Filed under: Anarchist Movement, Community Organizing, How To, Incarceration, Police
As anarchists and anti-fascists, we oppose the so-called “justice” systems as they are implemented in much of the world. Most often, these institutions achieve the complete opposite of justice. They are used as weapons against those least able to defend themselves. They are used to deny dissent. They are vehicles of a cycle of oppression where the inmates victimize others, and turn the already abused into abusers themselves. These “justice” systems simply do not grant justice, and provably fail to deter crime.
This author asserts that there is a better path forward than punitive “justice.” Punishment is well-known to be the least effective form of behavior modification; positive and negative reinforcement are by far more effective. Instead of causing offenders of some law or social norm to change their ways, punishment is at best a waste of resources, and at worst an extremely effective tactic for suppressing people based on socioeconomic status and/or race.
A superior option is Restorative Justice (some pro-Christian bias). Restorative Justice provides us with a system where we can address social problems on an individual basis, without necessarily needing to employ force. We don’t need to cage our fellow humans like animals – we can instead bring them to the table, and give them a greater stake in their community, such that they don’t act against it in the future.
By ensuring that our fellow citizens understand the effects of damaging actions, we can get people to consciously choose to prevent many social ills. This in turn can reduce the fear and resentment that has led to support for fascism across much of the world, which may simplify our struggles somewhat going forward.
How Restorative Justice Works
Here is how the process works, in a very general sense:
When someone violates a law or agreement, they are summoned to a Mediation with the party they have injured. An objective third party – a Mediator – mediates this proceeding. The Mediator ensures that each side is allowed to specify their grievances in the case being mediated.
The injured party (someone who allegedly had something bad happen to them) states what they observed and how it adversely affected them. Similarly, the injuring party (someone who allegedly did something bad to someone else) is then allowed to speak and give voice to what motivated them to perform the injuring act. The reason this is the case, is that often a crime occurs for a reason; it’s very rare indeed that someone chooses to do something bad to someone else “just because”.
With these facts on the table, the injurer makes a formal apology to the injured. An appropriate form of restitution is negotiated between the two – for example, the injurer could agree to perform a community service project of the injured party’s choosing. Other forms of restitution are possible, and should be considered.
Lastly, work is initiated to re-integrate both the injurer and injured back into society. Re-integration is necessary due to the possible stigmatization of both parties by society at large. While the injurer’s stigma for performing a harmful act is understandable, what often happens is that it turns into a vicious cycle that they cannot escape from. The initial estrangement often leads to more crimes being committed, which results in greater stigmatization, which continues ad nauseum. For the injured, in certain cases including sexual assault, stigmatization of the victim is a real danger, which leads to similar problems as what the injurer can face. It’s necessary to ensure that someone who is a victim of a crime is only a victim once, and for as short a time as possible. It’s even more necessary to ensure that someone who has violated the community does not do so again, by their own volition.
The objective here is to ensure that root causes of crimes are addressed, thus improving the integrity of the community as a whole, as well as being restorative for the involved individuals. If the causes of persons in our community injuring each other are resolved as quickly as possible, the end result should be fewer cases of someone committing injury upon someone else.
The point of Restorative Justice is not to fixate upon creating legal precedent that will be applied going forward in similar cases, but to focus instead upon mending harm done to the community. Put differently, while the Punitive model fixates on abstract models of law in order to serve as a guide to theoretical future problems, Restorative Justice focuses on making effective, concrete agreements that help society function better both in the here and now and in the future.
Recommendations Going Forward
Community-enacted Restorative Justice is especially important in this age of State repression, murder, and brutality. A previous It’s Going Down article observed, “Before you call the police, ask if the problem in question is worth someone’s life.” This author agrees with this position, and offers the practice of Restorative Justice as a way to ensure that slights do not require the intervention of our “benevolent” State and their rich white male overlords, and that we need not fear each other.
The following are all recommendations, and are reactions to current “justice” techniques. All communities are different, and as such all recommendations come with a Rule Zero: use what you need to use, don’t use what you don’t. If you find a recommendation incompatible with your community’s values or ideology, you should use a ruleset that is more compatible – this person is not an authority figure, and does not wish to be one. If you have any suggestions on how to improve the suggestions below, it is encouraged that you post them in a reply to this article, such that better Restorative Justice can be achieved. Restorative Justice is by its nature a community effort; as a community, we can and should improve it whenever possible.
I recommend the creation of community Restorative Councils that will implement Restorative Justice. Persons skilled in diplomatically diffusing disputes should assume the role of Mediator. Additionally, persons who have achieved substantial mastery of martial arts – Guardians – should be present in order to be capable of extinguishing any violence that may break out. Restorative Councils should keep track of Social Contracts and progress made towards their completion.
In a meeting of a Restorative Council, we should agree to use polite language as often as possible. Foul language is most often a sign of anger. While anger may be warranted, part of living in a society with each other requires that we should not speak to each other in inflammatory ways. Further, for justice to be effective, it must be given impartially. It is recommended that the Mediator and all Guardians should never fall to using offensive language, and use of offensive language by those representing the Restorative Council should result in suspension of a Mediator or Guardian from their duties.
Another recommendation is for the Restorative Council to periodically meet about its processes and proceedings – I refer to these as Introspectives. Problems encountered and known best-practices should be discussed, and the Restorative Council should change its policies as necessary to best serve the community. For instance, if a large number of people are disenchanted with the Restorative Council, you should find out why and amend your practices. If recidivism is becoming a problem, you should look at the social contracts created and consider improving the contracts such that recidivism drops. If people are simply not coming before the Restorative Council, you should find out why and make changes such that they do. Society changes, and the dispensation of justice should be changing alongside it.
Lastly, Local Exile – the expulsion of a person from the community – should be considered the final form of recourse, and should always be employed after very careful consideration. Removing a person from the community is saying to that person that they are either an omnipresent danger, or of no value. Local Exile is a way to say that a person is completely unwelcome, and some may – with justification – consider Local Exile to be anathema to the ideal of Restorative Justice. While it’s justifiable in the context of the fascists we oppose, for lesser offenses, we should excersize much greater caution when wielding this sentence. Local Exile is a permanent, destructive action that can have major consequences.
This anarchist has advanced a technique for our communities to free each other from the yoke of the barbaric injustice system. We should be willing and able to bring ourselves to a table, voice our problems with one another when a dispute occurs, and amicably resolve it such that the community undergoes no further harm. We should protect one another by recognizing that inequity exists and occurs, and that we the community can repair the damage. We solve nothing with threats, weapons, incarceration, or summary execution; indeed, we make it worse.
It is my sincere hope that the techniques discussed, along with the reference links, help communities become more just and more safe, both from those who operate outside of both the community and the law, and also from those who operate “within” the law. Please, debate these ideas among yourselves, and feel free to make responses to this article. It’s my hope that this article is a firm starting point in our shared journey to a more just world.
Lastly, this is something we have to do. The current systems of justice around the world are highly resistant to change in any form, due to their role in State repression – after all, “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?” In the United States, this has metastatized into a fully dysfunctional government led by an evil orange-painted toddler with brain damage that can’t do much of anything except periodically screw people over to remind us of how evil they are. If we do not use a better form of justice, it simply won’t happen.
Best of all? We don’t have to punch any nazis in order to do any of this. Punching nazis has a unique elan, a certain je ne sais quoi that one really should experience, but not having some bigot aiming something at one’s head is a nice enough consolation prize.
Conclusion: Law Enforcement
Our movement doesn’t hold law enforcement in high regard, and rarely addresses them. It’s our position that State violence is never legitimate, and police exist specifically to either perform, or to threaten to perform, violence, such that the State’s agenda is served – and, usually that involves defending fascists. After great consideration and much discussion with like-minded persons, I have decided to break tradition and directly address any readers who may be associated with law enforcement. This is not a legitimization of your role or “authority”. That being said, there may be a way out of this morass for both the lawman with a conscience and the greater community injured by institutionalized violence.
It is my hope that law enforcement personnel read this, and understand both the techniques and concerns being advanced. This article didn’t materialize from thin air; the actions of your colleagues and agencies are what made this article necessary.
As minorities and dissidents from myriad origins and walks of life, we do not feel safe in your presence. We expect repression and injustice not just from you, but from the so-called “justice” system as a whole. The violent actions of police, ICE, and “veteran” groups like the Oathkeepers are maiming and ruining the very lives you’re supposed to be protecting. You kill and detain and torment the innocent, and let murderers and terrorists walk away as free men. You perpetuate a cycle where people who are sufficiently unlucky have to turn to crime to survive…then punish them in truly ghastly ways, for profit. You raise arms against your communities, in support of people who are sabotaging the very rule of law you claim is worth fighting for. Law enforcement is rapidly becoming the chief danger to those it claims to protect, if it isn’t already.
We in the anarchist movement oppose this state of affairs. We see this so-called “justice” as perpetuating a cycle that is making our society, communities, families, and persons less safe. By performing “business as usual” you are neither serving nor protecting anyone, except for some very wealthy old men who probably care nothing about anyone or anything except for the numbers associated with their bank accounts. By acting to intimidate those who fight fascism, minority communities, or anyone who dares to question your actions, what you are really doing is protecting fascists who want to subvert your institutions and our communities, and turn them into terrible vehicles of destruction. We have already seen this occur in history, in the 1930s and early 1940s. You are being used to destroy what you were recruited to protect.
It does not have to remain this way, and any lawman with a conscience who reads this article is capable of changing this state of affairs. You can and should work for a complete implementation of Restorative Justice in your own community; you will reap the same rewards as your community, which will let you actually protect the weak and innocent, instead of needing to shoot anything sufficiently brown or otherwise “scary” because of your own ill-founded fears. Instead of fighting on behalf of old men who might only know you as a line on a spreadsheet, or for political brownie points that will be puffed up by some delusional talking head on FOX News or whatever, you can instead make a lasting difference that people will remember you for. You can ensure that your community remains safe, while growing to know and value people who will grow to know and value you.
This process probably won’t be easy for you. Choosing Restorative Justice first requires putting down the gun and cuffs, and then listening. You will not like what you hear at first – after all, to many communities, you are the injuring party. If you can achieve enough forebearance, and understand why you’re not held in high regard, though, there’s no reason that you can’t come to the table and make a truly noble and heroic decision to stop harming those you’re supposed to be protecting. You don’t have to be the bad guys/bad cops anymore. You can legitimately be liberators who serve and protect, without perpetrating violence, or leveling threats. You don’t have to fear the specters of brown people, or the wrath of hateful, rich men, or even of the revolutionary movement yourself. Take it from me: we’re not bad people.
You can fight subversive forces like the Oathkeepers and III% Militia by ensuring that they don’t have your martial prowess to draw upon, and that those who don’t deserve harm don’t have it visited upon them. You can use words and the ability to mediate tense situations to achieve both a wider and better effect than clips of ammunition and your favorite firearm have any hope of ever achieving. You really can make a difference. Isn’t that why you signed up in the first place?
The question is, is coming to the table and disarming what you’ll do? In the anarchist movement, we don’t think you will. Prove us wrong, if you dare – I think many in th movement would be pleasantly surprised to see growths of conscience and less repression occurring.
Let’s liberate one another and make a better, more peaceful world. Let’s talk our problems out and find actionable solutions, rather than relying upon a system that is uninterested in solving anything. Let’s stop fearing one another, and embrace each other as honored neighbors, no matter who we are or what we look like, or whatever the case may be. We need not be punishers; we are better than that. Let’s choose to be restorers instead. Let’s heal each other, even as we raise arms to fend off those who will not reason with us.