “criminality” are the ultimate indicator of the problem of our social relations—to transcend politically loaded criteria of for evaluating response to social discord, including evaluating police performance—a matter of building trust and cooperation among police and those they police, superseding attention to finding “crime” and catching “criminals.”  In effect, this has the effect of extending what Jerome Skolnick in 1968 called the “service” style of policing prominent originally in white, middle-class and wealthy suburban communities, to poorer urban communities of color.  Ironically, in the criminology mainstream, the fundamental problem of “crime” and “criminality” are defining “crime” and “criminality” as the primary problem of social conflict—a source of violence and its perpetuation in itself.  Love and peace, hal

Sunday, April 23, 2017

my faith

A friend recently asked me to explain my own spiritual/religious beliefs.  My response:

I suppose I'm pretty spiritual too.  I certainly feel energy as trust, or fear or any number of underlying feelings that we have, which includes phenomena like remote viewing which the CIA experimented with, later the NSA, on subjects including survivors of intergenerational ritual abuse (I don't know whether you've heard about my years of bringing survivors and advocates to my classes, and close involvement with survivor activists, where early on I wandered into an active satanic site with a human grave marker, sacrificed animal, and all kinds of stuff two blocks from home).  I often find myself having thoughts that others, particularly my wife, often express.  So...for starters, esp is acceptable to me.
  My father was a non-practicing Jew from Minnesota, my mother a WASP from Louisiana.  I was sent to Protestant Sunday schools by my mom to "learn about the Bible," and I knew believed (as you can see below accepted for myself) that "God is love," until I reported to my mom that my Sunday school teacher, a Batelle scientist, had drawn a picture of the Nautilus nuclear sub and told us it was God's work (my mom was a pacifist; I think married my dad during WWII in part because he was 4-F for nearsightedness, my mom did all the driving, my dad rode a bike or took a cab to work).  In college (U of Michigan) I joined a de facto Jewish fraternity, where it was made clear by brothers during initiation and from Jewish sorority girls who wouldn't date me that since my mom was Gentile, "my parents wouldn't approve of my dating you," while of course I didn't get a bid from my grandfather and uncle's Sigma Chi because my name is Jewish.  So that kind of took care of my formal religiosity (and Jill fell out with the Catholic church in Poland after first communion).
   The summer after my first year of college, I got a scholarship to get my start on becoming a Chinese language and literature major.  (I knew I wanted to become a lawyer like Clarence Darrow, and law schools didn't care what I majored in.  In fact, my major got me into Harvard Law School, where Jerome Cohen had moved from Berkeley after becoming the first US law prof to specialize in Chinese Communist law; and where my third year of law school was paid by an NDFL scholarship, which in turn got me my legal internship in the State Dept.'s legal advisor's office for East Asian Affairs.   And I recall thinking at the time that Laodze's Daodejing was my first spiritual guide.  I also embrace Buddhism, which as the Dalai Lama puts it compassion becomes the highest value across formal religions.
   As I turned toward Asian Studies, I had the feeling that the spirit of love I embraced came from a Chinese general.  Decades later, I discovered that Japanese WWII supreme commander Isoroku Yamamoto had been shot down, later found lying strapped to his aircraft seat holding his samurai sword, nine months to the day before I was born, April 18, 1944.  I also accept that the spirits of people with whom I have lived, such as my parents, live on in me, as I expect to see my will to love informed and strengthened in those who live after me, and sometimes procreate too.
  As to life after death for myself, who knows whether it will take any form in which "I" become aware of this life of mine, or disappear?  As to earthly immortality, I concluded long ago as I sang in nursing homes that any of us is lucky to live latter years aware that we have made a significant difference for the better in at least one other person's life.  I know I have that, and also that I have been blessed to live many interesting, in many ways rich and sometimes reckless lives in one lifetime, which I expect to be doing once more in a year when Jill and I move to Durango.  I have experienced so much, I have enjoyed so much love and respect and appreciation: I am so lucky simply to have lived at all, and yes, I can even imagine enjoying another lifetime of consciousness even if that part of me turns out to be unaware of our history together.  Call me an agnostic believer:-)  l&p hal

Monday, April 17, 2017

US Military Policy on Patriot's Day

US Military Policy on Patriot’s Day as Containment

Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at

April 17, 2017


                We now have retired generals in charge of the Defense Department and the National Security Agency, veterans of combat and war games strategy, and a Secretary of State who apparently respects military advice and to synchronize it with political foreign policy.  I look on the recent series of military events—dropping a Mother Of All Bombs on Afghan resistance underground central command center, bombing a Syrian air base to uselessness, and I join others in speculating, setting off self-destruct mechanisms in missiles North Koreans have tried to launch.  Each is a case, two overt and one covert, of a measured signal that—as Vice President Pence put it yesterday in South Korea—we will take measured means to teach you, or in Afghanistan’s case force you, to desist.  I can imagine that the Secretary of State carried that message to President Putin when they recently met, to pass the message that the US held the Syrian government responsible for all nerve gas attacks, and would take “whatever measures necessary” to respond to any further gas attacks.  And I can’t help thinking that someone, perhaps even Trump during his recent visit with the Chinese president, has let North Koreans know that the US with not allow North Koreans to succeed in launching any missile that could even reach Japan.   And voila, the US vice president happens to visit South Korea just as the North Koreans are celebrating the birthday of Kim Il-Sung, and the missile no doubt to cap the North Korean’s celebration of defensive strength went poof.  Whatever covert messages the North Koreans may have received, I imagine they’re aware that the US government—including a president who by now openly accepts and respects his newly minted senior military and foreign policy advisers—will officially stay silent or deny any claims to have destroyed the missiles North Korea goes to such lengths to launch, and dare the North Koreans to admit they are militarily so weak.

                Whatever gets worked out diplomatically will be led by Secretary Tillerson, who appears in these early moments in office to be working in close partnership with his military counterparts.  I’m not a fan of punishment and violence, but practically speaking, I find myself respecting the discipline by which today’s US government sets limits on its tolerance, its containment of violence.  Love and peace, hal

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Corporate Restorative Justice

United Airlines CEO Oscar Muñoz Follows Restorative Justice Script

Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at

April 13, 2017


                Just as I’ve been writing and reflecting on the process of victim-offender reconciliation as described and experienced in mediation, I heard a major corporate CEO follow the script mediators aspire to have offenders follow.  It is the incident of a paid and booked Vietnamese-American being wrestled out of his seat and off the plane to make way for an airline crew.

                What crucial stages does the offender go through?   First, s/he apologizes directly to the victims and their families.  Then, having heard and acknowledged the harm done, s/he makes amends.  Yesterday in media interviews, in an NPR interview, I heard United Airlines Oscar Muñoz literally do that, first saying, “I’m ashamed,” then apologizing to the victim and his family in particular and customers generally, and offered cash “amends” to those affected, promising that no such incident would ever happen again (  Somewhere, somehow, Mr. Muñoz has learned the textbook elements of mediation.  It’s worth noting that a private-sector for-profit corporate chief executive believes that accepting responsibility and making amends for harms one does, pays.  Love and peace, hal

Monday, April 10, 2017

Interaction of Political and Cultural Change

Interaction of Political and Cultural Change

Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at

April 10, 2017


                I have just returned from a conference on “Critical Intersectionalities of Crime and Social Justice” at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA.  Profound thanks to the graduate student association of the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice managed to bring in keynote speakers from as far away as Italy, and provide all the meals I as a participant needed to feed myself from beginning to end, with free registration.  What a remarkable feat, and how much I got to share and learn with old friends and new ones, including making music together.  Thanks again.

                I have a habit of asking myself what substantive conversation most profoundly disconfirmed stereotypes on one hand and helped me affirm further define for myself and those I’m having conversations with the roles I choose to play as an economically privileged white man privileged to have managed to avoid even traffic tickets, let alone legal felonies I have committed.  At this conference, that moment came during discussion at a session on police violence against people of color, notably murder of African-Americans, going unprosecuted and unpunished.

                When a white friend and experienced mediator and I proposed transcending getting legal justice, black people in the session responded that if we had grown up being black, we would be angry and want convictions and punishment to show us white folks that black lives matter.  Then as now, I agree.  My principal responsibility is to change my own kind, whose racist political domination has driven mass incarceration represents the US Constitution’s exception to the 13th Amendment’s prohibition on slavery…for penal servitude.

                In his essay “On the Jewish Question,” Karl Marx argued that, as attempted by the Chinese Communist Party, first the underclasses had to gain political power over their oppressors, then in self-interest come to a cultural transformation, a state of “human emancipation”—the revolution to end all revolutions.  I propose that the two social movements can be built simultaneously, symbiotically.

                When I first got to know survivors of inter-generational ritual murder and cannibalism historically coinciding in the US with the rise of the Ku Klux Klan who in rare cases sought legal retribution against those who had raped and tortured them from infancy, I learned that it is not my place to judge victims’ choices for legal justice, for punishment of their torturers.  It is instead my duty as one privileged to have grown up safely to respect their decisions, recognize rather than try to change the pains they have suffered which I have been privileged to avoid, and respect their primary authority to decide to pursue prosecution as fully as their anger demands and the justice system allows.  Opening ways to transcend the anger, pain, loss and injustice suffered by people of color depends white people’s political recognition, in practice, that arresting, detaining, convicting and punishing, let alone shooting and killing is as wrong and unacceptable when white people do it, especially those given legal authority to use force and confinement, to use violence, in the white supremacist system of enforcing law-n-order.  You can’t move people to change the system until there’s enough recognition by the dominant political class that the system is inherently unfair and provocative of the violence it seeks to oppose, and instead joins and leads.  Of equal importance, you can’t persuade people to give up on systematic punishment, from children by adult “caregivers” to law enforcement, or for that matter in war, until the oppressors acknowledge that “the system” is inherently unjust.  Speaking from my own position of privilege, it is my responsibility not to speak for black people, but to spread and amplify their voices, their feelings, their demands for justice on their own terms.  That’s one of the responsibilities I accept.  It’s real, and it’s not my place to change “those people,” but to try to change my own kind first and foremost, to get us to give up on the punishment we do and support, as the prevailing, self-serving punishers…my other responsibility.  Members of oppressed classes are capable of commitment to non-violent change rather than punishment, among my leading role models in cultural transformation of violence, as in my own country, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Harriet Tubman…just for starters.  I also have come to respect and support the primary right of victims to obtain justice on legal principle, on their own terms.  The primary responsibility to persuade my own kind, let alone people of color, that mediating resolution of conflicts and violence in all our relations, rather than punishing those we hold power over, is in my own economically, white, male, adult practical self-interest, whether I’m a perpetrator or a victim.  I also have admiration for black sisters and brothers who somehow respond to the injustice of their individual and collective pain, oppression, anger, loss and fear, to transform violence itself in their own communities and in mine.  May political and cultural transformation proceed hand-in-hand, victims and offenders playing their own roles in getting harm and injustice recognized, let alone transformed.  I come to the project of social change as a member of the offender class, primarily responsible for transcending the impulse to establish order by punishment itself…driven by awareness of the damage that systematic domination does itself.  Once more, many thanks to the student organizers of the conference, and to learning from and being moved by those over whom I have been born to hold privilege and pass judgment, to oppress.  Love and peace, hal



Sunday, April 9, 2017

"If You Can't Afford a Lawyer"

“If You Can’t Afford a Lawyer”

Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at

April 9, 2017


                I have long known there are differences between public defenders’ offices which represent clients more thoroughly than many private attorneys at lower-end prices (e.g. Colorado public defenders trained hired and managed at the state level, as I have observed from the time my son-in-law became one, through his present position as a district who has worked to reduce jail populations and levels of sentencing to prison), and those who focus on plea-bargaining (as I observed to be common practice every morning I appeared in and around courts in Boston as a student public defender).

                Just now on NPR I listened to this week’s hour-long radio episode on Reveal Radio, at

New Orleans, Lousiana, Parish, who with his staff has decided to decline all serious felonies so that within their increasingly limited budget (funded by Louisiana by declining traffic fines during flood disasters), they can provide effective counsel to as many lower-level clients as the US Constitution demands…which means that those face more time with higher bail are left in jail without counsel, period.  He welcomes the federal suit by the American Civil Liberties Union challenging the constitutionality of holding federal detainees who have no counsel in federal court.  Meanwhile, the parish jail, under court order to limit the local jail population, have sent detainees to other parishes, including one at a northern corner of the state, whom a public defender cannot manage to visit personally and so does so via the prison phone, whose security is questionable.

                To make things worse, the state requires that those who accept public defenders have to pay $40 up front both to have the public defender appear in court, and another $45 up front that is forfeited if the defendant is found guilty of anything.

                The program moves to follow a public defender and a defendant in a parish where all cases are plea-bargained, the price the defenders pay for giving detainees a speedy trial, followed up with confirmation that this continues to be common practice as I found it to be in 1963-65.

                It is nice to find a public defender who refuses to fail to fully defend his clients.  It is a tribute that he acknowledges the suffering he has caused those he refuses to represent, where the work involved in preparing an adequate defense expands considerably.  The program traces the efforts of one private attorney who accepts a one-dollar fee to obtain the defendant’s alibi for multiple attempted murder charges (photos of him out of town).

                When you consider what it costs taxpayers to detain needlessly and force innocent detainees to bargain for “lower” but still serious prison time, the program and those it gives voice to make a pretty good case that providing adequate assistance of counsel saves taxpayer dollars.

                I seriously recommend the podcast of this program to anyone who wants to understand how seriously those who cannot afford bail are often innocent, probably far, far more so than those on death row who have been exonerated by concerted legal effort.  It makes a stronger case than I’ve encountered in any textbook for the realities of criminal defense for the indigent, and the hope it inspires (in me at least) that even underpaid, seldom noticed public defenders and their constitutional rights allies may have the potential to make a huge part of incarceration in the US go away, including the innocent in far outnumber the murder exonerations which gain so much public attention.  Love and peace, Hal

Monday, February 6, 2017

"Apologies, Abuse and Dealing with the Past"

Apologies, Abuses and Dealing with the Past

Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at

February 6, 2017


                “Apologies, Abuses and Dealing with the Past” is the title of a “project” at .  I am grateful for having been invited to participate in the international conversation taking place there, where the focus has become focused on the importance to some victims of offenders’ unconditionally saying they’re sorry, particularly to victims of crime, in doing “restorative justice”; while for others among us, what someone does to respond to one’s victims is more reliable than “saying you’re sorry,” i.e., actions speak louder than words.  I especially enjoy learning from stories others have learned from.

                At the moment, I’ll use this blog post to offer the next thought I’m having about how important straight-out apologies are to some of us.  I happen to be among those who believe that there are many ways of showing honest regret and willingness to try making amends, what I call “responsiveness” to, or empathy with, the pain, fear and anger they have caused.  I infer responsiveness as a pragmatist; I trust outcomes, victim/offender agreements included.  As someone who has learned readily to say “I’m sorry” to others’ loss, fear or harm regardless of whether it’s about something I did, I’m well aware of how easily, it’s nice to hear apologies, but that doesn’t any assumption of responsibility for the consequences of the harm they themselves have done…practically speaking.  I’m making a pragmatic appeal to others not to require out-and-out, unconditional apologies.

                I know that from those of us whose focus is on criminal justice, to international relations, to all kinds of approaches to mediation and reconciliation, among those who may read this blog post, I’m writing to encourage you to do as I did, and join the conversation.  Love and peace, hal