ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
Below are the notes for "A Moment of Atonement." Similar warnings apply to these as to the poem itself.


Tarrant Martines -- He has fair skin, brown eyes, and dark brown hair buzzed short. He is big and beefy. He has a text tattoo on his right shoulder and a spiderweb on his left elbow. He lives in Bluehill, Missouri where he serves as a police adjudicator.
Qualities: Master (+6) Peacemaking, Expert (+4) Emotional Intelligence, Expert (+4) Police Adjudicator, Good (+2) Community Spirit, Good (+2) Former Gangster, Good (+2) Strength
Poor (-2) Self-Preservation

Randall Coontz -- He has fair skin, brown eyes, and dark hair buzzed short. He is slender with wiry muscles. Randall works at the police department in Bluehill, Missouri. Although inexperienced, he follows guidance well and learns quickly. He is fast on his feet and generally good at physical tasks. He enjoys hunting and other outdoor activities, although he's no better than average yet.
Qualities: Good (+2) Eager, Good (+2) Fast, Good (+2) Followship Skills, Good (+2) Kinesthetic Intelligence, Good (+2) Rookie Cop
Poor (-2) Inexperienced

* * *

"Karma means that all actions have consequences. Grace means that in a moment of atonement -- taking responsibility, making amends, asking for forgiveness -- all karma is burned."
-- Marianne Williamson

This is a sitemap of the Bluehill police station on the west side of Concord Boulevard and its parallel train track. North of the police station is a row of buildings with the old town hall in the center, flanked by others of mixed use, and one separate. There is an attached parking garage behind the row by the railroad tracks. Open parking is around the other sides of the buildings.

See a floor plan of the police station. A spacious lobby of bulletproof glass opens into the public-accessible portion of the police station. Most citizens need either the administrative office, the large conference room (with smart glass), the administrative office, or the records room which are adjacent to the lobby. The squad room is off to the right, in yellow. The Special Victims Unit has a soft interview room at the back of the squad room. (Contrast this with the hard interrogation rooms.) The small storage space below the canteen is the department's physical and emotional first aid station, wedged in alongside their emergency medical supplies.

The playground across from the police station has a climbing frame, tree fort, and nature play area. Although it includes fun places to hide, the area is quite well lit and the lighting is controlled from the police station. Usually the nighttime lighting is moderate, but it can be turned up brighter for play or security. There are fountains with colorful lights alongside the parking lot.

A white pine hedge separates the playground from the plaza. Many of the other hedges in this development are also white pine, trimmed to various heights, and there are some larger evergreens as well. Solar-powered "mushroom" lights along the hedges provide security lighting.

The parklet contains several bushes, some of which have hidey holes underneath them to attract children and wildlife. The larger dens like this one have a single "mushroom" light inside, each in a different color.

The area marked "play" has a wooden climbing frame similar to this one, with a slide and several swings. However, the base is covered in wood chips rather than grass. There are lights under each of the towers.

The cluster of trees in the playground hides a tree fort. A ground-level playhouse lies under the first flight of stairs. The deck above the playhouse leads to more stairs and a board bridge to the tree fort and its deck. From that level, a ladder goes up to the crow's nest. There are lights in the playhouse, under and inside the tree fort, and under the crow's nest.

Alongside the tree fort is the nature play area. It includes stationary fixtures such as a large hollow log, stumps, and a log table with chair. Beside the hollow log you can see several of the low, wide stepping stumps. There are also plenty of small logs and log slices that children can move around to build temporary structures.

These are some of the taller, narrower stepping stumps intended for older children. Behind them you can also see a narrow balancing log.

A variety of log benches provide seating around the playground.

Low wooden bridges connect the different sectors of the playground.

Mill Creek Park runs along the southern edge of Cambridge Commons. This trail leads into the forest. There are open grassy areas too. Here is Mill Creek itself. The bridges where Mill Creek runs near the industrial park are most prone to attract graffiti and people hanging out under them, because traffic is low and the water rarely rises far up the banks of gravel and clay. These are places where the homeless people camp out and the young troublemakers like to go for a packet of drugs or a quick screw.

(Some of these links are disturbing.)
In local-America, not only black people but also white people often fear the police. Part of that is because of police violence, but also because a police officer who kills a civilian faces less than a 1 in 1,000 chance of even being asked to justify that in court, let along convicted. Under these circumstances, the citizen response is correct distrust. However, this has a number of negative consequences; for example, people who fear the police report fewer crimes. This also plays into a variety of protests. Fortunately, the situation in Terramagne-America is much better; police there behave better on average and are usually held accountable if they do not. Problems still arise occasionally, but responsible officers help citizens overcome fear of the police. Ansel and Tarrant don't take Turq's panic attack personally, and they do what they can to help him cope. Over time, that will wear down Turq's level of anxiety from past damage.

In T-America, smartphones and vidwatches can be used to send a simple alert to someone else, such as a buzzer tone. Similar apps are available for smartphones in local-America. In this case, Ansel has prearranged to send an alert to Randall if Turq needs the doors opened, so they will be open by the time he gets there. It's safer than teleporting in a panic.

Apologizing is the Ninth Step in recovery programs: making amends to people you have harmed. An interesting feature in Terramagne justice is a tendency toward tolerable amends. Feeling guilty sucks, so if the result of confessing harm is a bearable penalty, then more people will do it. If the price is higher than they can bear, however, they have no incentive to make amends so things don't get fixed without using force. This is a prevailing premise behind all kinds of alternative justice in T-America. Know the elements of an effective apology, how to apologize, and how to make amends. SPOON has resources on these steps for supervillains who want to make up for their mistakes.

Alternative justice spans a wide range of systems and techniques meant to supplement or replace the criminal system. Restorative justice focuses on repairing broken relationships between the offender and victim(s). Community justice concentrates on the damage done to local society by offenders, and it most often covers quality-of-life offenses such as vandalism. Community court is a common manifestation of community justice, but it can actually range from something as simple as a counselor setting penalties to the complexities of an auxiliary courtroom complete with judge and jury. In complex cases such as Turq's situation, T-America prefers to clear the accounts in both directions so as to restore true balance, which has a high rate of success. L-America tends to focus only on what people owe to society, not what society owes to its citizens; since the underlying cause is not addressed, the problems often recur.

Reintegration is a vital step in corrections theory, and L-America does a lousy job of it. T-American society functions much like a Tesla fluid valve. The easiest course of action is toward healthy civilization. While it is possible to move in the opposite direction, it is more difficult to do so, and the system is designed to reroute people back in the proper direction. This process requires community support in order to allow former criminals to rejoin society successfully. Much the same is true regarding homelessness.

See Turq's blue flannel shirt and jeans.

Striationary marks are characteristic injuries left when a speedster, or certain types of teleporter, pulls away from restraint. It leaves long wounds, ranging from scrapes to deep lacerations, sometimes with joint injury such as sprains or dislocations, and some people have managed to tear off a limb that way. Medics and police staff have learned to look for them as signs that someone was forcibly (and not very competently) restrained. That fact that traumatized people in general, and some types of soups in particular, tend to panic under constraint is one reason why Terramagne authorities prefer to minimize the use of restraints or other confinement; it's too hard to do without causing additional damage in some cases. There have also been examples of striationary marks on an officer who made the mistake of handcuffing himself to a captive. So that technique is outright banned, except in cases where both parties are willing; it's a safety technique that emergency workers use occasionally, but that's with a soft medical type of hand-harness which is much safer for everyone.

Read about Buddhist forgiveness when one has harmed another (part 1, part 2, part 3). Self-forgiveness is an important life skill.

Trauma survivors often show worrisome symptoms of decompensation as the extreme stress overwhelms their coping skills. Trauma-informed care offers compassionate, effective ways to help survivors. In T-America, the police adjudicators are required to have training in trauma-informed care because most criminals have survived adverse childhood experiences.

(These links are intense.)
Abuse survivors have an impaired sense of boundaries and thus need help managing healthy ones. Boundaries are necessary for good relationships. Understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy boundaries. Ansel and Tarrant are trying to help Turq manage his safely, but it's hard to tell when to stop because Turq's self-awareness is so mangled. Even when everyone is doing their best, sometimes Turq splats into a hard limit.

Difficulty speaking can have various causes. Introverts, men, abuse survivors, and people with disabilities may struggle to express themselves. However, anyone will go partially or wholly nonverbal if the stress exceeds their coping skills. It's just that for most people, that doesn't happen very often, so they forget that it's a natural barrier. Some folks avoid talking about their problems because it just makes them feel worse. Know how to talk about difficult topics and how to talk about yourself in therapy. Tarrant has special training in helping people to talk about their problems.

Acceptance is a basic human need, which has its ups and downs. It is especially crucial for someone with mental issues. Validation offers one way to communicate acceptance. A lot of what Ansel does for Turq is just repeating that it's natural for Turq to feel sore and stressed after all the bad stuff that has happened to him, and it doesn't mean he'll be stuck like that forever. There are many ways to support a broken friend.

(These links are uncomfortable.)
Memory loss can come from many causes, including child abuse, emotional trauma or brain injury. Here are some things that brain injury survivors want other people to know, which generalize well to other forms of life-wrecking trauma. Understand how to recover from memory loss or help a friend with impaired memory. You can see Ansel and Tarrant supporting Turq with things like a reminder that he's entitled to a lawyer.

Prosthetic memory refers to an artificial augmentation or replacement of natural human memory, such as Turq's memory book from foster care or his new trauma scrapbook. Some early research even hints at being able to repair damaged brains. Mobile computing offers many options for memory prosthetics, such as a vidwatch or smartphone. Prosthetic memory aids are tools designed to enable tasks that require intact memory. Cognitive prosthetic devices similarly help with everyday planning and thinking, particularly among veterans. SenseCam is a wearable camera that snaps photos automatically, providing a visual record of someone's day. Here are some screenshots of a computer program used for tracking activities. Turq is just starting to use concrete memory aids to piece together what has happened to him or is happening now. Notice that Tarrant helps by using simple forms to codify agreements for later referral.

(These links are sad.)
Child abuse can do permanent damage lasting into adulthood. T-American law is obligated to account for factors which may impair someone's ability to follow the usual expectations. Know how to stop child abuse and support survivors.

(The last link is explicit.)
Stretching boundaries is a natural skill to expand your comfort zone. It is crucial to do this safely, because pushing yourself too hard can lead to ruptures in really uncomfortable places. The best way is to go to the edge of your comfort zone, take one step further, hold it for a little while, and then step back into your comfort zone. Over time, this exercise should gently stretch how far you can go comfortably. The difference between hard limits and soft limits is most often discussed in sexual contexts. Hard limits must never be crossed; soft limits can and sometimes should be pushed. Right now, Turq can't always tell the difference between these, which makes it difficult for anyone else to do so.

(Some of these links are distressing.)
L-America treats status offenses as crimes, which often puts vulnerable youth in jail. This is not an accident; it is a deliberate part of the school-to-prison pipeline. Some places are trying to do better. T-America has simply classed status offenses as misbehavior, a normal if irritating aspect of youth, instead of as crimes which require legal action and leave a criminal record.

(Some of these links are harsh.)
Human trafficking is the capture, sale, transportation, and use of persons for the benefit of others. Most often this involves sex work or hard labor. In Terramagne, traffickers also target soups who can perform services that ordinary people cannot, or are attractive for other reasons. Mad scientists may also seek ordinary victims through this route. Know how to recognize and fight human trafficking. Pretty much everyone not directly involved in this hates it and will turn on traffickers if given an opportunity. It's one of the few things that will inspire supervillains to rat on someone -- or resort to a Go Home Charlie. There are guides for advocates and caregivers of trafficking survivors. I couldn't find a good self-help list for survivors of human trafficking, so here is a general guide for trauma survivors. Turq is really struggling to overcome this damage.

(These links are horrible.)
Research on human subjects is supposed to have careful ethics. However, human experimentation and medical torture have a long and ugly history. Efforts to stop them have been haphazard, often hindered by people who find the proposed laws or rules to be inconvenient. The motivations are questionable. This has been really hard on Turq too, and all his surviving cohort.

(Some of these links are difficult.)
Self-hate and self-blame often come from child abuse, which warps perception of the self. Turq has picked up some of this junk from bad foster care, some from mad science torture, and some from what he's done to survive afterwards. Recovery requires survivors to remind themselves of positive things that they didn't learn growing up, and turn self-blame into self-compassion. When dealing with someone else's self-blame, you can interrupt negative self-talk and reframe it in more constructive ways.

The full lotus, half-lotus, and easy pose are three variations on sitting cross-legged, popular in meditation. Buddhist meditation helps to clear the mind and soothe the spirit. Ansel isn't a Buddhist, but is game to try anything that seems useful; some of this is a good match for him. Turq isn't officially a Buddhist -- he didn't have enough time to grow into a religion of his own -- but definitely likes Asian traditions. Such practices will help him settle his mind and body. There are tips for practicing Buddhist meditation.

Body posture and hand posture can be important aspects of meditation. Look at some body poses and mudras.

Here is a Buddhist cheatsheet summarizing the major concepts of this tradition. The Five Precepts include ahimsa (nonviolence), asteya (nonstealing), brahmacharya (moderation), satya (truthfulness), and aparigraha (nonattachment).

Among the key tenets of Buddhism is that attachment leads to suffering. Therefore, many traits and practices of Buddhism focus on letting go of attachments as a way to reduce suffering.

L-America is increasingly inclined to criminalize homelessness. Meanwhile Italy has acknowledged that since humans have a right to life and food is necessary for life, stealing food to survive is not a crime. This touches on the concept of necessity in English law. T-America is more advanced in regarding that crime is a choice made in the face of alternatives; if there is no legal alternative available, then acting for survival is not a crime. To a lesser extent, this interacts with T-America's better protection of vulnerable people who may not be able to follow conventional rules consistently, such as abuse survivors, mental patients, and those denied a proper education.

Solitary confinement
has a tendency to destroy the human mind. As bad as it is for (formerly) healthy adults, the effects are much worse for youth and people with mental illness or intellectual disability. It also increases recidivism, an outcome that benefits nobody but the vultures running for-profit prisons. In T-America, institutions are only permitted to isolate individuals who pose an immediate threat to self or others, and the term is limited. They're only allowed to use physical isolation to deal with the threat, not social isolation; the prisoner must retain access to therapists, spiritual advisors, materials for personal betterment, and other resources intended to encourage improvement. But it doesn't matter whether someone is isolated in a jail or other facility; what matters is the interruption of normal human contact. Turq's imprisonment in a mad science lab has made it very difficult for him to interact with people -- and cost society most of its ability to complain about the results, since it surely failed to protect him. Some movements are attempting to ban solitary confinement, so far with little success.

Turq's body language shows discomfort, defensiveness, anxiety and sadness. Rocking rocking is a sign of extreme upset.

T-America customarily counts major crimes as murder, arson, aggravated assault, sexual assault, robbery, and grand theft. Petty theft and other small-scale property offenses are considered minor crimes. Injuring or killing someone in self-defense is not a crime at all. Minor crimes can be handled by an adjudicator. Major crimes more often require going to court. However, they greatly prefer to keep soups out of jail, which gives them more wiggle room in coping with cape incidents.

L-America used to teach civics widely, but now it's less common and often badly done. T-America does a much better job, starting with tidbits tucked into elementary classes and usually offering a separate Civics class beginning in middle school. L-America does almost nothing to teach students about specific laws, except for Driver Education. Most education is aimed at how government works in general -- or outright propaganda. T-America offers not just Driver Education, but also Voter Education which allows successful students to vote in local elections from age 16. Many high schools offer a Common Laws class or something similarly aimed at teaching everyday legal expectations. Here are some lessons on laws for first graders and older students.

Montessori schools feature student-directed learning in a beautiful, functional environment. They use the four planes of development and the stages of curriculum to help students learn. Erdkinder ("Earthchildren") is a type of school based on a working farm, with the understanding that adolescence doesn't really fit well into a classroom format. L-America has only a few examples of middle school and high school in the Montessori tradition, but T-America has considerably more. Grace and Courtesy is part of the Practical Life curriculum in early development, which develops into more of a social curriculum later on. The Montessori method uses very methodical techniques to teach social skills, resulting in a much more congenial classroom environment. This supports the moral development of young children and the broader personal development of older ones.

Turq's timeline: He was with the Liáng family at ages 10-11. After that, Turq bounced around several foster homes, and those weren't good experiences, which made his behavior increasingly worse at ages 12-13. At 14, he was sold into captivity, where he remained for several years. He escaped at 17. Turq was 19 when he first met Ansel and is 20 now. So it's been about 8 years since Turq left his family, which is nearly half his lifetime. And they're still the people he thinks about, when he starts recovering enough to remember his emotional anchors. That's quite an imprint.

Junior high is grades 7-8, with student ages 12-14. High school is grades 9-12, with student ages 14-18. There is a lot of variation in what people consider middle school, junior high, or high school. Some schools combine grades; some students skip or repeat grades. This lack of consistency gets even worse for foster children who switch schools multiple times. Turq is Scorpio with a birthday somewhere between October 23 and November 21. He was 14 years old, just starting 9th grade, when he was sold.

A WRAP Workbook is a customizable tool for organizing how to handle physical or mental conditions. You can include anything in it you need, using the basic pages for inspiration. It tells your caregivers what you do and don't want done to address whatever goes wrong. Here is a slideshow explaining the concept and how it works for younger users. In T-America these things are widely available and promoted through schools, community centers, and other venues. It's easy for people to find a workshop for making a WRAP and/or a peer support groups for users.

Regrettably, I could not find a version free online for children or adolescents. So I made one using the adult version as a model. The cover has a kite on it, representing freedom with an anchor. My Life Wheel is displayed at most T-American social services and appears in many handouts. Positive affirmations can counteract bad tape. A coping toolbox and other coping skills buffer stress. Write or draw wellness tools you use to stay healthy. List your favorite things for staying happy. Make a daily routine of things to do. Understand who you are when you're well. Know what pushes your buttons so you can deal with your triggers. Use an "Always, Sometimes, Never" chart to define what feels safe to you. This picture shows the early warning signs of trouble, and here is a blank body to label with the ones that bother you most often. There are emotional worksheets with faces or scales to show how you feel about things. This one talks about what people don't understand. Learn how to handle big emotions. An empathy map can show sensations and thoughts. This body map covers nonverbal communication. Healthy boundaries are important for maintaining relationships. A trust worksheet can help people give and receive trust. It helps to build a support network consisting of multiple elements. This flow chart explains whether you need help. Here are instructions on asking for help and ways to ask for help. These worksheets distinguish between wants and needs or likes and dislikes. A self-care plan ties it all together. This is the kind of worksheet used for solving problems that Turq and Ansel come up with for describing superpower problems.

Aging out is a serious issue in foster care, and the system has a dismal 4% success rate if you look at college graduation as a benchmark of preparation for independent adulthood. In L-America, the transition can be abrupt and destructive, and many teens become homeless as a direct result. In T-America, this is recognized as a fundamental failure of the system to provide vulnerable youth with what they need to become successful adults. If the government fails to restore the child's original family or find a replacement adoptive family, then the government is on the hook as the "family support," permanently. Much the same thing can be declared in cases where the foster system egregiously failed to protect a child in its care, as happened with Turq. Family Services will wind up owing him a massive amount of cash and support for damages, once everything has been tallied up. As foster teens approach majority, they should develop an exit plan with their social worker. Some L-American states such as Florida offer a range of choices to foster youth when they turn 18, similar to what T-America has. Furthermore in L-America, some states extend health coverage to age 26 in certain circumstances; in T-America that includes all foster services.

Due to traumatic stress and other reasons, Turq has trouble with decision-making and consent. There is a spectrum of consent which ranges from healthy to impaired to completely unable. Here, Ansel and Tarrant have helped Turq make better decisions than he could alone, without forcing things on him. There are basic and detailed instructions for assisted decision-making. This too exists on a spectrum from autonomy through support to dependence. When done correctly, formal or informal support helps people make better decisions. In Turq's case, this coaching and assistance is gradually getting him back to where he can do more for himself instead of just floundering.

(This fat-rich version is popular with soups who have high-burn powers.)
Cozy Crunch (banana chips, yogurt-covered cranberries, chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, ginger-maple roasted pecans, brazil nuts, pine nuts, diced coconut, crystallized ginger, cinnamon cereal squares, honey-oat cereal rings, granola clusters, and protein peanut butter energy balls)

T-American emergency workers often carry packets of peppermints or ginger candy to help with nausea or low blood sugar. Many superheroes do the same, and emergency candy appears in many first aid kits too. Testamints have Bible verses on the wrapper, very popular with Christian clergy and other religious folks. Chuckie's is a brand of digestive aids including emergency candy (hard candy like ginger or honey-chamomile) and Chuckie's Tummy Tabs (a transdermal stick-on gel tab with antinausea medication).

This is the dreampillow bear that Justin gets for Turq from someone who makes them for the police department. It is made of blue corduroy and stuffed with a soothing blend of flaxseed, hops, chamomile, and lavender. It can be heated or cooled for temperature therapy.

A key difference between restorative justice and its processes in L-America and in T-America is that L-America only considers the offender's concerns about the current incident, whereas T-America also explores what has been done to the offender. Trauma-informed care asks, "What happened to you?" rather than "What is wrong with you?" This does not make the offense less troublesome, but it often illuminates the underlying cause of misbehavior, which when addressed will allow better behavior. Here is a restorative justice workbook for students that includes a yes/no satisfaction rating in the back.

I couldn't find a local workbook of the materials that Tarrant offered to Turq, so again I pieced it together from miscellaneous sources. Some helpful resources include a Restorative Justice Continuum, Conflict Resolution Rules, Asking a Question Without Blame, Asking for Change, Life Story, My Fears, Ripple Effect, Looking In Looking Out, Breaking the Cycle, Restorative Practice, Self-Improvement, and Picturing Justice.

Survivor guilt is a devasting emotion that can follow a traumatic experience where someone lived but others died. Survivors may feel plagued by questions and struggle to find meaning after the events. The moral logic of survivor guilt, or moral injury, cause particular anguish to survivors who hurt someone else or feel that they did. Turq feels like a bad person because he escaped accidentally, and thus abandoned the other victims. He also feels bad about his behavior since then. It is important to understand what does and doesn't help in coping with survivor guilt. While I could not find anything on how to support a friend who suffers from survivor guilt, these tips for supporting survivors of suicide loss seem like a reasonable approximation.

Both apology and forgiveness are necessary to repair a damaged relationship. The psychology of forgiveness is complex. Learn how to forgive the unforgivable and forgive yourself.

T-America has a legal concept of "clearing" a debt to society. After the perpetrator has made appropriate restitution, the case is marked as cleared. Passively completing a prison term or other imposed sentence doesn't count -- the perpetrator has to make amends in some active fashion. The symbol for it is the letters "CL" surrounded by a pair of arrows bent into a circle. Such records are customarily kept out of public view, although former offenders can choose to leave them open, as contrasted with unsettled debts to society which are more visible. Whereas L-America tends to discriminate against former offenders, T-America generally prefers to encourage those who have cleared the debt by giving them better opportunities.

$15 is a living wage in most of L-America, but the federal minimum wage isn't even half of that. Most people on welfare or food stamps already have a job (or several); they just aren't being compensated fairly for their hard work. Someone else is pocketing the real profit -- and leaving taxpayers to foot the bill. Often people are cheated of pay in other ways. Court-ordered community service is a fraught topic; sometimes people get a fair credit against fines, such as this $10/hour example, but other times not. Prisoners can be paid as low as $.16/hour -- or nothing at all. People with disabilities have no wage protection either, and may be paid less than $1/hour. Meanwhile the actual value of volunteer time is $24.14/hour. In T-America, the minimum wage is the minimum wage for everyone, period. For community service doing skilled labor, people have to get a higher credit. The closest there is to a wage exception is that "junior" workers who aren't fully trained yet can be paid half the rate of trained workers, but still no less than minimum wage. Some states and many cities have set their minimum wage based on the local cost of living.

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