New Clear Vision


constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted


Archive for the ‘Community’

Inside Peace

February 26, 2015 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Current Events, Robert C. Koehler

Film Festival Highlights Struggles, Possibilities for Prisoners

by Robert C. Koehler

As media ownership converges and technology “unites” us, the concept of national identity grows ever easier to exploit — and therefore, I fear, increasingly, and dangerously, simplistic.

POEfilmThis is the war on terror. This is the war on crime. They march on, despite the magnitude of their failures. They march on . . . because America is tough. America is exceptional.

If our news and mass-entertainment outlets valued complexity and expansion of the national IQ, we wouldn’t go to war. We’d be building our lives on the far side of fear and the far side of cynicism, which is the only place where peace is possible.

It’s not like we aren’t doing that anyway, to a certain extent. But it only becomes news when visionary journalists — peace journalists –declare that it is, which is why, every year for the last seven years now, I have written about and celebrated Chicago’s Peace on Earth Film Festival, which showcases extraordinary films that step beyond the simplistic myth of good vs. evil, us vs. them.

This year the festival is scheduled for March 19-22 at the Chicago Cultural Center; as always, it’s free of charge. (more…)

Everyday Horrors

February 19, 2015 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Politics, Victoria Law

New Book Shines Light on Routine Dysfunctions of Prison System

by Victoria Law

If you asked people who have spent years inside prison to write noir set inside prisons, what stories would they tell? In what ways would they reflect their own experiences? What would they say that might be missed by writers who have never spent a year inside a prison cell?

prison noirWith fifteen stories from writers in eight different states, Prison Noir gives readers an opportunity to find out. Each perspective is different and, while some offer different takes on similar themes, nothing is repetitive. The anthology’s first two stories, for instance, offer both a sharp contrast in prison relationships and a damning indictment of prison conditions.

Christopher M. Stephens’s “Shuffle” starts when Al, in his mid-sixties, returns from the shower and finds a cellmate making himself comfortable in the eight-by-ten-foot solitary confinement cell after eleven years alone.

Al despised the BOP’s [Bureau of Prisons’] policy of squeezing two men in a cell in the SHU [Special Housing Unit]. The old days were gone, the days when segregation meant single cells — true solitary confinement. As the prisons filled to overflowing and budgets tightened, the feds needed to get the most bang for their bucks. If that meant cramming two grown men crammed into a space designed for one, so be it. (more…)

The Shift

February 10, 2015 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Kathy Kelly, Politics

Helping Each Other Do Easier Time

by Kathy Kelly

“We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person oriented society: when machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” — Martin Luther King Jr., “Beyond Vietnam

kkellyHere in Lexington federal prison, Atwood Hall defies the normal Bureau of Prisons fixation on gleaming floors and spotless surfaces. Creaky, rusty, full of peeling paint, chipped tiles, and leaky plumbing, Atwood just won’t pass muster.

But of the four federal prisons I’ve lived in, this particular “unit” may be the most conducive to mental health. Generally, the Bureau of Prisons system pushes guards to value buffed floors more than the people buffing the floors, walking the floors. Here, the atmosphere seems less uptight, albeit tinged with resigned acceptance that everyone is more or less “stuck” in what one prisoner described as “the armpit of the system.” (more…)

Common Cause

January 29, 2015 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Politics, Robert C. Koehler

Healing the Criminal Justice System

by Robert C. Koehler

“It’d be really hard to have a higher recidivism rate than we have in Cook County.” Maybe this is the place to start a brief meditation on changing the world, or at least Chicago . . . known to some of its residents as “Chiraq.”

commoncauseThe speaker is Elena Quintana, executive director of the Adler Institute on Public Safety and Social Justice, which, in partnership with Roosevelt University’s Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation, recently completed a study on Cook County’s dysfunctional juvenile justice system.

What we’re doing isn’t working, justice-wise, order-wise, sanity-wise. The state of Illinois is bankrupt and yet its jails are full to bursting, at a cost, per occupant, equal to or greater than the cost of luxury suites at its ritziest hotels. And 90 percent of the teenagers who enter the system come back within three years of their release. This is no surprise: The system is a spiral of entrapment, especially for young men of color. (more…)

Children Matter

December 11, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Diane Lefer, Family

Coping with the Trauma of Incarcerated Parents

by Diane Lefer

Imagine that as you read these words, someone bursts into the room and holds a gun to your head. Your body and brain react instantly to the threat in ways that can be measured scientifically as cortisol floods your system.

Children with Incarcerated ParentsThe same level of cortisol is found in young children when separated from a primary caregiver. That absence feels as life-threatening as a loaded gun, explained Ann Adalist Estrin, currently the Director of National Resource Center on Children of Incarcerated Parents.

The adult calms down, she continued, when the threat is ended. Dopamine floods the system with relief. But in a young child, the dopamine response comes from contact with the caregiver. So what happens if the caregiver is gone? Toxic stress can change the chemistry and actual architecture of the developing brain, potentially with lifelong consequences.

Today, approximately 2.7 million American children are separated from a parent because of arrest and lockup in prison or jail. Do we simply accept that these kids will be collateral damage in our culture of mass incarceration? (more…)

Revolutions Happen

April 25, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Devon G. Pena, Ecology, Economy

On the Crisis of Neoliberalism and the Alternative of the Common

by Devon G. Peña

Revolutions happen. One has already started though many people are yet to recognize it. But they may already be participating in it and helping to bring alterNative[1] futures forward. The resurgence of the common is the revolution quietly unfolding around us and through each of our relations and actions.

Here, I explore the enactment of a new social revolution the multitude (a.k.a. the 99%) is creating to ‘sublate’ (aufheben)[2] neoliberal capitalism in the spaces of direct material production and bio-politics, qua reproduction. The resurgence of the common is the underlying force driving a largely subaltern and protean process of revolutionary change.

It is through the agency of collaborative networks and their spaces of autonomy that we are disrupting the empire of the commodity form and threatening the stability and long-term survival of the neoliberal state of economic exception (Negri 2008). (more…)

Destabilizing Power

April 14, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Devon G. Pena, Politics

Student Perspectives on the Necessity of Ethnic Studies

moderated by Devon G. Peña

{Moderator’s Note: We are presenting selected blog posts written by students in a winter quarter (2014) course, “Introduction to Chicana/o Studies” (CHSTU 101 that just completed meetings at the University of Washington. My graduate assistant Victor Rodríguez pre-selected the blogs and I did final copy-editing and formatting but the ideas and representations made here were entirely the result of the eight weeks of group research activities conducted by these young students. When we ask first- and second-year students to perform at this higher level of independent inquiry and critical thinking by asking them to engage in collaborative research and writing, we are actually revealing their capacity for a genuine love of learning that introduces them to diverse methods of inquiry and idea testing. When this happens, all is well in the classroom and we can feel a bit more confident that they will be better prepared to engage the prospects for democracy toward more just, equitable, and sustainable future. (more…)