If you are interested in getting more involved with SPA, please CLICK HERE! You can sign up to create a chapter, or join our email list to receive action alerts and updates!
Ashley and the Student Peace Alliance team
Recently, the Student Peace Alliance has been working on a new project aimed at providing students and teachers resources on restorative justice practices. By exploring the resources, individuals can develop a deeper understanding of peacemaking practices that can be utilized on campus, in the classroom, and even in the schools’ disciplinary policies. We will also have a section on broader RJ advocacy. Our goal is to develop a new section to our website that is dedicated to providing this information in a user-friendly way. The two areas of focus are going to be restorative justice practices for K-12 education and for Universities. We are hoping for a soft launch of the webpages in early April, so check back soon! Please feel free to comment on this blog post with any thoughts or ideas on this new project that the Student Peace Alliance is undertaking!
The SPA is also supporting the Youth PROMISE Act campaign. This is a bipartisan legislation that will give communities funding, support, and resources they need to effectively address their youth violence and incarceration issues. By setting up local infrastructure specific to each community, more tailored programs can be developed and implemented. Engaging with at-risk youth and focusing on violence prevention and incarceration reduction ensures the programs are saving lives and giving all young people the opportunity to reach their full potential. For more information and to take action in support of this legislation, CLICK HERE!
And in international developments, the Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act has been introduced to Congress in the Senate, and the SPA is proud to support this legislation! This bill can help to prevent future genocides from happening. By passing this Act, the US will develop an interagency approach to preventing mass atrocities, integrate early warning systems, oversee development and implementation of atrocities prevention strategies, and conduct atrocities specific planning. In 2010, the president created the Atrocities Prevention Board, but it does not have any permanence. This bill will ensure that it will be permanent and continue to do its important work. GAPA also includes a definition of Peacebuilding. Please tell congress to pass the Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act!
If you are interested in getting more involved with SPA, please CLICK HERE! You can sign up to create a chapter, or join our email list to receive action alerts and updates!
Ashley and the Student Peace Alliance team
This post is from the Education from the Inside Out Coalition, written by member Andre Centeno. The original post can be found at this link.
July 30th, 2015
I was sent to a New York State Prison in 1979 and I was released in 1993. During that time I traveled to eight medium and maximum-security facilities. If it were not for my access to Pell and TAP grants that funded my education, I can honestly tell you that I would probably be dead or back in prison today.
When I embarked on my education endeavor, I started by obtaining my GED, and shortly thereafter, I enrolled in Ulster Community College. I received my AA degree in 1988 and, by 1992, I received my BA from SUNY New Paltz University. I was accepted into a graduate program in 1992 while at Sing-Sing Correctional Facility and received a graduate degree in Theology from New York Theological Seminary.
I can honestly tell you that my college education opened an entire new world to me. I could now hold a conversation on just about any topic where once I could only talk about drugs, guns, and crimes. Thanks to my education, I was able to discuss history, politics, religion, social issues – the list goes on. I was no longer afraid to sit with intelligent individuals and I felt like I could share my ideas and aspirations.
Through my education, I developed a level of confidence that enabled me to believe that I could now do something positive with my life. I went from not knowing what I would do when I obtained parole to becoming a marketable individual capable of doing anything I wanted. School enabled me to seek meaningful employment and no longer concern myself with needing to commit a crime in order to provide for my family and myself. I could now go on a job interview with the skills and the intelligence needed not only to obtain the position, but to do the job well enough to succeed and compete with others for upward mobility.
Upon my release, I entered Adelphi University and obtained a Masters in Social Work with honors. I now work on Rikers Island as a Team Leader of discharge planners. Every day I see inmates who suffer from the lack of educational opportunities and access to TAP and Pell Grants. These individuals lack the marketability afforded by a college education that would enable them to succeed when they re-enter society. Many have a GED or High School Diploma, but they do not have access to college because they cannot afford it. I see a number of individuals who are intelligent and could, if given the opportunity I had, have a far better chance of staying out of prison.
So, if I were asked, “Does the lack of a Pell Grant hinder these individuals’ chances of making a positive transition into society?” my answer would be a resounding YES! It worked for me and I know many others who have succeeded as I am or who are doing better.
If researchers tested the effects of the availability of Pell Grants for incarcerated people, I believe you would see the difference access to education makes to incarcerated students in the quality of their work thereafter. You would find that most of these inmates would be involved with positive programs helping others to understand the value of a higher education; you would find that these inmates would get less into trouble; and you would find these individuals helping the family members who visit them to stay in or return to school. I was the first member of my family to obtain a college degree. Today, my youngest brother has a degree, my niece and nephews have bachelors degrees, and another one of my nephews has a PhD in Political Science and teaches at Hunter University., At home my oldest child graduated high school, joined the United States Marines, and is scheduled to leave this November. They all told me that knowing that I obtained my degree helped inspire them to do the same. That in itself is success by any measure. This is what you would find if and when we restore TAP and Pell Grants to incarcerated individuals
For the lawmakers who have the power to restore Pell Grant to incarcerated students, I say this – when you educate an inmate, you are also educating their family, friends and all those around them. You are not only serving them; you are serving society as a whole. An educated inmate is an individual who understands that there is another way to make a living, and who becomes a vessel for change. When you educate an individual, you unlock their untapped potential – let’s unlock the potential of incarcerated men and women, and set them on a path out of prison and toward success.
Andre Centeno, MSW, FDC
Team Leader/Discharge Planner
Sign the Petition to send a letter to your Member of Congress about the REAL Act!
This year the Student Peace Alliance has begun organizing around a series of campaigns that focus on issues of access to education for people impacted by the justice system. This spring, SPA staff visited Princeton University to work with a group of students, activists and formerly incarcerated individuals on forming the National Campaign to Abolish the Box. This campaign, of which many SPA chapters are a part, aims to remove questions from the Common Application and individual universities asking people to disclose their history with the justice system and with school punishment systems. Through this campaign, students are fostering a commitment to creating more diverse and accessible academic spaces, and holding their own institutions accountable in the process.
Visit the SPA campaign page: CLICK HERE
Visit the ATB National Campaign website: CLICK HERE
SPA is also working on a campaign with the Education from the Inside Out Coalition (EIO) that empowers students to advocate for a bill that would remove barriers for currently incarcerated people trying to access Pell Grants for academic study. Through this campaign, SPA has garnered more than 2,000 new members of the network, and the petition we created generated over 3,000 letters to Members of Congress about the REAL (Restoring Education and Learning) Act. This campaign has also helped SPA to build a relationship with Brave New Films, who is interested in producing a video with us and EIO on access to education for people impacted by the justice system. Their social media network consists of over half a million followers, and they have had a tremendous impact on the visibility of our campaigns.
Visit our campaign page: CLICK HERE
SPA has also been involved in supporting a national campaign with the ACLU, NELP, and PICO Network on Federal Fair Chance Hiring initiatives, which, similar to our Abolish the Box campaign, would remove background-check barriers on employment applications. Our SPA Director has been working to cultivate future collaborations with these organizations to encourage larger scale support for Abolish the Box and other related initiatives.
If you are interested in getting involved with SPA, please CLICK HERE! You can sign up to create a chapter, or join our email list to receive action alerts and updates!
Director of Student Peace Alliance
The Student Peace Alliance has joined the National Campaign to Abolish the Box. The mission of this campaign is to remove institutional barriers on the Common Application and general admissions applications that prevent currently and formerly incarcerated people from accessing higher education. In partnership with student groups and community-based organizations throughout the United States, we are asking the Common Application to Abolish the Box by removing the question that requires prospective students to disclose information about their history within the penal system.
We understand education to be a human right. The United States has a history of denying education to non-whites, which is rooted in systems of racism, classism, and xenophobia. Certainly we see that these practices are still embedded in our culture today, including within the justice and educational systems. People of color, disabled people and queer people are disproportionately more likely to be impacted by the justice system as well as disciplinary actions in schools.
This means that most of the people who are forced to check "the box" on college applications are black, brown, disabled, trans, gender non-conforming, and/or queer. The box has codified and sanctioned university discrimination against minorities in the name of "reducing risk" on campus, but statistics show that there is no correlation between campus safety and the box. Instead, it has contributed to the systematic denial of access to education for those who have experienced lengthy histories of educational, social, and economic discrimination.
We believe that creating access to education for currently and formerly incarcerated people will not only help to reduce recidivism rates and increase chances at employment, it will also greatly benefit our campus communities and learning environments. We all have much to learn from one another, and creating barriers like the box deter us from connection, community, and friendship. Everyone deserves access to education, and it is our responsibility to create more inclusive, diverse, open, and loving environments in which everyone can learn freely.
To learn more and get involved with SPA and Abolish the Box, please visit this page! From there, you'll be directed to the national Abolish the Box campaign website.
Sally Kaplan, SPA National Coordinator
By: Caitlin Nettleton
What does peace mean to you? Not to John Paul Lederach or to Johan Galtung, but to you? With my first semester of Peace and Conflict Studies nearly at an end, I am still struggling with this question. So simply posed at the beginning of our week of Peace Psychology, the fact that I’m still struggling to answer it is to be expected – after having six, intensive courses this semester from Applied Conflict Analysis to International Law and Human Rights, the theories, ideas, methods and tools that we have learned are all competing (could we even say conflicting?) in my head; as each idea clamors to be heard I’m looking to find the combination that brings me to my own sense of balance, that encompasses justice, harmony, security and plurality as I seek to find my place and my peace in the field of peace and conflict studies.
The Hacettepe International M.A. in Peace and Conflict Studies (MAPCS) Program asks you the hard questions. With a global faculty and student body, we have a year of intensive week-long seminars interspersed with week-long reading periods. This is followed by a year of thesis-writing from anywhere in the world. Our professors in this first year are truly inspiring – activists, practitioners, and scholars, they come from such institutions and backgrounds as John Hopkins, the University of Innsbruck, the Harvard School of Negotiation and the Department of Peace Operations, to name a few. Some of the most interesting things I have learned from them so far are research methodologies such as SPSS data analysis and discourse analysis, the various types of violence (physical, structural, cultural, etc.), conflict analysis and mapping, and the five different peace families as seen in the trans-rational peace approach.
As for the students, I am the only U.S.-American in my class of 13. We represent 10 different countries and all sorts of socio-economic, religious, linguistic, cultural, scholarly and professional diversity. Not only does this enrich our classroom experience, but our living habits, too! If you want to know what conflict transformation is all about, come join us in our communal kitchen as we figure out how best to share food and keep the area clean for everyone. The professors live with us on their weeks here, too; together we learn theory, hone our critical thinking skills, and apply them with tools and methods of conflict analysis and transformation, all the while sharing a communal living space.
Being in Turkey is one of the best parts of this whole experience. Personally speaking, Turkey has been my passion for several years and so I revel in being able to do my graduate work in peace studies in a city and country that captured my heart long ago. Beyond my personal attachments, if you want to be in this field you could not be better situated. Istanbul, Turkey and the region are extraordinary rich in history and plurality, and this produces all types of conflicts from which to learn. I am not only learning about Turkey and the region, though – as I said, my peers come from all over the world, and just as we debate issues in the Balkans we engage with the issues of Ferguson and how police brutality compares in the U.S. and South Africa.
My journey with the Hacettepe International M.A. in Peace and Conflict Studies Program has thus far been a rewarding, enriching, and highly challenging one. Hacettepe University is a well-known university in Turkey and the world – for example it and has one of the top medical schools. Yet the MAPCS program, part of the newly established and pioneering Hacettepe Global Peace Institute, in my opinion far supersedes these other accolades. Situated in Istanbul and with global students, faculty and unique programming, this program exposes you to the foundational elements of peace studies while allowing you to find your own answer to “What is peace?” and thus how you can best contribute to transforming conflicts in our world today.
I hope you will consider joining us at the Hacettepe MAPCS program! Our applications for the 2015 Winter/Spring term (starting in early February) are due December 31, 2015. Our applications for the Fall/Winter 2015 term (starting in late September) are due August 20, 2015.
For more information, please find us at www.peace.hacettepe.edu.tr, on facebook/twitter/linkedin, or email us at email@example.com.
By Luke Kubacki, Campaigns Manager for STAND
For many of us who are continually confronted with articles, images, conversations, and classes about pockets of social tension in the world, it’s easy to see that patterns of violence erupting from that tension often correspond with patterns of identity. Identity manifests in many ways: race, sexuality, gender, political affiliation, geographic location, religious identification, etc. While the motivations for violence can be hidden or hard to decipher (political power struggle, resource competition), the violence itself very often runs along lines of identification, like the lynchings of African Americans in U.S. history (race) or practices of corrective rape in South Africa (sexuality).
The Student Peace Alliance and STAND have decided to combat this identity based violence by raising awareness about specific examples and providing engaged students with resources to raise awareness themselves. Over the next school year, starting this September and continuing through May of 2015, we will highlight an issue related to identity based violence every month. The themes will include race, religion, sexuality, mobility, and many more.
So, how is this going to work?
Each month, we will provide background information and resources on the campaign’s webpage and Facebook page to help you better understand the issue, take action, and organize events in your community. The month’s topic will have two different focuses. On one hand will be a domestic example of the month’s theme, and on the other will be an international example of the month’s theme. By partnering the two examples, we hope to create a holistic picture of the issue we want to combat and also unite two passionate and active constituencies to create a movement towards peace that crosses boundaries of interest and geography.
This month, we are focusing our attention on violence perpetrated by officials or state-sanctioned actors. Domestically, we focus on police in the United States, whose actions have been put in the spotlight over the past month by the riots in Furgeson. The Student Peace Alliance picks apart issues like the lack of accountability, racism, sexism/transphobia, protest suppression, and the militarization of police weaponry. As an action, we are writing letters to representatives supporting Hank Johnson’s upcoming bill to limit militarization of police forces.
Internationally, we focus on early peaceful uprisings in Syria and the Syrian regime’s violent crackdowns in the early weeks of protest. We explore the early conflict, pattern of strategic arrests, women & gender-based violence, US media coverage, and methods of suppression used by the Syrian regime. As an international action, we’re writing letters to Secretary of State John Kerry asking him to make the protection of women and girls a priority with the $378 million we have promised to send to Syria.
The Campaign to Prevent Identity Based Violence will be as powerful as we choose to make it. Check out the website, share the Facebook page like crazy, start a discussion, and take action.
If you have any questions or cool stories, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Sallly at email@example.com
Luke (and Sally).
dream hampton @dreamhampton
"These women offer a place where Ferguson youth could come & scream & cry & be held & heard in love. Mighty work."
Today I broke down in tears at my desk, mourning the death and the pain of everyone affected by police violence and brutality. Between Michael Brown's death, the militarization of police in Ferguson, the teargas, media censorship, racial profiling against black men, the violence against protesters in the MO suburb...I just feel helpless. My breaths are getting shallower and my heart is getting heavier.
I ask myself, how can this be happening? While we are by no means even close to a post-racial society, or to complete racial equality and justice in this country, we never expected to see brutality and censorship at this level. But what we must not forget is that people of color still face daily violence and overpolicing in their neighborhoods and homes. What is happening in Ferguson is a result of the same systems of oppression, racism and violence that plague people all over the country.
While some of us feel powerless, the residents of Ferguson fighting for justice on the front lines, facing teargas and scare tactics are exhibiting tremendous power, strength, bravery and heroism. We should channel their will, their power, their steadfastness into our organizing and advocacy efforts.
But right now it is okay to feel sad. I invite you to feel outraged, angry, empathetic, sad, heartbroken, inspired, hopeful, connected. However, in the face of such an urgent crisis, I encourage you to take some sort of action when you are feeling ready.
Here are some basic steps you can take to contribute to the growing opposition of police brutality and racial profiling.
1. Start a conversation by posting something on Facebook and inviting people to share their thoughts. While some people believe using Facebook is a shallow form of activism, I personally believe it's a great place for us to connect with others and share our thoughts.
2. Write a letter to your elected officials- city, state or federal- urging them to support Rep. Hank Johnson's new bill, the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act, to be introduced in the House soon. You can visit THIS PAGE to find resources on writing effective letters to your elected officials.
3. Attend a local vigil, moment of silence, protest, or solidarity gathering in your community.
4. Talk with your friends and family about issues of police violence. Share stories, share your fears, your hopes, your experiences. Connect deeply, with your heart and your soul and your gut and your tears and your screams and your silence and your mind. Connect with everything you have.
Below is a copy of the article. Click the article title to visit the page directly.
Our view: Congress can begin to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline by approving the Youth Promise Act this year
For far too many young people who get caught up in the criminal justice system, an arrest or conviction for even a minor, non-violent offense can become a one-way ticket to a shrunken future that slams the door on opportunities for the rest of their lives. Being arrested as a teen increases a person's chances of being arrested again as an adult, and teenagers sentenced to jail are more likely to be incarcerated later in life as well. Add to that the nation's harsh drug laws and stiff mandatory minimum sentencing policies and it's no wonder America locks up more of its citizens than any other country in the world.
That's why breaking the so-called the school-to-prison pipeline should be an urgent priority for lawmakers seeking to reduce the billions of dollars the nation spends on prosecuting and incarcerating juvenile offenders. But decades of tough-on-crime legislation has failed to make a dent in the problem, and it's clear a different approach is needed. The Youth Promise Act currently being considered by Congress offers an alternative that focuses instead on innovative, community-based interventions that engage and divert at-risk youngsters before they slip into a costly cycle of crime, violence and incarceration.
The bill, which has bipartisan support in both the Senate and House, would fund a range of evidence-based prevention strategies that have been shown to greatly reduce juvenile crime while saving taxpayers much more money than they cost. Among the types of interventions the legislation would support are conflict resolution and gang prevention efforts, youth job training, apprenticeships, mentoring and after-school programs, and substance abuse counseling and treatment. In addition, the act would support alternatives to youth detention and confinement programs.
These interventions are based on the concept of restorative justice, an approach that focuses on the needs of victims and offenders as well the community's stake in reducing the harm caused by juvenile crime. Instead of punishment, the goal of restorative justice is to encourage offenders to take responsibility for their actions by apologizing for the harm they have caused, making restitution and performing community service. It is based on the principle that crime and wrongdoing are offenses against individuals and communities rather than against the state and that conflicts can be resolved through a process in which all stakeholders affected by an injustice have an opportunity to discuss how they have been affected by it and what should be done to repair the harm.
Studies have shown that restorative justice strategies that foster dialogue between victim and offender result in the highest rates of satisfaction for victims and accountability for offenders. In Baltimore, for example, the Community Conferencing Center has mediated disputes involving some 16,000 people since it opened in 1998. In each case referred to it by the police, courts or school system, a trained facilitator leads a group that includes the offender and the victim, their families and community residents. The group sits in a circle and everybody gets a chance to speak and hear what happened and its effect. After that participants are given a chance to see if they can make up with a written agreement about how to repair the harm.
If they do, and if everyone abides by the agreement, the case is closed by the state's attorney's office and no further criminal proceedings are involved. The center, which has an annual budget of about $600,000 and a full-time staff of seven counselors who each handle about 100 referrals a year, say they are able to resolve 95 percent of the disputes that come before them without intervention by the courts. Moreover, the program has resulted in a 60 percent drop in recidivism compared to offenders in the juvenile court system.
That not only spares youthful offenders the prospect of a criminal record that will follow them for years but saves the state millions of dollars in prosecution and incarceration costs. A study by the non-partisan Washington State Institute for Public Policy found that for every dollar spent on county juvenile detention systems, $1.98 in benefits were achieved in terms of reduced crime and its cost to taxpayers. By contrast, the benefits of diversion and restorative justice interventions like the Conferencing Center were between $10 and $13 for every dollar spent.
The Youth Promise Act, which would be funded through grants from the U.S. Justice Department, would enable state and local governments to greatly expand the use of such interventions as a way of dismantling the school to prison pipeline that traps too many young people in dead-end lives. At a time when Congress can hardly agree on anything else, it is something that lawmakers can support regardless of partisan politics not only because it will save the government money but because what we're doing now clearly isn't working. A new, more effective approach to juvenile crime is urgently needed.
Originial Article: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/editorial/bs-ed-youth-promise-20140713,0,445106.story#ixzz37SfBOyIl
Below is a copy of the article. Click the article title to visit the page directly.
Juvenile justice reform should focus on our communities
By Jerry Madden
In the United States today, we have a problem with our prisons. We incarcerate our people at nearly six times the rate of most other industrialized nations, and yet we have higher rates of crime.
While our crime rate has dropped substantially over the past 20 years, crime and our high level of incarceration continue to have massive social and economic costs to our nation. According to the Pew Center on the States, state and federal spending on corrections has grown 400 percent over the past 20 years, from about $12 billion to about $60 billion. Corrections spending is currently among the fastest growing line items in state budgets, and 1 in 8 full-time state government employees works in corrections. Clearly we have a long way to go still, but there are methods we can use to make our communities safer while reducing incarceration, with its massive associated costs.
The cheapest way to reduce crime is to prevent it. Evidence based prevention and intervention programs targeted at youth can stop the cycle of crime and violence before it begins. Providing youth with opportunities and hope will prevent crime, give them a much better future, and allow them to grow to their full potential in life. A bill that would support such evidence-based approaches, the bi-partisan Youth PROMISE Act, is currently before Congress as H.R. 1318, and S. 1307. This is a truly bi-partisan issue and one which evidence shows most Americans of all political persuasions support. Considerable scientific evidence shows that approaches like those included in the Youth PROMISE Act are able to reduce crime, create fewer criminals and provide much needed opportunity. The Youth PROMISE Act works by engaging community stakeholders at the local level. Local elected leaders and local law enforcement will sit and work together with local teachers, students, parents, religious and nonprofit leaders, and representatives of the local health community, to choose a set of evidence based programs that are most appropriate for their community. Instead of one federally dictated program, the Youth PROMISE Act allows for a bottom up approach where local community leaders, who know their local needs and resources, would be able to determine what gets funded in their community. Local communities should use evidence-based programs and make sure they get and monitor results to show if the program is meeting its promises. They also should be able to change directions if their chosen programs are not getting the desired results. By engaging community leaders in the process and achieving buy-in before the programs ever start, those programs will be better integrated into the community as a whole and be much more effective.
The Youth PROMISE Act also creates a means to help communities track the effectiveness of their programs and the savings they yield, as well as a national structure to help other communities draw on innovative and effective ideas. It provides a resource, not a mandate.
Similar reforms have already been happening at the state level. As the Chair of the House Corrections Committee in the Texas Legislature, I led an effort to overhaul Texas’s Adult and Juvenile Corrections Systems. Between 2005 and 2010, we reduced the number of incarcerated youth from 4,700 to 1,500, saving the state about $200 Million. We did this with approaches like our Services To At-Risk Youth, or STAR, program, which provides family crisis intervention services, and our Community Youth Development program, which provides, mentoring, youth-employment, and career preparation programs. These programs can show tremendous returns. A Life Skills Training program, for example, has been calculated to yield $25.61 in benefits for every $1 invested.
And it’s not just Texas. Other state governments of every political stripe have engaged in similar efforts, including Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Nevada, Pennsylvania, New York, and both Carolinas. We know that a prevention and early intervention approach can work to prevent crime. We know that a prevention and early intervention approach can save money. We know that we can put at-risk youth on a path to a better life. I call on Congress to pass the Youth PROMISE Act.
Madden is a former Texas legislator and was instrumental in revamping the states criminal and juvenile justice systems.
Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/judicial/210990-juvenile-justice-reform-should-focus-on-our-communities#ixzz36Jq1Swer
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Hi there! Welcome to the new Student Peace Alliance website and blog! Let me introduce myself. My name is Sally Kaplan and I am the Student Peace Alliance National Coordinator for the Peace Alliance in Washington, D.C. I have the coolest job, because I get to work with students, organizing on campuses and advocating for peace. I get to go on trips to visit you all, create materials and chat with you whenever you need support. I get to remain connected to an environment of academia, student power, exploration and energy. It's not an easy job, but it's full of adventures, challenges, and I am so grateful and honored to be doing this work!
About the Blog
This blog will serve a few purposes. One of those purposes is for me to communicate with our student network. I will do that by posting news articles, updates, program information, and materials of interest. Another purpose is to give you an outlet to speak and be heard. We will have guest bloggers from the Student Peace Alliance community and the activist community in general, and I will be featuring SPA chapters, activists, and academics on the blog as well. I hope it will serve as a resource to you! If you're interested in guest writing, please visit the website's contact page and send us an email!
I want to encourage you all to check the blog regularly, and I will be sure to send out a reminder to our network every time there is a new post, so please sign up to receive our emails here!
This blog documents what the Student Peace Alliance is up to and what we're accomplishing!
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