Transformative Thinking

Mikki Morrissette (photo by Sarah Whiting)

For more than 100 years, behavioral psychologists have known that punishment does not prevent most crime. What mattered for improving longterm security was to restore the dignity of human beings, rather than simply impose punishment.

Last fall, I visited New Rules in North Minneapolis. It is a creative workspace designed to collectively develop solutions for people of color. The owners’ mission: “We take unproductive buildings in overlooked communities and co-create innovative spaces to solve problems.”

I was there for a discussion about a community group investigation into the 150-year history of policing in Minneapolis ( A related, temporary exhibit indicated that a group of powerful businessmen in the early 1900s formed the Citizen’s Alliance, which prevented workers from organizing unions. Police used rifles, beatings, and arrests to quell the protests. Ultimately the Teamsters Union did prevail, but the exhibit raised the question: Who has the police force been designed to protect, and has it changed since those roots?

I was struck by the phrase “transformative justice” on one wall. It is an Indigenous practice used around the world that brings victims and perpetrators together to ask deeper questions: Why did someone cause harm to another person? Why was it wrong? What can be done to help everyone heal and ensure it never happens again?

A visual storytelling element that got my attention indicated the Minneapolis Police Department has an annual budget of $180 million. Beans were available for visitors to put into jars. The question was asked: If you could distribute that money to preventative community services — to get ahead of many of the issues that lead to criminal activity, instead of simply to react to it afterward — how would you spend it?

(photo by Mikki Morrissette)

Think about how society might be transformed if we invested some of our policing budget into the mental health services and access to food, for example.

The women in this issue explore how shifting narratives might effect real change.

1 reply
  1. Mikki Morrissette
    Mikki Morrissette says:

    I left this in response to someone I know from high school who reposted a meme about how defunding police means we should also defund welfare and food stamps and free medical care so everyone can protect themselves at every level. “The intention is to move some of the $180 million in the Minneapolis police budget every year into domestic violence programs, affordable housing, sexual violence prevention — prevention work to deal with low wages and violent men. Today a single mother of two, for example, who is making less than $3,000/month is able to get access to healthy food for her kids in the SNAP program (food stamps is not a thing anymore) as a supplement. It is used to fight hunger primarily for children. It represents less than 2 percent of the federal budget and costs taxpayers $200/year. Medical care is very expensive; I don’t know anyone who gets it for free, but I do know people who have fundraisers to help pay for hospital bills. If anyone has lost their job during the coronavirus and is getting unemployment, that is welfare.”

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