Today we’re continuing our discussion of productive disagreements, and we’re joined by Inga Laurent, Professor of Law at Gonzaga who studies, theorizes and helps implement restorative justice practices in court systems and outside of judicial settings like schools.
We talk about a vision for a legal framework that works to heal and restore community, rather than just warehousing people when they do wrong. But what does that have to do with interpersonal disagreements? Dig in and find out:
- Restorative justice a lot: it’s an approach where one of the responses to a crime is to organize a meeting between the person harmed and the person who did the harm, sometimes — and maybe ideally — with representatives of the wider community to repair the damage. Luke gives a primer on it at about 2:15.
- That society used to be more interconnected, so the solution to fixing things when someone wronged another person was to repair the relationship, not to exclude the wrong-doer. Inga talks about this at about 22:19.
- Unfolding the stories behind wrongdoings, taking away binaries of crime. Inga introduces the idea that dialogue and talking to each other makes the story much more dynamic at about 24:44.
- The absence of community in the criminal legal system: when something happens in your community, you’re never told what happened, if there was a resolution, if your neighbor needs your support. This lack of information creates distance and takes away the agency of the community to step in. Inga introduces this topic at 27:41.
- The victim’s loss of agency when the criminal legal system takes over. Our system operates as if prosecution and punishment is the only way a victim can be served. Luke talks about this at 31:36.
So how does the conversation from our last episode on productive disagreements in interpersonal relationships tie into a legal framework like restorative justice?
It’s in the name: restorative. The point isn’t to cast a person out of society or community. The point is to encourage a conversation in which the person or people who were harmed can gain closure and those who did harm can make amends.
Not only is that a far cry from the way our current criminal legal system operates in 99% of cases, it’s increasingly not how our society operates around our most hotly contested issues. As we mentioned last time: when the impulse is to shun rather than talk — even argue! — it pushes the shunned party into whatever echo chamber most easily assimilates their ideas. It destroys community, creating separate and increasingly militant echo chambers.
Of course, that’s not the only reason for those echo chambers, but it certainly isn’t helping.
The prevailing system discourages community accountability and discourages healing. The only thing it really encourages is incarceration. It’s like the old saying goes: when all you have is a carceral system, everybody looks like a criminal.
(Obvious caveats here: if you need to cut ties with someone over dehumanizing or abusive behavior, do what you need to do to be safe and to be happy and healthy.)
Listen in where you get your podcasts.
“Until we let the person who has been harmed have a say in (what happens to a defendant), then we’re never going to get to a place of repair. We’re never going to get to a forward place and we’re never going to get to true accountability. Because how can you take responsibility for what you’ve done if you don’t have an opportunity to meaningfully explain what happened and to apologize and to figure out how you can attempt to repair it?” – Inga Laurent (at 37:45)
RANGE of Care is a series of conversations on the intersections between mental health, the biology of human emotion, our bodies response and the social, cultural and political happenings in our communities. It’s hosted by Meg Curtain Rey-Bear, a Spokane psychotherapist. Luke usually chimes in too because he can’t help himself.
[00:00:00] Luke Baumgarten: Hey, it’s Luke. It’s RANGE of Care week. So I’m going to try to keep my intro brief, famous last words. I know Baumgarten, ain’t never done nothing brief, but Meg has a beautiful intro teed up in her dulcet radio voice. So I don’t want to belabor the point. It’s also a holiday shortened week, and we’re going to try to sneak in a second episode before the week’s over: our first arts related coverage, on the pod anyways, actually, which we’re very excited about. We’ve been talking and people have been asking for an occasional break in the unrelenting horror. That is the damn news, the damn news that range covers. So we’re trying to offer a little respite for y’all and for ourselves, but at the same time, there’s just so much damn news. We can’t really afford to take a week off.
So we’re going to try to double up. Look forward to that. On today’s show, we’re continuing our conversation on productive disagreements and we’re doing so with a professor of law at Gonzaga who studies theorizes and helps implement restorative justice practices in court systems and outside of judicial settings like schools, you’ll hear Meg mentioned Inga’s Fulbright year in Jamaica. She’s about to take another trip to Columbia, the country, not the university, to consult down there as well. She’s a dear friend of mine, but don’t hold that against her. Uh, Meg is too, by the way. So don’t hold it against either of them. And I’m personally very glad to have someone like her working on this stuff in our community. Briefly, the elevator pitch on restorative justice is that the American criminal legal system puts itself between the people doing the harm and the people who have been harmed. I’m going to try to not use language like victim and perpetrator. I’m going to try to say things like person who did the harm and person who was harmed feels a little clunky. Cause that’s not how we usually talk about this stuff. But especially when we’re talking about pre-trial –people who haven’t been convicted– more and more, I feel like can’t say things like victim and perpetrator without prejudicing, the outcome of something that hasn’t been decided yet.
So in the same way that if we want people to feel like they’re innocent until proven guilty, we shouldn’t be calling them perpetrators before they’ve been convicted of anything. Part of the idea with restorative justice is trying to find different words for this dynamic between someone who has been hurt and someone who has done the hurting, whatever that might be.
But back to the point about how the system puts itself between the person doing the harm and the person harmed. That might sound like a humane thing to do on behalf of the person harmed, if it weren’t for the tendency of the system to erase the aggrieved person or the group’s wishes, often entirely restorative justice is an approach to justice where one of the responses to a crime is to organize like a meeting between the person harmed and the person who did the harm sometimes. And maybe ideally with representatives of the wider community to repair the damage. Whenever someone gets prosecuted for a criminal offense. It’s the state, whether that’s the city, the county superior court, federal court, whatever, but some arm and apparatus of the state who effectively becomes the victim.
They aren’t like the victim’s advocate. They are the victim itself, like people versus OJ Simpson. It’s the people who are the victim in that case, not Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman, right? It often doesn’t matter what resolution, the actual aggrieved party wants from an outcome perspective, it becomes whatever the prosecutor decides to fight for. Usually without any input from the person harmed. And certainly no input from the larger community. We know that crime, whether assault or even petty theft and certainly murder, rape leaves, people feeling powerless. Traditional prosecution can compound that trauma for the affected person or groups by taking away again, stripping again, feelings of power agency and even justice.
There is never any incentive for a defendant to own their mistake, to apologize, or to make amends. We actually have systems in place and Inga’s going to talk about this eloquently. We have systems in place to prevent that those systems like Miranda rights, for example, are there for a very good reason. We have an adversarial system of justice where cops and eventually prosecutors do everything they can to trip someone up. And when we’ve had to create protections to ensure that people know what their rights are, so they don’t get railroaded into a false confession. And we’re sort of taught to believe that that’s a good thing. The cops and prosecutors fighting as hard as they possibly can for the people, the defense attorneys fighting as hard as they possibly can on behalf of their client.
But take a second to consider what that does to potentiality is for things like asking and receiving forgiveness or somebody who’s held on to a wrong so long that it’s materially affected their lives. What would it be like to offer that person a chance to have the person who wronged them say they were sorry.
And then the person who was wrong to forgive them with very few exceptions, the system does not allow that right now, the system ostensibly claims to encourage personal accountability. But that only goes so far. Right? What about community accountability? What about the person being accountable to their community?
The person they harmed, but also the rest of us. And it certainly discourages healing. The only thing it really encourages is incarceration. It’s like, you know, when all you have is a carceral system, everybody looks like a criminal. So that’s a quick primer on restorative justice, but we started this mini series thinking and talking about interpersonal disagreements, not criminal legal ones.
And I wanted to talk about the restorative lens to interpersonal disagreements just a little bit. I think we’re going to expand on this in a subsequent episode, and this is still an idea I’m forming for myself. So bear with me, but think back to the last episode, and maybe think back to your own life as this is happening a lot more lately, uh, to a lot of people I know where we talked about people who have cut off friends and family members entirely for their political beliefs or biases that they have, that they won’t let go of people are getting cut off for being too strident in adhering to QAnon and other conspiracy theories.
The danger with that, right, is that the more putting grandpa in solitary confinement for having a Marjorie Taylor Green fan page becomes the default move, the closer we get to just creating two parallel societies with different first principles, different truths, different cultures. And to increasingly don’t even know how to talk to each other.
Does that sound familiar to you? I want to make the obvious caveats here. If you need to cut ties with someone over dehumanizing or abusive behavior, we all need to do what we need to do to feel personally safe, to be happy, to be healthy. So kind of like the end of last time, I’m thinking this through for myself as a person who spends most of his life feeling pretty safe, who probably doesn’t have a lot of excuse for not engaging in this more, especially in allyship with other folks who wouldn’t feel safe having these same conversations, but the bigger that gap gets, right?
The more grandpas get put in solitary confinement, the more people get excluded from their community or their natural peer group, whether that’s family or whatever. The more likely it feels to me that the gap is just going to get bigger and bigger. As that gap gets bigger, it’s going to be harder to bridge the chasm.
And eventually the more likely it’s going to be that the chasm becomes unbridgeable –unbridgeably vast. It feels similar in one specific way to the American carceral system. When we just exclude people from society, we aren’t repairing harm. We aren’t making amends. In most cases, we’re actually leaving a person sized hole, especially if we really, really cared about that person.
We’re just warehousing people out of our own minds, out of our like somewhere else, separating them from society, from the communities we share together. The big difference here is that people aren’t locked up the way they are when we send them to jail and just throw away the key. We’re all just walking around, increasingly polarized, increasingly estranged, increasingly belligerent, and we’ve increasingly dehumanized our ideological foes up to and including family members. Right. And we all know what happens when dehumanization reaches a tipping point, right? Especially when it’s dehumanization tied to resource shortages and material deprivation. So what I’m trying to figure out for myself, and this is perhaps where we’ll go in part three is like, what would it be like to refuse to a estrange yourself from a loved one without just like agreeing to disagree or whatever.
It became like a meme for keyboard warriors and conspiracy theorists to be like, my family doesn’t talk to me anymore, just because I said the Democrats eat babies, almost like it’s a Rite of passage in those communities. It’s such a common thing to exclude folks that it becomes part of like a sacred initiation to a secret society, an esoterica that by definition, secret societies are something that you have access to and other people. So, what I’m trying to think about for myself is what would it look like to say, Hey grandpa, I’m not going to let you isolate yourself, but I’m also not going to give these ideas a free pass. I love you and this language is hurtful. I need you to do better and I refuse to give up on you. So anyways, that’s just a little bug I wanted to put in all of our minds as we’re listening to this conversation. And probably as we roll into part three, which I think is going to be as synthesizing these first two conversations somehow, who knows how yet we haven’t gotten there.
I’ll leave it at that for now. Definitely not a short intro. Sorry. Part two of agreeing to disagree. Restorative justice edition. Coming up.
I’m Luke Baumgarten and this is range.
[00:10:05] Meg Curtain Rey-Bear: So we have a guest with us today, but before we introduce her a little context and maybe a little recap, last episode, we began a discussion about the art of, and the importance of being able to disagree. I say began a discussion because in many ways, this concept, this idea is at the very core of our podcast at the intersection of most things, there are varying thoughts and opinions.
We know this, and I think we can all agree that we’ve become a pretty polarized nation for whom the idea of middle ground is becoming increasingly uncomfortable. But the thing is that without healthy disagreement, there can be no real and effective change, no growth, no new ideas. We also know that when disagreement is an unsafe option, we pull back, we defend our corner and we find reasons to justify our beliefs.
So we become more polarized. Truly having our feelings understood is profoundly powerful. It’s motivating. It creates a sense of comfort that makes being vulnerable safer. It allows deep healing to take place this isn’t to say that the facts are irrelevant. It’s more an observation that emotions should not be ignored.
Why is all of this important? Well, from a clinical perspective, because not being able to disagree, find middle ground to be safely vulnerable with each other. It’s not really working is it? And doing something because that’s what we’ve always done, well that approach isn’t working anymore. Either. I think I’ve said this before, and I’m certain I’ll say it again.
The goal here is not that we all agree. Not only would that be unrealistic, I don’t think it makes anything better. It’s just the opposite side of the same coin. The goal now is that we learn to disagree. When we can do that, we can be better at repair. We can take care of each other in bigger, more holistic and systemic ways.
So along those lines today, we’re here with Inga Laurent, professor of law at Gonzaga university school of law, whose main area of focus centers on analyzing and re-imagining our current criminal justice system. It’s called restorative justice. Inga is a Fulbright scholar who spent nine months researching this type of justice in Kingston, Jamaica.
Here at Gonzaga, she works tirelessly to prepare students for the challenges and opportunities that will be present as they enter the profession, equipping them with the tools for honest and critical assessments of our systems and ourselves. She’s an advocate for criminal justice in the legal education reform, and she believes we need innovative and equitable models to better address the shifting needs present in our evolving societies.
I’m Meg Curtain Rey-Bear here today with Luke Baumgarten. This is RANGE of Care. And today we’re talking with Inga Laurent about justice, repair, race and restoration. Agree or disagree as you listen in. Change does not take place without discussion. Welcome Inga.
[00:13:21] Inga Laurent: It’s great to be here.
[00:13:22] Meg Curtain Rey-Bear: Thanks so much for joining us.
And can we just kind of dig right in and maybe have you share a little bit of your journey? What brought you to want to talk about advocate for restorative justice?
[00:13:33] Inga Laurent: That’s a multi-layered answer. There’s a lot going on there for me right now. Just even listening to the question because different things have brought me to this place.
One, being my first job in legal services. When I, you know, I was fresh out of law school, hadn’t had a real job because I went straight through from undergrad into law school. And then my first job was working with victims of domestic violence for a legal services organization for a legal aid organization.
And I started to realize very quickly, you know, in that population that I was working with, they just didn’t have the resources and that’s why they would need legal aid attorneys. And it was incredible. And very quick that I learned how much poverty has basically a ceiling on what you can accomplish even with free legal assistance.
Right. And so that being sort of in that space, and then the sort of second wave realization, which was that I was basically having two people that needed to have continuing relationships, cause I did a lot of family law. And so two people that needed to have a lifetime of continuing relationships for their children, were being pitted against each other by a system that essentially cared more about sort of the resolution of the problem and not the wellbeing of everybody.
And so it was really eye-opening in that the system just couldn’t, it wasn’t flexible enough, it couldn’t pivot. And so what it ended up producing was a lot of what I felt was the absolute antithesis of justice.
[00:15:11] Luke Baumgarten: Just to like, be clear and make this explicit. You’re kind of talking about something like a custody hearing with parents who are fighting over something like custody control of the kids, sort of more looking in the system being sort of set up to look for wins as opposed to look for what’s best for both parents. And God-forbid the child?
[00:15:28] Inga Laurent: Yeah, and I wouldn’t even say it looked for wins. It looked for resolution. But I don’t think those two are the same thing. It looked for a conclusion to what was in front of the case file that was in front of them. Be it, there there’s a standard called the best interest of the child. But I don’t think that that was often where we got, often where we got was how do we split the time in a way that looks palatable for everyone?
How do we split the time in a way that, meaningfully works for the entire family, because the family wasn’t in a position to agree, the whole goal, especially if you’re represented by an attorney is to quote unquote sort of win, right. It’s to win all or to reap all of the benefits that you’re owed, you know, the, the, the law says you’re owed, right?
And so even if that wasn’t what would work for the family, what was best for the family, everybody was trying to get their share of, um, what they weren’t quote unquote entitled
[00:16:26] Luke Baumgarten: And so what I’m guessing when you said use the word resolution, was that the court or the lawyers involved or whatever the system is looking for?
An end, like you get to check that one off and move on to the next custody case or whatever, as opposed to recognizing that this is, it’s an ongoing conversation that needs to be managed and sort of helped along. Is that kind of what I’m understanding?
[00:16:47] Inga Laurent: Definitely. And it’s not really a conversation, right? Cause you’re represented by two other folks. So unless you’re in mediation and unless you’re in mediation often that doesn’t involve attorneys, uh, that it’s really, you’re not really having a conversation about what needs to happen. You’re doing affidavits, you’re involved in the court process. That’s those aren’t conversations.
And so that’s kind of, yeah. The distinction I’d say with restorative justice is that is all about dialogue. It’s primary sort of objective is dialogical. So that’s an, it’s a very different model.
[00:17:24] Meg Curtain Rey-Bear: I’m having this very intense experience. So. You know, one of the nice things about doing a podcast and not like live interviewing, like as we get a chance to kind of check in first. And so we’ve talked about some of these ideas, they’ve been percolating in my brain and just in kind of listening to this piece right now, I’ve had this experience of realizing even mediation isn’t conversational. I mean, really in my experience, as a family therapist, when people talk about their experiences in mediation, the person was just like doing what they do in court, but back and forth in two separate rooms.
And often for family mediation, they’re not in the same space. And, and is that part of the question, like, especially where families are concerned, and I know this is an incredibly new, I mean, cause we’re talking about justice on this big scale and we’ve kind of honed in on just families for a second, but that’s my area.
So it kind of, I’m sort of excited about this. I hadn’t thought about that. They go into that courtroom and it’s about the win. It’s not about the conversation and that’s, that’s kind of a little bit mind blowing for me to think about like, why are we doing that? And often they’re there because they don’t agree.
But what if the framework was what if that was the expectation? I think this is the thing that’s been percolating for me all week is we do something because it’s what we’ve always done. And Inga, you and I talked to, we talked about this, but does that mean that’s what we should be doing?
[00:18:52] Inga Laurent: No. Podcast done
[00:18:56] Meg Curtain Rey-Bear: Question five. Right. It’s easy–
[00:19:00] Luke Baumgarten: For what we actually do tune in next time. Right.
[00:19:03] Meg Curtain Rey-Bear: It’s an interesting, I, you know, like it’s easy to say. And then, the practice though. Yeah.
[00:19:10] Inga Laurent: Uh, I don’t think that the current iteration of the justice system allows for it. It doesn’t, it’s not a place for discussion. Uh, we talked a little bit about, uh, an often think about this as the system, especially if you’re talking about the criminal legal system is designed actually to keep the defendant quiet. Right. We all know the, like the right. One of the primary perspectives is the fifth amendment, right.
[00:19:37] Luke Baumgarten: Miranda rights and stuff too, right?
[00:19:39] Inga Laurent: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Uh, Everybody knows: don’t talk to the police, like, don’t say anything, anything you say can and will be used against you is literal court opinion, right? On Miranda where those words were written in because protections needed to be established and the court does not establish protections easily. So there was a host of information, um, coming in of abuses. Uh, and that is why the Supreme Court in Miranda v. Arizona laid down those principles that you have the right to remain silent. And so while yes, I believe in those rights and, uh, they’re, they’re necessary. They also block the ability to, and the desire to have any kind of a discussion to have any kind of meaningful opportunity to say what you’ve done.
So say you are at a place– I’ve actually was talking at a conference this weekend and somebody was, a public defender was saying, “there’s no way I would ever let my client say the words that they were guilty, especially in an arraignment,” right? The default is “not guilty.” And in fact, the judge would not even accept a guilty plea at that point, at the arraignment. So the default is to say that you are not guilty and to then not speak to anyone, including family members about what happened. So how, if that’s the default, how do we ever have true and meaningful accountability? I mean, and that’s the question.
[00:21:13] Luke Baumgarten: And I think we all, well, anybody who’s watched Law and Order or any one of the million, other procedurals, Perry Mason, whatever, knows that about our system, whether you’ve been involved with it or not.
Can you talk a little bit? And I think this is going to get into the cultural piece that we want to talk about later, where it’s, we’re taking outside of a court context and into like maybe interpersonal conversations with our relatives and stuff. There is something just as adversarial, or at least justice sort of polarized, about, “I am the alleged perpetrator of an act, and this is the, the person I allegedly victimized.”
That’s, like, similar to the sort of qualitatively different, but also kind of similar to the sort of polarization that we were talking about in Meg’s intro, where there’s no middle ground. So what is a model? Or just an example of like, how does a restorative justice process seek to sort of bring those two sides into healing in a way that the regular justice system obviously does not, but then also may be a mirror for non-criminal proceedings?
[00:22:13] Inga Laurent: Well, let’s buckle up for the next three hours. Let me try and sort of the short version. Yeah, not 30 seconds. Look, there’s no way.
I know. It’s I’m going to take you back. I have to, I have to start sort of at the beginning, right? When our societies were much more interconnected, right? We relied on each other. We had a pretty precarious existence, right? There was, we needed hunters, gathers, right? We needed, we really needed to be collaborative in society.
So if you think about that in terms of looking like a circle: the idea is that we were interconnected and that we needed one another. And that we couldn’t remove somebody from the circle because we needed each other.
So the primary objectives for if somebody committed a wrongdoing, if somebody hurts somebody else was not exclusion, but it was repair. It had to be repaired because we really, if that’s your strongest hunter and they did something wrong, well, we gotta figure out how to, how to get everybody back on the same track, right? How do we realign our community norms and promises to each other?
[00:23:26] Meg Curtain Rey-Bear: And I think that’s a really significant piece, is that it, those conversations focused around community.
[00:23:32] Inga Laurent: Yeah. I mean, community is definitely kind of the heart of, I think restorative justice. And so the idea is that you talk through something, you talk through a wrongdoing, you talk through what happened, which means it takes something from a binary: “Hurt,” “not hurt,” “victim,” “offender,” into a place where you hear people’s fuller stories. You hear people’s, “what was the motivating factors that underlied the actions that you took?” And when you start to dig into that space, you wow. It opens up all kinds of things, right. But maybe somebody doesn’t have the resources wasn’t taught how to have any kind of positive interaction in terms of how to work through anger, upset, a disappointment.
Right. And so you just start to learn a lot more. So you take a very flat picture and it starts to become way more dynamic. Uh, and that is kind of the heart of in very short. Um, and it’s extremely short version of the idea that dialogue and talking to each other, unfolds the story and a much fuller picture.
And so you can’t have a binary because you, once you understand somebody’s motivations, what was underlying somebody’s actions? Oftentimes not often, it’s almost exclusively. I can’t use the word always cause you know, I’m a lawyer and we don’t like those words. We always qualify things, but almost every single person who offends, who commits a wrongdoing is also a victim.
[00:25:08] Meg Curtain Rey-Bear: Yeah, absolutely
[00:25:10] Inga Laurent: has been a victim at one point.
[00:25:12] Meg Curtain Rey-Bear: And we see this, uh, this parallel in family work, you know, and there’s, I mean, there are a lot of parallels period in this entire conversation. Um, and we can save more of that, but we do, we see that parallel in particular, if the conversations are focused on the binary, that’s when, I mean hands down that’s most of what families are unhappy with when they come to family therapy: “we can’t communicate,” “we can’t problem solve.”
We get no resolution, but we’re talking about only the binary pieces. When they start to talk about the feelings, the history, what led us here, it creates space for understanding and then everything shifts.
[00:25:50] Inga Laurent: Yeah. I can also create space for somebody else to take responsibility. Cause a lot of times conflict is more than one direction, right? It’s more than just, “I did something really awful to you.” It is often “I’m holding onto something you’ve done to me.” “There was a miscommunication between us.” Um, so interpersonal right violence. It’s, it’s a different dynamic. And then you do have “crime,” right? That is between, and I say crime with quotation marks, uh, what we’ve decided and labeled as crime that occurs, you know, between strangers, but so much of what happens is really wrongdoing that happens, uh, between people who already have relationship.
[00:26:32] Luke Baumgarten: How does community get wrapped into that as well? I’m reading a book called the Dawn of Everything, which is a look deep into pre-history. It’s a book by an anthropologist and they talked about like, well, I can’t remember the name of the tribe. It’s a survey of kind of like a bunch of really old civilizations and indigenous cultures and stuff, but I’m pretty sure it’s a North American indigenous culture that even to the point of like murdering somebody, the repair would sort of go both between the person who did the murdering and the family of the person who died, but then also perpetrator’s family as well. And in some ways the, the whole larger community. So what does that look like in terms of societal pressure, like holds people accountable and while also allowing you to stay a part of the society? So much of what we talk about with the broken criminal legal system is: we’re taking people out of the community that might’ve been like one of their few remaining strands of connection to anything and completely cutting that apart.
So what does that look like at the sort of one level out zoomed out?
[00:27:33] Inga Laurent: Well, so first we had to talk about the absence of community in the common criminal legal context. They are nowhere to be found. Uh, imagine something happens in your neighborhood: are you ever told what happened, what the relationship was between those two people?
What the resolution was, uh, if you’re safe? No. You get no answers if you’re in the community. So the current structure is really actually quite poor. That’s not even quite poor it’s non-existent for community. And what that does is create a lack of information, a lack of any responsibility, a lack of any ability to contribute positively either to step into the gap, the gaps that existed in the first place, for example, uh, and it creates a disincentive for us to be involved because we’re told frankly, by non-involvement, that this is not our problem, that this is not your business, that it’s not your information to have.
[00:28:32] Meg Curtain Rey-Bear: Yeah. So can I ask, can I interrupt here? Cause I want, I think this is so incredibly important. So you said the gap, tell us what you mean.
[00:28:40] Inga Laurent: Okay. So the gap is all of the needs that are not met, that are not being met. And it happens in communities as a very interesting, because a lot of times you hear people say: “oh, we knew that was gonna happen.”
And then it’s like, well, what is the responsibility of the community to intervene? Well, the current state system, right? This is, you know, “state V. Whatever” the, you know, it’s the state actor that is the quote unquote victim in the criminal legal system, strips the agency from the community to be involved in those questions to take any agency to say, “oh, well, maybe we should intervene.”
“Maybe we should talk about this. Maybe we should go and check in on our neighbors and find out how we can help. We heard them arguing. There’s some stress there. Maybe they could bake a casserole. “There’s, there’s a ton of ways to sort of be involved. I mean the entire design of our society doesn’t really support that.
Right. It’s where hyper- independence that of interdependent. And in addition to that, uh, the justice system really freezes community out of the picture. “You should call the police.” “You should put this into the hands of someone else.” The prosecutor is quote unquote, the victim. It’s a societal wrong that gets committed, it’s not against an individual. And so that really creates problems because it’s again a huge disincentive to get involved. And if we don’t have communal support. And communal bodies to fill the gaps, right? That’s what we have now, right? Like a system that’s really, really not working and neighbors, community members, people who could provide resources, who could come in and fill the gaps who could especially maybe intervene, maybe positively intervene and put somebody who’s, who’s gonna have a wrongdoing.
We, we know it’s going to happen. Everybody says, oh, we see it happening. Could maybe we don’t even have to get justice system involved. We could positively intervene and support with the resources that are absent, but there’s no opportunity to do that right now.
[00:30:50] Luke Baumgarten: Well, I think about the way we frame these things in our society, two quick points, like one being like the adversarial nature of jurisprudence, being like a good thing that I would like raise my entire life to be like, wow, Only in a place like America, when you’re accused of something, do you have somebody fighting on your behalf as hard as they can?
Like, that’s the amazing thing about our adversarial system of justice there, you know, “Perry Mason’s fightin’ for you buddy,” the other side of that is one thing I’ve heard so many times from people who have had something done against them, or let’s just call them a victim for lack of better terminology.
A victim of some act is like the feeling of powerless that that act creates as stripping of the autonomy. And that’s a high, it’s a big piece of the trauma. A big piece of the harm is that loss of power and agency. And then the narrative is that, oh, you know, the state’s taking care of this for you. So you don’t have to retraumatize yourself or, you know, like we’re Johnny Law’s on it, we’re on it.
Uh, we’ll take care of it for you. And that’s like, that’s supposed to be a good thing. But in fact, that just strips the agency even further. The person is sort of double victimized, it feels like by not having any hand in whether a harm was done to them and then having no voice in the proceedings that follow.
[00:32:07] Inga Laurent: I mean, unless your goal as a victim is prosecution and punishment. And unless that’s the only need that you have, because that’s the only need that’s going to get addressed, right? Forget about the need for, and victims have a ton of needs for a much wider array of resources. So there’s the need for ventilation to retell the story, to take agency over the story and the outcome of what happened so that we can shape it more positively, uh, into, you know, uh, a building narrative where something, yes, bad happened to me and here’s how I responded.
Uh, so, but you have to have the opportunity multiple times to be able to tell your story. And in fact, you can never tell your story because it’s a disjointed version of your story. Maybe, maybe if you’re lucky you get to get on that stand. And maybe if you’re lucky you actually get to form a coherent narrative, that’s not interrupted by questions that actors that the attorneys want answered, right? It’s not your version of the story. It’s a sort of chopped up version of the story that people want to pull from you. And the biggest thing by far is the need for information. And that’s the one thing that the victims are absolutely denied because if we go back to where we started earlier, the motto is don’t say anything.
And so all of the person, all the information that the person has that has committed the act, the responsible party, they’re not going to share that information. And it’s incredibly important for a victim to have information. Why me, why did this happen? Did I contribute to it in any way? Am I safe going forward?
And especially we see this, these are cases that we’re talking about in the context where the victim is directly sort of trying to pull information from an offender. But there’ve been some horrible cases where there’s been a death, for example. And I know that it’s hard for people to sort of grasp the idea that you would want to talk to the person and that you would want information from the person who killed your loved one, but they are also the person who has the information about what happened.
There are some pretty incredible stories that unfold. For instance, the victim’s family thinks there’s a documentary called meeting a killer. And in this example, that unfolds. The brother walks around with guilt for years, 10, 15 years, because he thought he didn’t fix something on her car, on his sister’s car.
And that was the reason that she was stalled on the side of the road. Well, it turns out that she wasn’t, she actually pulls into the gas station to help the offenders. So it wasn’t about her, her car being stalled or anything like that. She pulled in to actually offer assistance to someone else. But the brother walked around with this for 15 years thinking it was his responsibility and his fault for what happened.
So the information would never have gotten to him. He would have gone to his grave thinking that he was the cause of what led up to his sister’s death, his sister’s murder. And from that same documentary. Incredibly incredibly powerful moment where the offender talks to the daughter and the grandmother of the victim and they ask what were her last words?
And he says, he’s crying as he’s relaying this. He says, I will never forget them. She said, I forgive you. And God will too. And the daughter crumples because this is a daughter who never had her mother in her life. And this is a piece of her mother being given back to her. And the grandmother looks at the daughter and she says, that was your mother.
It’s incredible. You get chills when you watch it because you realize, yes, this horrible, wrong was committed, but this daughter’s walking around right with this hole, there are needs, there are gaps that are not being filled and. The way that we do justice right now never provide space for those answers.
It’s not to say that like the justice system is like evil has no value. It has values. It just doesn’t have the, the monopoly on values, we have different values and different needs. And so we need to have a system that’s responsive and flexible enough to meet the different needs that emerge from wrongdoing.
And there’s a host of them. And until we can wrap our minds around the fact that we have multiple needs that need to be met, and we can give people the agency to define what those needs should be for themselves. And. Allow, as you are saying earlier, somebody else to make the decision on their behalf about what happens to a defendant, for example, um, a judge, a jury, a prosecutor who decides whether or not to take up the case or not.
Um, until we let the person who was harmed, have a say in that, then we’re never going to get to a place of repair. We’re never going to get to a forward place, and we’re never going to get to true accountability because how can you take responsibility for what you’ve done? If you don’t have an opportunity to meaningfully explain what happened and to apologize and to figure out how you could attempt to begin to repair it?
[00:38:01] Meg Curtain Rey-Bear: I, I have chills. I’m just, I’m thinking about all the implications of a story like that. And the, and the parallels in our everyday relationships. We have to be talking to one another. And are we getting further and further from that? And is this an example of what happens when we don’t, when we stop, this feels like a very human problem for which we’re trying a one size fits all approach.
How do we get from one size fits all. Like that idea, that victims of such a tr well, I guess two things come to mind. One, I think when, when a lot of us think of victims, we think of the survivor of the crime. And we forget that there are victims all over the family of the perpetrator are often victims.
The surviving family members of the victim are victims. I mean, acquaintances, it can touch so many people and it, and I think we tend, we tend to focus in just on the person who was hurt and maybe the little pool around them, but I see it all the time. It’s everyone. How do we get from this one size fits all system to an approach that allows us to explore, to experiment, to toy with the idea that maybe a survivor who wants to, gets to read their victim statement.
[00:39:23] Inga Laurent: And it’s very interesting too because it’s this idea that the victim is best served by the punishment of someone else. And a lot of times that’s not even what the victim wants, but they’re never consulted. They’re never asked, you know, a lot of times, you know, what someone who’s been harmed once is to know why, and that it won’t happen again.
Right. And that’s what they want. And so they want a generative response to the wrongdoing, to the crime so that we can get into a space where this doesn’t happen to someone else and punishment isn’t what solves that, you know, it’s, if somebody had didn’t have the resources, the ability, the capability to not do crime in the first place, putting them into a system where they go into a facility that teaches them more about how to be a better criminal is no solution at all. It’s really ludicrous and criminogenic.
[00:40:22] Luke Baumgarten: Situations like this, because I think we’re trained to sort of imagine a one size fits all situation. We kind of naturally go to the worst case scenario, meaning like we’re, we’re, you know, we’ve just sort of naturally gravitated toward talking about like murders and rapes and stuff.
When in fact it’s like, again, like I could pull up the stats right now, but like something like 80% of the people in our jail system right now, whether they’re pretrial or not are in there for an, either an accusation or a conviction of a non-violent crime. Right. And so when we’re talking about repair and we’re thinking about society as a whole, if there’s a bunch of property crimes in a neighborhood, wouldn’t it be better for us to really get in there and like, understand why folks are at a point where they’re having to break into their neighbors homes.
And because like, statistically again, you’re much more likely to. Break into somebody’s house in your own neighborhood than like driving all the way across town, especially if you’re the sort of person who’s like doing it because they have some desperate need in their life, like money, you know, to pawn whatever, you know, a bike you stole or something that could be a really productive societal move to be like, well, what’s going on here?
Why are all these people suddenly kicking down doors or, or breaking in when people are not home? And it could be part of a community conversation that also helps us address specific problems from a sociological standpoint, not just like a criminal legal standpoint.
[00:41:48] Inga Laurent: Yeah. But that’s assuming people want solutions. I mean, I think we need to grapple with, first and foremost, the people want punishment. People, when you
[00:41:59] Luke Baumgarten: say people who do you mean by people?
[00:42:00] Inga Laurent: I mean, people generally society, society, I mean, you think about it. If someone does something that hurts you, what’s our trained response?
[00:42:10] Luke Baumgarten: So it’s, but it’s a trained response. You’re like, I guess that’s what I’m trying to get at here. And it’s maybe because I’ve been reading this Dawn of Everything book, that’s like trying to flip societal preconceptions on its head. It’s like, is that the way we feel in a state of nature? Or if you know, is that the way kids feel about wrongdoing or is that what we’re trained to feel over time by the society we’ve all been raised in?
And that’s, I guess that’s part of what I’m talking about when I’m talking about.
[00:42:34] Meg Curtain Rey-Bear: And Inga brought that up and, and that’s what we see. And that’s, what’s really, really interesting. So punishment is the least effective form of response. It’s statistically, research wise, of all the different ways you can respond to someone actual flat-out punishment, grounding, grounding, doesn’t work.
I’m really sorry, everybody. Maybe we should do a little trigger warning there. Grounding does not work. It’s not effective. It has a lot to do with the psychology of what happens when you disconnect cause and effect and consequence, but it doesn’t punishment is the least effective, actually noticing what you want and focusing on what you want is the most effective.
And it gets incredibly nuanced here. Right? I really appreciate that. We are talking about big picture and little picture stuff at the same time and we, you, can’t part of what’s going on for me as I’m listening to this is that question of like, I know how to make this transition happen enough within a family therapy context I know how to help talk to a family about being stuck, focused on wanting there to be consequences for.
Been done wrong for the most part, people come into family therapy because everything’s, the system is broken down and usually one person is the target focus. Right? And there, you know, in particular, often parents are feeling under resourced and ineffective. And what we end up talking about almost immediately is how ineffective punishment is.
And when I’m able to send a family back into their family system with a focus on what they want and new skills for being able to disagree together, they don’t need to see me anymore.
[00:44:11] Inga Laurent: So I think I want to try and answer this in two parts first, because I think we have to address sort of what Luke’s question was and the, the response someone hurt me.
So I want someone else to hurt. You stepped out of line. We have these societal norms, you disobeyed them. You need to feel the pain for stepping outside of those norms.
[00:44:35] Meg Curtain Rey-Bear: But isn’t that a train– like haven’t, we’d sort of–
[00:44:38] Inga Laurent: I don’t know. I think, I think if someone hurts me, I want to hurt them back.
[00:44:44] Meg Curtain Rey-Bear: Instinctively
[00:44:45] Inga Laurent: And, but that’s the thing. We don’t make space for those ands we don’t make it. There is not enough space right now. Societaly and there is no systematic response for the and. I’m furious. I’m mad when I’ve been hurt. And maybe I also had a part in that hurt that I need to investigate. And maybe I also am just sad about something that was a reason that I got hurt and there’s just there’s complexity, but the societal response is And the support, the communal support even is the idea that the community is allowed to sort of put forward is especially when someone says they’ve been harmed. Oh great. Can’t wait till we get our punishment. They get their due. Instead of sitting with the, with someone who’s been harmed and saying, what do you need?
How are you feeling the instant response to somebody telling you that they’ve been harmed as don’t worry, the system will fix it, they’ll get their due, they’ll get their punishment. Which means, again, we go back to the needs question, there’s a whole range and host of what we need after our worlds have been upset, whether through it’s a quote unquote crime or through any kind of wrongdoing, but the societaly trained response.
And so trained that it probably feels innate to most of us. And there’s also a place for that right. Response. And for that anger, it’s not the only place, but there is a place. The response to B I’m upset and I’m hurt. And I want the other person to hurt and be as hurt as I am after you allow for that emotion to be, and to sit, maybe you reach a space where you’re like, oh, I’m hurt.
I need to take care of myself. I need my resources. I need to establish some kind of stasis within myself so that I don’t, that’s not my response, but I don’t think there’s initially the room to do that. And I think we just have to acknowledge in ourselves that the response that we often want, that we’re trained to, that feels innate in us right now.
Is a punitive response. I think saying that is really important because I think people want to push it away and either say like, that’s not true. I don’t think people want to sit with that. And I think we need to, because I think what it misses is that actually when we get through that emotion, what we really want is accountability. But the instinct right now, and because of the way it’s designed and because it’s been this way since the 15 hundreds, right. Since medieval times, this punitive approach, that’s not something we’re just going to like step outside of. That’s not something wherever just going to like that’s going to disappear.
I just think we have to be honest with ourselves that when someone steps out of line, when someone commits, like I said, quote, unquote crime or a wrongdoing, that is part of our response. And can there be other responses?
[00:47:51] Luke Baumgarten: I think I agree with you. And that’s why I’m kind of like, and this is where maybe, maybe Meg, you should jump in. Cause I don’t know if I’ve always heard about anger is just like, pop psychological BS, but it’s like, isn’t anger, a secondary response? It’s like an emotion that is triggered by a mix of like rejection, fear, humiliation hurt and like the unknown?
[00:48:11] Meg Curtain Rey-Bear: I like to be careful with that question. I think anger gets to stand alone no matter where it comes from.
Right. Like I think that specific question is concerned. I would say this. Anger is complex, but every emotion is complex. You could argue that sadness comes from a variety of things. You could argue that joy comes from a variety of things. I think the reason we say that about anger and to Inga’s point is that anger is the emotion that most of us tend to be the most uncomfortable with, even though we also express it more often. To your point, Inga, I think in many ways, what you’re describing is what, in therapy, we call the pause. So it’s not that I would ever sit any group of people down and say you know, you shouldn’t have those feelings. It’s more let’s pause. And when we’re ready to come back, then let’s look at our options because here’s what we know about what motivates change.
Right? If I’m understanding correctly, restorative justice is trying to do a systemic version of that. How do we pause? That’s where it gets tricky, right? Especially the more intense or, uh, impactful the crime is. Does, does action have to be taken right away? But even in that system, I mean, I guess I’ll ask this just very directly.
Is it possible for justice to be creative?
[00:49:31] Inga Laurent: Anything’s possible. Do we have the will? Resources? Ability? Possibly. But first we have to admit that we have a problem. And I think a lot of people. They are afraid to fully say we’ve embraced sort of the, the mantras now that the criminal justice system is broken.
You know, that’s a pretty, pretty common refrain, but what comes next or what we’re going to do about it, or how we’re going to take agency over that is where the question sort of gets like really frantic because people we don’t know. Right. And it means that we have to move into some uncertainty to start experimenting with how we do it better.
I think there are many really great actors who want different realities, but a lot of us are very unwilling to get into this space where we are able to experiment where we are going to try something different.
[00:50:37] Luke Baumgarten: Is it fair to say. I feel like I’m holding maybe too much space for this, but I’m really fascinated by this idea of anger and leading to retribution.
And, and maybe I just have led this incredibly fortunate life where most of the people, I know, even people who deal with anger issues, if you just talk to them a little bit, like anger is not the primary emotion they want to feel. Is it fair to then say that like the job of something like this or the outcome of, of more restorative, let’s just say community-wide thing, let’s take it outside of criminal legal would be to sort of minimize anger to get to a point where I trust the system so much where I try, you know, I’m I’m I trust society. Cause for me, anger really arises from a feeling of impotence. Uh, or an inability to be like, I’m not gonna be able to get through to this person. I’m just, I’m angry.
And I don’t even want to talk to them about it because the talking is not going to help. And I’m still going to be just as angry. We’re in relationships where people are can really easily be like, oh, what’s going on? Are you upset? Are you sad? Are you hurt? Like my anger, just like sort of washes away. The moment a person takes a step toward me and I almost never want to live in the anger.
I also don’t want to live in the hurt. I don’t know. And again, maybe this is just me. Like, I feel like I can hurt. I can mend my own hurt. I can’t mend my own anger. If that makes sense. Like, if I can get past the anger, the anger just sort of disappears and I can work on. The hurt or the rejection or the fear or the humiliation or whatever I’m feeling.
[00:52:08] Inga Laurent: Yeah and the current criminal legal system freezes you in anger. You’re frozen there because the result that, what they tell you is the result is going to be punishment. And so in order to punish someone, you need to be angry at.
[00:52:23] Meg Curtain Rey-Bear: Yeah. I actually had someone, I don’t know if this is the case anymore. And, uh, to be really fair, I have not looked into this at all, but, you know, I practice a type of trauma therapy that helps EMDR that helps to release traumatic memories in particular from the body.
Right. You don’t forget them, but you know, Like it’s a PTSD treatment. And I have, have heard practitioners historically. And again, I have not researched this, but I’ve heard practitioners historically speak about how attorneys will ask their clients not to get that kind of treatment until after their trial or their hearing, or what have you so that they can.
Fully express all of the, the pain and you know, and I have always wrestled with that, um, that you can still tell the story. You can say I was terrified. You just don’t have to feel terrified on the stand. And I’ve never understood like why in the world does a person have to be shaking to tell the story for it to be valid, but it all, again, I’m drawing a circle with my hand.
It all comes back to this idea that, I mean, I, I love that image. Okay. I love, and don’t love that image at the same time that the justice system freezes at anger. And if that’s the case in any, I want you to imagine any interpersonal relationship. If when we struggle, no matter what, the struggle we stop at anger, we’re all done.
[00:53:46] Inga Laurent: Yeah. And that’s what we have is a society of people who are all done with each other. That’s really scary.
[00:53:52] Meg Curtain Rey-Bear: Yeah. And we’ve talked about this. This is a incredibly human problem. So, you know, I asked about the justice system and the idea of creativity and thing is it’s really a question about, just about everything, doing things the same way, because that’s the way they’ve been done.
And there’s a certain comfort in knowing how, I mean that that’s the truth. There is absolutely a comfort in knowing how something is going to play out. Even when we don’t like the outcome, we see this all the time, right? The person who stays in the unhealthy relationship is a classic example of why, you know, when people, why don’t they just leave?
Well, because there’s a million reasons, please don’t ever ask that question. But you know, ultimately one of them can be because the known is better than the unknown. And so that brings us all the way back to this idea. And to Luke, the, the emotion I like to kind of explore the most is fear from my perspective, anger comes from there.
We are uncomfortable. We don’t feel good. We are afraid something isn’t going to happen, or we don’t have something. Or, uh, we, you know, we forgot something and, and that’s a simplification, but I feel like fear runs underneath a tremendous amount of what we do right now and how we decided to come together. And it is not helping us.
[00:55:09] Inga Laurent: And I think like fear of the unknown right. Is, is really important to point out like that with when we’re talking about the legal system. And it’s so funny to me because. For most of human history, the dominant type of resolution was restorative justice. So it’s actually quite innate with us. It’s something that we just have to get back to, right? This is an indigenous practice that was practiced all over the world that kept us alive, kept us sustainably alive and in relationship with each other. And it’s really, I mean, the middle ages sounds like a long time ago, but it’s not, it’s not, it’s not.
When you look at the grand arc right. Of our human history, that is a blip. And so yeah, these practices have been around and have been in existence for a really long time. And that’s, I think why it’s gaining more traction because we’re like, okay, we’re going to experiment with something. Well, let’s experiment with something that has a pretty good track record.
Let’s do let’s experiment there. And so I think that is why it’s gaining a little bit more traction, but middle ages, that’s a long time. That is a system that has been with us that has imprinted very seriously on us. And so I do think that it’s going to be extremely difficult, but the idea is to widen the arrangement, to widen the spectrum of values and responses.
To crime, right? Yeah. The question that I’m pretty sure it was Howard’s there who’s like the quote unquote grandfather restorative justice asks us, how should we respond to a wrongdoing? And in that question, inevitably, that means that there is choice, but it doesn’t have to be one model. In fact, that any functional society can’t just have one model that we should have a more flexible, more creative model that allows, again, back to this space for more needs to be met.
Um, because you can have somebody who’s a first time offender, right? You can have somebody who’s a 152nd time offender and the system treats them kind of the same way. Uh, we’re pretty locked into a box in terms of our range of possibilities for how we’re going to respond to that person. And so we need to try something.
[00:57:36] Meg Curtain Rey-Bear: Right. And, and I think, you know, this brings to mind the question of rehabilitation. The justice system also purports that it rehabilitates people.
[00:57:45] Inga Laurent: Lies.
[00:57:49] Meg Curtain Rey-Bear: Oh, expand please.
[00:57:51] Inga Laurent: Yeah. The capacity of rehabilitating– the money gets usurped into the housing and warehousing of bodies, right?
[00:58:02] Meg Curtain Rey-Bear: Yeah. This system is so ineffective that it just keeps growing. And so then the money set aside for programs has to be put into infrastructure. Yeah.
[00:58:10] Inga Laurent: And so the programming is minuscule. So even though we know and understand the idea that, you know, prisons are criminogenic, they actually produce right more crime. If you go in, you’re more likely to commit a crime and you will. I mean, isn’t that like, it’s insane. If you put someone into what we call the solution, uh, they come out better at crime. Wow guys, this is what’s really working for us.
[00:58:39] Meg Curtain Rey-Bear: Can we go back to that idea of not continuing to do something, just because it’s what we’ve been doing all along?
[00:58:46] Inga Laurent: But rehabilitation, you know, the idea of rehabilitation. I think it ties into the idea of accountability too. Like we just don’t provide the space for meaningful accountability or for meaningful reintegration into society.
Um, and that’s, I mean, I don’t want to live in a society where that’s true. I want to live in a society where there’s true accountability, where someone can look in my face after they have hurt me, tell me what was going on for them, what they did and what they’re going to do to shift and change their behavior so that they don’t hurt me in that way or anyone else in that way ever again, for me, that’s the win.
And I think most people will also admit that that’s the win. I think a lot of people, I mean, people love the word accountability, right? That works. That plays on all sides. Right. But we have a system–
[00:59:38] Luke Baumgarten: Our prosecutor a couple of weeks ago wanted people who aren’t even convicted to face accountability when he was talking about the reasons they were reluctant to do the pretrial diversionary. They were saying, “what about accountability for the people who haven’t been convicted of anything yet?” Yeah. Accountability is a big word. And I don’t know. I don’t know exactly what it means.
[00:59:56] Inga Laurent: Yeah. I mean, I think the deepest sort of truest way that like accountability rings true for me is confronting, confronting really confronting.
What you have done to someone else, hearing the ramifications of what you’ve done to someone else, hearing the full complexity of how that action impacted another person’s life, and then figuring out how every single piece. Of that outcome can be addressed and can be repaired.
[01:00:30] Meg Curtain Rey-Bear: So from your perspective, restorative justice is relational.
[01:00:34] Inga Laurent: Absolutely. In fact, it’s based in need and relational theory and our typical system is based on the idea of. Quote, unquote, call efficiency. Let’s just say like it’s based on the idea of result it’s result oriented, right? And so it’s not to say that it doesn’t have its place. It does because we don’t have a magic.
I wish I could snap my fingers and we can all be in this restorative place where we’re communal and where we respond. That’s not where we currently are. So at this point, we need a spectrum of different possibilities, right? It’s not restorative justice is not the answer. And in fact, it’s only the answer if you have somebody who’s truly willing to take accountability for what they’ve done, and you have someone in the place who’s ready to receive that because you can’t force someone to that table. That’s not fair to anyone. Right. And ideally you have someone who’s. To make amends. You have someone who’s willing to entertain the conversation from the other side, and you have communal supports who will support both people in that interaction and try and figure out a way to actually start to make the repairs in a sustainable.
Manageable way that recognizes the limitations on the capacity of somebody who committed a crime in the first place, because they didn’t know how they were supposed to act.
[01:01:56] Meg Curtain Rey-Bear: Right. Right, right. And it’s interesting because I feel like this kind of really touches on some of the core concepts of why we have to be able to disagree.
What has to be in place in each of us for that to be okay. Um, because it has to be safe enough to put your story on the table and not need everyone around you to like your story, to agree with your story. I think understanding is the one goal we do want to aim for, but beyond that, being, being liked, being admired, being, you know, it’s understanding and acknowledgement that move conversations forward that allow for differences of opinion for, for painful stories to be shared and heal.
We have to create that space and. I absolutely think it will take time, but this is about changing the narrative.
[01:02:51] Inga Laurent: Well, if you want some really nerdy shit, we love nerdy shit. I don’t know if I’m allowed to say that word.
[01:02:57] Meg Curtain Rey-Bear: Which word? Nerdy?
[01:02:57] Luke Baumgarten: You have to apologize to my mom, say, sorry, Theresa. Then you can, then you can swear.
[01:03:05] Inga Laurent: There’s a lot of talk about like restorative justice and it’s often talked about as this magical transformative process. Well, an author, her name was Audrey Barrett tried to put some sort of theoretical understanding around why it makes such an impact and what she talks about. She used linguistic theory and she essentially said, what you have is people, you, when you bring them together to dialogue with one another is people who state a claim and then can that claim can be checked, right?
So you have people coming from explaining their worldview, their position, what happened from their perspective, and then that can be sort of pushed against and what you do. You take people right where that whole entire relationship was broken. The bonds of communication trust, everything was really broken down and you put them in this space where they then put their validity claim forward and the other person puts theirs forward, they check each other. And what they start doing is they start building through that conversation, through that mutual inter subjectivity, understanding each other’s worlds, inner worlds, and what happened and understanding the complexity of that. They start to build a new reality together. Linguistically, they are actually.
Combined in a joint project to find truth together. And so what that does is create and repair a relationship that has been broken. And so, I mean, that’s the nerdy version of
[01:04:38] Meg Curtain Rey-Bear: well, and what’s beautiful about that is that happened. That can happen on a communal level that can happen on, on an individual level. It’s the same exact concept that when you feel understood you come out of your corner, you don’t need to defend that position. So readily. We talked about this last episode, that what happens emotionally for us, when we feel not understood is that we feel backed into a corner and then we’re doing everything humanly possible to defend that.
[01:05:10] Inga Laurent: So I just had a, I was at a conference, the Northwest Justice Conference, and there was a keynote and they talked about a restorative interaction that unfolded, and it was just, it was some kids and they were harassing someone at a bus station. And so they came in and the person who was victimized was super angry and the kid was smiling.
And so he had a support person who was Somalian and, and they were talking back and forth the victim and the responsible party about what had occurred. And they were trying to explain the, the responsible party was trying to explain what happened and then he turned to his friend and they were going back and forth and they were, and they were talking, you know, trying to figure out how to convey this term in their language to the man.
And he turns to the man and he says, I understand that what I did was, and then he struggled and he said, I disturbed your tranquility. And they said that the receiver, right, the person who had been harmed that moment completely shifted the entire room. It completely shifted everything for everyone because all of a sudden this man saw this really child in a completely different light and that the child had understood what they did.
I mean, how, how has the say I disturbed your tranquility. It was, uh, it was a mind blowing story. It was beautiful. I was like, we should talk to each other this way. All of the time. Yeah. And that created the positive path forward for repair. What do you have? What were you missing in your life? Who were the mentors?
Where were you? Why were you at the bus station? Why are you harassing kids? You just got here, you just got to the United States and it turns out right. But like, he’s, identified as, he’s a Black male. So he’s put into this category of how he’s supposed to be and act in the world. That’s not who he is. He’s someone that says we disturbed your tranquility, but that’s the box he’s put into.
So that’s how he’s responding. And so then we get to this person and we get to their truth and we get to the understanding that man, we need an intervention here that because we’re going to lose the man’s brilliance voice. We’re going to lose all that because he’s going to get put into a box and then look at how much we have lost.
It’s just, it’s unfathomable the energy, the thought the creativity, we just lose. The way we are currently structured.
[01:07:40] Luke Baumgarten: I feel like we need to do a part two with you Inga because we’re getting close to time. But that book that I was talking about has these really amazing anecdotes. Um, so I don’t know if this is the exact same anecdote that I was talking about earlier, but in this case it was when a, um, a Huron statesman, this guy, I think his name was candor rock.
If I’m remembering correctly. And I’m probably butchering that name, he became kind of like this famous person who in France, they weren’t even sure if he was a real person because of the way that colonialism was working back then. But around Huron meaning like the great lakes area, he had all these interactions with French, colonial governors and other, other folks. Around sort of the nature of freedom in Huron society and in French society. And this is like, you know, the beginning of the French enlightenment and really the contestation in this book. And it’s only just sort of an anecdote in the book is that like the French kind of stole radical enlightenment individualism from the tribes of north America, but what they missed, and this is the fascinating piece was that those individuals, because like state coercive power is not as extreme as it was in the middle ages in Europe.
You were, you mentioned earlier Inga about if your best hunter kills somebody, nobody wants to lose their best hunter. Cause you’re, if you’re the best hunter, you, then you’re losing a societal resource that’s vital to the survival of the whole group. There’s also this other piece of it. That’s like if the state power is too controlling and coercive people would just leave.
And that’s where like concepts of individualism came from in these societies, it was like, oh, well, I don’t like the way. My tribe’s doing it. I’m just going to go leave and either survive on my own or find another group. And that was like a check on the power of the state to be like, oh wow, we’re being a little too harsh right now because people are like threatening to leave.
So I think the individualism that we’ve had given down to us and that it’s kind of created these structures is so alienated and isolated. Whereas at least the way that this story was handed down from Huron society was more about we’re all individuals. We all have the freedom to choose, and we’re all creating society too. It’s like the community is a, is the choiceful reproduction and a continual conversation between all of the individuals in that society to be like, are we still going forward? And if that means one person peels off. Fine. That’s maybe not great, but maybe he’s a bad fit. Maybe he’ll find something better elsewhere for him.
If there’s suddenly a schism, maybe that means something is fundamentally broken. And I don’t feel like we have any of those signals in our society. In fact, everything we’ve talked about leading up to this is the exact opposite of that. Like it discourages communication, it discourages discourse. I just find that really fascinating.
[01:10:24] Meg Curtain Rey-Bear: I’m going to co-opt something from the Brits. I think we need to call it “minding the gap.” That’s what I’m going to call it from now on mind the gap. Cause that’s where it is. That’s where all that lies in the gap, right? The stuff we’re not seeing, if we’re winding up for it today, that the observation I have is on a lot of levels.
We’re feeling really stuck and were noticing that the systems that are supposed to be helping us care for one another are kind of accidentally doing the. I think we’re seeing and feeling. I mean, if I think about the different conversations we’ve had on this podcast alone, where we’re seeing and hearing about grownups and kids who are feeling more hopeless about the state of the environment, about politics, we’re noticing that our increased divisiveness, we have a justice system that is apparently doing a good job of making criminals.
I said it at the beginning, I think I said it at the middle and it feels really appropriate to kind of wrap it up this way now, just because this is how we’ve been doing things. It doesn’t mean we have to keep doing them. And I go back to this anecdote that when kids are young and this is a gendered observation because it’s usually between boys and girls, but when kids in quotes, when kids are young and one gender kid is picking on the other parents will often say, oh sweetie, that’s okay, they like you that they’re just doing that. Cause they like, and I remember having this conversation with someone who was like, yeah, why is that? What’s okay about that. And it changed everything for me. I was like, oh, well actually nothing. And thanks for that point. And it was the start of me realizing like, just because something happens in one way does not mean we can’t start having conversations about it being a different way.
And I did. I know I’ve I thought, okay, there’s my opportunity. And I have consistently observed for anyone who’s ever made that observation. Does that have to be the case? What if you, especially for girls in particular where people who identify as girls and female empowerment, right? Can we tell them? No, that’s not okay. You get to say that. And what if that idea can travel through everything? What if we can. Start looking at things and say, we need a different conversation here too.
[01:12:40] Inga Laurent: Well, I think to pull some strands from what both you and Luke are saying is I would call it stalled. Um, and I think there’s a real problem today.
Just laughing people talk about critical race theory or anything. The idea that we can’t question our systems, the idea that we can’t be generative and think about new. This is a living democratic experiment. And that is why I think Luke was talking about earlier with you can choose, right? We should be in a system where you can choose and you could choose to walk away, but we don’t walk away because we want to.
Generative energy to create something better. And it’s not a bad thing to ask these questions. In fact, it’s the most loving, caring thing that you can do is to invest energy and thought and imagination and generative ness around thinking about a different way, a new way, an innovative way to do any of these systems that we’re living in our relationships with each other, because we want to improve.
How is that? Not the ideal that all Americans can get on board with? I I’m so perplexed by that. How is that? Not what we should all be reaching for. Improvement betterment evolution. Yes. The only way we got there is by asking difficult questions. And by recognizing that this is an experiment it’s living, it’s breathing where we’re trying to do things better for everyone.
And I just, I think that really ties in sort of what both of you are saying is that we don’t advance societal. And we’re really, really stuck right now until we get into the place where questioning it’s critical, but it’s a critical act. I would say a revolutionary act of love because we love something because we care about something.
We care about it enough to want to make it even better. We want to make it align with the ideals and the values that we say we have, not just in word, but in every action. And I think that, I mean, to me, that encompasses what I thought America was.
[01:15:05] Meg Curtain Rey-Bear: I think that’s a perfect place to stop.
[01:15:08] Luke Baumgarten: Yeah. I think I want to have a part two pretty soon and I kind of want to talk about, so what I was thinking about when I was telling that story is like all of the stories we’ve heard throughout.
Probably starting before Trump, but really exacerbated with Trump. And then with all of the schisms that have happened, societaly with the pandemic and with George Floyd and with everything else. And people just saying like, I don’t talk to my grandpa anymore because of our political differences or whatever.
I would really love to contemplate what a sort of restorative framework for that sort of interpersonal healing might look like. And family healing might look like. Cause then I think that’s the smallest closest unit. And then maybe expanding that outward from family to community and from community to town and, and, and whatever, um, create our own ripple.
There’s so much of this. There’s so much hurt. There’s so much wrong. That’s done that falls outside of criminal legal contexts that. This feels like it could be a really productive framework for everything, not just the legal system.
[01:16:10] Inga Laurent: And everybody’s hurting. That’s a thing. Yeah. It’s yeah.
[01:16:15] Meg Curtain Rey-Bear: Sometimes it’s hard to say because you don’t, you know, like it feels really heavy and, but it’s so true.
[01:16:22] Inga Laurent: And anger is what masks the hurt underneath. And we got to get underneath it. We got to get to the place where we were like, yeah, this human thing is really, really super hard and we need each other to make it better.
[01:16:35] Meg Curtain Rey-Bear: So on that note, two final thoughts, maybe, one, I do think we need to mind the gaps, notice the things that are getting missed, but two and probably more important is in the meantime, as we kind of progress, because I think we’re going to keep having versions of this conversation in our effort to move this needle.
Is that: pause if you need, if you, if this resonates with you and you want to be doing something a little bit different: pause. When you’re angry, when your feelings are strong, when something’s gone wrong, pauses give us the time to ask ourselves the questions we need to ask to get to a place where repair and restoration are even possible.
Thank you Inga so much.
[01:17:21] Inga Laurent: Thank you.
[01:17:22] Meg Curtain Rey-Bear: This was awesome.
[01:17:23] Luke Baumgarten: Did you have fun, Inga?
[01:17:25] Inga Laurent: Oh, you mean at the conference that was supposed to talk about restorative justice?
[01:17:29] Luke Baumgarten: No, right now with me and Meg.
[01:17:30] Inga Laurent: Oh yeah. Oh, much better. My last few days, for those of you who don’t know, Luke knows, but I was supposed to attend the restorative justice conference, but it was canceled because somebody called in the threat saying, we should not be meeting.
Yeah. So, I mean, so clearly. We’re doing something right.
[01:17:50] Luke Baumgarten: The forces of evil don’t want y’all talking.
This is awesome. Y’all uh,
Ooh, that was a journey. Um, kind of speechless lived through it. Just listened to it again, kind of speechless. Thanks so much to Inga for coming on and sharing her life’s work.
Thanks to Meg as always for her vision and leadership with the RANGE of Care series and hosting duties. This was episode two of Luke was sick for two weeks. So I was remote while Meg and Inga were in the studio and it would not have sounded this seamless without Val Osier producing, Brennon Poyner engineering and recording, and Connor Bacon editing the interview.
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