Pleasant Surprises

By Joseph Hayashi

Having studied criminology and criminal justice in undergrad, I felt like I had a good idea about what was happening in our criminal justice system. The laws, sentencing, and careers were not foreign to me. I even knew quite a bit about the incarceration issues that we are having in the United States over the past years. I have studied and read a lot about the overcrowding, the bad conditions, and the toll being in prison has had on the inmates in the system. Also, having worked in a jail before, I thought I had some good insight and experience and would be prepared for what we were about to see but when we arrived at the Salinas Valley Prison, I soon realized that I was wrong.

I feel that being in the prison was a great chance for the class, but especially for me since I want to work with the prison population, because we really were able to see the dynamic that happens within the prison. Getting a firsthand look on how the inmates acted was an experience of a lifetime for us. I do wish we were able to see how the inmates acted while on the yard but unfortunately that was not possible this trip. The thing that interested me the most though was the interactions that involved the guards. I noticed that the guards had showed a high level of comradery with each other and initially I thought that that was just part of the Correctional Officer culture but then it dawned on me that that was necessary for them. The thought that they were constantly in danger and that in an instant they may never see each again must be terrifying. If I was in their shoes I most likely would act the same way with my fellow C.O.

I was also pleasantly surprised by the interactions between the C.O.s and the inmates. When I worked in the jail, I knew a lot of guards, that wanted to be C.O.s, who were very tough on the inmates and never nice to them. And then the image of C.O.s depicted in the media is always over being a hard ass. That was what I generally expected when coming to the prison. This is not what I experienced in the prison though. Most of the guards I saw were joking around with the inmates and talking to them like normal human beings. It was nice to see. I knew the guards could most likely be strict whenever they wanted to and that probably not all the guards in the facility were like this, but it was still nice to see some of them that way.

I think the only downside to this day was the debriefing session at the end of the day. While I think my classmates, all have very intriguing perspectives on the subjects we visit in this program, I don’t necessarily agree with everything some of them said. While I do agree that some of the conditions in the prison are indecent in many aspects, I think we still need to remember that the inmates are not the victims we just need to focus on. I do, adamantly, think that we need to improve the conditions in the prisons, but I don’t think we can victimize and forget that the inmates are there because of what they did.

I also don’t agree with the idea that we were fetishizing the prison system. I understand that in some instances that could and would be done by some people visiting the prison, but I don’t think we were in this situation. I feel that putting ourselves in those cells and cages were the only ways were would be able to really see the conditions that prisoners must go through, short of actually getting arrested and imprisoned. While I know that we will never really be able to experience the life an inmate must go through, I do still think we must try and put ourselves in a position to see those experiences first hand as much as possible.

Bringing Communities Together

by Joseph Hayashi

CASP has been a new concept for me in the last year. I started going to the meetings of the Community Alliance for Safety and Peace because of a project I was fortunate enough to join. Before this I had no idea that these CASP meetings existed. I had no idea that so many people in the community were coming together to fight the problem of violence within the City of Salinas. Even when I started coming to the CASP it was hard for me to get interested in the meetings, partially because of how early the meetings were, but also because I wasn’t sure about how effective this alliance would be. Part of me felt like the task of fighting violence in Salinas was insurmountable.

Honestly, I was losing hope on Salinas. I was giving up on the idea of a safe Salinas. As much as I wanted a safer community, I just didn’t know if it could be done. Every CASP meeting I went to was very informative about what organizations did and what new programs they were implementing to help fight the problems but I just couldn’t visualize how it would make an impact on the fear of violence in the community. I have been told how unique the concept of CASP was in our conflict resolution field. I still admire the willingness for all these organizations coming together; I just didn’t see where it would help.

When we were on our way to this last CASP meeting I was expecting the same experience. Some organization giving a presentation on what they do in the community and then everyone introducing themselves. I wasn’t expecting my feelings to change. But I was wrong. This meeting was completely different.

This meeting started off with a reflection on the recent shooting that happened in Gilroy. The head of CASP wanted us to reflect on what happened and how that affected us. He asked us to reflect on two question: “How did this shooting affect us as individuals?” and “How does shooting affect how we lead in our organizations?” My answers to these questions were very easy for me. I told my partner how I was desensitized to the idea of shootings happening in my community. I didn’t feel fear or sadness from hearing about the shooting, I just accepted that it happened because it always happens. But then I was reminded of something at the end of the meeting.

At the end of the meeting, one woman stood up to thank everyone for coming, doing the work that they do in the community, and reminded us to not forget why we’re here. To remember that we are here to stop the violence and to not let ourselves to become numb to it.

This stuck a cord with me. I took it as a reminder about why I am studying the subject of conflict resolution. It reminded me about why I decided to take a three week intensive summer program on peacebuilding. It reminded me why I stay up till 2:00 in the morning working on papers about stopping violence. It reminded me that I am doing this to make this community safer. It reminded my that I don’t want kids to turn to violence like so many people I know. It reminded me about how I want these kids to have the same opportunities that I was fortunate to have.

At the end of this meeting, I felt a spark re-ignite within me. I was shown why these meetings were so important. These meetings show not just what organizations are doing within the community but it also shows how many people care. It shows how many people are invested in this idea of stopping violence and making Salinas into a safe community that people would be proud to live in.

After the meeting, the class discussed what they thought of it. There were some people that said that they did not see the point of the meeting. They said nothing of importance happened. I was able to reply back that something did happen. We were shown how a community comes together in hard times to support each other. We saw how Salinas rushed to the aid of Gilroy in its time of need. We saw what happens in these communities, firsthand, when something bad happens and how they come together. For me, I was reminded about why I want to become a Peacebuilder.

Are we addicted to war?

by Joseph Hayashi

Who dictates our history? Is history really about the truth of what happened or is it just the perception of who controls the history? While I was growing up, I never saw any issues with the history that was being taught, I took it as the truth that everyone believe in. I never thought that anyone would change or use the idea of our history to control what we know but this is exactly what Dr. Qamar-Ul Huda was telling us about in his presentation today. Qamar asked us if we were ever taught about peace in our school system growing up. For me, I was able to answer right away. I have never had any peace studies taught to me while growing up. My schools did not think that it was a necessary topic. It did not fit in with the other subjects such as mathematics, english, and government. But after being asked this question I thought it was very strange that I never had a class about peace. With all the gang violence in Salinas, one would think that the idea of peace would come before every other subject but it never did. Then the idea of history came into the talk about peace studies. It was thought that history was the way people taught peace, in particular the history of wars. But Qamar made a good point, that I never thought of before, which was that we only focus on war in our history classes and don’t ever mention the times inbetween where peace happened. He explained to us about how being taught about war after war after war was a way the government could persuade us into thinking that we need more military security. This way of teaching history taught us that history is nothing but war and the only way to survive is to build up our military. But how do we change those thoughts? How do we incorporate the idea of peace into our studies? Are we so conditioned to war that learning about peaceful times would just be boring to us now?

We were allowed to try and solve this issue by creating our own curriculum later in the presentation. We were told to focus on both the formal and informal sectors for educating at the high school level. At first I thought the formal curriculum would be the easier of the two but while making the program I soon realised that the informal sector was the easier one to figure out. We focused on creating groups based around hobbies that were run by different professional organizations in the community such as the police. But once we presented our proposal there were some specific problems pointed out to us. The main issue that was pointed out to us was the fact that many of our programs were made so that a professional organization would have to facilitate it. There were no programs that would be able to run with the high school demographic alone. This project showed me how hard it was to integrate the idea of peace into a formal and informal curriculum but it did give me a lot of ideas that I will bring back to Salinas to try and implement there. Getting the chance to bounce ideas off other people was a great opportunity to see which ideas could work. This project reminded me why I wanted to get into the field of peacebuilding and made it so I want to go back and implement these programs for my community.

Ghosts: Useful or Irrelevant?

by Joseph Hayashi

Who is important when it comes to a conflict? Who are the people that need to be talked to during war? Is it just the parties that are directly involved in the conflict? Or are there other parties that should be involved? How close to the conflict does one need to be to be considered part of the conflict? One last question, does that party need to be alive to be involved in the discussion of a conflict?

This last question is what we had to think about during Kathryn Poethig’s presentation on the Ethical Imperative to Talk with The Dead. Kathryn’s focus was on the idea about how the dead should be considered whenever there is a conflict. More specifically, she talked about cultures that consider ghosts or spirits to be important factors in society. There are many cultures that have citizens that are visited by ghosts that talk to them. One think Kathryn said was, “If we cannot listen to the dead, we cannot walk with the dead, and then there is no stopping the devastation of the living.” This idea really stuck with me because the idea of talking to the dead was never an important factor that I thought of when analyzing a conflict. The dead were just the dead and something that I needed to advocate for; not something that could advocate for itself anymore.

I believe talking to the dead was never a thought for me because I don’t believe in ghosts. Growing up in a catholic family, the idea of spirits was always around me but when I stopped believing in religion, my belief in spirits was lost as well. The discussion of the connection between religion and ghosts was discussed in class, and even though most of the class agreed that the belief in ghosts does not have to be connected to religion, I still believe that is where my belief came from. So it was very hard for me to keep an open mind about the usefulness of listening to people that said they talked to ghosts.

And while it was hard to keep an open mind about this discussion, Kathryn was still able to win me over to the idea of communing with ghosts. We discussed the idea of being sensitive to other cultures’ beliefs in ghosts. I believe this was the most useful take-away from this presentation. While I may not believe in the idea of ghosts, I can still do work with societies with these ideas prominently ingrained in them. My beliefs don’t necessarily have to impede my work in another culture. As long as I come with an open mind and make sure to listen, the idea of talking to ghosts could still be useful.

Tough Stories

By Joseph Hayashi

Today, I think, was probably the hardest day of the whole program so far. It wasn’t hard on an academic level, but more on an emotional level. Seeing the conditions of the prison, this week, was difficult, but hearing the Cheryl Ward-Kaiser’s story was so much harder. Just hearing what she had to go through and what happened to her was so hard to hear, there were many times when I wanted to get up and walk out but I knew I couldn’t do that. I wanted to respect her willingness to tell us her story by staying in the room the whole time.

I am amazed by the fortitude and strength that Cheryl has but I think the thing that I have the most respect for is her ability to forgive the people that hurt her and her family. I think most people wouldn’t be able to do that, and to meet someone that is able to do is awe inspiring. I was amazed about how much effort she put into helping her offenders heal and get through system after everything that happened to her. I think what she is doing is by far one of the hardest things to do.

While I am happy to hear her story and want to believe that this is a perfect example on why restorative justice is necessary and the answer to all out problems, I just can’t do it. I am still a believer that transitional justice will help in some situations and will be an improvement on what we have now, I don’t think it will work in every situation that happens. And while it was good to see that Cheryl was able to forgive right away, it didn’t seem like everyone involved was able to. Also, I am still afraid that people may take advantage of the restorative justice system and get away with something when they shouldn’t.

The thing I do think needs to change though is the fact that we need to bring in more input from the victim on what happens in the sentencing process. Hearing that Cheryl was not allowed to be in the courtroom for that part of the process was shocking. It amazed me that we wouldn’t take more input from the people that were most hurt from the crime. We definitely still need to work on our system and incorporate restorative justice as much as possible into our current system but it ways that make sense and that take the victim’s views/feelings more into account.

A Glimpse Into The Future

by Joseph Hayashi

Out of a very exciting and thought-provoking first week of SPP, I would have to say that one of presentations that stuck with me the most was the presentation on Conflict Sensitivity by Sarah Cechvala. The reasons that this presentation stood out to me the most is because of the interactive component that made me really start thinking about the words that Kevin Avruch said in the second day of SPP which was that sometimes there is never a good solution. You always need to look for those unforeseen consequences. When Kevin first said those words I thought I would internalize them and always make sure to think every solution through as much as possible. Apparently, I was wrong.

During Sarah’s presentation, she had us look over a case study where we worked in an international NGO that was doing work in Cité Soleil to rebuild buildings in an urban area that was stuck by a natural disaster. For this scenario, we had to decide which buildings we would fix with the money we were given and explain how and why we choose to fix those buildings. Once my group debated and decided on our buildings, I was very sure about our decisions. I was sure that we made the right choices given our circumstances. There was no way we missed anything in the analysis of the conflict. But once the rest of the class started to poke holes in our decision it was made very clear that we did not think the situation completely through. There were many unforeseen consequences that we had missed. There even some consequences that we didn’t miss but we had analyzed incorrectly. This made it very clear how difficult it is to try and come up with the “perfect” solution. It seems like there are always going to be consequences that will be missed.

This case study also showed me about how difficult it is to stick within the guidelines of your mission. It happened on multiple occasions, during the case study, that my group tried to solve more than it was supposed to do. In our eyes we were doing good; why not solve as many problems as possible? But Sarah reminded us multiple times that we were trying to do too much. This aggravated me in the moment but once I reflected back on it, it made more sense. It made sense that one needs to focus on one issue at a time. If not, one could cause more harm than good.

This also started a very thought-provoking conversion with a group I was in later. The issue of whether “solving” the issue of a patriarchal system was part of our mission while trying to resolve a conflict. In this scenario, the patriarchal system was not necessarily bad and actually helped the country run relatively conflict free. While I do understand the argument that the conflict was never really resolved while the patriarchal system was in place, i resonated more with the argument that us thinking that patriarchal system as bad was us viewing at through our cultural lens. This brought up the struggle that I have been having, since coming to MIIS, over what gives us the right to define what’s developed and what’s not developed when it comes to other countries? Why does it seem like the Westernized countries are the countries that decide how to develop another country? Do we just get to decide what is good or bad for other people, even if they do want it?

Restorative Justice: The Answer?

By Joseph Hayashi

Is Restorative Justice the answer to the criminal justice system in the U.S. or is it just a new jacket to wrap around the same problem?

Yesterday was an interesting day in class, we were fortunate enough to have Professor Julie Shackford-Bradley agree to come and teach our class about restorative justice and start a worthwhile, in my opinion, discussion over the practices and theory. Having studied criminology and criminal justice in undergrad, restorative justice is not a foreign concept to me. In a majority of my undergrad classes, we discussed the idea of restorative justice and how the idea was gaining more traction in the country to replace the retributive system that we have now. I don’t think there was one professor that thought restorative justice was a bad idea. The idea that we would move away from a system that just punished people to a system that focused on rehabilitation and reconciliation between victim and offender sounded like heaven. Constantly learning and hearing about the insane incarceration rates within the criminal justice system here made me hungry to believe in any other type of system that would combat that. And then this need to believe in changing the system was increased when I started working in a jail. Constantly seeing the same people coming back every few weeks, for the same issues, was hard because I had begun to build relationships with these people and to see the system do nothing to help them was saddening. Not to say that they did not deserve some sort of repercussions for their actions. They still made the choice to harm other people and society but throwing in jail everytime wasn’t fixing the problem. The criminal justice system had really become a “revolving door” and in my eyes there need to be some sort of change.

This is why I was excited when I read that Julie would be coming in and teaching us more about the restorative justice idea and it’s practices. In my mind, I assumed that other people in class would jump on board because of the fact that restorative justice focused on the idea of reconciliation and the healing of a community. But I think I had assumed wrong; it seemed like many were not ready to jump on the restorative justice train as quickly as I had been. And once they asked their questions I started to understand why. While the idea of restorative justice is a nice sentiment, it won’t solve our issue of disproportionate incarceration rates that we face in this country. If we do not attack the systemic racism in this country, then the structural violence will continue.

This thought process made me start questioning the usefulness of restorative justice and how it still does not fix the overarching issue here but I still do believe that parts of restorative justice could still be useful. The focus on ideas of community building and rehabilitation are still very important in my eyes even though I do recognize that they would not work in all situations and with all crimes. I also see a problem with some offenders being genuine in their willingness to change or if they are just doing it to get out of punishment. I questioned Julie on this and even though she did say that it would be very difficult for an offender to successfully lie in front of everyone involved; in my experience I have met many offenders that are very convincing when they lie.

In the end, I am grateful for Professor Julie Shackford-Bradley for coming and telling us about the concept of restorative justice even though I am not completely sold on the idea anymore. I do believe though that parts of restorative justice could be useful in some capacity and that we should all still keep an open mind about this idea because the system we have no in the country, in my opinion, is not working.

Something Familiar

By Joseph Hayashi

The topic of police and their actions has become a very hot button issue here in the U.S.. It has become a dividing issue between a lot of people in this country as well as in the world. There are many people who do not like discussing police or feel uncomfortable talking about it and I am no different. Having studied criminology/criminal justice and having worked with the Gilroy Police Department as a crime analyst, I feel like I have a decent background in the criminal justice field but that still doesn’t change my uncomfortability around the subject. I understand why many citizens here are afraid/uneasy when it comes to police but I also understand that police are very important. They are still the ones protecting us and are the ones that run towards gunfire when everyone else will run away.

This is why I was very excited to here from former Salinas police chief Kelly McMillin. I really wanted to hear more from the perspective of a career police officer and I was not disappointed from his talk. Kelly was very energetic and knowledgeable about the subject of police and was able to give great insight into what police had to go through in their career. I was especially grateful for his insight on the emotional part of being a police officer when it came to police having to shoot perpetrators. I have met and befriended many police officers while at GPD, I even had a long time high school friend that is an officer there, and I have been fortunate enough for them to share with me about how they feel about shooting people. I feel like there is this perception going around that police enjoy using their guns or that they are unaffected by using them. While this is still a possibility for some officers, every officer I have talked to has told me that they hate it when they are put in a situation that has them shoot someone. I was especially grateful for Kelly being willing to share his experience with the connection between officers and drinking. Having a cousin that just retired from being an officer his whole life, it was hard to watch him drink so much. It was clear to many of us in the family that his drinking was connected to his job as an officer.

I was also grateful that Kelly was able to go in the gang violence and history of gangs in Salinas. Having grown up in Castroville, I have had connections to gangs my whole life. I have friends that ended up in those gangs and my family were friends with families that were in gangs. Going to MIIS is especially aggravating for me because when I talk to some other students about this problem, they either don’t believe me or don’t really think it is that bad here just because other places in the world and county have it worse. I am not saying Salinas is the worst; I just want people to acknowledge that Salinas has a problem with violence too.

While I am grateful and agree with Kelly on a lot of things that he talked about, there were still some things I had trouble hearing. I love the fact that Kelly brought up the issues that are contributing to kids going to gangs like family and friend social pressures, low economic opportunities, and fear because these are very important factors that need to be addressed. My only problem though is how to address these issues. While I do agree that these issues should not be the issues that police have to address, how could other city departments address them when they receive so much less funding than the police department. The police department in Salinas, and this is the same in all other cities, receives a significant amount of more money than any other city department. I’m glad that Kelly did mention the fact that police departments usually get what they want because this is a well known fact around other city departments. I believe that this is because there are some that still see gangs as a public safety problem when there is a growing trend of seeing it as a public health problem. I do wish we had touched more on this issue.

I also wish that we had touched more on the idea of intelligence led policing. I know that I am biased on this issue because I am a crime and intelligence analysis but I really do believe in the idea of placing an officer in an area because the data and trends tell us that is the most likely place a crime will occur. I think this is especially important and true while we are experiencing this deficit in police in a lot of the departments. I think data led policing is a lot more useful than having an officer on every corner because of the community fear of police going on right now and because we need to save on resources as much as possible. But I do see the need for police interaction with the community and for the community to see the police so that they can gain their trust in the police again.

I obviously don’t have the answers for the issue of the perceptions of police in this country but I think having an open dialogue with citizens is a start and I really am grateful and appreciative of Kelly giving us more insight into the the officer’s side of things.

New to Peacebuilding

By Joseph Hayashi

I have a lot of interest in the idea of Peacebuilding because of the fact that it is such a new concept to me. I had never thought about Peacebuilding until I came to the Middlebury Institute but there are instances in my life where I recognize that Peacebuilding would have had an effect on the lives of people around me.

I never thought there was anything strange about the way I grew up in a small town like Castroville, CA. I thought that being told not to go out at night, having drug dealers live two houses down from the house I grew up in, being taught what to do if a gang member asked me, “where I was from,” and hearing gunshots at night were all normal. There seemed to be nothing different or off about this to me because all of my friends went through this too. It wasn’t till I went to a different state for undergrad that I was told that that was not normal. It dawned on me how lucky I was because I was able to leave that, each night growing up, to go to my “safe” neighborhood.

While working in a jail, right out of undergrad, I remember having a conversation with an inmate about his life growing up. This man had been in and out of jail for violence and drug use. During our conversation, he told me about how he was used to drugs being in his life, growing up, because his mother and all of his friends used meth. He had told me about how he didn’t know what else to do but to use meth to fit in.

Both of these incidents showed me the disadvantages some people have to live with and what could push them to go down certain paths, even violent ones. This is why the idea of Peacebuilding is so interesting to me. I have personally met and known groups of people that could benefit from it.

I hope to learn more about the theories of Peacebuilding and learn how to put them into practice. I want a very hands-on approach to Peacebuilding so that we will be able to implement these techniques as thoroughly as possible.

Sites DOT MIISThe Middlebury Institute site network.