Justice Beyond Punishment

Justice Beyond Punishment


Discussing prison abolition with this week’s returning guest Ría Thompson-Washington.

Intro: Coming together from
across the United States.

The real issues you don't
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Welcome to Resist bot Live.

Melanie: Good afternoon.

It is February 20th,
2022, I'm Melanie Dione.

And this is Resist bot Live welcome.

Last week, we talked about defunding
the police, and one of the cities we

brought up is Chicago, Chicago's budget
is $2,581,272 for substance abuse.

That is what Chicago spends
in half a day of policing.

What we want to talk about is why this is
not working, what we actually mean when we

talk about justice reform transformation,
restorative justice, and today's topic,

prison abolition, and voter restoration.

Of course, I'm not going to be the only
person talking we're going to have our

panel, but before we get started, I just
want to remind you that we're here every

Sunday at 1:00 PM Eastern, you can find us
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If you're listening to us in podcastville,
you're going to catch us every Monday,

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So be sure to go to resist
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If you want to be part of today's
conversation, if you're in Facebook,

you are more than welcome to send
comments and we'll be sure to respond

and possibly get your comment on the air.

So today we are going to talk
about the racial disparities in our

justice system, and the abuses that
incarcerated people have to endure.

So we are going to start bringing
up our regular panelists.

First, we have the wonderful Athena Fulay.

Athena: Hello.

Hako Good day, everyone
greetings from washington, DC.

Good to see you Mel.

How's it going?

Melanie: Good to see you as always.

It's going good.

I feel like I say this every
week, it's going to be a surprise.

I'm excited to have this conversation.

I know you've never heard that before.

Athena: It's an important discussion
and I love that we are we're weaving

a thread for everybody to understand
how this is all interconnected

and all related to one another.

So last week's discussion about.

Funding of the police and what sort of
the trigger word of defunding the police

and how that actually really is more about
reallocating funding to resources that

actually do keep us safe circles back
around to this idea of like what keeps us

safe, investing in communities, investing
in resources, that support communities.

So today is a very important
part of that and that also that

piece about voting restoration.

Cause there's a lot going on
about voter suppression and

gerrymandering and all of that, which

we've addressed I feel in
a couple of our episodes.

The concept of restoration of
voting access and abilities

is going to be critical for,
especially in a midterm year.

Melanie: And this topic is so important
because when we start talking about

voters rights, formerly incarcerated
people get left out of the conversation.

It's not even a, it's not
even a, prevalent discussion.

I won't say that it's never discussed,
but it doesn't have the place that it

needs to be discussed that does not
come up under the topic of suppression.

But in 2020, there were something
like 5.2 million people who were

locked out of the voting process.

so this is something that we
have to discuss more and get into

what the actual conversation is.

When you just hear defund the
police or prison abolition.

I'm going to also bring up our home
girls, Susan, who is back with us.

Hey, Susan, welcome back.

Susan: Hi there.

Thank you.

I'm glad to be back.

personally, I'm really excited about
this conversation, for someone like

me, I've spent 30 years in the state
court system and I've spent a ridiculous

amount of time in courtrooms and.

I always thought I understood what
the criminal justice system was about.

And it wasn't until I started looking at
this topic and I read Michelle Alexander's

book, the new Jim Crow back in 2010 that
I understood, the inherent oppression.

That is just, it's not just built into
our criminal justice system, but that the

criminal justice system is built on it.

For somebody who spent the number
of years I have in the courtroom to

not see and understand the import of
this never ending line of people of

color coming through the courtrooms.

So I think that this.

There's a really important conversation.

I think it's important that we understand
the foundations of our criminal

justice system that supports furthers
maintains this racial oppression.

And so I'm really looking forward
to hearing from our guests today.

Melanie: Absolutely.

And so we are joined again this week
and I'm going to use the word again, If

we turned excited into a drinking game
on this show, we die, but I'm excited.

I'm excited that we have our guests
are returning guests from last week.

Ria Thompson- Washington.

Hello Ria.

Ría: Greetings and salutations.

Hey, y'all how y'all doing.

Melanie: Fantastic.

Thank you for joining us again.

Ría: Thank you for having me.

Melanie: You're versed in
both of these conversations

abolition and voter restoration.

So, let's talk.

I like to start with the simple and
what it means when we talk about prison

abolition, the, can you elaborate a bit
on the concept of prison abolition for us?

Ría: Well, for me, whenever I
start thinking about what is prison

abolition, or trying to explain it
to people, I start with defining what

the prison industrial complex is.

Critical Resistance, which is an
organization dedicated to prison abolition

and the prison, the abolition of the
prison industrial complex, describes,

um, the pic as a term to describe like
overlapping entrance of government

and industry that uses surveillance,
policing, and imprisonment as solutions to

economic, social, and political problems.

And so when we think of the way that
the poor ism industrial complex.

permeates throughout everything that we
touch, um, or everything in our lives.

We then have to think about why
it's important and necessary to,

consider constructing why abolition?

And abolition, I think is like the
goal of as a political vision, um, it's

a goal of eliminating prison police,
surveillance of the state and, trying to

create, you know, lasting alternatives
to punishment and imprisonment.

Melanie: When we talk about these
alternatives, one of the things and

we talked about last week, how defund
the police got cut off at the knees.

I remember Barack Obama.

he said, well, you lost people
when you said defund the police.

So as though it was oversimplified,
which would be fine.

And Barack Obama did not go to Harvard
and understand the concept of digging

deeper into things that he hears.

and I'm saying that because this is a way
to shut down, more radicalized thinking.

This is a way to shut down reform.

This is a way to shut down,
justice transformation because when

you cut off a prison abolition,
where are they going to go?

You don't get into the
deeper conversation.

If you're inclined.

To learn then you do more, you learn more
and you speak on that, but if you're not,

it gets cut off at, oh, well, they're
just going to open the cell doors.

And no, the concept is not to open every
cell in Attica and send them to Africa.

The concept is how do
we get to this point?

And I think that is the, I appreciate it.

Last week, when you said abolitionists,
don't have all the answers.

And I think a lot of us, including
me as somebody who is very interested

and invested in this topic, kind of
struggle with that because I, have that.

Well, what is next?

And when you dig deeper, you realize
that prison abolition is a goal.


Abolition is where we're getting to.

And the point of
abolitionists is to share.

These are the steps.

These are the things we need to
work through to see if we can

change this carceral system.

In a way that's manageable.

So I want to talk more about that
and I would love if everybody could

come up because I would love all
of us to, to weigh in on this.

we have all been subject or
live with a concern as women.

We live with this
concern of personal harm.

Usually when we talk about, protection
or, or needing protection, we're the ones

who often need it first, but, or most
often, but it's been proven that it's

not, it has not been an effective method.

It does not having a prison system has
not stopped women from being abused,

children from being abused, nor has it
done anything for the systems in there.

It does not do anything to prepare
someone to return to society.

So I'd like to talk a little bit more
about where we can start with, abolition.

Now I read a book, a very good one.

I actually read abolition feminism now,
which, I found interesting there, there

were a lot of interesting points there.

And one of the things that it brought
out was the need for how often police

are not responding to crime, how often
they're responding to mental health care

needs, directing traffic, even physical
health care needs, they may show up.


In an abolitionist system.

Can you give sort of a snapshot on what,
how some of these would be outsourced,

not outsourced, but assign the other
agencies that aren't the police.

Ría: Yeah.

So the idea is that like,
imagine if you called 9 1 1.

Because you witnessed someone having like
maybe a mental health break and instead

of them sending the police to, to that
person, right where the police are not

equipped to deal with someone who may be
in the middle of a mental health break and

somebody who's trying to harm themselves
and someone who might appear like they're

trying to harm others because they may
not be, in control of their capacity.


So having the police show up with
weapons, in an adversarial and

hostile way, oftentimes, is not.

Useful, what would be dope as
if we called 9 1 1 and they

say, what is your emergency?

And you tell them what the emergency is.

And they say, okay, it sounds like
you know, a licensed therapist.

We have these, folks online, or it sounds
like you need mental health support.

So let's, get, adult care or
children's youth, you know, like care.

where there are so many options
or even for a car accident.

For a car accident, right?

Because you think about like, we
don't need police in car accidents,

but the reason that we have to have
them there is because in order to

get your insurance like claim, right,
you have to have a police report

to be able to like, make the claim.

So we're involving police and things
that have nothing to do with them.

Two people and a mediator
could settle that police the

exchange of that information.

But instead we're having police
come into all of these spaces that

they're not equipped to deal with.

They don't have to go through
any advanced training.

And expecting them to be able to know
how to handle situations when the role

of policing is to, uphold the authority.

It's not to take care of people, right?

It's it's like the idea that police
are supposed to protect and serve is a

notion when they show up with their guns
drawn That doesn't make me feel safe.

Most people, I know don't feel
safe when police are around,

or brought into the situation.

And so thinking about.

W, what do we want when we called 9 1 1,
what do we need when we call for help?


As you hear the lift, somebody is
having a domestic violence situation.

they may not need police in that
situation, what they may need as a

mediator or a separator or somebody
to help, for passage out or.

separation, like there's all kinds of ways
in which we could be community members to

each other, without involving the police.

But we've been socialized to
think that the police are actually

going to show up and help us.

And that like nearly never happened
in someone almost always goes to jail.

Melanie: Laquan McDonald was killed
when the officers showed up 30

seconds, 30 seconds, no assessment.

When, Tamir rice was killed, even
less, I think it was, was it 12?

It was something unconscionable.

It was it's.

So there's no assessment.

There's no, the skills that you need
when there's, a conflict that needs

to be resolved are non-existent I do
want to make sure that we bring up

some of the petitions that we have.

Susan, can you let us know what our
petitions are and make sure that we

get those share with, without audience?

Susan: Sure.

Thank you.

so we have three petitions,
currently, and the first one that

I'm going to chat about is titled
defund and demilitarize the police.

To further to Ria's
point about the training.

So many of the, law enforcement agencies
around the country, they don't have

any training whatsoever, much less
training to deal with crisis situations.

So, and then when they do,
they come in guns blazing it's

very militarized experience.

So the first one was written by
Earnin all this Castillo.

And again, it's titled defunded,
demilitarize, the police, and

really it's asking to stop the
militarization of our law enforcement

agencies across the country.

They get excess weaponry, you know,
military weaponry, and that's just not.

That's just not how we should
be responding to situations

in crisis people in crisis.

So the call sign for that particular.

Petition is U as in umbrella,
F as in Frank, E as in Edward,

P as in Peter, Q, G as in good.

And so if you want to sign on
to defund into demilitarize the

police, that's your call sign.

the second one also.

speaks to defunding the police and it's
called defund police fund communities.

And that's further to Ria's point
again about, you know, looking

to community resources for help
as opposed to law enforcement.

And so the call sign for that one is M
as in Mary G as in good S as in Sam N as

in Nancy, J as in jelly, F as in Frank.

And so if you'd like to sign on
to that one, that's the call sign.

And then the third one that we have
is regarding a piece of legislation

that was introduced back in 2020 by,
excuse me, it's called the breathe act.

And what it's looking for is to institute
changes to policing pre-trial detention,

sentencing, and prosecution practices.

and you know, really looking at
demilitarizing our neighborhoods again.

And the call sign for that
petition is F as in Frank O.

I as in ice cream, F as in Frank,
K as in kitchen, E as in Edward.

So if you'd like to sign on to
that one, that's the call sign.

And, you know, if any of these
petitions don't have, don't make

the statement that you want to make.

you can turn any one of your letters.

To your legislatures into a petition.

So if these three petitions, don't
say what you want to say, please

feel free, write your letters to your
legislatures, and you can turn any

one of them into a petition that you
can, and then invite your friends and

family, to sign onto And lobby your
legislators to look at this problem with

law enforcement and the criminal justice
system, and really try to affect change.

Melanie: And yeah, and absolutely.

And we could definitely use more use
more that focus specifically on prisons.

One of the things that I wanted to
bring up about the prison system about

our carceral justice system is how our
good, good friend of Vilissia Thompson

says that whenever we are looking at a
social issue, we need to look at where

the component for disabled people lies.

There's always a cross section there
and she wrote an article, uh, I want to

say a year, but she wrote an article.

Last year, actually just a year ago,
understanding the policing of black

disabled bodies for American progress.org.

And one of the things that she pointed
out when we look at Laquan McDonald,

Korryn Gaines, Freddie gray, these
were people who had special needs.

These were people who fall under
the category of disabled people.

All of them murdered by the police.

50% of people killed by law enforcement
are disabled, and then more than half

of disabled people in America will have
been arrested by the time they're 28.

This is

not healthcare.

This is not care.

This is not anything
that fosters a society.

If anything, it further marginalizes
people who already need help.

and shifting from our more.

Vulnerable folks.

When we start talking about our students,
our young people, I live in new Orleans

and I, and I I'd love for us to really
talk about the brass tacks of this.

and again, everybody is welcome to
weigh-in, but I live in new Orleans where

we do have a significant crime problem,
significant, and a large part of it is

they're perpetrated by young people.

When you have these conversations
about what's needed, it's

police belief, and we ignore how
recreation has been eviscerated.

We ignore how school board
budgets have been eviscerated.

We ignore how I live in new Orleans east.

Just like there's a food desert.

There's also nothing for them to do.

We talked before about a failure
of imagination, Ria and how

it's not a personal failure.

It's a systemic thing.

There was, a group in Chicago, a group
of educators, abolition is kind of is

taking hold among the educator community
because they realize these kids have

they have more, nonsense than libraries.

they're missing the things that they Need.

They're not receiving those.

They see that there's a,
shortfall in the education budget.

How do we square that circle when
we're dealing with that, what can we

do as citizens, as parents to start
early in abolition work from a, I

would say when we look at, risk, like
those younger teens, those teen young

adults, what can we do Ria that would
be a help community wise or even

something that you implement yourself.

Ría: Yeah.

So, I think one of the
things that would be.

Really helpful.

and, and something that we know that
reduces the recidivism rate of people

like who has, gotten involved or ended
up in the court system and ending

up back in the court system, right.

As a restorative or
transformative justice model.

And what that looks like is an opportunity
for the person who was harmed and

the person who has done the harm.

To come together and have a conversation
mediated by, someone who's not involved,

but also other community members like
the person, you know, people's families,

just so that the conversations can
be have like your action like that

you did have these rippling effects.

and I think that when we employ
those types of and I've also done

some research on this one, I was
like, you know, an undergrad before.

This is what I was like studying.


I'm like, yay.

Let's find out how, what we can do
to reduce the rates of recidivism.

how there are different.

It really depends on the county
that you live in how much money that

county has, and what they're doing
to do these diversion programs.

And that's not consistent
across the board.

And, and it also depends on
numerous like economic indicators.

Race, gender, like all of that
drives these, the factors that

determine whether or not you can get
into a program that is diversion.

And so we know that not equal, right?

that's not equitable when we're
talking about how people are

dealing with, situations that arise.

And then the other thing, as I
mentioned last week and like something

that's really near and dear to
my heart is how we think about.

what is our desire to
punitively punish people?

When we can help create say, okay, look,
this harm you created this harm and this

harm had, this, these particular effects.

And in order for you to help, fix or solve
this harm, you need to take these steps.


You have to agree like that.

What you did was harmful.

Take these steps to, to mitigate that
harm as much as possible, apologize

to the people that have been injured.

and then like not throw people away.

Not say, oh, you've done something wrong.

And so we're going to
cast you out to society.

We're going to go put you in a cage
somewhere as a child and expect you to

come out, , as an adult, having been
ready to socialize, , into the community.

and then what we're also going to do
is take away your opportunity to, get,

because if you have any type of criminal
record, it's often harder to find jobs.

We're going to, eliminate the options
for you to be able to have, housing and

places that are safe and communities that,
you know, you might be able to thrive in.


That might have more resources.

And then, we're going to, just
continue to stack things against.

And so it's like, what
is the goal of, prison?

What is the goal of jail?

It's not to, to allow people to
have the opportunity to sit and be

penitent and come back out and be
members of society is to hold people

accountable and punish people.

but we're using like outdated
standards and methods of

torture really to do that now.

And so I just think that
when we think about.

Why, why do we want to, like, how do we
engage in something that looks different?

Transformative justice models are
there you know, other countries,

some places around this country, like
actually employ them, like in Broward

county, they employ those kinds of.

restorative justice models and they
work and they reduce recidivism,

but they're not going to do
that in a place like Chicago.

They're not going to do that
in a place like New York.


And, and the reason they're not is
because there's too much money to be made

off of people going through the system.

And at the end of the day, since we're
still, you know, capitalist based society,

there's no way that we're going to.

Care about people more than the cost it
takes to put them in jail, because I know

it's less to care for people than it is
to cost, to pay for people to be in jail.

Melanie: and it depends on who is where,
like last week we talked about the,

when we looked at police scorecard,
we looked at somewhere like Chicago,

that is, uh, majority black and brown.

And then we looked at somewhere
like Blaine, Minnesota, they

were scored the basket, but when
you dig deeper, you see, okay.


But it's also a time that 79, 78% white.

So you have to read between those lines.

Susan: I just wanted to say,
you know, too, this is not

just an adult court problem.

you see this, some of the most
heartbreaking hearings I've ever been in

where juvenile delinquency and, kids are
committing crimes they're coming before

the court and the court, isn't looking
at what's going on necessarily in that

child's home and what brought that child
before the court in the first place.

it's not just happening with adults.

You know, we've got specialty
courts here in Florida, drug

court, mental health court.

and there is a drug court for juvenile.

I think what Ria is saying, you
know, needs to start all the way down

into juvenile court with the kids
that are coming before the judges

on the crimes that they commit.

And, you know, so it's
not just an adult problem.

Ría: can I just say it like the four?

So for me, it's also like the
way that we start changing.

the way we think about these conversations
is even in the language, right?

Like I don't use the word felon
and my vocabulary because I think

of formerly incarcerated people,
as people who have experienced the

violence and the harm of the system.

And so for me, it's
important to lift that up.

And similarly, I try not to use words
like crime and like saying that people

have done things like that, because
I think that again, to your point,

Susan, When we're talking about what
these kids oftentimes are doing.

And this is like, my wife was a former
juvenile probation and parole officer.

And so I actually saw this firsthand with
her and I actually am kind of one of the

reasons she's no longer doing that work.

and is now an abolitionist.

And out of that system, but but I
saw like actual kids who are having,

problems, like you mentioned at home.

And so the way that they're
acting out is not actually

their desire to, commit a crime.


It's a, response to what it is that's
happening around them in their community.

It's a response to not having resources
or as, Mel said not having, things to do.


and not being able to.

Like all kinds of reasons.

But then we characterize their
behavior as crime and ascribe

the label of criminals to them.

And so there's nowhere
for them to go from there.


And so I think that we should be
mindful, like when we're even having

these conversations of the language
that we're using and like how we're

describing the people that we're
talking about so that we're not like,

reinforcing, unknowingly those
like stereotypes of people.


And so I just want to name that.

Susan: Excellent point Excellent
point you're 100% correct.

Words Matter.

Melanie: Yeah, absolutely.

One of the things too, I want to talk
about, just a bit before we kind of, and

this is gonna lead us as a segue into our
next point is our next topic is community

investment investment in society.

And there was a very important point.

I'm going to keep going back to this
book because I just finished it, but

there was a very important point in
abolition feminism now and how, there

were, critical resistance organizers
who were very focused, not only

on abolition, but making sure that
incarcerated people were a part of the

process because we want to make sure
that we're not, this isn't a savior work.

It's a societal work.

And so how did you have
tactics or recommendations on.

Making sure that the people that
we want to help are part of it.

I mean, outside of just asking questions,
but in, in the fundamental, layers of

abolition work, what was, or did you have
sort of an experience on how to make sure

that it's not just these aren't subjects

and I'm swooping in to help these
are, we are working together.

Ría: Yeah, abolition is
survivor led work, right?

Abolition is led by the people
who have experienced it.

And those were the people who experienced
the violence and the harm of the

prison, industrial complex, complex.

and to that end, many of us have, right?

Like, I don't think anyone, at
this point doesn't know someone who

has, been in prison, been in jail.

Even just been involved in the system.

And again, as we talked about
earlier, there's so many ways that

can happen, just even accidentally.

And I think that we should listen
to the people who are experiencing

the harm, and listen to what it is
that they're saying that they need

that would make them feel safe.

Because the thing is, is that we have
not empowered people who are surviving

this violence to know they are safe.

We're not empowering them to know
that they are saved, that they're

loved, that they're cared for, that
we want them to be able to recover

and like be stronger and move on.

We don't do that.

We often find ways to blame people
and, create, all kinds of like

sub harms, creating other people's
victims and , repeating the same, like

systems and cycles that got us there.

And so I think that what folks
should really do is try to, make

sure that we're listening to the
people who are at the core of this.

The people often talk when we're
talking about like, we're going

to get rid of prisons like me.

I'm like, let's shut them down like today.

And we'll figure out what to do later.


And I realized that's scary for
some people, but I think that if

we people's response is always
well, what about the rapists?


What about the bad guys?

And it's like, I don't know if you
realize what's happening, but the

current system is not preventing
rapists, like, and also only like less

than 30% of rape victims actually even
report that they're being happened.

And then when we talk about how, you
know, rape is occurring and happening

by people who are generally like, know
each other in close proximity, it's

like, There are so many layers, but
we can't just throw somebody away and

say, we're going to let you know, being
in this increased incredibly violent

situation where you can be abused by
not only the system or your lack of

knowledge of it, which is what happens.


But also other people who have been
preyed upon in the same system and

we're just creating larger and larger,
you know, more violent harm and

violent offenders and things like that.

So it's just, I'm always.

I think that people who have
been directly impacted are the

people who I take direction from.

and I myself have been directly impacted.

I have, and so I want to hear
from people whose experiences have

led them to be thoughtful about
what, restitution looks like.


And not just being like about money,
but what does it look like to be

made whole again and empowering
people to know that they can do that.

Melanie: So let's get
into that a little bit.

because we're we're talking about people
who have already been, let's talk about

people who have already been incarcerated
and now they have to come back.

When we know that prison is not
prison has not necessarily prepared

them to, to reenter society.

What are some of the resources
that formerly incarcerated

people can avail themselves of?

And then leading into that, if
you can from there go a bit into,

what voter restoration looks like,
including the accessibility of it.

If you don't mind, if I'm
not giving you too much,

Ría: Sure.

so with regards to like, what are the
resources that folks have access to?


on one hand, like if you're looking
for resources from government

agencies, there are zero.


because again, the once the state
has labeled you a criminal, that

they, you are a, someone who
can be discarded, thrown away.

They no longer care about your wellbeing.

There are state and city specific
organizations that do this work.

One comes to mind as new Orleans
has voice of the experience, right?

And that's a vote.

And so they are a civic engagement group.

That is created of formerly
incarcerated people and their families.


And one of the things that they do is
they register voter registration of folks.

Like they actually go to places Where
you might be going to see your family

member who's currently incarcerated.

So they have, voter registration
drives outside of prisons and jails,

so that not only the people who work
there, but also the people who are

going to visit their family members
realize how important it is for you to

participate in the process of voting.

if you're able to so that you can.

Have impact on the person whose life you
care about on the inside of that building.

so voice of the experience comes to mind.

There are dope organization, but then
there's also like organizations, in most

major cities that work on some type of
like restoration, a lot of them, I can't,

I don't like, it would depend on the
city if, if you want something specific.

and so what folks need to do is again,
find those folks who are doing that

voter rec excuse me, that restorations.


Because what happens is when people
come back and they don't have access

as to access to resources, then
what is it that they're supposed

to do to be able to survive?

You're literally saying that.

I don't care, you know what you do.

And if you show up, back in front of
me, I'm going to throw the book at you.

Maybe even harder than last time,
because you don't deserve this freedom.


but we take away people's opportunities.

So it's what people
can do to support that.

Find these organizations who are
doing the, the restoration rights

work be it making sure that people can
get, housing, be it like ban the box

initiatives where people are trying to
get the box on, job applications that.

If you have previously been
incarcerated, removed and getting

those questions removed because we
want to value people on the merits.

And then also, because we recognize
that those questions are specifically

to eliminate people and that they
only have that eliminating effect when

they are likely brown or black people.


Because white people who have been to jail
still are employed at higher rates, still

have access to creating higher wealth.

Like Hmm, I'm going to put that
in, go that way, but it, you know,

it gets it's all so layered and
related and that's the, thing.

That's why there's no sauce
because if it's not one

Melanie: we always go
back to how this is baked.

This cake is baked with racism.

According to buck again.

Rose brass talked about asking the
other question, they call it that.

So where's the, if I
see this, where is that?

If I see homophobia,
where's the class interest.

If I see transphobia, where's the Misogyny
, like finding those connected things.

So when we're looking at this
carceral system, it's always just

like, find where the racism is.

It's not even if I see it, it's, you
know, or when I know we know it's in there

because of this is what is baked into it.

Athena: and if I can add to that,
it's also this idea of the binary.

We're obsessed with the binary
in this culture we have right

or wrong, good or bad black or
white, and that's never the case.

That's as soon as we can start to
see the grades of these issues, as

Maria pointed out, we might not have
the immediate solution right now,

but we need to understand that it's
going to take steps to get there.

So anything that we can do, I feel as
a society to just deprogram ourselves

from understanding that there's only
two options, whatever it might be.

Are there only two factors that
need to be considered considered?

I think with.

Foster a better understanding
and better approaches to these.

Melanie: Absolutely.

I have a question for you Rhea
about, voter restoration, in

terms of the accessibility of it.

and I'm saying this is somebody who's
learning about the process of voter

restoration, and just thinking about
somebody I'm someone who's fairly decent

about researching and looking up things.

And I came up against some sort of like
sometimes brick walls or just kind of

like questions that weren't completely
answered or were talked around.

So I'm saying that to ask.

do states who offer restoration?

is it a, I don't want to use the
term easy, but is it accessible?

Ría: So, , short answer, no long answer
is absolutely not like what it's.

It's wild really, right?

Because like you go through this process
and you're told that, after you pay your

debt to society, that you'll be able to
have your right rights restored and in

some very, very few states it's automatic.

And it really also depends on the
type of, crime that you were convicted

of, , or, or what, the charge
was, And some states, It is in most

states, it is not an automatic thing.

It's something that you have to
petition the governor, oftentimes

sometimes the entire, like legislative
body of the state, for example, in

Mississippi, you have to get two
thirds of both the house and the.

Senate, of the legislature in
Mississippi to be able to, vote

for your name personally, so that
you can have your rights restored.

So you can imagine how many
times that Hoff, how often that

happens and to whom those, rights
restores are actually, given to.


And then, and there's like
states like in South Carolina.

and traditionally I will say that this,
the Southern states are where it's most

difficult to get your rights restored.

in South Carolina, you have to go
through this process of, filling out a

bunch of paperwork or knowing, and then
you, you have to go register to vote.

But if you don't know that you fill
out the paperwork, you do the whole.

And then you just show up on election day
thinking that you can vote, but you can't

because you haven't registered to vote.

And now it's too late on election
day because what we do is we make

it incredibly hard for people to
participate in the process so that

we can exclude people who don't
actually understand what's happening.

or don't have all of the information.

But then, the restoration of rights also
makes me think about like how Florida,

how the people of Florida overwhelming.

Overwhelmingly voted to restore the
rights of over like a millions of people

Susan: 1.4 million people.

Ría: The state, you know, covenant
to census, and cronies decided that.

They were not going to allow that many
people to have their rights restored

and then created this process of,
well, they have to pay their fines.

They have to do that.

Like they added extra hoops because
it actually would have given,

Progressive's a majority, to have all
of these people's rights restored.

And so the thing is, is that.

Again, it goes back to the layers.

If this is not just about, keeping people
in cages, it's also about keeping people

from participating, declaring that people
are, like black people were certain

like three-fifths of a whole person.

Means that, , then they
were able to have less of a.

And the state and what
happened in the state.

And so it all goes back to making sure
that black people and people of color

have less representation, making sure
you can't participate in the process,

if you should end up in the system
that is nearly, that is like grabbing

at you from every stage of your life.


Like from a little child and you happen
to get caught and that's that web.

Then you have to spend the rest of your
life trying to get out of it and trying

to show that you've been accountable
enough to be able to be back in society.

And when you finally do that, You realize,
okay, now I, you know, I'm going to try

to register to vote and like the few
women that we have seen most recently

who have gone to register to vote, not
knowing that they were not able to vote.

They're getting six years in jail.

Melanie: To compare, that when we
think about justice, we, look at Kim

Potter who was just sentenced for
killing someone and got 24 months.

So again, this system is what it is,
and it's not us reacting to things that

aren't there, they're in our faces.

And I want to just dip a little bit
into how it is easy to ignore and the

why it is easy to, to ignore abolition
work and kind of put it on the side.

And it's a very simple answer.

The majority of the people behind
this work are queer women of color.

So some of the easiest women to, we're
erratic we're irrational, we're

Marxist, we're idealistic, which.

Yes, I'm very, I'm very
idealistic about my safety.

I am very idealistic about my safety.

I am idealistic that when I
go outside and do things, I'm

going to be able to come back

home and be safe.

since we're already marginalized,
we're already, ignored.

It's very easy to kind of
to, to poopoo the work.

And so we have these initiatives
that will gain speed and gain ground.

But since we're dealing with, people,
you know, just individual people

who don't necessarily have power.

And then we have now we're in this phase
where there's a lot of lip service.

There's a lot of appearance
of, of doing good.

There are police.

There are police departments
that have restorative justice

departments and offices, but then.

Not there to actually serve.

They don't actually serve.

They're still serving the interest of
the agency, that their house then, and

that's always going to be the police.

This will always

be the priority when
we look at these things

Ría: Did you see earlier this week,
I think it was again in New York.

Some police were like, they had a
setup, it was three police officers

and they showed how they were, caught
this ring of people who were like

stealing, like baby food and formula
and all, and they have this like whole

display and it's like, you're proud.

That somebody was out here
trying to get things that they

can't, they don't have access to
probably for a myriad of reasons.

Why is it that we don't
want to answer the question?

Why do people need help?

What can we do to support

Melanie: and watching the discourse
around that is very interesting

because I definitely, I did see that
and I saw people commenting and it was

like, well, Why did they need so much?

Mucinex because it's, it's, February
girl, these are the questions we ask.

I'm sorry.

People shoplift don't necessarily
treat it like a shopping list.

Like you're going to do that in bulk.

Athena: There's an implication there
that something was going to be done

to the Mucinex to develop drugs.

And again, it's to this, back
to this concept that like people

are sealing to do bad things.

Like no people in many cases are
stealing because they have no choice.

And yet the narrative that is being spun.

They don't need that much recent ex
cause they're expecting some kind

of drug cartel factory happening.

Ría: Right.

Or how about it's a global pandemic
and like in the, you know, you

might need an expectorant, right?

Like if you happen to
be sick, I don't know.

I just, why do we, why
don't we think about that.

Like, why don't we think about how
to help people get those, needs.

Melanie: it goes back to that old saying
where the cruelty is the point, and that's

why we will have this conversation and
last week's conversation and next week's

conversation, because the key is always
to cut off the discussion at the root.

If I cut off defend the police, if I
cut off abortion, if I cut off prison

abolition, if I cut off voter restoration
and why it's so difficult, I don't

have to get into actually fixing it.

I don't have to get into
why this is keeping.

This is to the advantage of just one.

Shrinking group of people.

Athena: and it, also removes yourself
from the accountability of it all as well.

And that I think is key.

We are so quick to say that somebody
else's role or this is, well, I'm not the

one who needs me to the next right now.

So why should I care that others.

And I think at the root of the capitalist
society, that's what it's about.

It's it's, you know, me, myself
and I, that's not my experience.

So it can't possibly true.

We need to start breaking that
down or keep breaking it down.

But that's not the case.

We are, we are one in our earthly
experiences and yes, some people have

that expression about
we're all in the same boat.

No, we're all in the same storm, but
we're in very different boats, everybody.

Melanie: And it comes down to.

How you feel about the concept of us
taking care of one of one another, how

you feel about the concept of community
responsibility, because we all do have it.

And the people who have more, we are
responsible for those who have less.

We absolutely are.

And it should not be, a debate
point because we all have needs.

It doesn't matter how many
bootstraps you think you have.

We all have needs.

We all have to lean on people.

And so I think, that is kind of where
we should, where we can leave it.

Now, actually, I think I want to
hear from you guys, where can we

find your real, what are you, what is
your eye on, in the news right now?

Any actions we should be
looking at, looking at.

Ría: Yeah.

So I'm going to do a lot of work
around protestor support also, and

it's getting to, it's about to be
protest season out, end the streets.

And I'm going to be doing some know
your rights trainings and some talking

about community organizing, coming up.

You can find me on Twitter at M R
S D U B Y A I N D C, Mrs.DubyainDC.

And that's it.

I'm out in these streets!.

Melanie: And we appreciate
you and love you for it.

Thank you so much, Ria.


Athena: Hello.

we are sort of wrapping
up black history month.

We have one more week of it and I'm
just starting to learn more and more.

I love HBCUs.

I visited a number of them in
my day job, and I'm just really

starting to dig a little bit deeper
into their histories and realize.

How many of them are named after
white people and what, some of

these traditions and histories are.

So I would, and there's been
a, a wave of bomb, threats and

violence against these HB cities.

And we need to protect
these establishments.

We need to celebrate these campuses
and their graduates as well.

So I would encourage folks
to keep an eye out on that.

And, and as we've said in almost
every episode, listen to the people

who are having these experiences.

And give them the floor to tell
express what their needs are so

that we can better support them.

I'm also keeping a close watch on the
situation in Ukraine, because y'all,

if this country can find a way to go
to war, they're going to go to war.

So I'm just keeping an eye on that.

But that's to what you mentioned as well.


It's protest season is coming upon
us, support those who are trying.

Physically put themselves in spaces
that are going to try to improve access

and lives for folks in your city.

So my second nut and otherwise
stay safe for everybody.

It's we'll see you next time.

Melanie: Thanks, Athena.

And susan, welcome back.

Would you ike to give
us some parting words?

Susan: I would love to
give some parting words.

So I I'd want to mention two things.

One our blog, we have a series of
articles called summer thunder in

it's there it's a three-part series
that we have on our website and in

part three, About halfway through it.

There is a resource list.

If you we've been talking about community
resources in and other options beyond

calling law enforcement for the different
crisis that we find ourselves in.

there's a little toolkit that was
created by a young lady named Ray.

And that is in part three
of the summer thunder.

Article series and it gives you
some options on, whatever situation

you find yourself in that you may
think law enforcement is the answer.

There may be another
answer in your community.

So I encourage you to take a look at that
and, plug it into the back of your mind.

If a situation arises where you
think you need law enforcement

to maybe consider a community.


And with regard to the returning citizens,
you know, here in Florida, we did, we

voted almost 70% to restore the franchise
to returning citizens and our GOP

legislature, reading the room, knew that
1.4 million additional people on the voter

rolls had the possibility of changing
the political landscape in this state.

And so, they put some more roadblocks up.

And so now.

They've required that any returning
citizen who's already served their time.

If there are any court fees and
fines that weren't paid, that those

have to be paid in order to have
their franchise restore to them.

And one of the organizations here in the
state of Florida that is really doing

the very hard work in that area is the
Florida rights restoration coalition.

And their website is Florida spelled it.

Rrc.com and it's led by Desmond
Meade, who is an amazing individual.

Um, I encourage you to read his story
online as well, but you know, they're

fundraising for the fees and costs

that the returning citizens have to
pay in order to get the franchise.

So I encourage you to take a
look at their website as well.

Melanie: Thank you so much, Susan.

So I want to thank all
of you for joining us.

This was a it's an important conversation.

I don't, I don't want to use
the word excited again, but

it's an important conversation.

It was something that meant a lot to me.

Having had, my experience with my
experiences, with my loved ones

who have been incarcerated when
many of them just needed help.

I want to read something.

I cannot recommend abolition feminism
now enough for those who are just

trying to get a basic understanding.

If, you're having an introductory,
understanding of prison abolition.

I highly recommend this book.

And I would like to read this quote before
we close out this part of the discussion,

from rose brass and a 2008 interview,
she said a prerequisite to seeking

any social change is the naming of it.

In other words, even though the
goal, the goal we seek maybe far

away, unless we name it and fight
for it today, it will never come.

We know abolition will not happen
today, even though some of us

may want it, but it's a goal.

It's something that we need to work for.

And if we name it and hold onto
it, nobody can take that from us.

So I appreciate you all joining us
with this conversation and we'll be

back next Sunday at 1:00 PM for our
conversation about critical race theory.

I am going to do everything in my
power to not say exciting next week.

So I'm going to say it this week.

I'm excited to talk about this
because this is just another

one of those conversations.

Um, this is what the fourth week in
a row, or having these conversations

that have gotten cut off at the
knees and we're not having it.

We are going to discuss and
be heard and listen to the

people who are doing the work.

So if you want to learn more about what
we're doing at resist bot, you can go

to resist dot bot you can volunteer.

You can donate.

We have a wealth of things
available to our monthly donors

and we have some new ones.

So I would like to thank TK from
Stanley North Carolina, Margaret from

Oakland, California, who is particularly
passionate about the movement voter

project, Michael from Dayton, Ohio,
who is interested in Medicare for all.

Jones from Gloucester city, New
Jersey, I'm believing Louisiana.

It might be glad Chester.

I'm not sure, but she is particularly
interested in the, for the people act.

And Steven from Los Alamitos,
California, who's doing a lot of work

to preserve rooftop solar in California.

So I want to thank you all.

You can go to resist dot bot and
catch up with all of our wonderful

blog articles that Susan Stutz writes
for with so right for us, we're so

glad to have her back this week and
the podcast will be up tomorrow.

So if you are listening to us from podcast
ville hi, be sure to join the conversation

by using the hashtag livebotters.

And I would like to thank
you all for joining us and

until then see you next week.

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