Friday, March 21, 2014

First Person: TAVP Board Member Betty Gilmore

TAVP board member Betty Gilmore

First Person: TAVP Board Member Betty Gilmore

Dr. Betty Gilmore teaches courses in both the Dispute Resolution and Master's in Counseling Programs at Southern Methodist University. As a licensed clinical psychologist, she has worked in clinical, teaching, training, supervisory and consulting roles in a wide variety of settings including academic, workplace, private practice, community and health care. Over the past 15 years, she has delivered training programs and professional presentations nationally and internationally. Her areas of specialization include trauma, crisis management, conflict resolution and cross cultural issues. Her book The Darkest Hour: Shedding Light on the Impact of Isolation and Death Row in Texas Prisons, co-authored with Nanon M. Williams, will be published in 2014. 

Dr. Gilmore earned her bachelor's degree in psychology from Southern Methodist University and her Master's and Doctoral degrees in clinical psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology in Los Angeles, California. She has received extensive training in dispute resolution through Harvard's Program on Negotiation, Pepperdine's Strauss Institute, CDR Associates, and the American Institute of Mediation. 

This is the third post in our First Person series, where we introduce some of the people behind the TAVP archives. 
First Person: TAVP Board Member Betty Gilmore

TAVP: Your forthcoming book is on a subject central to TAVP's mission, since all death row inmates in Texas are in solitary confinement. Additionally, more attention has been paid in the last few weeks to the conditions of solitary confinement with the publication of an opinion piece in the New York Times by Rick Raemisch, executive director of the Colorado's Department of Corrections, and a new book by three Americans who were held in solitary in Iranian prisons. Describe the genesis of your book and tell us a little bit about it's argument.

Betty Gilmore: Nanon Williams approached publisher Robyn Short, from goodmedia press, to re-release the books that he wrote when he was on death row. One of those books, The Darkest Hour, contained interviews of fellow death row inmates. My interests have focused on human rights, oppressed groups, trauma, resiliency, and conflict resolution. When I heard of his work I became very interested in co-authoring a new book with him, where we could go back and interview some of the men that were in the first book years ago: specifically, the men who have not yet been executed. 

Our purpose is to bring awareness to the deplorable conditions of solitary confinement in the Texas prisons, not only on death row, but for all inmates who are in isolation. 

The book takes a human rights perspective: We believe that no matter what a person has done, they should not be subject to cruel treatment; this only makes matters worse for everyone, and poses a real threat to public safety when thousands of inmates are released into society directly from confinement, a practice which researchers and practitioners agree is physically, emotionally, and cognitively damaging to people, where they have limited opportunities for housing and employment. 

This practice degrades us as a state, and as a nation. The book will contain an electronic component where readers will be able to see the interviews with several inmates from the original book. We are asking them about their experiences, coping, and where they are now. 

TAVP: Tell us about some of your future projects.

Betty Gilmore: After the book is published, I will remain dedicated to this topic, advocating wherever I can.

I am also involved in a project where I will be traveling to Rwanda to teach peacebuilding, reconciliation, and trauma resolution to indigenous leaders.

TAVP: Why did you join the TAVP board? How do you see your work connecting with the mission of TAVP?

Betty Gilmore: I joined the board because of my interests in human rights and my belief that everyone should have a voice. My book talks about the impact of death row and confinement, not only for the individual, but for their loved ones, families, victims, judges, jurors, attorneys, etc. -- all who have been touched by this one crime. 

I believe in the importance of giving people a platform where their voices have been ignored in the past. My book also focuses on giving people a voice who have been historically silenced.

TAVP: We've talked about the concept of oral history as a "restorative practice." Can you elaborate a bit on what you mean when you say that?

Betty Gilmore: I believe that collective memory of events creates both deep bonds among people and intense conflict. The conflict comes from two or more different groups or people who have experienced the same event, but have completely different stories therefore have very different perspectives based on where they were at the time and how the event impacted them. Once these stories actually come out, a platform for healing and understanding can occur. 

Oral history facilitates this process because its framework allows perspectives to change in a way that they are more inclusive of everyone's point of view, creating a more comprehensive story. As a restorative practice, oral history allows people to resolve conflicts backwards, not just forwards.

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