Jun 15 2011

Transformative Justice and “Cities of Refuge:” Miklat, Miklat Zine

From Just Seeds - Critical Resistance Portfolio Project

My friend Lewis has created a terrific new publication titled “Miklat Miklat: A Transformative Justice Zine. I have written and continue to write a lot about the concept and practice of transformative justice on this blog. I believe that transformative justice and community accountability models for addressing harm offer the best opportunities for dismantling the prison industrial complex.

Time and again people ask me for an easy definition of the concept. They have a lot of questions about how transformative justice would work in “real-life.” I always resist those questions. In part, this is because I don’t have all of the answers. More importantly though, I resist definitions because I resent being asked to provide THE solution to ending prisons. The solution(s) will need to be formed in community – through sustained dialogue and by trying out many different models. No one person will have all of the answers. It is all of our responsibility to address the inhumanity of the prison industrial complex. The key though is for us to develop and to actually try out community accountability models. We then need to document those examples and share them with others. That is how we will transform the current broken and immoral criminal legal system.

What I love about the Miklat Miklat zine that Lewis has created along with his friend and collaborator, Micah Bazant, is that it offers examples that will not in their words “answer all of your questions about transformative justice, forgiveness, and social transformation, but examples that raised questions [sic] as we thought about and tried to locate Miklat in our own lives.

At this moment in time, at this juncture in our journey, the questions that we ask about transformative justice are more important than the purported “solutions” that we can offer. It takes time to envision and build new worlds….

So what is Miklat? Lewis and Micah offer this description:

The Torah also describes six Cities of Refuge or Ir l’Miklat. Miklat means refuge, but its three-letter root has two other meanings; absorption and integration. The Talmud tells of road signs in biblical times that pointed towards Cities of Refuge, allowing people who had transgressed or been put out of their community of origin a place of refuge, absorption and integration. The Miklat can also be understood as an internal, spiritual process — of shedding an old self, being absorbed into a new worldview, and seeking a more esoteric form of refuge. It can also be understood in more concrete terms, as a city that accepts ‘transgressors’ of all kinds into its walls, forgiving transgression and providing safety from punishment.”

The authors of the zine both “got interested in the idea of the City of Refuge as it relates to transformative and restorative justice.” The zine is a manifestation of this interest and it offers a very good definition of the concept of transformative justice. I will not give it away. I encourage you to read the whole zine for yourselves.

Readers should know that a couple of posts from this blog appear in the zine. However, I would still be highly recommending it if none of my posts were included. I have read through the zine three times already and I am finding new things in it every time. I highly recommend this publication as an invaluable resource to all who are seriously thinking about ending prisons and about real justice.

I will be taking a break from regular blogging over the next few days as I prepare for the release of a couple of reports and complete work on several other projects. Have a terrific next few days!

Update: I neglected to mention that the zine accompanies an art exhibition. Photos of the specific art piece associated with the zine will be forthcoming.

Update 2: Lewis and Micah have revised and updated the original Miklat, Miklat zine. Here is the updated version (PDF).