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Transcript: Season 2, Episode 5, Abolition Addresses Murder/ Manslaughter

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Ra  0:15  

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

Adam  0:23  

I’m Adam.

Crystal  0:23  

And I’m Crystal. In this season of Abolition is for Everybody, we talk about harm.

Adam  0:29  

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

Ra  0:38  

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  1:04  

Thanks for joining us. This episode is called Abolition Addresses Murder/Manslaughter. We’re going to start with a recording that we hosts haven’t listened to yet, and go from there.

Ra  1:16  

The following story, narrated by Larry Abbott, is from a currently incarcerated individual. We will be using pseudonyms that they have chosen. We have removed mention of their location and CDCR number to maintain their safety.

Adam  1:31  

Quick disclaimer. There will be mention of substance use, alcohol, war, and other very sensitive issues. Take care of you.

Larry Abbott (narrating)  1:42  

My name is “Dan”. I’m 51 years old. I was sentenced to state prison after my friend J.R and I were involved in a high speed chase that ended in a very bad accident. I was lucky. J.R was thrown from the car and died. Now that I’ve told you why I’m here, I’d like to share with you a little about myself. I was born and raised in a small rural town in Northern California. I had a loving family and lived in the same home my entire childhood. I never had to witness domestic violence, drug use, or alcoholism. We spent a lot of time together going hunting, fishing, and camping. My dad was a disciplinarian. He was rough on me, but he taught me good work ethic and showed me how important it is for a person to have integrity. Even though it may not have felt like it at times, I was very fortunate for the way I was raised.

Upon graduating from high school in 1989, I immediately joined the U.S Army. Within one year of enlisting, I was sent with my unit to the Persian Gulf. Saddam Hussein had invaded Kuwait, and Desert Storm had begun. I was 19 years old and an Infantryman in combat. I made it through uninjured and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for meritorious service above and beyond the call of duty. Once again, I was very fortunate. Even though I wasn’t physically injured over there, the things I went through in combat still took a toll on me. I would come to realize later that I had come back broken.

After completing my enlistment I joined the civilian workforce. I was given a great opportunity to be a machinist’s apprentice. I worked hard and learned quickly. The trade came to me naturally and I was working on a career. I worked hard, but I also played hard. I was drinking a lot and partying with friends nearly every night. I didn’t see anything wrong with my drinking because it wasn’t affecting my job.

In 1997 I was lucky enough to marry the most wonderful and beautiful woman I’ve ever known. I took a promotion and we relocated to Las Vegas. After a few years we bought our first home. Everything was great on the surface. But, despite the fact that I was married, I was still going out and partying a lot. I became more and more moody. Oftentimes I’d get angry fro no apparent reason. The nightmares and nightsweats that came from what I had gone through in combat were coming more frequently. But I found that the more I drank, the less I would dream. So I drank more.

Then I discovered meth. The nightmares couldn’t come if I didn’t sleep. So I didn’t sleep. Within a year I had ruined my marriage. We sold the house in the divorce, and I quit my job to move back home. Not long after returning home I was arrested for the first time- DUI and transportation of marijuana. I was 37 years old and about to be a felon. I was eventually sentenced to probation and felony drug court. It took me three years, and a couple of relapses, but I made it through. Even though I completed the program, I really never felt comfortable with my counselor. I didn’t think he would understand what I was going through since he had never seen combat. Because of this, I never really dealt with any of the issues I was hiding from by using drugs and alcohol.

As we all know, drugs and alcohol create much more than legal problems. They harm us physically, psychologically, and emotionally. They cause us to make decisions and behave in a way that we normally wouldn’t. Because of my drug use and the trouble I had gotten into, I walked away from my family and the other positive people I had in my life. I had no support group. Because of this, and the fact that I hadn’t dealt with my issues, it wasn’t long before I was using again. I was running around with other guys that were using. I was committing crimes and living in a way that was against everything I had been taught, and was counter to how I had lived for most of my life. I hated what I had become. In order to not feel the shame and guilt for what I had become, I got high even more. Then I’d hate myself for getting high and doing the things I was doing, so I’d get high again to not feel it. I was stuck in a vicious cycle that was only getting worse.

After a few years of this, I finally couldn’t take it anymore. I was out on bail charges of burglary and GTA. Getting high wasn’t masking the way I hated myself anymore. I was afraid to die, yet I didn’t want to live. I was losing my mind. One day I was finally in such bad shape that I was afraid of what I might do to myself. I went to the crisis intervention unit and checked myself in. After a 72-hour evaluation, and a promise to not hurt myself, I was released. I wasn’t high, but I was still a wreck. In a way I was in worse shape. I didn’t have drugs to hide how I felt. I was so ashamed of myself that I was afraid to reach out to my family. I took the rest of my money and got a motel room. After a couple of days locked up in that room things only got worse. Out of desperation, I picked up the phone and called a family friend who also worked for Veteran Services. She dropped everything and picked me up from the motel right then. Within an hour we were on our way to the veterans hospital in White City, Oregon. But when we got there they didn’t have a bed for me. They were full. I was brought back down to where I’m from and placed in a transitional home for vets. They gave me a room and scheduled an appointment for me to see mental health. After about a week, I still hadn’t seen anyone to help me with what I was going through. I wasn’t getting high, but I wasn’t getting help either. I was tired of getting high. But I couldn’t handle the way I was feeling. I finally caved and called J.R. We had been running around together getting high for a couple of days when we got in the chase and the accident happened. That night I had been the one driving. Even though we both knew what we were getting into by running from the police, and I didn’t intentionally kill my friend, I still carry guilt for J.R being gone. I think of him every single day.

Now that I have shared my story, I’d like to make it clear that I take full responsibility for my actions. I’m not making any excuses. Nobody forced me to use drugs and alcohol. I use because I didn’t know how to deal with my PTSD. I got PTSD from serving my country in combat. Even in that, I made a choice. I chose to join the Army because I love my country. Given the chance, I would make the same choice again.

That being said, I’ll still be one of the first to point out that there are aspects of our country that are broken and in need of repair. Our societal unit and our legal system are failing us. If a person like me can be failed by the system, then how can anyone stand a chance? I just shared with you my story. I grew up in a good home. I didn’t experience physical abuse or the use of drugs. I graduated from high school and served my country honorably in combat. I worked hard, married, and bought a home. In all of these ways I was very fortunate. But when I finally reached a point that I couldn’t function anymore because of my PTSD, I couldn’t get the help I needed. Instead, I was left to continue to spiral out of control until my friend J.R was dead and I was locked away. Again, I take full responsibility for my actions. But my actions were in part, caused by something that happened in my past that was out of my control. So, if something like this can happen to me, then how can anyone less fortunate have any chance? Most of the men in here with me were failed at a very young age. They weren’t nearly as fortunate as me. But, like me, they were negatively impacted by something in their past. Rather than trying to offer more help for people, our society and the legal system within our society have made mass incarceration the norm. Mass incarceration is not the answer. It isn’t a cure or a fix. It’s simply a failing way of fixing a failing system.

I like to thank IJ for allowing me to share my story and express my gratitude for all that they are doing to help end mass incarceration. With people like them, people in here have hope. 

Adam  11:26

Uhm, I mean, I can start it off or whoever, however. We can kinda just get into the flow. Good, good? Crystal, how you feelin’ Crystal? Good? Okay. What a powerful story. We just heard from, from Dan, speaking about (pause) how he grew up, and what led him to prison, and how he wasn’t able to get the help uhm, that he needed. I also want to thank, thank Larry for- for sharing, and reading on, on behalf of Dan. And I know this, this can be heavy. However, thi-this is a topic that we do have to speak about, we do have to address, because a lot of times it kind of just get swept under the rug. And in this season, we are addressing and talking about harm and different, different types of harm. I was just wondering, is anything coming up for, from you Ra or from Crystal, after hearing such a powerful story?

Ra  12:43  

Yeah. Uhm. I’m, you know, I’m struck by how clear all of his requests for help were; how correct, how formulaic, how state approved and still, they didn’t amount to enough help, or help in the right direction, or help at the right time. And um, kind of reflecting on, on your um comment Adam about it being a topic that swept under the rug, because that’s totally true. But, it’s also true that murder and manslaughter are sensationalized, by the media as well. In fact, like in this work, when we say we’re abolitionists, I feel like one of the very first questions people expect you to be versed on is, murder. You know, it’s like the-the first go to because of law and order or whatever show is currently-

Adam  13:36  

Right.

Ra  13:36  

-running, you know? But-

Adam  13:36  

Right, right.

Ra  13:36  

-when you get into the actual, like stories, that part is really swept under the rug. We don’t hear a lot of the human stories. Uh-

Adam  13:45  

Right. Causative factors? 

Ra  13:47  

Yeah. 

Adam  13:48  

Right. For the listeners, Ra, if you don’t mind can, can you share with us, um, how manslaughter and murder is uh, defined?

Ra  13:55  

Sure. Yeah. That makes sense. Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice aforethought. Manslaughter, is kind of the same thing, but without malice aforethought, or in other circumstances that do not amounts to murder. Those are just like the standard definitions, but there’s so much nuance. I know you have some personal experience with all that, Adam.

Adam  14:19  

Right. Yes, yes, I do. For a lot of, a lot of people that do not know, I was sentenced to 11 years for voluntary manslaughter, and a 10 year gang enhancement. And so what voluntary manslaughter means is-is, it wasn’t, it was kind of like a situation that happened that I was aware of, but I didn’t have malice on the intent of me going to the extreme and nor that I seek the proper help, like, you know, calling 911 in or uhm, reporting it. So, and I was involved, I was involved in a gang related shooting, that, that was uh, where I got charged for voluntary manslaughter. Uhm, and before then, I was charged first degree murder, but once the facts and different things came out, that’s when they dropped it to, to lower charges.

Ra  15:11  

Always caught by how manslaughter is actually the lesser charge, and it’s such an aggressive word. It’s like there, it literally has the word slaughter in it. You know, it just seems so dramatic, I think. Uhm. Yeah, when I was going through court, I was thinking about how much it reminded me of theater, you know? Like all these people playing these like ridiculous roles, and the judge being for some reason, six feet up in a podium and all these things.-

Adam  15:11  

Mhm.

Ra  15:11  

-But manslaughter also seems just like, one more theatrical, you know, reflection on these ideas. One thing, I think, that we should probably, like, get clear from the get, uhm, I think a lot of people, like I said, ask us about murder, and manslaughter when we’re talking about abolition. And, only 15% of people in our nation’s prisons have been convicted of murder or manslaughter. And I say that, I mean, 15% is still a lot, right? That’s still more than, we would like zero murder, please. But, I think in terms of the numbers, it’s not like the prevalent thing. And much like, Dan’s story, and your story, they integrate so closely with societal factors, like substance abuse, like poverty, like communities that aren’t being served. I don’t know. It just seems like, yeah, it seems like this discrepancy of-of, again, going back to the same thing. This combination of it being something we don’t talk about, and something we constantly participate in the theater of.

Crystal  16:41  

I think one of the things that stood out to me was, like you mentioned Ra, all the times that Dan reached out for help, and the different ways in which he was criminalized. Uhm, even though, you know, he was going through substance abuse, PTSD, lack of resources, because, he went out for help, and there wasn’t a bed for him. And something, that he said was, you know, “I had a great childhood,” uhm, “I served the country that I love. And, even with this great childhood,-

Adam  17:22  

Mhm.

Crystal  17:22  

-and doing everything that I did, I’m still here, and if somebody like me, is still here and didn’t receive help. How does everyone else stand the chance?” And, that is something that I have mentioned in the past, is like,-

Adam  17:40  

Mhm.

Crystal  17:40  

-looking at how we grew up, and the very little resources that we had, we definitely did not stand the chance. Like, it is, as messed up as it sounds, no shocker that I have a brother who is incarcerated, no shocker that my 14 year old nephew is always being stopped by the cops. And, I have a loved one who has uhm, substance abuse and suffers from homelessness. And that is something that I always think about, is, we have nowhere to go, and, what’s going to happen to my loved ones? And, and that really, really uh, hit home when Dan was sharing about that.

Adam  18:24  

Yeah, it sure did hit home, because I thought about you know, my situation. And I share it real briefly. You know, I grew up in a two parent home, right? Siblings at the house. Pretty, pretty, pretty blessed right? In the suburb area. But I still was lacking things which, you know, led me here, let me there. And now I’m wondering, I’m one of the ones that’s getting charge, right? And actually getting sentenced to to, to do this time, and seeing how it was so many people that I was less fortunate to me, that didn’t have a chance and I was gave just a little bit of chance and some in the eyes of others, but yet didn’t have a chance. Because of you know, the the neighborhood and different things like that. And what really stuck were really stuck out to me most about hearing Dan’s story, not only just him having to to understand and know hiself of having PTSD of going through an actual war, right Desert Storm was a very, very, very deadly war. very deadly.

Crystal  19:28  

At  19. 

Adam  19:29  

Right. It’s such a young age, right? And so he comes home and he’s trying to find help and he’s getting in cycle and his first arrest for was for a DUI in a possession possession right of marijuana. And where was the evaluation where was the assessment to say yo we let’s see was going on with this case not just this case, but all other cases but let’s really take a let’s really take a more of a look at this. And I think that’s where the system fumbled. That’s where system completely failed, is just saying, you know, hey, go to these classes, and pay these fines and do what you got to do and continue to continue living. And for me that that really hit home and really, because I remember, you know, me going through my situation and being arrested, and not having to help getting arrested at a young age and just saying, hey, you know, you’re on probation, just get off probation. And life is good, no, life is not good. Like, it’s things happening, like, where’s the additional help that I should be receiving from the system, from this government that is created to help the peoples?

Ra  20:33  

Yeah, it’s a bizarrely one size fits all system. And I think, especially bizarre, because the one size they’re basing it off of, are the non marginalized people. So there’s no recognition of the individual traumas and the community, the communities that they’re entering back into. Even even the concept of, you know, him being a vet. I think the dissidents in this country, when it comes to that is so incredibly striking, we have so much reverence for the uniform. And so little reverence for the bodies, the usually marginalized bodies inside those uniforms, we target marginalized communities for the, for the Army, for the Air Force, we, we go to their schools, we, we bribe them, we do whatever we need to do to get people into this military service. And as soon as that uniform comes off, they’re just another person that we don’t care about. And honestly, even when the uniform is on, you know, I think about all the procedures I grew up in South Texas, heavy military area, and one of the more shocking aspects of prison to me was how treated better, you know, it was like, You’re not even allowed to like drag uniforms on the ground or treat them poorly. But you can, you can let your vets be homeless without any sort of problem, you know, you can let them suffer, you can diagnose them with C, PTSD and not get the medication, it’s, it’s something we have to at some point address,

Crystal  22:05  

Right, because, later in the season, we will also hear from another incarcerated individual, who is also a vet. So, these stories are not uncommon. Not only are we going to put you in a situation where you are traumatized, take you back to the US and leave you to fend for yourself, not provide resources, not provide any help; and then, criminalize you when things go wrong,-

Ra  22:35  

Right.

Crystal  22:35  

-and then, throw you in a cage.

Adam  22:37  

Right and then put inside of this cage and say, Okay, now this is how you this is how you need to coexist. This is how you have to live inside of this space with everyone else that have just as many problems as you and even going inside, right? I speak from personal experience going inside and coming out here in the community, murderers, people, that’s manslaughter, and different things like that is labeled a certain way, right, it’s labeled a certain way everywhere they go, they are labeled with then you get into the system, and that label is reversed. And now you have to try to balance like wait, I’m getting praised, but at the same time criminalizing it’s like a conflict and still having to balance and understand what you are dealing with. Right? Personally, right? I have some core issues going on. I had some very, very serious issues going on, when I was inside and in still being labeled inside. And then I had to realize, like, you know, I can’t, I can’t listen to none of your labels, I need to take care of myself. That’s why we say take care of you because that’s important. And once I started making that transition, and understanding that you can label me but that’s not who I am, and, and started to make make a better change for myself and for a community is difficult. But it’s so it’s so it’s so like, welcoming. And that’s something that I just want to just once again give flowers to Dan for, for being able to say, you know, this is where I messed up and be able to backtrack from his childhood, to go into to the to the service to being inside and not having no help through the whole process. I believe it was one point where he said he didn’t feel comfortable with his counselor, because he felt that his counselor didn’t understand what he was going through. And in order to make this change in order to have things be successful, right. We have to be able to be around people that’s relatable that we feel comfortable with. It’s very heartening to see so many so many young, young people that that are coming out of the service and not getting the proper help that they should be getting.

Ra  24:47  

Yeah. And to go back to your point about like labels in prison and how it how it affects how you’re treated inside. That I think the weirdest part about that is that you know some studies show that up to 80% of crime is committed and under the influence of drugs of drugs or alcohol. And like to Dan’s point, when he was using those drugs, it was like he was a different person, you know, so like the person we’re serving time with, isn’t the person that that acted impulsively in that moment. I guess these labels are just so so murky, even even the definition between like murder and manslaughter, it’s, it’s not always fact based. It really depends on how the prosecutor felt that day when they woke up. And the quality of the defense depends where you are. Depends on yeah, zip code, it’s just all kinds of wonky things. Language is something that when we talk about, it sounds so cemented, it sounds like it means something definitive, and it just doesn’t in this space, it just doesn’t.

Adam  25:47  

Right. And to add to that point, if I may, Crystal, I see you getting ready to chime in speaking about speaking about like the labels, right. So when I first was arrested, I was arrested for accessory to first degree murder, right? Meaning that I was I was I was a driver, I was a part of this. And this is what this is, okay, this is what we’re charging with. But when I went to trial, right, and I got a deadlock, meaning I got 11 guilty one not guilty, all of a sudden the label change, right? Because this district attorney is sees Oh, I couldn’t convict him for this. So now let me convict him for this. And he’s still in. The funny thing about it was he even spoke to my parents and said, hey, you know, speak to him to try to take this deal. They wanted me to share some things that that that was true, and pretty much wanted me to lie. And I said, I’m not gonna lie. Because I know my part. I know what took place. And he said, well, I can lead a horse to water, but I can’t make them drink it. And that was very disturbing to hear that because in the system, all I care about is being able to either lock people away. 

Crystal  26:53  

Yep. 

Adam  26:53  

And not really given the help because of the simple fact he my district attorney knew. He knew. He knew I worked. He knew my family, right? But yet, and still, it was like, well, hey, I can try to help them. But if you don’t want to help, then okay, well, this is what it’s gonna be. And so sad, because that’s similar to Dan situation, coming home being a vet and knowing that he that he does need to help and wasn’t provided that help. And it’s like, well, hey, we try but you really didn’t try enough because he’s started using to because he was having dreams and having nightmares. So to stop that he turned to, you know, drug use, which I’m not condoning. But in this case, we see that okay. This is how it started. so where can we get the additional help before it continues? And before it progresses.

Crystal  27:41  

Before we move forward, a little bit more, I was going to ask you, Adam, if you can explain for our listeners, what you meant by labels and then the labels being reversed? And uh, and praise? Wha-what you mean by you’re receiving praise?

Adam  27:57  

So in society, right? When I say society, I mean out here in the free world, me being a person that that that can be considered a manslaughter, quote, quote, air quotes, right? I’m labeled a certain way. So as soon as they hear that, it’s like, oh, no, we don’t want nothing to do with him. Right? I got fired from a job. They hired me. And then four days later, they fired me once they found out you know, they did my background check. So you know, as you look down upon it, and you like, you know, you oppressed under that marginalized community of people, right? Inside?

Ra  28:28  

Right.

Adam  28:28  

People look at you like, oh my goodness, you like it don’t even matter what you did, like, I can use Dan, right? I guarantee you, Dan is in there. And people when he first came in, he’s looking up to him, like he did something great. Because in this prison world, things are just made up off of like, kind of like make believe. So it’s a make belief, if you will to when people come inside that have a higher crime. So like if you have a higher crime, you get praise more. You get like praise more like you get treated different from from the way other incarcerated. Folks treat you to the way staff treat you to the way correctional officers, etc treat you.

Ra  29:12  

Some of that may be because of the scarcity. You know, again, we talk about how this comes up a lot uhm, in conversations because it is so deeply sensationalized. It makes TV that people are used to watching, you know, and the US murder rates are in 2020, there were 7.8 homicides per 100,000 people, so they’re scared and I think in general, there’s like a human mechanism in our brain that says, rare is valuable. And so inside, when you know that to be true, you know the rarity because you’re living amongst the incarcerated population. I think he kind of gets that sense. But out here, we feel like murder is rampant in this country that here specifically, we have this festering problem, when in actuality our crime rates aren’t that much different from other countries. It’s just that crimes here are so much more lethal because of guns. And I think, you know, we talk about lots and lots of solutions to that there are a lot of people talking about actionable things we could do. And I think it’s important to think back to like Dan’s story, and how the help failed him. You know, I guess, like the limitations of the help. One thing that you noted, Adam already was like, cultural competency. You know, if they don’t understand more, how are they going to meet you? Somewhere, but there’s a lot of other gaps too, just like not enough beds. You know, that seems like such a fixable thing. I don’t know, a frustratingly fixable thing.

Adam  30:55  

Right. And even to add to that, even to add to that, with him supposed to be having an evaluation, right being evaluated within a week, but it took longer than a week. I mean, that could have been an actionable item, taking place where it is, “let’s try to get this evaluation, this assessment going, until maybe a bed open.” Like, even that right here could have changed the trajectory on him relapsing.

Crystal  31:16  

I had also, I do not want to let this moment pass, and let this episode pass, without me pointing out that, Dan talks about how every time he picked up the phone and reached out to somebody for help, it was never the cops. He called a friend,-

Ra  31:35  

Yes.

Crystal  31:35  

-he talked to the wife. Uhm, and that is, that is the reason why he was in-in that car with, with Jr. to begin with. Because he was calling, his community, and also a community, that also needed help.

Adam  31:53  

Mmm.

Ra  31:53  

In the disability community, we call those people like, your pod. Like, there’s no education to tell us what to do when our pod needs to level up, you know? When there’s a new thing going on. You know, in my own personal circumstances, my parents are college professors, and my family they’re, they’re pretty diversely and deeply educated. But prison, they had never dealt with anything like that. And when I came home, they were scrambling, you know, there wasn’t like an easy course on like, how to,-

Crystal  31:53  

Yeah.

Ra  31:54  

-yeah, like, what do you do? What do you do when your daughter, who was fine before, cries in a CVS-

Adam  32:33  

Mhm.

Ra  32:33  

-because there’s too many shampoos, you know?-

Adam  32:36  

Right.

Ra  32:36  

-it’s just, it’s a struggle, they really just had no idea. They alternated between things like, push through, to be like, nevermind, we’ll do everything for you. To being like, “nope, that’s not good either.” Like, we really had to figure it out, on our own. And, at the time, you know, like, there’s really no such thing as criminals. It’s just criminalized behavior, you know? So, and when, when you’re on parole and probation, you’re just in this perpetual state of being considered someone who’s like, in a ongoing state of criminalized behavior. So, I remember like, in that CVS, when I was crying about shampoo options, too many. Too many shampoos y’all.-

Crystal  32:37  

Right.

Ra  33:08  

-Even now, it’s a little overwhelming, but then, it was-

Adam  33:17  

Right.

Ra  33:17  

-I was not-

Adam  33:18  

Yes.

Ra  33:19  

-prepared. I was not-

Adam  33:19  

Mhm.

Ra  33:19  

-prepared. Particularly, because inside we get men’s shampoo, so they do not smell floral and things. So those things were very confusing, but uhm, there was a cop.-

Adam  33:19  

Yeah, I know that’s bad. I don’t even like man shampoo.

Ra  33:31  

-Yeah, it’s, it’s, you know, I think we liked it. Uhm, I think overwhelmingly, it seemed nice. It was like, you know, there aren’t actual men in there, really, you know? You’re not like sniffing the COs. So,-

Adam  33:43  

Got you.

Ra  33:44  

-it was kind of like a call back to other things. I think baby shampoo would have been popular, for the same reason. We would have been like,-

Crystal  33:58  

Oh, yes.

Ra  33:49  

-“Yes, I smell like baby.” Because I definitely miss those. But yeah, in that CVS I started crying and my mom came over and she was like, “we need to go because there’s a cop.” And like, it’s perfectly legal to-

Crystal  33:58  

Oh.

Ra  33:59  

-cry in a CVS, but she was so-

Crystal  34:04  

Yeah.

Ra  34:04  

-stressed, that I was on parole and probation, and making a scene, in a CVS and that, that could be really dangerous for me. And uh, and my family didn’t have that sort of prior relationship with, with cops, but it changes quickly.-

Crystal  34:17  

Right.

Ra  34:16  

-And it becomes cultural, and it, and for good reason. You know? It’s, it’s a threat. Uhm.

Crystal  34:21  

It’s always been a threat where, where I grew up from. Ever since I was a little girl, I remember-

Adam  34:28  

Right.

Crystal  34:29  

-playing outside and seeing the cops and immediately like, going to sit down and waiting for them to like, pass by, before I continued uh, jumping rope or doing, whatever it is that was doing. Um, one thing also, that you mentioned Ra, that particularly just broke my heart was uhm, the family connections. The Ra that was robbed before being incarcerated, is not the same that came home. I’ve experienced that with my brother. And hearing Dan’s story, it really hurt me, that he said that, when he was going through his addiction, he felt that the, the best thing to do was be away from his family. And now, he’s away from his family again. And that being the, the solution. And, another thing that I want us to touch on, and I’m going to ask this tough question, that I know our listeners are probably thinking about too, is, what about Jr? What about the man who lost his life, that night? And, what Junior’s family might be going through? Right now. 

Adam  35:55  

Yeah. Uhm. For me, I-I-I really, really understand that right? Because a person, in my, in my case, you know, lost his life. And, it’s just one of those, is-is-is so sad that, they, this system says, “pay restitution,” right? Pay this certain amount of money, and everything will be okay. But the reality of it is, that’s not gonna, that’s not, that’s not going to bring amends, right? That’s not going to bring healing. And, when you go through this transition of, of what you’ve done, and how you are and how you changing, and then you start, you know, you start growing from that caterpillar to-to that butterfly. You really want to, you really want to make amends, and you really want to speak to the family that survived, right? By, the person that’s no longer, that’s no longer with us. And I tried to, I tried to-to-to start that, right? I tried to speak and reach out to, to the family. But, the reality of it was, CDCR told me that I had to get permission from the family to start making amends. So, where do I even start? Right? How can I, how can I tell this family that I’m sorry and explain to them what took place, so they can get the healing, so, so I can be able to get healing, so we can be able to, you know, share our stories and-and-and be able to bring peace amongst this Earth. And CDCR’s best response is, “you have to get amends, you have to get permission,” you know? And so that’s something that, that definitely needs to, that need to, w-we have to like, look into as well is, is being able to understand that, you know, families are still hurting. You put somebody in, in the system and-and incarcerate them, but their family is still having to go through that healing, go through that pain, go through that grief, every single day. It ain’t even a system that can kind of make a bridge to, to be able to be in community itself. 

Ra  37:52  

Yeah. One of the most, to your point Crystal, one of the most important missing narratives in all of these is-

Crystal  37:59  

Mhm.

Ra  37:59  

-is the story of the people who suffered from these harms. And we talked about that, a little bit, in episode three with Adriana, where she shares with us how we can amplify the voices of victims and survivors and what that terminology means.-

Crystal  38:13  

Right.

Ra  38:13  

-And in the future, we’ll be talking about that some more. We have a minisode coming up about, about those who lost their life and, and the ramifications of that; and on their families, on the communities. How these harms overlap, how those harms present themselves in families and we just, we thought that area deserved its own like, space in time. So we could do right-

Crystal  38:15  

Yes.

Ra  38:15  

-by it. And I think there’s, I don’t know, I don’t pick the minisodes, but there’s probably a little space in there for uhm, cop caused murder/manslaughter. You know?-

Crystal  38:52  

Mhm.

Ra  38:52  

-We could get into that. Or, uhm I think that’s, that’s uhm something our community deals with a lot too, you know? Uhm, and there is nuance to all of these situations. I think we’re just trying to remind people of that, because again, this is such a sensationalized topic. People think of it as so cut and dry. If you listen to the TV shows, you would think like, murder is rampant in the United States. It’s often complex-

Crystal  38:53  

Uh huh.

Ra  38:53  

-and clever, but the cops solve all of them. And our prison system is made up entirely of people who uh, caused murder. And-

Adam  39:06  

Right.

Ra  39:06  

-uhm, and that solved it for the family. The families are healed, because that person is away-

Adam  39:29  

Mhm.

Ra  39:30  

-and out of sight. But, none of that is true. Literally no-

Adam  39:33  

Right. True.

Ra  39:33  

-part of that process, is true. Again, just to be super clear, murders are not common. We do not solve even half of them. And uhm, putting someone in prison is not an apology to, to the person who suffered. Silence is not an apology. Money is not an apology. There needs to be actual accountability, redemption, a process, a bridge, and these are all things that we can totally build. 

Crystal  40:03  

Yeah. Uh, Ra, I just, all, everything you just said right now is golden. I loved everything you just said. But, one of the things that stood out to me was you saying that cops don’t solve murders, they show up after they’ve happened. And, they don’t provide healing for anybody involved, at any step of the process. Adam, you having to ask permission to make amends, to take accountability, to provide healing for yourself, your community, and the family of the person whose life was lost. And even that, Dan said, says himself that he thinks about Jr. every single day, and he will continue think, to think about Jr. every single day. And, hopefully one day, Dan comes home. And again, no system is set in place to provide Dan, a fellow human being, healing, help, accountability for what happened, and nothing for Jr’s family either. And, that is something that I-I think about all of the time. It’s just, this harm happened, the person who caused the harm going to prison, and that’s it. That’s all there is to it.

Adam  41:24  

Yeah, yeah. And-and, and then, you know, person goes to prison, and come back and just supposed to, you know, get reintroduced to society, right? And, still lack of resources, like, really? You know? I-I, I served 14 and a half years, and when I was released, it was-it was, it was a packet of-of-of the bare minimum. But the resources that was provided, wasn’t, wasn’t, wasn’t anything that can really help me be reentered into sis- into society, right? Uhm. It was nothing there that say, “Hey, if you would like to reach out to uhm, the people that you have harmed,” right? Because even though this young man is not living, his family is still harmed, right? I still harmed-

Ra  41:24  

Right.

Adam  41:27  

-his family. Right? So I definitely want to be clear about that. But it was nothing, and-and-and, uhm, you know, now, now we-we-we are living in times where we can be able to speak up on things and take, take the initiative, right? To really get justice served and not just from a punitive system, because that, we understand, and we know that, that system does not work. And so, with that, I would just like to pose a question, what did we miss? 

Ra  42:40  

I think, something we missed, or something that deserves re-underlining, because I know we’ve talked about this a little bit in other episodes, but what is the result of sensationalizing these loss of life crimes? You know? In our- in our system, what that looks like, are these things that we call enhancements. And, these enhancements are examples of extreme sentencings that, keep people in the carceral system for years, and years, and years, and lock them into these patterns, and communities, and cultures lacking resources. Which then, kind of create these problems. And when I say that it’s a result of sensationalizing, I’m referring to the fact again, that this is not the majority crime, this is not the thing that most people are doing time on, and even in cases when it is, it’s very often connected to core issues. To other solvable, smaller things that we can handle, and we try to handle, outside of the carceral system.

Adam  43:44  

Something else that we missed, that I will say is, when Dan spoke about him going to get his friend Jr., and how they uhm, was under the influence and had been drinking. And, that right there is, is something that should have been- should have been uhm, looked at, right? Because his patience weighed thin, and because his patience is weighing thin, he was used to doing something, uhm, which is called a coping mechanism, turning to drugs and alcohol. And for anyone that may be struggling with drugs and alcohol, please, please, you can give a call at 1-800-662-4357. So you can be able to get the help and won’t be missed.

Crystal  44:33  

Thank you uh, Adam, for that resource. And, I just really want to highlight for our listeners, you know, after being in many spaces right here, from Adam, from Ra, I have a brother who was incarcerated, all of this healing and all of these thought processes, processes that Dan went through, to get to where he is at now happened, despite prison. They didn’t happen because he was in prison. He, he didn’t think about how X, Y and Z led to, to, to Jr. losing his life and then Dan being in prison. So, really pay attention. 

Ra  45:14  

Yeah, exactly. Uhm. Knowing about, the punishments, did not result in a change in behavior. And then once-

Crystal  45:24  

Right.

Ra  45:24  

 -it already happens, there wasn’t anything a cop could do, even if that was something within their threshold of- 

Crystal  45:24  

Mhm.

Ra  45:30  

power. So, uhm, when we talk about systems that might work, the first step is understanding that this system does not.

Crystal  45:41  

And, I know this was a tough topic. I know that listening to Dan’s story, with Larry’s sweet voice, was difficult to listen to. And Adam, I know, this was an episode that has brought up a lot for you. Uhm, and I want to end us with a little bit of hope. So, what is one, tiny thing that we can, we can do? I think, for me, it would be sharing Dan’s story with somebody. I know it’s difficult to listen to. Give your loved ones a warning, but share Dan’s story, and have conversations about what we as a community could have done different, and how attainable those changes in our community can happen to prevent these harms from happening in the future, and so that we can ensure that we provide healing and help for everyone. What about you?

Adam  46:54  

For me, what’s coming up is, uhm, continuing to, to-to have these conversations. Uhm. (pause) I-So many times, I have heard stories similar to this, uhm where people have lost their lives, where others have lost their lives. And, people want to try to suppress and really don’t want to hear it, but I will just say continue to share, continue to talk. Because that’s what’s gonna, that’s wha- that’s, that I know for, for a fact, that’s what’s going to lead to getting the help that you want. Being able to be comfortable with sharing your story, sharing Dan’s story, right? It really, it really did hit home for me.

Ra  47:34  

I think for me, it’s uhm (pause), kind of acknowledging how much power we have in situations like this.- 

Crystal  47:44  

Mhm.

Ra  47:44  

-Because it’s so easy to feel helpless, when you hear that long list of times he asked for help and didn’t-

Crystal  47:50  

Yeah.

Ra  47:50  

-get it. But the simple answer is, those services are underfunded. That’s why there was no bed. That’s why-

Crystal  47:51  

Mhhm.

Ra  47:53  

-there’s not community centered care. That’s not where there’s- that’s why there’s not trauma informed care. And-

Adam  48:04  

Mhm.

Ra  48:04  

-in terms of like, how do we make them better? There’s something totally within our power, which is defunding the police and-

Crystal  48:12  

Yup.

Ra  48:12  

-actually funding these services.-

Adam  48:12  

Right.

Ra  48:12  

-We fund the police, we do that and, and we can stop. And we can lower that amount and redirect the funds, that is something totally within our control. And uhm, and it would make a big difference, because a lot of these services are run by people who are trying. You know? Like, you listen to episode three with Adriana, and you’ll hear her list of services. And I promise you if we could give her a billion dollars more, she would do incredible things with it. She would not stop, you know? I-I have faith in the people who are fighting this fight, and I have faith in the fact that we can make the change. And I think the tiny bit of hope is [outro music begins] that, we actually have the power. Call someone. Call someone who can make that change happen today.

Ra  49:03  

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 the parallel. We have walked this gently, so as not to diminish the story, but to highlight and amplify the hearts involved.

Crystal  49:31  

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 initiate justice.org/donate

[outro music continues]