I have avoided writing this blog because there is so much that needs to be addressed regarding the judicial system and trauma – the theme of this newsletter. But of course, it is this avoidance that I, we must resist because avoidance often perpetuates harm. To talk about the judicial system means we have to talk about racism, systemic oppression, power, economics, and trauma and that can feel overwhelming. Even what we call the system can lead to inaccurate assumptions and connections. For example, some say the criminal justice system but this makes an assumption that everyone involved committed a crime and it labels the person (criminal) instead of the behavior (crime). Others say the justice system but for far too many the process and procedures are far from just. Both of these characterizations focus mostly on consequences, which is only one aspect of what the judicial system does.
Judicial related interventions also encompass preventing involvement with the system in the first place, healing harms, protecting others, and preventing continued involvement. I have worked across many of these programs. My first exposure was with a pilot program that provided an alternative to incarceration for women with misdemeanor convictions. My role was to be at court to complete assessments and determine if someone was eligible for the program (and determining who is eligible is one of many places where othering happens). I remember sitting in court and taking in the fear, worry, stress, us-vs-them, power, and hope that engulfed the courtroom from and between victims, offenders, and staff. I followed this internship with volunteering on a sexual assault hotline where I supported survivors at the hospital or court. My final internship was at a maximum security forensic psychiatric institute where I completed what was called not guilty by reason of insanity assessments and not competent to stand trial assessments. I continued my career in sexual assault response where I have advocated for and supported survivors for whom the judicial system often fails and is traumatizing. I have also spent time learning with and from judges, attorneys, probation officers, correctional staff, and detention staff.
To read the full article written by Mandy Davis, LCSW, PhD, Director, Trauma Informed Oregon click HERE