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Swedenborgians in Action Against Racism
Hi everyone. This newsletter is for Swedenborgians (and friends) who want to learn how to support anti-racism. But we are not going to pretend that we are experts here; we are learning alongside you. There are lots of activists and educators who have been working in the anti-racism field for a long time. Our plan (in the words of Meera Mohan-Graham) is to Absorb and Amplify those voices, and follow their lead. So, the items in this newsletter are mostly links and excerpts pointing you towards other resources.

As we all strive to learn, change, and act together, we invite you join the Manifold Angels Facebook group for connection throughout the journey. The work is just beginning. 


This is an (approximately) bi-weekly newsletter. One issue per month will be a deep dive into a particular issue (you can find links to these at the end of the newsletter). The alternating issues will be more personal/devotional, aiming to help build stamina and commitment for the ongoing work for racial justice. Thanks for joining us!
SEEK TO UNDERSTAND THIS:
Restorative Justice

“Restorative justice practices work to address the dehumanization frequently experienced by people in the traditional criminal justice system. Instead of viewing a criminal act as simply a violation of a rule or statute, restorative justice sees this action as a violation of people and relationships.

Restorative justice seeks to examine the harmful impact of a crime and then determines what can be done to repair that harm while holding the person who caused it accountable for his or her actions. Accountability for the offender means accepting responsibility and acting to repair the harm done. Outcomes seek to both repair the harm and address the reasons for the offense, while reducing the likelihood of re-offense. Rather than focusing on the punishment meted out, restorative justice measures results by how successfully the harm is repaired.

Additionally, restorative justice seeks to include those most directly affected by a crime in the justice process, namely victims and survivors. Rather than a process focused on the offender, restorative justice focuses on those who have been harmed and the harms they have experienced. In the restorative justice process, victims are empowered to participate more fully than in the traditional system. Likewise, the community plays an important role in the restorative process by establishing standards of conduct, helping to hold an offender accountable, and providing support to the parties involved and opportunities to help repair the harm that has occurred. The opportunity to express the harm a victim has experienced, full participation in decision making, and support from the community all aid in the healing in the aftermath of a serious crime.” (About Restorative Justice | University of Wisconsin Law School)

SEE THE CONNECTIONS

“Restorative practices and restorative justice centers honor, vulnerability and relationships. Through the process, participants learn the importance of relationships, communication, empathy and self-awareness. Restorative practices and restorative justice have been around for centuries, despite what Western culture says.

Restorative practices can be traced back to the people of First Nations and indigenous Africans. The Nguni people spend days in a circle speaking life into a person who has done harm until they are whole (without shame) again.

Restorative practices have been a way of life for many communities of color before its introduction to the U.S. criminal justice system. It has benefits that our current criminal justice system does not, including giving voice to those who have been harmed and those who have done harm.

One thing that must be clear to those eager to use the practice to reform the U.S. criminal justice system: It will not work. Restorative practices can stand without the interference of a punitive culture such as ours in the U.S. The belief that it must be tied to a total institution to provide “fairness” and reduce harm shows how we (the U.S.) have once again failed to listen and see indigenous, black, and brown people.” (Restorative Practices Require Power Be Redistributed to Black and Brown Children, Barbara Sherrod)

CONSIDER THIS

“Systemic racism is evident at every stage of the system, from policing to prosecutorial decisions, pretrial release processes, sentencing, correctional discipline, and even reentry. The racism inherent in mass incarceration affects children as well as adults, and is often especially punishing for people of color who are also marginalized along other lines, such as gender and class.” (Visualizing the racial disparities in mass incarceration | Prison Policy Initiative

Excerpt from Racial Disparity @The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers:

After the Civil War Southern states embraced criminal justice as a means to reimpose racial control over African Americans. This included the passing of “Black Codes” and later Jim Crow laws. The 13th Amendment to the Constitution abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. It is this loophole in the 13th Amendment that Southern states exploited in passing “Black Codes” and in setting up new economic and labor systems that relied on the arrest and imprisonment of African Americans. For example, these codes implemented vagrancy laws that criminalized unemployment, resulting in African Americans returning to slave-like environments through forced labor and convict leasing. Violation of the black codes also resulted in offenders having to pay fines; those who were unable to were forced by the state into labor until they worked off their balances.

Why is this important? Because the same criminal legal system that was developed after the Civil War to reimpose control over African Americans exists today. Imprisonment has been and continues to be used as a weapon to control communities of color in ways that aren’t used in other communities. We see this in the crack-cocaine sentencing disparity, the over policing of black communities, the excessive criminal fines and fees imposed on defendants, and a bail system that relies on payment to secure one’s freedom.

  • Black men comprise about 13% of the general population, but about 35% of those incarcerated.

  • Black women comprise 44% of incarcerated women, but only make up about 13% of the female U.S. population.

As stated in the Vera Institute’s 2018 report, An Unjust Burden: The Disparate Treatment of Black Americans in the Criminal Justice System:

“racial disparities in the criminal justice system are no accident, but rather are rooted in a history of oppression and discriminatory decision making that have deliberately targeted black people and helped create an inaccurate picture of crime that deceptively links them with criminality.”

UNLEARN THIS

“The next time you find yourself thinking idly that there oughta be a law – against failing to give up your seat on a bus to someone who needs it more, or playing loud music in a public place – stop for a moment and think again.” (Defining justice: why it's time to rethink our kneejerk response to crime | US justice system, Rebecca Gordon)

“[...] we need new approaches to crime and justice. Criminal justice relies on the threat of punishment to deter crime; punishment means imprisonment – probation and other less severe sanctions are meaningful because their alternative is imprisonment.

Yet, the current use of prisons around the world is both counterproductive and destructive. It fails to adequately respond to the problem of crime, as demonstrated by its high failure rate and in its inability to meet the multiple needs of crime victims and their communities. Furthermore, it is expensive; corrections budgets compete with education, medical care and other basic services governments provide their citizens. Nevertheless, it continues to be the dominant policy response in virtually all countries largely because of a lack of alternative approaches to deal with the reality of crime that are both effective and acceptable to the public.

Restorative justice has been suggested by some as such an alternative approach. In some countries it has served as that, at least for ―lightweight crime: juveniles and minor crimes. In most places, however, it plays an even more limited role, consisting of specific, limited programmes (programmes that bring victims, offenders and others together) surviving precariously on the margins of their criminal justice systems.

[...] it has been argued that restorative justice is much more than encounter programmes; it is a philosophy or theory of justice that could be applied to every aspect of a society‘s response to crime and conflict.

There is initial evidence that this would indeed produce better results than current strategies, not only in reduced recidivism rates but also in increased victim and community satisfaction and recovery.” RJ City: Phase 1 Final Report 

“[...] ‘transitional justice’ is the name given to a range of measures taken in countries that have suffered national traumas, including ethnic cleansing and other extensive human rights violations. According to the International Center for Transitional Justice, such measures to heal a wounded country and deal with often terrible crimes do “include criminal prosecutions”, but the emphasis is often placed on “truth commissions, reparations programs, and various kinds of institutional reforms”, or even, as the Centre for Justice and Reconciliation suggests, “meetings between victims, offenders, and other persons” to emphasize accountability and make amends. (Gordon)

THINK ABOUT THIS

“[Restorative Justice] is different from the legal system's traditional justice in so far as traditional criminal justice conceives of crime primarily as a violation of a criminal statute, a trespass against the State. Restorative Justice focuses on the harm caused by crime and on repairing the harm done to victims and communities.” (Restorative Justice & Restorative Practices)


Table from Retributive vs. Restorative Justice

WATCH THIS

What is Restorative Justice (RJ)? For over two decades, the Correctional Service of Canada has raised awareness and supported the advancement of restorative justice (RJ) in Canada. This video answers the question, “What is RJ?”

Rethinking the Impact of Traditional Justice: Natalie DeFreitas at TEDxVancouver [Natalie] is a consultant and psychological counsellor who works closely with incarcerated populations, schools, governments, non-profit organizations and communities to take a stand against the greatest influencers on crime: poverty, racism, illiteracy, inadequate mental health and social services and lack of community collaboration.  Natalie encourages others to think dynamically about social accountability and believes justice is more than an institutionalized response, it is something we build collaboratively.

Dan Reisel: The neuroscience of restorative justice Instead of warehousing these criminals, shouldn't we be using what we know about the brain to help them rehabilitate? Put another way: If the brain can grow new neural pathways after an injury ... could we help the brain re-grow morality?

Wesley Saint Clair: The case for restorative justice in juvenile courts As a judge with decades of experience presiding over juvenile courts, Wesley Saint Clair repeatedly encountered the same problem -- the fact that the system was designed for punishment instead of rehabilitation or crime reduction.

Laila Fakhoury: Restorative Justice Laila's talk focuses on the value of incorporating restorative justice in the school system and the ways in which it could minimize the school to prison pipeline.

How restorative justice could end mass incarceration Punishing offenders for their crimes is the primary goal of the American criminal justice system. But what about victims & affected communities – does punishing offenders help them heal? Shannon Sliva argues for a shift towards Restorative Justice, a philosophy where "getting justice" means repairing harm. But for this movement to succeed in prisons & courtrooms, we must change our approach to conflict in our daily lives.

LISTEN TO THIS

5 Podcasts Focused on Restorative Justice Restorative Justice is a different way of seeing conflict and harm. The goal is to heal harm, mitigate future harm, and build community. It starts with the belief that conversation is the root of change and understanding.

SUPPORT THIS

The Centre for Justice & Reconciliation is a program of Prison Fellowship International. Its mission is to develop and promote restorative justice in criminal justice systems around the world.

National Association of Community and Restorative Justice The NACRJ promotes effective forms of justice that are equitable, sustainable and socially constructive.

Vera Institute of Justice We envision a society that respects the dignity of every person and safeguards justice for everyone.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Restorative Justice Books, Reports and Links

For Educators:
What the Heck Is Restorative Justice? | Edutopia  With the right training and support, restorative justice can prove more effective than traditional discipline measures in building a stronger school community.
 

Looking for Black History Month Resources?

Try signing up for 28 Days of Black History
"Subscribe for our free interactive, virtual exhibition that honors the legacy of Black culture in the U.S. Delivered daily via email in February 2022."

Or check out our Black History Month issue below.

FROM THE SPIRIT

A LITANY FOR RESTORATIVE JUSTICE

Holy and incarnate one, who longs to set the prisoner free and to heal the broken hearted:
We pray for our brothers and sisters who are offenders,
Who stand accused in our courts and who serve time in our prisons.
Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.

We pray for our brothers and sisters who are victims of crime,
And who, like many victims, are re-victimized by our criminal justice system.
Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.

We pray for our Church, remembering that in our corporate history we have been both offender and victim.
Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.

We pray for all those in our criminal system who try to do justice:
For police officers, judges, lawyers, chaplains, and for corrections, parole, and probation officers.
Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.

We pray for our neighborhoods, our communities, and our society,
Where the impact of crime and the fear that it breeds harm people, damage relationships, and tear at the human spirit.
Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.

Blessed are you, Lord our God, who sent your Son among us to bear the pain and grief of humankind.
Receive the prayers we offer this day for all those in need in every place and grant us strength on our journey. Amen.

(ADAPTED FROM THE CHURCH COUNCIL ON JUSTICE AND CORRECTIONS, “A JUSTICE THAT HEALS AND RESTORES,” accessed via www.ncchurches.org)
PREVIOUS ISSUES
Police Brutality
Intersectionality and LGBTQ Rights
White Privilege/White Fragility
Voting Rights and Voter Supression
Indigenous Rights
Racism in Education
Racism in Healthcare

Images of God

Anti-Racism Resources for Kids
Black History Month
Intersectional Feminism/Anti-Asian Racism
Environmental Racism
Microaggressions
Critical Race Theory
Immigration Rights and Xenophobia
 

Just a note: the various viewpoints included in these newsletters (either by authors of content or the organizations they represent) do not necessarily represent the viewpoint or position of the Swedenborgian Church of North America (SCNA). The editors present them in the spirit of learning and reflection. 

(Editors: Rev. Shada Sullivan and Lori Gayheart)

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