New Clear Vision

constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted

Is There Another Way?

March 04, 2017 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Education, Laura L. Finley

Sexual Assault, Justice, and Just-ness

by Laura L. Finley

I, like many sexual assault advocates, have struggled with two competing feelings about the harshness of the criminal justice system versus the treatment of rapists. On one hand, I believe in second chances, am critical of the prison industrial complex, and disavow mass incarceration as an alleged “solution” to crime. I am especially troubled by the racism of our criminal justice system, which has resulted in the incarceration of far too many black men. On the other hand, the gentle treatment given to sexual assailants brings tears to my eyes.

Given that it is incredibly difficult for a victim to not only report sexual assault but also to undergo the terrifying and humiliating physical examination, then to endure the victim-blaming that inevitably occurs in the courtroom, I find myself disturbed by the ridiculously light sentences handed down to individuals who are guilty. Of course, even worse are those who never face any punishment, which is some 97 percent of rapists. Below are just a few instances to illustrate how the courts minimize sexual assault. What is notable is that the perpetrators are privileged white males. Yet advocating harsh sentences inevitably has a more significant impact on people of color than on these white males. Hence the dilemma—but, perhaps these binary options are not the only ones before us. (more…)

Too Many Deaths

January 04, 2017 By: NCVeditor Category: Current Events, Laura L. Finley, Politics

Jurors Should Say No to Executing Dylann Roof

by Laura L. Finley

It is clear that 2016 was a challenging year, as is not-so-subtly displayed by John Oliver’s “F*ck 2016” and the subsequent meme of the same name. As I reflect on the many things I would like to see improved in 2017, I am thinking about both immediate and long-term goals. One of my dreams in the long-term is an end to the death penalty in the US. In the short term, however, my hope for January is that the jury that sentences Dylann Roof chooses life over another death.

Roof was found guilty of the June 17, 2015 murder of nine African-Americans parishioners engaged in a Bible study group at Emmanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina. After sitting through their prayer service, Roof gunned down Reverend Clementa Pinckney and the other members with his .45 caliber Glock pistol loaded with hollow-point bullets. His murder spree was considered a hate crime based on his frequent visits to the websites of racial hate groups and publications on his own website, where he was pictured posing with symbols of white supremacy and neo-Nazism and which featured a manifesto declaring his hatred of black people. Roof also had a list of potential targets, predominantly black churches. If he is sentenced to death, Roof would join only three others who have received federal death sentences in the past half century, and would be the only person to have been so sentenced since 2003. More recently, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev received a federal death sentence for the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. (more…)

Possibility of Escape

March 20, 2015 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Kathy Kelly, Politics

Finding Humane Ways to Cope…

by Kathy Kelly

“That is also us, the possibility of us, if the wonderful accident of our birth had taken place elsewhere: you could be the refugee, I could be the torturer. To face that truth is also our burden. After all, each of us has been the bystander, the reasonable person who just happens not to hear, not to speak, not to see those people, the invisible ones, those who live on the other side of the border.” — Karen Connelly, The Lizard Cage

escapeIt was a little over two weeks ago that Marlo entered Atwood Hall, here in Lexington federal prison. Nearly all the women here are nonviolent offenders. When I first saw Marlo, her eyes seemed glued to the tiled floors as she shuffled along hallways. I guessed her age to be 25 or so. A few days later, she came to a choir rehearsal. She was still shy, but she looked up and offered a quiet smile when she joined the soprano section. The next time our choir gathered, Marlo raised her hand before we ended our rehearsal. “I got something to say,” she said, as she stood. “When I first came here, I can tell all of you now, I was terrified. Just plain terrified. I have 70 months, and I felt so scared.” The intake process for this, her introduction to the prison system, had badly frightened her, but before sundown that same day, a second intake process had occurred, with several inmates finding her, reassuring her, and getting her beyond that first panic. (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…)

Open Our Eyes…

October 03, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Family, Robert C. Koehler

Hope Flows from Hollow Water

by Robert C. Koehler

The community was out of control — the children, oh my God, the children, were sniffing gasoline and pretty much abandoning any pretense of a future — and the social and criminal-justice systems were just adding to the problem. Nothing was working.

“Our children slammed us against a brick wall,” Burma Bushie said.

This is the story of a culture in shambles. It was the early 1980s. Bushie’s community is called the Hollow Water First Nation Reserve, a village of about 900 people in eastern Manitoba, more or less at the end of the highway. There was one road in and one road out.

They may have felt utterly isolated in their troubles, but what a few of them started to do — in synchronicity with people in other indigenous communities — has spread hope and awareness across the planet. They began reaching beyond the known (i.e., Western) world, deep into their souls and into the roots of a lost way of life, to save their children and the future. Without intending to, they started a movement. And the slow reverberation of change continues to spread. (more…)

Love Crowds Out Fear

August 09, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Current Events, Guest Author, Politics

On Trayvon Martin and the George Zimmerman Verdict

by Valerie Elverton Dixon

I waited. My tears waited…

In March 2012 when the story of Trayvon Martin’s murder became national news, I waited to comment. Like those who took to the streets in hoodies, I could not understand how George Zimmerman could shoot and kill an unarmed teenager who was simply walking home from the store, be taken into custody by the police, and then go home to sleep in his own bed the same night without being charged with a crime.  Zimmerman told the police that he acted in self defense, and that was enough. Trayvon Martin’s family had to hire a lawyer and the lawyers had to contact national civil rights leaders before a prosecutor brought charges. I did not comment.

Trayvon Martin’s parents said they had faith in the criminal justice system. They wanted a trial. The trial happened and a jury of six women found their son’s killer not guilty. When I learned of the verdict on Sunday morning, July 14, my delayed praying tears ended their wait. I wept. I grieved for Trayvon Martin and for all the teenagers whose lives are lost to gun violence, and I grieved for our criminal justice system and for our nation. (more…)

My Dinner with Bernie

July 29, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Current Events, Family, Missy Beattie

The More Things Change…

by Missy Beattie

“That sounds like something Bernie would do. This is Bernie,” I’d said to Charles, years ago. He shook his head no.

Before we met, Charles lived in NYC, where he got his PhD. That’s how he knew Bernie, both at NYU in the department of nuclear engineering. My husband collected characters, and Bernie was one. Charles had plenty of Bernie stories but disagreed with my realization, couldn’t fathom that one of his friends could do what struck me as obvious.

A few years after Charles and I married and were living in Kentucky, Bernie visited. He drove a rental car from Manhattan to Lexington, on his way somewhere. He stayed a few hours and had dinner with us. (more…)