Today was perhaps the most intense day of the program, but also one of the most interesting and engaging. I really enjoyed Professor Laurance’s session this morning, because of the way he related his own life, theoretical work and work as a practitioner into one session. I would have loved to hear more about the DDR (disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration) process, but certainly the insights and experiences he provided definitely indicated that this was an effective method of reducing violence. I found the moral and ethical questions raised by inviting groups who were previously rebels or violent into participating in the formal political process to be fascinating. Whether there is a right or wrong answer, I definitely feel it depends on what the priority of the country or community is at that time. Has the violence become untenable that compromise comes easy? Through this difficult question and Professor Laurance’s discussions afterwards, it became clear that he was right: peace is not about fairness or about development (at least in these instances, of intense violence).

I think that DDR can be extremely effective if it is accepted that DDR is a first step, and that the process that follows is just as arduous as laying down the guns. Similarly in his discussion about the CURE model, it became clear that he is a pragmatist. Conceding that there is nothing he can do about the quantity and accessibility of weapons on the streets of Chicago, it is clear that him and his colleagues are serious about finding creative ways to curb the amount of violence and homicide in that city. Overall, his talk was a good real word example of connecting much of the theory we covered last week (ie structural violence, trauma informed care etc), to hands-on practice – which I really appreciated, and I think the timing of his session was perfect. The thing I like most about the CURE model was the approach of assessing gun violence as a public-health dilemma. To me this seemed like an acknowledgment of past policy failures, and a commitment to finding a new path forward.

I think a lot of what Professor Laurance said was reinforced by what Julie Reynold’s included in her discussion with us, particularly relating to how peace building happens at all stages of the process. Without going into her talk in too much depth, I found the level to which the gang violence in California (and prisons here) is entrenched in a vicious cycle to be alarming. I really appreciated the level of depth and context which she went to great lengths to provide, as I found it particularly helpful as someone from outside of the U.S. who was pretty much oblivious to the extent of the unique criminal justice situation here. I think for me the most interesting take-away from her talk was the question she posed to us: Do the prisons design the gangs, or do the gangs design the prisons? In light of the discussion with Willie later on, it definitely seems clear that despite the fact that many of their rights are violated, privileges are restricted, and they are imprisoned, gangs and their members still seem to wield an enormous amount of influence for people who are supposed to be controlled by the prison-industrial complex, which is carrying out ‘justice.’