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Transcript: Season 2, Episode 3, Abolition Serves Survivors

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Crystal  0:00  

[intro music begins] Abolition is for Everybody is a podcast that tackles the sometimes difficult conversations around prison abolition. I’m Crystal.

Ra  0:22  

I’m Ra.

Adam  0:23  

And I’m Adam. 

Ra  0:24  

In this season of Abolition is for Everybody, we talk about harm.

Adam  0:27  

What creates it, what recycles it, and how we could find our way to meaningful means of repair.

Ra  0:35  

Just a reminder friends, in this episode, and every episode, we dive into very sensitive issues. This season is frameworked around violence, and though the title of this episode may give you some warning, remember that harm itself tends to create situations of alternate harms. There will probably be other painful topics brought up too. Take care of you. 

Crystal  1:07  

[outro music ends] Oh, before we get started, I just want to say that Adam couldn’t make it today. But, y’all will hear him next episode.

Ra  1:16  

Hey, uhm, it is good to have you with us, Adrianna. Uhm, season two is all about harm. And, you can’t talk about harms, without talking about the survivors of it. So we wanted to start there. This episode is called Abolition Serves Survivors. Can you talk about you? Your name? And, why you’re here for this one?

Adrianna  1:37  

Yeah, yeah. Thanks for having me. So uhm, my name is Adrianna. I live in Stockton. I work for the Women’s Center Youth and Family Services. And, we’re a nonprofit, and serve the entire county of San Joaquin. Uhm so, we’re in the Central Valley, maybe forty five minutes south of Sacramento. And, my specific role, I’ve been working there for five years, and my role right now is, I’m the Restorative Justice Program Specialist. So, it’s a brand new program uhm, that we are developing in partnership with some of our other partners. And uhm, I can definitely speak more about that a little bit later. But, it’s great organization, we have a lot of programs and services. So, our primary function, our primary role, is to serve survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, human trafficking. And, we also serve and provide services to runaway and homeless youth as well. So we have a youth services component, uhm, that’s able to speak to, maybe the surrounding issues of victimization. So, not directly sexual assault victims, but maybe there’s some at risk things going on. And so, we have case management programs that were able to sort of guide youth and help youth through life out. Uhm, we also have pair counseling, case management services, we have support groups. Uhm, we used to have parenting classes. We currently don’t right now, but we still offer all kinds of other services. We have shelters, for victims. So, we have two emergency shelters for domestic violence victims. And, we have one transitional home for youth, 18 to 25. And then, we also have a youth shelter for 12 to 17 year olds. So, it’s the only youth shelter in the entire county, that serves 12 to 17. And it’s a safe house. So, it is an emergency safe house. It’s the only one in the county. And that’s, and that’s ours. Uhm, but, we have so many services under the umbrella of clinical services. So, we have a therapist as well, uhm, that provides those therapy services to our youth in shelter, youth that come in to the drop in center. We also have the drop in center, that I think I forgot to mention, but we call it the spot. And it’s a really low barrier, drop in center, exactly what it sounds. So, youth can come in, ages 12 to 25. And, they can come in, and take a shower. They can get something to eat. We do three hot meals a day: breakfast, lunch, dinner. They can do their laundry. So, we have a washer and a dryer. Or they can just chill out, and watch Netflix. Uhm, eat snacks, use the computer lab, get resources, clothing, whatever that might be, hygiene. So, it’s a really low barrier. And I really love our drop in center, because youth can come in, right off the street. And, whether they’re high or drunk or whatever, they can still come in. Uhm, if they you know, mess up, right? They can still come in. We don’t tell them, “no, you can’t come back.” It’s really, really a low barrier service. So, it’s a great place to work. Great place to be. I love going to work every day, because I get to work with victims and survivors, but then also, those folks that don’t necessarily fit into that category as well, but might be at risk for a victimization. So uhm, super great place to work. And, I probably missed a couple of services that we do. It’s an honor to work there. Especially, you know, for me as a survivor of violence and-and harm. It’s really special to me to be there and I’ve been there five and a half years.

Crystal  5:00  

Adrianna. Uhm, for our listeners who are hearing some of these terms for the first time. Can you tell us a little bit more about why you keep using the word survivor and not the word victim, when referring to these services?

Adrianna  5:16  

Yeah, uhm, it’s a great question. So, victim, uhm, is really a term I have found, in my experience over the last few years, to be really closely associated with the carceral system, the criminal justice system, punitive justice.

Crystal  5:32  

Mhm.

Adrianna  5:33  

Uhm, and at the time that the courts used it to chime in, right, like who was harmed, and then the offender is, you know, the person that caused the harm. Uhm, and so that’s, it’s, it’s more of a punitive, punitive language for me. Survivor is more so, language that really I think centers a person, and it’s not specific to one thing, you know? A person could be a survivor of many, many things, right? Sexual assault, domestic violence, childhood trauma, incarceration, so many different things that make up a survivor. So, that’s why I personally use, uh survivor. But, I know in the work that we do, and within the agency, we use them interchangeably. And it really just depends on the audience, in the space that we’re in. So, you know, if we’re talking to law enforcement partners, you know, so they are understanding who we’re talking about, we say, victim, or survivor. Uhm but for me, I really like to, to use the term survivor and lead with that, or people with lived experience.

Ra  6:28  

I have more questions uhm, about the language. I think, the language of these things is-is so important. You mentioned in a, a punitive system, uh, there’s like an offender and a victim. And, one thing we talk a lot about uhm, in our work is how both those categories of people are often made up of survivors. And, I was just wondering, your thoughts on that your experience with it, in the work you do in your personal life? Anything along those lines. 

Adrianna  6:58  

Yeah, uhm, there definitely can be one in the same, right? And so, we know that people who are incarcerated or have been incarcerated have also experienced the same victimization, right? Childhood Trauma, neglect, sexual assault, child sexual assault, domestic violence, right, exploitation, so many, so many layers of-of things. For me, I think they’re interchangeable. They’re one in the same. And I think it’s really important for folks listening to really understand that I’m thinking of intersectionality. When we talk about a person with lived experience, a survivor, a victim, they’re made of multiple identities and experiences, right? So, in the work that we do uhm, specifically at the Women’s Center Youth and Family Services, we might be meeting with the victim of a particular case, of a particular crime, but we’re going to provide services sort of in a wraparound way that kind of addresses all of this person’s needs, right? Because at the end of the day, it’s-it’s really at the core about what a person really needs. Uhm, and again, victim, offender, so right, like, those are more of these terms that the court uses. Language is hard, right? And we have, we’re so used to hearing, “survivor”, “victim” “offender”, “defendant”, “perpetrator”, uhm, but really, you know, like what we do when, when we’re actually working with people, we really know that these are just people made up of a myriad of experiences. And, as advocates, as direct service providers, it’s our job to sort of meet them where they’re at, no matter what they present as. And so we also have a PREA program within our services, within our agency, and we provide the same services to our incarcerated people. Uhm, people that are incarcerated within the various systems within our county. We just provide services to people. And I-I think it’s, it’s really important that we don’t get caught up in the label, right? Because I think, you know, these are also just labels. Labels, so that we know how to identify people, which our brains automatically do. But it’s really important for us to kind of take a step back sometimes and, and check the blind spots in our brains.

Ra  9:12  

Right.

Adrianna  9:13  

And say okay, “This is this person and my brain is categorizing this person in this way. But I also have to do a little bit more deeper thinking and digging into finding out what experiences this person is coming with so that I can provide these-

Ra  9:26  

Sure.

Adrianna  9:26  

 -services in the most adequate way.”

Ra  9:29  

Yeah, and a lot of the services you, you listed are things that kind of everybody needs. Everybody-

Crystal  9:35  

Right.

Ra  9:35  

-needs education and these topics and, uhm, and oftentimes, like a situation in your life that would lead you to not having access to a shower, could also lead you into several other types of situations where you would be on either side of the harm.

Adrianna  9:53  

 Absolutely.

Crystal  9:54  

You know, something that some people might take a little bit for granted, like being able to wash your clothes. Um, that one really stood out to me. You know, as I mentioned before, on this podcast, I grew up in the San Fernando Valley. And when you started listing all of the things that you all provide, that is something that I really wish I saw growing up, or that I wish I saw now. I see a lot of the youth here, who are constantly being pulled over by the cops just for hanging out outside. So, when you said, “Oh, we have a spot where they can just come meet, and watch the Netflix,” you know, I would love to have that here. I personally have a loved one who was in a domestic abuse relationship, and is now dealing with substance abuse, is now dealing with homelessness. So uh, sometimes I don’t see them for a very long time. And then, sometimes when they do come in, uhm, I know, they haven’t showered in a while. Like they throw away their clothes, because they’re so dirty. So, as someone who has a loved one, who would greatly benefit from those resources, like I-I wish they had them. Like it would, personally, make me-me feel a lot better knowing that they have somewhere that they can go wash or eat or just, you know, receive any, any help. And, because right now, there is nothing that is there to help them. 

Adrianna  11:20  

Yeah, thank you for sharing that. And it’s, it’s an unfortunate reality that so many people and, you know, not just our state of California, not just San Joaquin County, but our country deal with. Uhm, and a lot of the times, and also, you know, within the work that I do with, with the agency, you know, is our outreach program as well. And they, our outreach team goes out into, you know, into the streets and go into the homeless encampments, and-and providing outreach to the folks out there as well to let them know about the services. I’m going out there to find youth, and uhm, even if they’re not youth, right? They don’t fall into that, you know, that, you know, 12 to 25 range,-

Crystal  12:01  

Mhm.

Adrianna  12:01  

uhm, to still let them know what the services are, because it’s important, and we, you know, can definitely provide resources and referrals. But those, those low barrier services, like a drop in center, it’s definitely something that I also think is, should be in every single county. Right? I don’t think there’s any reason why there shouldn’t be one in every single county uhm-

Crystal  12:25  

Multiple. In every single county.

Adrianna  12:27  

Right, right? Depending on the size, right? Because I feel like, you know, the size of LA county can use quite a few. 

Ra  12:34  

(chuckles) Yes.

Adrianna  12:34  

But you know, like, for our size, right, like, you know, one is, is good enough, but I think you know, you can never have enough safe spaces, right? As I think that’s, you know, our most important thing, you know, in all of our services, and especially our drop in center. When we, we meet a youth the first thing that we tell them like, it’s a safe, it’s a safe place,- 

Crystal  12:55  

Mhm.

Adrianna  12:55  

like, you’re not going to be told, like, “you can’t be you.” Like, you can be who you are, but it is a safe space for you, and for everybody else there. So, low barrier, right? Like, we don’t-

Ra  13:06  

Right.

Adrianna  13:06  

have any rules, but we do have our number one rule, which is safety. And we’re, and we’re serious about that, you know? But it’s definitely something that’s needed, because again, you know, we see the trajectory that sometimes the youth go through, you know? They might be struggling with housing instability and homelessness, you know, with their family at age 12, 13, 14 years old. Then at 16, might experience exploitation. And then at 21, you know, might experience you know, any form of other type of hustle, uhm or, a way to get quick money, right? 

Crystal  13:28  

Mhm.

Adrianna  13:30  

Uhm, and so they develop these survival tactics, these survival skills, uhm to survive on the street, and, and then they’re criminalized for surviving. 

Ra  13:49  

Right.

Adrianna  13:49  

Um, and so, you know, again, in the work that we do, in the work that I do, especially in our approach to it, is-is we understand that. Uhm, and we incorporate those, that knowledge into our programming. And that’s what being trauma informed means, right? So, it’s- it’s understanding that these folks might come with a whole lot of other barriers, and we need to meet them where they’re at, and provide services as needed. And it’ll look different for everybody, right? Because everybody’s needs are different. 

Ra  14:20  

Right.

Adrianna  14:20  

But, one of the things that we really like to-to utilize as uhm, sort of like a model, is the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs chart. That at that basic level, it’s like a human being needs food, water, shelter, clothing, just basic. And so like, we start there, anytime we meet somebody, right, like, do you have your basic needs met? Are you in a safe-

Crystal  14:36  

Mh.

Adrianna  14:40  

housing situation? Do you have food? Do you have water? Do you have clothes? We provide that. Uhm, and then we just keep going up that, that pyramid, until we can get them to a point of self sustainability.

Crystal  14:52  

One thing that you said, that really stood out to me was, you said, how a lot of the time people are criminalized, for being survivors. And ,when thinking about abolition, that is actually one of the, one of the main things that, like kind of like sealed the deal for me, in terms of talking about abolition and reform. That, one, we’re not doing anything to help survivors. And oftentimes, we, we end up criminalizing them. So, when we think about harms that were caused, uhm, we’re not addressing the whys behind the harm. We’re not trying to solve the root, of why that harm happened. And then, we are criminalizing the survivors of these harms. And, right now, with our punitive systems, that is our first go to solution. We don’t really have ways to support the victims, to prevent these things from happening to other survivors.

Ra  15:55  

Yeah, it’s so true. And even when you’re in prison, the functionality of which, I mean, everyone here knows that prison doesn’t work this way. But if you went out into the general public and ask people, I-I think you would get the sense that prison supposed to be this big timeout. This sit and think about your actions, sit and think about life, but without any of the services that Adrianna, that you were mentioning, you know, it’s almost impossible to, uhm, I mean, starting with that very, that thing you said like, are you in a safe space? And- 

Crystal  16:29  

Right.

Ra  16:29  

and you’re not, in prison. Right?

Adrianna  16:31  

Right.

Ra  16:31

So, it starts you there. Uhm, and I know you’ve seen this on all sides, you know? Survivors who have made their way without any real carceral interaction, and those who have been caught up in the system one way or the other. Uhm. Do you see that in your work? Does p-does prison rehabilitate people?

Adrianna  16:50  

Uhm, I-I do see it in, in my work, and-and not the-the prison re-rehabilitating people. Uhm. What I, what I do see uhm, is a lot of barriers. I-I was assisting a particular individual uhm, a few years ago, who was a survivor of exploitation and trafficking, but had a myriad of charges uhm, attached to their record. And, and trying to help them navigate that space, and trying to navigate that system to, to get these things removed, or expunged and whatnot, in some of these-

Crystal  17:27  

Mhm. 

Adrianna  17:27  

various counties uhm, was a challenge. And it was, it was difficult. And, and on the flip side of that uhm, you know, as, again, being a formerly incarcerated survivor, myself. Prison doesn’t rehabilitate, because I think it goes back to, again, that, that needs chart right? Those basic needs, right? The-the safe space. Prison is not a safe space. And so, like how you mentioned, like, we often think of prison as this big timeout. People are gonna learn from the error of their ways, right? But really, there’s so much other harms that are happening inside of prison. Folks don’t have the time to sit and think and reflect. You know, I think there, you know, are moments where that can definitely happen, you know? Uhm, but more times than not, you know, I-I, it’s not a reality for folks. What is a reality, on the inside? Uhm, even, you know, for incarcerated survivors, right? What’s the reality is that,you don’t have the time to think, because you have to worry about staying safe or keeping your things safe, right? If you don’t have to worry about your physical safety, you have to worry about keeping your things safe, right? Like your food, or your clothing, or maybe stuff that your family sends you, like books or uhm, some folks buy musical instruments, like you can buy guitars and you know, jewelry and things like that. So, you have to worry about keeping your-your things safe. And I, I kind of think about it in terms of like, the homeless youth that we kind of provide services to and the, the homeless population that we do uhm, work with. And oftentimes, them also saying like, these same things. Like they have to worry about keeping their stuff safe, so it doesn’t get taken, or they have to worry about their physical safety, because the folks there in the encampments with them are unsafe, uhm, or they’re causing harm. And so, what’s happening on the outside is exactly what’s happening on the inside. And so, we need safer spaces for folks on the inside, and on the outside. Spaces that really foster accountability and healing. Uhm, so, so that both parties can really be whole, right? Because if we’re only solving half the problem, we’re not really solving the problem at all. 

Ra  18:28  

Right. 

Adrianna  19:07  

We’re just solving half the problem. It’s kind of like, you know, if you had a toaster that only, you know, toasted one side of your bread. Like, it’s not, somebody probably likes that, but I don’t. Like, I need both sides toasted.

Crystal  20:01  

That is one question that I often get asked. Uhm, and I don’t know if you or Ra have any thoughts on this. Uhm, and you know, you mentioned it briefly right now, but it’s like uhm, a lot of the times folks ask, what about the people who made them survivors? Uhm, what about the people who cause harm? That is something that people often get stuck on when they, when we talk about abolition.

Adrianna  20:26  

Can y’all hear that? 

Ra  20:28  

Yes. 

Adrianna  20:28  

I’m so sorry. They’re leaf blowing outside. My apologies. 

Ra  20:33  

No problem. No problem.

Adrianna  20:35  

Yeah, yeah. And, for sure. And, and understandably so, right? I think it’s human nature to want some form of justice, right? Like, we all want some form of accountability, some form of justice, it just all about, like-

Ra  20:49  

Right.

Adrianna  20:49  

what does it look like? Right? And so, for that question, I-I get the same question a lot, is like, what about these folks over here? Uhm, and it’s always the, you know, the worst of the bunch, right? Uhm, even- 

Crystal  21:01  

Yeah.

Adrianna  21:02 

Even yet and still, right? Even if it is somebody who has, you know, taken a life or somebody who has committed sexual violence or domestic violence, right? There’s-there’s still a person there, right?

Crystal  21:14  

Mhm.

Adrianna  21:14  

There’s still a human being there, and there’s still a story attached to that person. There’s still a life of experiences that led up to that moment. Uhm, to their, to their choice to their behavior. And so really, I think the accountability processes is, is following that trail all the way backwards, you know, and healing it along the way, so that it doesn’t continue to happen. But also, like bringing folks along on this journey of like, let’s recognize the harm that was caused, right? On both sides. Let’s recognize the harm that maybe you caused, let’s recognize the harm, like how it impacted this others, and then how it impacted itself. Right? Uhm, it’s because that’s the accountability process. And presently, our system doesn’t currently do that. It doesn’t ask us to, look at how something has harmed both parties, right?

Crystal  21:43  

Mhm.

Adrianna  21:43  

Um, that’s why I really love our, our new restorative justice program and how it’s being formed, and how it’s being molded and shaped. Uhm, and it’s really giving both parties the, the ability to get those needs met. Even those basic needs met, to get some of these barriers and challenges kind of removed, uhm, but then also to address the harm that was done. So our program for restorative justice, it is a partnership and a collaboration between the Women’s Center Youth and Family Services, Mary Magdalene Community Services here in Stockton, and then our district attorney’s office. And so, our role as the Women’s Center, we are providing services and being advocates for uhm, the victim in the case, right? The person that experienced the harm.-

Ra  22:53  

Yes.

Adrianna  22:53  

And then, Mary Magdalene gets to provide services to the person that caused the harm, right? But both of us, all of us working together to ensure that this doesn’t happen again, within this relationship or any other relationship. And it really is about like, what these two individuals want to do? Do they want to mend fences and continue on in the relationship? Or do they want to mend fences and go their separate ways? Or do they not want to mend fences? Right? Uhm, but it’s all about choice. And it’s all about asking that the, the person that was harmed and centering them, like, how can we make this right? Or-our RJ program, it’s, it’s offering people choice, and also accountability, right? Uhm, and so we, we get to have pre meetings with both parties, and really come to an agreement of, of how we can make this right, and everybody gets their input. And then, you know, we move on. And then there’s follow ups, and case management, and services that are provided to both people, right, and maybe the extended family. But that’s what it’s all about. And I think that’s what really works for survivors. Uhm-

Ra  24:00  

Right.

Adrianna  24:00  

If we look at, you know, what survivors and other spaces have said, you know, just survivors of harm period, and not specific to sexual violence, domestic but-

Crystal  24:10  

Mhm.

Adrianna  24:10  

Everybody wants to have more of a voice, and they want to feel like they have a choice in the process, right? As opposed to a system deciding what the choices and the options are like, they want to have more. More freedom to say like, “Hey, this is what I want. I don’t want to break up with this person. I don’t want this person to go to jail. But I do want us to figure out what’s wrong and move past it or to just move separately.”

Crystal  24:39  

Addressing the root that, that is-

Adrianna  24:41  

Exactly.

Crystal  24:41  

Something, that is something that I struggled with. Uhm, and this was before I learned about abolition, and that there’s actually solutions and pathways that are not, that don’t lead to prison. Uhm, when my, when I found out my loved one was in a domestic abuse relationship, I remember feeling very confused and very conflicted. Because this was a close family friend. Uhm, there’s little ones involved. And I remember feeling angry, but at the same time, not wanting him to go to prison. Because then that meant he was going to be far away from the little ones. That wasn’t going to help anybody, that wasn’t going to help my loved one. Uhm, so before I found out about, you know, transformative justice and the difference between consequences, and the punitive system that we have now, I felt very, very conflicted and confused. Because that’s, that’s something that I hear often now. Uhm, I have a, a close friend of mine, who whenever I talk about abolition, he says, In your world, or the world you want to build, there won’t be no consequences for people to cause this harm. And I really want to highlight uhm, that there will be consequences, but we just won’t be focused on punishing them and isolating them. Uhm, and one thing that I-I ta-think about often as well is, nothing is being done for the survivor. And whenever we have these conversations, I’m so glad you came on and talked about the different resources you all provide, because I know a lot of the time, that’s where a lot of us get stuck on. Like, what can we do differently, to center the survivor, and make sure all of their needs are being met? Because, right now, in society, we’re not taking care of their mental health, we’re not taking care of the shame that they might feel, for whatever it is they went through. Uhm, sometimes we criminalize or shamed them, and then focus so much on punishing the person who caused the harm, that the person who was harmed often gets pushed to the side. And we don’t even talk about them.

Adrianna  26:57  

Absolutely. I-I totally agree, with, with everything that you’re saying.

Ra  27:01  

I think it’s also, you know, we talk a lot about culture shifting on this podcast, because that’s what we’re hoping to do with it. But Adrianna, you mentioned that, you know, people want justice. And, and even Crystal when you were talking about your friends, like, that’s, that’s really what’s coming up, is people want some sort of accountability. And, you know, my family’s from different places. So, a-a melting pot of a home. And there are different things, that means something in different cultures, you know? Like uh, like in brown girl culture, it’s-it’s pretty common to say like, you know, “your mom shows her love by like, bringing you a plate of cut up fruit,” you know?- 

Crystal  27:45  

Right.

Ra  27:45  

And there’s like, there’s literally no reason for this. Like, sometimes you just ate and, but she just like gets in her head, that she loves you, and she wants to show you and here’s a sliced apple. And, uh, it’s a cultural distinction that doesn’t exactly translate, and sometimes you have to tell people. When, when I was married, I told you know, you know, just tell my husband, like, she’s just gonna bring you things to eat. She’s just, she’s just loving on you. She’s not going to use the word, you know? But, uhm, and I think that’s a similar dynamic we have going on with justice, where culturally we associate justice with prison, you know, we link these things together. And uh, I know restorative justice talks a lot about what justice could look like from a different framework. But I don’t know if people know what it is. Can you uh, give us a little definition of what it is maybe? And then, maybe what it looks like in your work?

Adrianna  28:40  

Yeah, so. So, there’s a few different uhm, models, uhm, that I’ve learned about, when it comes to restorative justice. So, uhm, there are school models, that I know folks are doing in some schools. I-I believe that there’s uhm, some Oakland schools that have incorporated some restorative justice uh, elements to their, their programs and the things that they offer to the students. Uhm, and then there’s the, the model that we are using, which is sort of this victim offender dialogue model. And in this model, specifically, what restorative justice is, is essentially the person that was harmed, and the person tha-uhm, that caused the harm are coming together to have a dialogue. And again, just kind of like I uhm, mentioned earlier on, there’s pre meetings that are involved. And, essentially what this is, is an alternative to incarceration, but it’s also a method that gives survivors the most voice, and the most choice. There are, there is uhm, a low level, I want to say of, district attorney and court involvement. Because there was, you know, there was an arrest and then there was a charge, and then now, there was a referral to the restorative justice program.-

Crystal  29:58  

Mhm.

Adrianna  29:58  

Uhm, and at, at right now, we’re only going to be uhm, taking on cases that are low level domestic violence, and so misdemeanor domestic violence, and it wouldn’t be anything in the felony area at this point. So really, really low level stuff. But uh, essentially, what the restorative justice program is, again, is survivor choice and survivor voice. Getting to determine, how it is that they want justice to look like for them personally, uhm, because it’s going to look different for everybody. Uhm,-

Crystal  30:32  

Right. 

Adrianna  30:32  

Accountability is-is not a one size fits all. Uhm, and that’s what we have currently, currently, this model that assumes that it’s a one size fits all, and what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. And that’s not, that’s, but it’s not true, right?- 

Ra  30:48  

Right. 

Adrianna  30:48  

Because there’s so many people, so many victims, so many survivors, so many people that have been impacted uhm, by the carceral system. They can attest to the fact that it’s, that it’s not helpful, and that it wasn’t, probably the best for their specific experience. And a lot of survivors, they just don’t, they want the abuse to stop. They don’t want necessarily anybody go to jail. And I think especially survivors of color, uhm, because of the relationship that communities of color have historically had with law enforcement, court systems and things like that.-

Ra  31:22  

Right.

Adrianna  31:23 

They don’t want to continue to send their, their folks and their community members to-to jail and to prisons, to cages. Uhm,-

Crystal  31:29  

Right.

Adrianna  31:29  

And so this is an alternative to that, something that we can offer to the, to the community. And, you know, like I said, there’s so many different models of it. Uhm, this particular model comes from the Restorative Justice Mediation Project in uh, San Diego. Uhm, and so we had some folks from San Diego come up and train us for uhm, a couple, few days, uhm, back in December. Uhm, and just kind of explain the facilitation process. So there’s a, there’s a case manager for the offender, or the person that caused the harm, an advocate, which would be myself, for the person that experienced the harm. And then, there’s a facilitator uhm, that facilitates the dialogue back and forth, once we get to that moment. So.-

Ra  32:09  

Does there always need to be a facilitator? Or, is this something like, we could practice in our real lives?

Adrianna  32:15  

I-I think in, in theory, it’s definitely something that we could practice, in our real lives. But, but the purpose of the facilitator is sort of like this, this third party mediator, if it’s like, not involved, it’s like the neutral party.-

Ra  32:28  

 Got it. 

Adrianna  32:28  

So there’s this neutral element that exists that doesn’t have stake in either party. So, they’re really a neutral party. And they’re there to just kind of listen, and to support the dialogue back and forth. So the dialogue is really, you know, going back and forth between these two individuals. But the facilitator is there to just kind of help guide things along, to keep the conversation flowing. And to make sure that everything that was addressed uhm, throughout this process. Uhm, specifically with our model, there’s going to be lots of pre meetings, before we get up to that victim offender dialogue, where, for me personally working with the victim in the case, is going to make sure that they’re ready. “Are, are you ready for this? If you’re not ready, that’s okay. We can have another pre meeting.”

Crystal  33:14  

Right. 

Adrianna  33:15  

Uhm, And we can do some more peer counseling, or maybe get some other needs met. Uhm, we also talk about addressing barriers, that maybe folks have to participating in the program, right? Because maybe they want to participate, but their work schedule doesn’t allow it, or they can’t get childcare, or whatever the case may be. So we try to meet them, again, meeting them where they’re at, trying to remove some of these barriers, so that they can be as successful as they possibly can in the program. Um, you know, there are going to be moments, I think, and-and just being realistic, where, you know, people are not going to hit the mark on the first time, right? But, uh, there is no like, “Oh, this is your only shot. This is your only shot,” right? Uhm, and so that’s why we really want to work with people and give people as many chances as they, as we can, to make sure that they’re ready and prepared to go through this process. Because again, it’s an accountability process. And it’s not something that’s going to be done-

Crystal  33:24  

Right.

Adrianna  33:25  

In one or two meetings. It’s going to take maybe 3,4,5,6,7,8 meetings before somebody is ready to actually have a face to face conversation.

Ra  34:23  

That makes sense, because a lot of these things are like, their habits, right? We,we-

Adrianna  34:26  

Yeah.

Ra  34:26  

We like to rank them, but, uh you know, a bad habit or uhm, a bad mental state. Is that, whether you’re talking about you, take your dirty socks off at the door and leave them by the kitchen, or you’re talking about something far more severe. And those things just take time to learn about, even to learn the language of-of, how you’re involved in this harm, or even sometimes, to recognize it as a harm. Uhm, so yeah. Thank you for explaining that.

Adrianna  34:57  

Oh, yeah, for sure. Because in-in, what you said about like, recognizing that it’s even a harm, right? Because again, we, we get into these, these habits. Especially relationships are very complicated, right? And so we get into these moments of uhm, you know, these passive aggressive moments. Or, or these, these little things, these nitpicky things that we might do with one another, uhm, and not recognize that they’re harmful. Right? And so. uhm, we’re also going to be working with our-our clients individually on understanding like, what the harm was, the impact. But again, that accountability piece is, is huge. And, even on the side of the survivor, right? There may be some accountability that’s needed there. Uhm, and it’s not a, “look what you’ve done.” And, you know, “this is why this happened to you, because you need, you did this,” right? So it’s not a victim blaming uhm, situation,- 

Crystal  35:49  

Right.

Adrianna  35:49  

But it’s, it’s about recognizing your values, right? Because I think accountability as well, is-is based on a value system, and what are your values? And do your behaviors match your values? And if they don’t? How can we make the match? Right? So, what can we do to make these things match? And we have to do that on both the, the victim survivor side, and both the, the person that caused the harm side. Because everybody has values, right? So uhm, if we can, if we can get folks to a point where they are behaving and living out their values, uhm, then, then we’ve really, then we can really succeed at transforming the system.

Ra  36:31  

I love that. Thank you so much, uh for explaining all of these things. I know we had a lot of definition type questions for you. But, I appreciate you being here for that. Uhm-

Adrianna  36:39  

Yeah, for sure.

Ra  36:40  

What did we miss? What, what did we forget to ask you? What? 

Adrianna  36:44  

Ah, I feel like, you know, I-I personally can talk about this stuff for hours and hours on end, it would never, never stop. Uhm,-

Crystal  36:54  

Same. 

Adrianna  36:55  

But I, but I think uhm, one thing, and I don’t necessarily know if we missed it, but something I just kind of want to elevate uhm, for folks listening is, you know, when we talk about how abolition serve survivors, right, the title of this episode. Uhm, it’s really, you know, and again, going back to uhm, this point of, it’s not about not having consequences, right? It’s not about uhm, “Get Out of Jail Free cards.” It’s not about uhm, absolving someone of their sin. Right? It’s not about any of that. Uhm, it’s just about building safer communities. And, you know, we have to really start listening to the people that are experiencing the harm, from community members, from systems, right? Uhm, because so many people are harmed from systems as well. And then, that frustration, kind of goes out and ripples and ripples out into community. Right? And so it’s, it’s a, it’s a huge revolving door. I call it a big ball of yarn, and it has to be unraveled. It has to be unraveled. And again, you know, when I think about systems, I’m thinking of, you know, my own personal experiences, even recently with the medical system, and how that’s not perfect, and how that can cause a lot of frustration. And people who maybe don’t have the best medical care, again, going into survival mode, trying to survive and doing what they can. And I-I think that we just need to have systems in place, whether it’s the justice system, whether it’s the medical system, education system, but every one of our systems should have uhm, these like accountability agents, right? And these, these, these principles of, you know, transformative justice and accountability and restoration, so that we no longer have a, you know, have a need for-for punishment, right? Uhm, where we can just heal people and continue to support people, and meet them where they’re at, low barrier, right? It’s like, okay, I get it. Life’s life’s hard. Life sucks. It’s hurtful sometimes, it’s harmful. So what is it that we need? And I-I encourage people, if you have survivors uhm, in your own life, if you have loved ones that are survivors, you know, just be there for them. Listen, encourage, don’t assume that you know what’s best. You know?-

Crystal  39:31  

Right.

Adrianna  39:31  

Even if they’re your loved one. It could be your mom. It could be your sister, your best friend, your daughter. But don’t assume, that’s one thing we always say is, “don’t assume that you know what’s best for-for somebody.” They are the expert in their own experience. And, I think that’s the most important thing that uhm, that I could say when, when it comes to uh, the speaking to survivors and how abolition serves it, and why abolition is important, and why it’s for survivors, ultimately.

Crystal  40:00  

And you said a really key word, right now, which is healing, so that we can all heal collectively. And, this episode filled my heart with a lot of hope and peace, hearing everything that y’all are doing and all the different services that you’re providing. But to end us with a little bit more hope, what is one tiny thing that someone can do today, to make it possible for us to collectively have a better future? Have more resources, like, like the ones y’all are providing?

Adrianna  40:32  

Yeah. And so this is going to be like a two parter. And the first part is to learn, right? Learn, educate. Education, right? Learn about uhm, these victimizations, right? Learn about domestic violence and sexual violence and exploitation, and how operates, how it works and why? And then part two, uhm, go do the work, or volunteer. I always like to say start off by volunteering, right?-

Crystal  41:00  

Right.

Adrianna  41:00  

With uhm, your rape crisis centers, with your uhm, social justice organizations, with your nonprofits, that are doing the work, that are working directly with survivors, with people that are impacted by these issues. Because then you really get like that firsthand experience and that firsthand knowledge of, of what somebody is going through. Uhm, and when you, you walk with somebody step by step, you really, really get a good understanding of all of the barriers that they are facing. Uhm, and not just because of, they were victims, but also because they’re survivors. And, you know, sometimes, like I said before, they were criminalized for it. Uhm, and, and so yeah, just learn all that you can. Be open minded, uhm, and be willing to change your mind. Right? Because I think me, myself included, even being formerly incarcerated survivor, I didn’t start off like, “oh, yeah, abolition.” And, you know, I started off kind of the same way as everybody else very skeptical. And it was at one point, like, “Nah, lock them up. I did I did it. I’m fine.” You know? But the re-reality was, you know, I wasn’t fine, you know?-

Ra  41:01  

Right.

Adrianna  41:02  

And so, and uhm, they’re still barriers, and I’m still continuing to, to meet and have to face and have to crawl over and jump over and stumble over and climb over. So, it’s still not all the way fine. Right? But it’s, we’re going in a step towards the right direction. 

Ra  42:30  

Yeah. 

Adrianna  42:30  

It’s my little bit of hope.

Crystal  42:32  

I think for me, my tiny, tangible action is to really listen to all of the resources that Adrianna said that they provide, because, as abolitionists we’re not asking for much. As-as soon as you hear the word abolition, a lot of people tend to tense up. But, these are very basic resources and asks that we all should have. So, think about the resources that she talked about. Maybe make a list of resources that, you know, you wish you had to your neighborhood. Or if you do have a lot of resources available to you, uh be mindful that not everyone, not everyone has those, or had those growing up. So, I want you all to think about just, really want to emphasize that these are not big asks, that, that we’re, we’re hoping for everybody.

Adrianna  43:29  

Right? Right. Like you said, abolition is the ability to take a shower, and to wash your clothes, and to have three hot meals a day, that isn’t [outro music begins]- isn’t served by the state of California, right? But, that they’re cooked with love, and care, and intention.

Ra  43:45  

This isn’t the full story of the full humans involved in these experiences, or every complete community or person who has gone through experiences that parallel. We have walked this gently, so as not to diminish the story, but to highlight and amplify the hearts involved. 

Crystal  44:04  

Thank you for listening to Abolition is for Everybody. If you want to continue supporting this podcast and our work overall, you can donate to support Initiate Justice at InitiateJustice.org/Donate

[outro music continues]