She calls it 'Spiritual work full of love and the way to liberation': Transformative Justice (TJ) means staying in relationship with someone who has done a harm instead of putting them behind bars.
Mia: I'm Mia Mingus i‘m a writer, organizer, educator based in georgia in the us. I do a ton of work around transformative justice and i‘ve been doing this work for almost 20 years now and i‘ve also done a ton of work in disability justice as well. I feel very lucky to have been part of the small group of folks who forwarded the disability justice framework and then within transformative justice i‘ve been lucky enough to kind of be in the – i kind of joke about it – i‘m kind of like in the 1,5 gem. i‘m not the Ogee ogees (1:18h??) of transformative justice (?) but i learn from them and many of them were my teachers that is the linneage i come out of and this next generation of tj. The last thing i‘m gonna say i founded and run the place where my transformative justice work is right now is that i founded and run this project called soil, a transformative justice project that you can find online if you want to. that‘s where my tj work is being done right now and i‘ve done writing on tj as well that you can look up and read.
Meike: I read that TJ is a way of using the rage of suffering discrimination a whole life as a motor. Developped in the 1990s by cis and trans women of Color – based on Indigenous, precolonial, First Nation justice systems. Could you talk about those systems, how they work and how they are applied in your work?
Min. 2:11 Mia: i mean the work that i do is transformative justice so i absolutely use transformative justice in my transformative justice work. A lot of that work looks like you know based on the conditions that we’re currently in. A lot of that work right now looks like a ton of education and training. Just basic ground level education and training, educating folks on the transformative justice framework as well as some of the broader concepts within tj. And then that includes you know i do all kinds of work inside of that, inside of tj. So the kind of basic work i was talking about in training and that often involves relationship-building and building basic skills. Everything from that to partnering with commmunities or groups to do more advanced work and more in depth work. Supporting people to have interventions, tj interventions and accountability processes. All of that. You know tj kann be applied to everything from full blown Violence to also our day-to-day-life and how we are not only practicing skills, tj skills like accountability for example or skills ? I should say. But also in working to build the conditions that even can also working to build the conditions that can allow transformative justice to be possible. So i would say. It is tj has been the main work that i do and oftentimes it’s work that requires i think where the personal and more like political needs. it’s human work at the same time when it’s absolutely vigorous political work as well. Tj pushes us, challenges us to be not only be able to ? A good game but also to practice the kind of liberation the we are seeking.
Transformative Justice as a way to include reflection on ones own priviledges, as a way to reflect on social power structures like patriarchy, classism, racism, ableism, homo- and transfobia etc. So TJ began as a way of resistance by Black, Indigenous and People of Color. You work with child sexual abuse, which is a really sensitive topic. We had a workshop last weekend and we were talking about how shame can block Accountability. How do you deal with it? How can we talk about shame to make transformation possible?
Mia: the thing about shame is huge when you talk about accounability. It’s a real key part in accountability work. You will be dealing with shame because you know. Shame is different than guilt. Guilt is: i did a bad thing, shame is: i am bad. And i think whenever we’re talking about accountability we’re talking about you know like everything from full blown Violence or abuse that somebody caused or harm to even just making mistakes and being accountabel to those mistakes that we make. Shame is very difficult to deal with. It’s in all of us and all of us have built really ? Ways to protect ourselves. And the thing about shame is that it loves to hide. Shame loves the darkness and the silence and the secrets. What really transforms shame is vulnerability. Vulnerability transforms shame being able to you know open the curtains metaphoracally speaking to that dark and dingy room maybe like sharing and talking about what you feel shame around to take away shames power. And the thing about shame is that it’s you have to deal with it. Not only is shame a key part in accountability – you face shame, you gonna have to deal with it – but also that shame has to be transformed or healed enough or worked with enough so that you can get out of that place. Of being in a really terrible shame spiral. Cause the thing about accounability is that you have. Agency has to be part of accounability because shame if you’re trying to be accountable and you’re ? with so much shame you will probably be the person who… i am not a meritable person, i don’t know why people even love me, o my god, I don’t even deserve to be in community or whatever it may be. And there is not a lot of possibilities that can happen in this kind of situation. You should be able to really have agency in this accounability to proactively choosing to be accountable. And it’s very difficult to do that if you are in such a deep dark place and feeeling there is no reason for you to even exist or for example you’re a terrible monster ans never gonna be able to heal or transform so why even try? Why even try to be accountable? And i think when we talk about accountability a lot of people think about because we’re so steeped In punishment a lot of people think about you know we just tell you what to do to be accountable and you just do it. You take it, and that that’s what accountability is. And i disagree with that. Of course, there might be requests that the person who was harmed or the surviver is making – of course, absolutely! And then the person who caused the harm might be able to do make good on those requests like writing an apology letter, writing an accountability letter, all kind of things. But and both and the whole point of accountability is that we want that person or those people to be able to make better choices that are more in alignment with their values and more in alignment with the community values on their own ideally. We wanna get to a place where they can build up A moral compass to be able to make their decisions on their own so that they don’t have to have somebody constantly there telling them what to do. telling them what they can and cannot do. cause that just becomes just another form of surveillance and punishment. And also just pragmatically speaking nobody has time for that. I don’T have time to sit and keep tabs on every harmer that i’ve worked with to tell them what to do – you know you can be in this space, you can’t be in this space. Oh you can talk to those people, you can’t talk to those people. When i think about shame – shame corrodes all of that and makes that not possible. That is one of the main reasons why we need to transform shame paricularly around accountability and i would say in general the transformation of shame can help us all so even if you’re not working on your accounability just practicing and i know it’s really hard and it’s much easier settling down But practicing talking about things that you’re ashamed of that you are embarassed about or you feel guilt around. That you are doing that obviously with people that you have a loving trusting relationship. You know we’re not talking about doing that with somebody you just met like an hour ago necessarily right away. You’re doing it in an environment in a relationship that feels save. Because shame can be incredibly powerful and so if you have access to like a therapist to support you that can be very powerful as well. And both and i think the more that we can talk about shame inside of our intimate networks every day in loving and caring relationship we can model that. and the thing about it is shame and you start talking about your shame like things that you are afraid of. What i have witnessed over and over again that it opens the door for other people to do the same so i think we are very hungry. Most of us we crave that we are hungry for spaces and people that we can share these things with and you see that when you’re able to do it again start small. You know it may be too much talking about the things you are the most ashamed about in your life. Maybe starting small and building up to that. But you know that is part of what helps to one it is transformative two it leads the ground to set the conditions for more and larger kinds of transformations to happen. So that we are more connected with each other instead of isolating. I say that both in a material – i don’t mean isolating in a sense that we don’t have any friends, you don’t have any family which of course that may be true for some people, but i mean the isolating that we do to ourselves even when we are in relationship with people. We isolate ourselves, we don’t practice vulnerability, we only know how to connect with people on the surface level and we don’t actually take the risk. Vulnerabiliy is always a risk. Take the risk to actually share how we really are and the things that we are afraid of and the things that we are ashamed about. Shame can help us always in terms of like a adjusting? shame 15:40min no matter and of course that helps to set up better conditions when we’re working in accountability in situations where we need to take accountability then we’ve already practiced a little bit. You know that it’s not like: oh i gotta take accountability and this is my first time dealing with my shame. You know that we have some practice to that. I think about it like building our muscles up. You don’t go to the gym and start bench-pressing 500pounds immediately. You start small and you build up to it. cause if you start with 500pounds you can get really really hurt. So i just wanted to talk about shame both as it relates to accountability and i think as it relates broader to transformation in general.
Nice picture with the gym and the muscle. can you describe the process of community accountability? How to act collectively and include all the different needs, hierarchies and privileges? How to think intersectional? Huge question, i know.
Mia: it is a very large question. The process of community accountability is a couple of things. One of course there is like similar threads that went to coummunity accountability and both and you know every community is different it depends also on what kind of violence or harm was, how severe it was. It depends on the condition. There’s the person who caused the harm or the person who was harmed or the survivor – do they have relationships, do they have pods. Have they built up pod people. There’s so many things that go into community accountability processes. What i will say is that all of them the things that they have in common that they one they are trying to address harm or violence that’s happening inside the community and that they are trying to hopefully transform it into something right that is generative, that’s not destructive. And oftentimes that can look like – when i think about your question, can i describe it – when an incident happens. Let’s say there’s an incident of sexual assault that happens between adults. It could be for example that the survivor iniciates the process and there that the survivor is like: i wanna have a transformative justice process. I want there to be a commmunity accountability process. It could also be that a bystander iniciates that or that the community iniciates it. We wanna deal with this we wanna grasp what happened. And it can also be that the harmer iniciates it. I’ve been into processes where it’s the harmer that comes forward. I wanna account for whatever i’ve done. It can look lots and lots of different ways in terms of how it gets iniciated but usually they involve… if the survivor and the harmer are part of it which doesn’t necesarily happen oftentimes survivors are like: i don’t wanna be a part of it. You know like i – especially if it’s been a bit of time since the violence has happened or the harm has happened the survivors are like i’ve already done my healing work, i don’t wanna be a part of it so please go ahead without me. Sometimes the survivors is like: i want you to do this and i want this person to be accountable but i don’t wanna be a part of it. Or sometimes the harmer is not able to be a part of it because they refuse to or because of whatever reason, there are tons of reasons. So if they are both part of it though, usually we have support teams that form around each of them. So the survivor support team or circle and then there’s the harmer circle or team. And those people, the support people on either side they are usually, ideally pod people that those folks have, meaning that they have, they are people who the harmer or the survivor know. And who they have relationships and trust with. And that those people have committed to helping them address harm in their lives or the consequences of harm. And then ususally in these circles we do work, on the survivor side we do work around healing, we do work around any kind of healing that they might need. Sometimes it’s like, we do work inside the accountability process and then sometimes it’s outside as well like to help them find like a therapist or to become a healing practitioner. And on the harmer side it’s accountability work to support them in taking accountabiliy. Oftentimes the survivors side like i said before would give requests and say like these are the things that i want you to do or that i would like so that you can be accountable for me. And sometimes that looks like Writing a letter of accountability to the survivor sometimes it looks like writing a public letter, sometimes it can be a private letter, it can look like writing a letter and reading it outloud in front of like of whoever the people who are closest into the violence like their friends and family and whomever. Sometimes its things like i want you to pay for the next two years of my therapy that i have to go to because of the sexual assault or sometimes it looks like – you know i’m just giving you examples, i could tell forever about all of this. But the important thing to know is – often we work to meet those requests and then there is some kind of a closure like … some of these provesses can take years, it depends on the kind of violence that happened. It depends on the relationship between the survivor and the harmer, it depends on lots and lots of different factors. But at some point though, another common thing that they all have hopefully is that there is some kind of closing out the process which indicates that the process is over. And i should say that in these processes we usually work on like the specific harmer incident that happened. We don’t necessarily focus on every single harm the harmer has ever done in their whole life. Because then we would be in a process forever.
In that process we try to include all different needs and hierarchies and priviledges, we try to – you know all these processes are collective works in progress and like an alchemy 23:56min ? outcome to this work. There’s not a lot of things that are set in stone. Absolutely! We have to understand intersectionality in these processes, we have to understand all of the different levels and layers of power and priviledge of pass trauma. Like individual trauma as well as a collective trauma as well as generational trauma. We have to understand all different types of things that go into this. That really a Wholistic understanding, a wholistic picture who these people are, what the community is inside of which this happened or did it happen inside a family or an organisation or a religious group or a congregation for example – all of that has to be taken into account which is why when we talk about community accountability processes when we talk about transformative justice processes, ideally they should be done by people who know each oter. we‘re not trying to replicate direct service model and it‘s like you just call and a TJ facilitator or something like. Ideally these skills would be very common. And they would be everywhere. to be done
If the „harmer“ refuses to deal with conflicts, assaults and their own privileges, - how to deal with that? You dont use the terms offender victim – instead survivors“ „No one of us is innocent“ you said in the DIS2018, The Disability and Intersectionality Summit 2018.
Mia: if the harmer refuses to deal with the process or refuses to be part of the process or is just completely denying that they done any kind of harm. Yeah, there‘s a couple of things you can do so one: you can still have a process without the harmer. You can still – that process for example could just be supporting the survivor or survivors in their healing or in their own transformation because healing is transformation as well just like accountability is and healing and accountability are bound up together. They are inseparable, indistinguishable from each other. But they are mutually interdependant on each other very much so you can absolutely have a process when you are just according the survivor the survivors or even the bystanders and the community. You can say, ok, the harmer refuses to be part of this then letz work to you know maybe work to support the healing of the survivors, letz work to support the healing of the bystanders and/or community. And inside of the bystanders and community there might need to be some accountability work, that happens there as well. Like if the community knew about the violence and the harm or the abuse. If the bystanders or if the survivor maybe had come forward to bystanders and the bystanders ignored it or downplayed it or didn‘t believe them. So you can absolutely have a process if they don‘t wanna be involved. the other thing that you can do is you can also – what am i trying to say that transformative justice is not a monolist field. there‘s people who think very different ways about transformative justice and practice it in different ways inside of that kind of field of transformative justice. So if a harmer refuses to be part of the process you can also announce a leverage. Leverage is where you try to leverage things that the harmer might care about in order to get them to agree to be part of the process. Creative interventions actually have a section in this in their toolkit which i really recommend everybody. Read that. The creative interventions toolkit is – oh my gosh – it‘s so useful! And it is large but it is very accessible. But they have entire sections on leverage and the thing about leverage is you have to commit to it. So for example you can have all different types of leverages. So they talk about it on a scale from one to ten i think. You know one being small: hey you can be part of this intervention process or you know: you are not allowed to continue in this current setting that you are living in. We‘ll help you find new housing maybe but that‘s it. A level ten might be or level five or seven: you‘ll be part of this intervention or we will tell your job what you have done. Or we will tell the entire community what you‘ve done. Or a level ten might be: you will be part of this intervention, this community accountability process with us or we will report you to the state. Right, we will turn you over to the police or what have you. The most important thing to know about leverage is that once you start to use it you have to follow through. You can‘t use leverage and then if they refuse you can‘t like not follow through on it because then you lose the whole point of leverage. And i brought this in the field because i think that leverage is an example for something, that not everybody in transformative justice is aligned to use that, right. And also different communities might define different leverage. I know that sounds a little frustrating, because it‘s hard to talk specifics in transformative justice because the whole point of the framework and the whole point of a transformative justice response and approach is saying that it depends on whatever the communities needs are. It is nowable? min31 Its not a one size fits all. Based on the community, based on the condition, based on all the different factors. Then restart to craft the TJ response which is why hopefully should be lead by people who are part of the community because they know that community best. so a tj response in germany might look very different from a tj response in the us. And then within parts of germany, right, within different cultures within germany, within different parts of the us, different cultures in the us. So there‘s lots of different ways that you can work with once The other options you can practice you can do if the harmer is refusing to be part of an intervention like i ran an intervention maybe five years ago and in the beginning the harmer was like: i didn‘t do anything wrong, i don‘t know why people keep saying i did but i, you know i love my community so if this is what people are asking of me i‘ll be part of it, but i didn‘t do anything. And that was in the beginning. By four Months later we were able to get him and he was like – cause it was a round of weight, that we were adressing – that was the incidident we were adressing and by month four he was like, maybe i sexually assaulted this person. And then by month six he was able to go to the place and say: i sexually assaulted someone. By month seven we were able to get him to a place to (due??) our support and work min 32:49 where he was like: maybe it was rape. And then by month eight he was actually able to say „i raped somebody“. That is just one example of like even if somebody refuses to be part of an intervention or maybe ok, i‘ll be part but they refuse to really acknowledge what they have done, there‘s still work that you can do. there‘s still possibilities and i‘m not saying that this works for everybody i mean there‘s some people, they are never going to admit what they‘ve done, they‘re never going to show any remorse around it. And that‘s reality, that‘s part of the condition, that we‘re in, that‘s part of the historical moment that we‘re in that we are so steeped in punishment, we‘re so steeped in unaccountability. 33Min that you know – accountability is not somthing that readily encouraged for us to practice. So i don’t share that to say like every harmer can get there but i just say there’s still things that’s possible. we may not have all the possibilities but there’s still some things that are possible. Also what transformative justice is about is looking for what’s possible rather than looking for what’s wrong or not possible.
Meike: okay i think the concept of intervention became quite clear. I read that Mediation can be included in the process. Is that the case in your work?
Mia: Absolutely. Mediation can be part of the process and sometimes mediation is the process. I don’t know how it is in germany but sometimes people are wanting to hold tj interventions around things like full blown community accountability processes around things that don’t need that. A good mediation, a good mediator can help them work through. And then as well sometimes you have a full blown process and intervention that’s happening and mediation is useful inside of that in different ways.
Meike: That sounds like so much work! How is this even possible for people who live in a capitalist system who have obligations, jobs, kids, disabilities? how do we transform ourselves, reflect ourselves? How to get the time and the energy for this?
Mia: yes! I think many of us are still trying to figure that out. And you know i also think a lotta these tj came out of communities that could not call the police. Like not people who are like: oh i have this amazing analysis about the prison industrial complex or about state …? violence min 36min. Yeah that can be part of it too like people who don‘t want to call the police. But i think it‘s important to remember that tj came out of communities who could not call the police. Like calling the police or calling the state or bring in the state was not even an option. And so in that i think yes! This work is very hard and very time-comsuming and you know it‘s not easy at all. But there‘s also a thing like: we can do what we prioritise. Like sometimes i think about maybe people can relate to this i don‘t know across the ocean in another continent but you know i think about all the time that we actually might use in our day-to-day maybe we‘re not making the best use of that time. And i think if we prioritise this i think we can make more space to it and you know i also feel like so much of transformative justice work to me is not only – like yes, these interventions, that we‘re talking about- but i think that those should hopefully be few and rare. that really what we‘re trying to focus on is prevention but also dealing with the small things, so they don‘t escalate into big things because oftentimes when we‘re running a full blown intervention or even a full blown mediation that‘s like you know i don‘t know like two best friends who are roommates and now they refuse to talk to each other and now one is trying to kick the other one out of the shared living-space so they need to have a mediation like oftentimes if you trace back the time you can see, that that began with much smaller hurts or conflicts or even small breaks in trust or misunderstandings that never got adressed well. And so hurt turns into resentment, resentment turns into bitterness, bitterness turned into contempt right. Like unaddresses hurt escalates into conflict. Which then that gets unaddressed so that escalates into low level harm. That escalates into more significant harm, that escalates maybe in a full blown violence like i think if we can understand how violence happens. How harm happens then we can focus on a lot of our energy and time and labour on how do we build and cultivate and practice the conditions that can allow for things like accountability, transparency, good communication, like how can we build up our skillsets so We can communicate better with each other. we know how to identify our feeling. Or we know how to express our anger in ways that are not destructive or completely unaccountable or even violent. Know like Dealing with that shame what we talked about. If everybody really – just for one example: if everybody who is listening to this podcast, if you and i, who are talking on this, if we and everybody made a conserted effort to address their own healing and to really invest in that. And let‘s say you don‘t have to go to therapy, if therapy works for you, great, but whatever modality works best for you.bodywork. some people it‘s just being in nature. Like some people it‘s spirituality – whatever it is, that works for you. But that you really invest in it. And maybe it‘s a combination of things, i don‘t know. But i also think that would help to prevent a lotta harm. Or at least set us up to be in a better position to be able to deal with smaller harms or hurt. Right. Most of us don‘t even know how to tell our friends that they hurt our feelings. Like we are starting from a very the bias is so low. Most of us even don‘t know how to apologize well. There is so much work that we can do that is not just about full blown intervention and i know: whenever we talk about transformative justice full blown interventions are the first place people‘s minds go: the worst kind of violence are the first place people minds go. But if we can understand that all of that, all the bigger forms of violence they all came from somewhere. We can start to focus on prevention, we can start to focus on dealing with the small things because if we can‘t deal with the small things between us, how are we gonna be able to deal with the big things between us? Like i said: dealing with small things adequately and effectively can help to prevent the big things. To me that‘s where i think it is most effective to invest our time and energy. You know teaching our kids even adults about consent, building up our pods, building realtionships and maintaining relationships where we can talk about our shame or talk about our accountabiliy and mistakes we‘ve made. All these types of things and manymanymany more are things we can practice and invest in and hopefully we won‘t have to spend as much time and as much energy in you know in these large interventions because you are exactely right they‘re taking and incredibly amount of time and energy and power that we oftentimes don‘t have.
Meike: In 2020 the press was talking about violence prevention and mental health support instead of police in the city of Minneapolis. If Minneapolis Question 2 had not failed and defunding and dismantling the Minneapolis police had really happened, what would have come after? How could a city without police look like? How would a completely new security system work?
Mia: this is a great question because i think – i can‘t speak for minneapolis because i don‘t life in minneapolis. Again, to get this very clear: Tj is gonna look different depending on where you are, because there‘s different unique conditions everywhere. So what minneapolis decides to might be very different from what seattle decides to do or what miami, florida decides to do. but what i will say is that actually a key part of tj is understand that the people who are closest in the violence and who are part of that community should be the people who are crafting the responses and crafting whatever the alternative should be. When i think about what a city without a police could look like i think about so many things! Like i think about what‘s happening – I‘m in georgia now and i‘m not part of the Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective any more even though i was part of that for nine years. But when i used to live in oakland and even now i have good friends who are part of the different the mental health community response that they‘ve been building. It seems forwarded (?) min 44:40h mental health first and the antipoliceterrorproject aptp and they‘ve really been doin‘ great work, i‘m just trying to put in praxis: what would an alternative mental health crisis response look like and how would we do that? How would we – i mean not only funded but also like practicewise in a way that‘s not based in criminalization, that‘s not based in more violence and more trauma. Having mental health crisis responses, having community responses, who can also respond to mental health crisis i think. Having spaces that are cultivating support for people when i think about youths of color. queers and trans youths of color in particular that having spaces for them to be where they can be supported and where they can be everything from like help with their homework to like maybe being able to form friendships with older people or places where they can go and talk to adults that they trust about their questions about sex or questions about you know their bodies or whathaveyou. I think all of these different things and we would invest more in education we would invest more in Food souvereignity and food justice like we would tackle… i think when i think about a city without a police it would, we would understand that police one: police need to be abolished. Two: the system that we have – at least in the us – is completely ridiculous. Police are handling everything from a mental health crisis to burglaries to murders to – i mean it‘s just too much. And police are not acquit to deal with this. They don‘t get adequate training on this, nevermind the fact that they are incredibly violent and dangerous and that they oftentimes operate without impunity and accountability. But so i think about that i think there would be. We would address all of the root causes of pain and suffering and all of the root causes around again harm and suffering. To understand how harm and violence happen that we can start to address the roots of that and we can. Why are people in prosin? If they broke into a store to try to feed their family because they don‘t have access to food then that is not something that somebody needs to got to prison for. That is something that we can work on as a community. Right. We can work to make sure people are fed, make sure they have clean water, to make sure that they can go to the doctor. Or that they can practice their own wholisitic medication or herbal remedies or whathave you. we can Reclaim indigenous community wellbeing practices that Also might serve the community well. there‘s so many things that we can do. you know we can start to take care about elders. So that they don‘t have to get lost in nursing homes where they get abused. You know there‘s such a high rate of abuse that happen inside of nursing homes. there‘s so many ways a city without a police could look like. And then of course: we can get trained, right? 48Min. I think about inside of movements how people get trained to be street medics or whathaveyou. We can get trained for a lot of theses skills. Because the thing about transformative justice – and actually about abolition in general – is that If we‘re talking about tj and when we‘re talking about no police that is It‘s us who have to respond to again not only full blown violence but all the things down the spectrum. The metaphorical Cat stuck in the tree, you know. And i think that we can do that i think that would also mean that we would also challenge capitalism. That we wouldn‘t spend our days producing capital for somebody else for just basals but what (?) company min49 but we would actually spend our days practicing these skills. Whether that‘s the skill of growing food, growing healty, nutrient food for people or that‘s the skill of learning medical procedures or learning how to take of babies and children so that we share childcare so we don‘t have to continue the nuclear family structure that we know is also a huge cause of pain and suffering. I could go on and on. I hope that that helps a little bit as well.
Meike: you already mentioned spaces for trans folks and folks of color. Is that maybe a concept of a safe space in your context?
Mia: absolutely! I mean in our movements we talk a lot – safe space doesn‘t exist, that‘s completely safe, so we‘re talking about safer spaces or brave spaces or generative spaces that absolutely would be part of that too. 50Min I mean imagine your city - i don‘t know where you live but whoever is listening to this imagine your city multiple community care spaces where people can just drop in and be. it‘s not privately owned and i don‘t know how it is in germany but in the us, public space is really rare it‘s hard to find. And so libraries for example function as really one of the last public spaces where people can go and get shelter from the elements, they can access the computer, they can sit and read books, they don‘t have to take them out. You know all different types of ways; all different ways that libraries function as. Maybe there‘s multiple community care spaces that exist around the city or around the town where you live and everyone can just drop in there and be safe. And not have to worry about somebody policiing them or maybe they can get access to or directed to a service or a care that they need or that they‘re facing or they can just chill and talk and have conversation. Maybe there‘s a room in the community care space. Maybe there‘s four five rooms that are just dedicated for people working out conflict. So at any given time, whenever the rooms are free you and your friend. Maybe you‘re in a fight and you‘re not able to find a space because of your shared living housing condition you can like go to one of these rooms and sit however long you need to work out whatever conflict that you‘re having. Mmaybe there‘s a large room where people can sit and practice circle practice if they need to where you know groups of people can work out a conflict. And
Meike: Is TJ an alternative to prisons, to punishment and social revenge?
Meike: Does transformative justice exclusively happen in the bubble of a community? How can it be applied on the whole society? How to reach people who are isolated?
Mia: thats a really good question. I think transformative justice should happen in a community but that community can be anythink from a tranditional community, that we usually think of but i think that if tj happens inside of a collective, if you‘re part of a collective, you‘re part of a group maybe of an organisation you can practice tj inside of that as well. When i think about how tj is applied on the hole society i mean inicially i think in my mind what we‘re trying to do, we‘re trying to seed the – obviously as much as transformative justice as can be. And then people can start to respond to harm and violence. Because that‘s the thing right – don‘t forget: most people don‘T even respond so getting people to respond is a win. So hopefully as we see all these different places, and we support people and we educate people, more and more people understand the framework, more and more people understand what we‘re trying to do. then i feel like yeah tj hopefully will be so just common place that it will be practices. It won‘t be something that has to be enforced like by a government or anything. People will just start to hopefully prosecute things and these skillset will be taught naturally. By just a natural order of things like kids in school we‘ll learn, part of their education will be around how to apoligize well and how to take accountability and what accountability is you know people have access to healing services when they need it. Kids in school will be learning about what healing is. All of these things can be part of how tj operates. I also feel like you know part of what needs to happen: tj is an Abolitionist framework. It‘s also a Harm reduction framework. It comes out of abolition and harm reduction as well. I think a huge part of abolition work is putting into practice and building basically the world that we want and the world that we long for which is what tj… tj is i think the part of abolition that‘s really trying to do that. Obviously there‘s other parts of abolition linke shutting down prisons, abolishing the police. Those are different types, that is a different type of work than pushing back against the current system that we have and resisting it or dismantling it – that is a different type of work thant building the alternative, building a world that we actually want. They both types of work complement each other but I think that tj hopefully will become so common that we won‘t even have a name for it any more. You know what i mean – it‘s just that‘s what you do. of course i wouldn‘t pick up a knife and stab someone i would like, go and talk to them. Or you know of course i wouldn‘t give my friend a silent treatment for nine months and they don‘t know what they‘ve done and mess with their head – but i‘m gonna communicate directly with them and say hey – this thing you did really hurt my feeling or it was really harmful to me. Can we talk about it. And of course that friend then is also gonna say: oh my gosh, i‘m so sorry, what can i do – is there anything i can do to make amends and what kind of repair needs to happen to our friendship or our relationship. To me it‘s kind of linke that kind of stuff that i feel like would be hopefully on a societal level as a whol. and then we would then because we would then because we‘re doing that smaller work we won‘t need interventions ideally or they are few and far between they are very rare. And so that we don‘t completely burn out by just doing all these interventions you know but instead we start to also look at what is the cause of the violence that reaches an intervention level. But in terms of your third question about people who are isolated. I think Pods is a really good example for this. Your pod or the people that you call on if you‘re experiencing violence and there‘s a whole write-up that you can read. i‘m actually thinking of updating it. But ideally i have my pod. let‘s say i have three people in my pod. You have your pod. let‘s say you have four people in your pod. Then all of your four people have pods. And then all of their pod people have pods. And then my pod people have pod people. They have pod people. And it‘s growing exponentially. And so you can think of it as a web linke a really large web of pods like a map. Then what we‘re building towards hopefully is that …. of course we‘re building individual pods and in that building up our own individual custodies (?) min 59:34 but then also ideally we‘re building a network of pods that could help anybody, who is experiencing violence or anybody who wants to take accountabilty or prevent violence. Hopefully that will happen because the more we create pods and built our pods, deepen those skills, you know expand our pods, have more people in our pods the more that we‘re practicing transformative justice hopefully then we‘re also Building deeper connection with each other 1:00h. Hopefully that also means that less and less people will have to be isolated. Now this of course is a large timeframe i‘m talking about. In that, if i have fewer pod people and i‘m really isolated but you might be somebody that i know but maybe you live next door to me. And i know you tangentially, I‘m not superclose with you but maybe you see me struggling one day and you‘re like: hey, is everything okay and i tell you, no, you know i need some support around here, i‘m struggling whatever. Then maybe your pod people – you involve your pod people and you‘re like: hey, would you help me support this person, my neighbor. And maybe not all four can say yes because they don‘t have the capacities at that moment, but let‘s say two of them, yeah. I totally ?, right. H1:01. And that‘s the way that we can support anybody. that‘s the first thing that i always think about.
Meike: as you said earlier. Make amends or Pay for your therapy which i know from Restorative justice – is this part of transformative justice or is there a way from restorative to transformative justice or are they interconnected?
Mia: there‘s definetly connections. I get an interview with i think cat brooks from Aptp. They gave a 20minute interview. But the short answer to that question is yes i think restorative justice and transformative justice are connected. They are two different frameworks, they are both though underneath the large umbrella of Community responses to violence. But i think it‘s also important to understand how they are different. I also think that they can be useful in different ways that Complement each other. So for example a lot of restorative justice at least in the us that has started to be Integrated in some places, like integrated in schools for example. Or sometimes even integrated into state responses like a state for example migth have an option or if you experience some type of violence maybe there‘s an option to say: oh, you can also go the restorative justice way if you want to. And that is very different than transformative justice which largely usually operates outside of state systems. So it would not necessarily operate inside of like the public school system or inside of a state response to violence. having said it though i think we need both. Because there are places where tj can‘t reach inside the state, that rj can reach. And then vice versa: there‘s a lot a people who need response to violence and they can‘t do anything tha‘s connected to the state. So yes. And the last thing that i‘d say you know there are many tj practioners that i know who use restorative justice Circle practice for example in their work in an intervention for example.
Meike: Are there limits of Transformative Justice and if, where are they?
Mia: yes there are definitaly limits or transformative justice. Transformative justice may not be apropriate, may not be possible or apropriate for every situation. I think right tj has a lot of limits because of the historical moment that we‘re in where like you were saying, people don‘t have time for a lot of these things cause we live under capitalism or people don‘t know what transformative justice is or they think it‘s – you know a lot of people think transformative justice is like this soft type of justice that we‘re like cuddling harmers or something. So those are some limits in terms of just like misconceptions of tj or not understanding what transformative justice is nor having the time or skills to practice ist not having very many people who can help you do that or help you to learn the skills or whathaveyou. But i also think of tj because we are in a moment where we are trying to – you know we‘re so heavily policed, so heavily surveilled, we just living in Height of Mass incarceration. 1:05 across the globe but definitely in the us because we incarcerate so many people. I think it‘s also in this time period that we‘re in there can be tremendous limits to tj. That we may not have the amount of community members who have enough skills to actually hold an intervetion or we don‘t have the time that it‘s gonna take. it‘s not just the time for the intervention but also it‘s the time for however long the intervention lasts based on the severity of the violence. So responding to someone for example. If you have an intervention on somebody who sexually assaulted somebody one time and maybe they didn‘t even realize that they were sexually assaulting somebody in the moment. Like that is very different than responding to somebody who has sexually assaulted like 36 people in their lifetime so far. Those are hugely different things. I don‘t know that transformative justice has reallay evolved enough to do things like – like i think about domestic violence for example. That is someplace that tj, we have not built out that work yet. Absolutely we have responded to domestic violence or some forms of intimate partner violence but like i think about a domestic violence situation where somebody might have bidden that realtionship for 26 years. I don‘t know that we have built up the skills or been able to handle something like that yet. And Again: all of this depends on the conditions that we‘re in. I also think that some people might be beyond tj right now. Like i think about donald trump, or i think about r kelly, i think about woody allen, i think about Larry Nassar. I don‘t know that we can handle that and both and – in therms of tj we would never have donald trump or a larry nasser or a cosby. We would never have that because again: with tj we would hopefully caught it way before and we would not allow harm to continue to keep happening and that same person continuing to be accountable. That is a both and to that question. And then i also think that a limit of tj is the state. When i think about trying to respond to child sexual abuse or child abuse because of mandate (mandatory?) h1:09 min according laws in this country many communities hands are tied when it comes to trying to practice tj in response to child sexual abuse or child abuse. Whenever things involve a minor it‘s very very difficult because one you‘re breaking law to once the state is called in it‘s incredibly it‘s actually impossible to then continue to practice tj. So those are some things that i would say are limits to transformative justice. The last thing i might say is also people jumping in to respond to things that they haven‘t they don‘t have the support or the skills or the capacities to do. that‘s what i think is the contradiction that we‘re in that we think, there‘s a both and we want to of course encourage people to try new things and to respond the harm and both and there‘s also a lot we‘ve come a long way, we have a long way to go for sure but we also have a lot of trainings, skills, books, readings, media that have we‘ve created around tj work that people can hopefully learn from a lot of the mistakes that we made. So that they don‘t have to make those mistakes again. So like Holding both of those. Of course we want you to do things, we want you to try new things and both and you can cause a lot of harm if you don‘t know what you‘re doing, there are people who are doing this for a while, like getting trained by them or mentored by them or getting support from those type of people can be very helpful. How do we hold both of this things at the same time, you know? That we don‘t wanna discourage people from doing things, we also don‘t wanna professionalize tj and be like: oh you have to get trained now. You know like that‘s a limit too. Like all of these contradictions that we‘re in are unique to where transformative justice is in this particular historical moment.
Meike: in ruanda after the genocide in the nieties they used these gacaca courts because a „classic“ western court would have taken 200 years to Handle the tremendous harm of genocide. Stay in the us-context in your work or did you have contact with this concept?
Mia: i usually operate inside of the us-context but i definitely read up on and i try to learn about things happening all over the world. The us is what i know the best. i think one thing that‘s amazing that – remember that umbrella i was talking about before like under the umbrella of community responses to harm violence there‘s so many different things across the globe that people have tried. Probably the most famous one reconciliation in south africa. Yeah there‘s so many different ways that different communities, different countries, different continents, different indigenous folks have tried and i think that‘s amazing in itself, you know what i mean? The communiy can come together and be like: we don‘t want more pain and suffering, we don‘t want more trauma and criminilazation. So like let‘s try something different. And then of course those experiments or responses or approaches have all been crafted based on their particular unique conditions and communities.
Meike: How does COVID19 interfere in a process of TJ?
Mia: COVID or the pandemic is a form of harm. COVID definetely has made processes like - if you‘re running an intervention or even just running a training on transformative justice has made it harder to you know you can‘t be in the same room with each other. But i also think that COVID is exposing the work that we still need to do globally in especially who are predominantly white countries who are more like industrialized countries it‘s really Exposing how much work we have to do around interdependence which is such a big part of transformative justice. that we are not good at that. In the us for example we have huge factions of people who refuse to get vaccinated or Refuse to wear masks. And are just like: „every man for himself“. it‘s fascinating and it‘s also very heartbreaking. The way that COVID relates to TJ is both on a practical level in terms of like changing our daily lives and how we do things but also on a more conceptional level: we can‘t be save until everybody is save. In terms of COVID, in terms of vaccine. The longer the virus is allowed to circulate inside of a community – whether that community inside of berlin or wether we‘re talking about an entire country inside of like the global south. Then more mutations can form and then we might be back to score one if things mutate the place where vaccines we have already or not effective. And i think this is such a moment of like really hammering home to us which is part of the essence of TJ right, like no-one is safe until we‘re all save and that we caN‘t… we have a Collective responsibility when it comes to violence. The violences harm is not just between the two people where the harm happened. it‘s a community, it‘s a collective matter (fassin!). And i think Covid is Illustrating so well. You know that it‘s not about: oh well, as long as all of germany is vaccinated then germany is okay. that‘s not gonna be the case. Folks living in countries in the global north need to understand that their wellbeing also depends on the wellbeing of people living in the global south. And i don‘t think that we are…. there‘s a lot to learn there, i don‘t think that we are very good at understanding that and i think that this latest variant, you know omikron, i think it‘s just gonna be the tip of the iceberg in terms of more variants that we‘re gonna see that migth be more severe and closer to things like delta and even worse. there‘s variants like delta. I think one of them is called delta plus. I think covid both interferes in tj but i also think it‘s something that we can also learn from when we‘re talking about transformative justice.