“Clemency”, the movie, delivers a powerful therapeutic jurisprudence relevant message about the death penalty in America

Guest blogger David Yamada, Professor of Law at Suffolk University Law School in Boston and the founding board chair of the International Society for Therapeutic Jurisprudence, writes…

At a 2009 TJ symposium hosted by Florida Coastal School of Law, professor and death penalty lawyer Cynthia Adcock presented a compelling talk about the anti-therapeutic impact of the death penalty on all major parties involved with executions, beyond the condemned prisoner. These individuals include family members of both the victim and the prisoner, prison personnel assigned to carry out the sentence, lawyers and judges, and many others.

Cynthia produced an essay based on her talk, “The Collateral Anti-therapeutic Effects of the Death Penalty” that was published in the Florida Coastal Law Review.

I thought about Cynthia’s presentation and essay throughout my viewing of the movie “Clemency” (2019), an intense, outstanding motion picture starring Alfre Woodard as prison warden Bernadine Williams, who is charged with overseeing executions. The movie centers on events leading to the scheduled execution of Anthony Woods (played with great nuance by Aldis Hodge), who has been sentenced to die for the killing of a police officer, in connection with a robbery.

Thanks to a remarkable script and Woodard’s brilliantly heartfelt and dignified performance, “Clemency” is the unusual film placed in a correctional setting that portrays a prison warden as a living, breathing, three-dimensional human being. In fact, it makes an extra effort not to portray any of the prison officers as unfeeling caricatures as they go about the grim, detailed work of planning and rehearsing for an execution.

And therein lies a significant therapeutic jurisprudence (TJ) dimension to this movie. As one of a handful of “industrialized” nations to still use capital punishment, the U.S. has its own death penalty movie genre. It includes well-known films such as “The Green Mile” (1999), Dead Man Walking (1995), “In Cold Blood” (1967), and “I Want to Live” (1958).

Although I have not watched all of the selections in this category, I doubt that any matches the ability of “Clemency” to have us empathize so strongly with a prison warden, as we imagine ourselves wrestling with the psychological toll of overseeing multiple executions as part of our job.

“Clemency” is hard to watch. Perhaps out of respect for its subject matter, the movie offers no lighter moments to relieve the seriousness and tension of the story. We are emotionally with Warden Williams and prisoner Woods throughout the film. Nonetheless, I strongly recommend it, especially as a TJ-relevant example of how this particular form of punishment has few, if any, therapeutic effects.

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Talking about Therapeutic Jurisprudence (TJ) at Non-TJ conferences

Guest Blogger Professor Michael L. Perlin, New York Law School, explores how we can expand the reach of TJ and grow the worldwide TJ community…

In 2019 I attended American Society of Criminology conference where I presented two TJ-related papers— “Man, I Ain’t No Judge”: The Therapeutic Jurisprudence Implications of the Use of Non-judicial Officers in Criminal Justice Cases and “See This Empty Cage Now Corrode”: The International Human Rights Implications of Sexually Violent Predator Laws. I will, over the next few months, be turning both of these into articles that will, eventually if all goes well, be accessible on data bases available to lawyers and to social scientists.

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Can a therapeutic jurisprudence approach improve Australian parole systems?

Guest blogger Max Henshaw writes…
Nearly half (46%) of adults released from prison in Australia will return within two years. Coupled with growing, and disproportionate, prisoner numbers, Australia is failing to reduce recidivism and facilitate desistance from crime.

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Judicial conciliation in a ‘therapeutic key’ in Italy

Guest blogger Giuliana Romualdi, Lecturer in Mediation and ADR Procedures, University of Siena and PhD in civil procedural law at the University of Bologna, writes…

The inefficiency of civil justice is one of the main issues of the current political and institutional debate in Italy. There are various reasons for this inefficiency: despite a high productivity in terms of courts’ output, the Italian civil justice system is characterised by a high level of litigiousness compared to other European countries. Delay in the resolution of disputes is also caused by limited resources (both human and economic) of the justice administration, by frequent legislative changes, the low court fees, and according to some authors, by the high number of lawyers. Since 1990, sectorial reforms of the civil process have succeeded year after year, but the poor results are there for all to see. The length of proceedings is less serious in the criminal justice system thanks to the Code of Criminal Procedure (issued in 1988), which represented an overhaul of the system, with the introduction of alternatives to trial.

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Posted in civil law, courts, TJ for Lawyers, TJ in action | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sharing Therapeutic Jurisprudence Practices & Techniques

Therapeutic Jurisprudence founder, Professor David Wexler, calls on us to collect, disseminate, digest and employ creative TJ practices and techniques…

When we speak of TJ “practices and techniques”, we refer to the “roles” of legal actors—typically judges, lawyers, and others working within the legal realm.  In other terminology, the practices and techniques can be seen as the “therapeutic application of the law”(TAL), in contrast to the “therapeutic design of the law (TDL), which relates to the operative legal landscape of rules and procedures.

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Posted in Judiciary_Court Craft Series, TJ for Lawyers, TJ in action, TJ Lawyering Series | 1 Comment

Psychological Trauma, Social Pain, and Therapeutic Jurisprudence



Guest Blogger Dr Cindy Brooks Dollar writes…

What might our world – not just our courts – look like if we committed to practicing the components of therapeutic jurisprudence (TJ)?  Can we extend TJ’s principles beyond its intended legal context and into all of our social interactions?  Given TJ’s interdisciplinary foundation, it seems plausible to extend its principles beyond the legal sphere.

In this blog, I argue that sociology, especially Existential Sociology, offers a means by which to broaden the applicability of TJ’s components since the two perspectives share some concerns and solutions about social life.

The presence of TJ may be identified by various characteristics, but I see three
components as fundamental:

■ Building and maintaining trust and legitimacy by being respectful in
■ committing to inclusive participation through encouraging an expression
of standpoint of the parties involved; and
■ transparently making decisions in hopes that the decisions will be
perceived and understood as fair (Dollar, 2018).

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Therapeutic Jurisprudence in the UK: Reflections on the first meeting of the ISTJ UK Chapter

Guest bloggers Dr Emma Jones and Dr Anna Kawalek (Co-Chairs of the UK Chapter) report…

On Thursday, 6th June 2019, participants from across the UK and beyond converged on The Open University Law School in Milton Keynes to attend the first meeting of the International Society for Therapeutic Jurisprudence’s UK Chapter.  With six diverse presentations coupled with lively questions and discussions, it was an engaging and inspiring day that hopefully marks the start of even greater things to come.

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The legal philosophy of Therapeutic Jurisprudence (TJ) invites us to examine how laws, legal processes and the roles of legal actors may be undertaken in a way to maximise wellbeing. We often reflect on the wellbeing of people coming before our courts, but what about the wellbeing of the presiding judicial officers? In this blog we profile groundbreaking empirical research on this topic...

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Posted in courts, Judiciary_Court Craft Series, mainstreaming TJ, TJ for the Judiciary | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Therapeutic Jurisprudence as an anti-bias tool in courtrooms

In this blog, Professor Vicki Lens of the Silberman School of Social Work, The City University of New York, explores dependency courts and the intersection of race, gender and class and how TJ principles can be used to reduce bias in court rooms.  While Professor Lens’ work centres around dependency courts in the family law/child neglect/protection area, the ideas discussed have applicability in other specialist and mainstream court settings…

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Posted in child protection, family law, mainstreaming TJ, TJ for the Judiciary, TJ in action | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

In Australia, New Zealand/Aotearoa or Oceania region? Want to improve the justice system?

Interested in a justice system that improves the well-being of all those impacted it?

Come along to the first Therapeutic Jurisprudence Oceania symposium in Brisbane, Australia on April 13 & 14, 2019

It will be an intimate and relaxed gathering of people across the region to exchange current TJ developments and plan for the future of TJ in Oceania.\

For all the details link here to the ISTJ Oceania Chapter Symposium Flyer

If you can attend email Katey Thom ….  Katey.thom@aut.ac.nz

And spread the word through your networks!

Warm regards

Katey Thom & Nigel Stobbs,

ISTJ Oceania Co-Convenors

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