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  • Translator: Ivana Korom Reviewer: Krystian Aparta

  • This is my favorite protest shirt.

  • It says, "Protect your people."

  • We made it in the basement of our community center.

  • I've worn it at rallies,

  • at protests and marches,

  • at candlelight vigils

  • with families who have lost loved ones to police violence.

  • I've seen how this ethic of community organizing

  • has been able to change arresting practices,

  • hold individual officers accountable

  • and allow families to feel strong and supported

  • in the darkest moments of their lives.

  • But when a family would come to our center

  • and say, "My loved one got arrested, what can we do?"

  • we didn't know how to translate

  • the power of community organizing that we saw on the streets

  • into the courts.

  • We figured we're not lawyers,

  • and so that's not our arena to make change.

  • And so despite our belief in collective action,

  • we would allow people that we cared about

  • to go to court alone.

  • Nine out of ten times -- and this is true nationally --

  • they couldn't afford their own attorney,

  • and so they'd have a public defender, who is doing heroic work,

  • but was often under-resourced

  • and stretched bare with too many cases.

  • They would face prosecutors aiming for high conviction rates,

  • mandatory minimum sentences

  • and racial bias baked into every stage of the process.

  • And so, facing those odds,

  • stripped away from the power of community,

  • unsure how to navigate the courts,

  • over 90 percent of people that face a criminal charge in this country

  • will take a plea deal.

  • Meaning, they'll never have their fabled day in court

  • that we talk about in television shows and in movies.

  • And this is the untold part of the story of mass incarceration in America --

  • how we became the largest jailer in the world.

  • Over two million people currently incarcerated in this country.

  • And projections that say

  • one out of three black men will see the inside of a prison cell

  • at some point in their life on this trajectory.

  • But we have a solution.

  • We decided to be irreverent to this idea

  • that only lawyers can impact the courts.

  • And to penetrate the judicial system

  • with the power, intellect and ingenuity of community organizing.

  • We call the approach "participatory defense."

  • It's a methodology for families and communities

  • whose loved ones are facing charges,

  • and how they could impact the outcome of those cases

  • and transform the landscape of power in the courts.

  • How it works is,

  • families whose loved ones are facing criminal charges

  • will come to a weekly meeting,

  • and it's half support group,

  • half strategic planning session.

  • And they'll build a community

  • out of what otherwise would be an isolating and lonely experience.

  • And they'll sit in a circle,

  • and write the names of their loved ones on a board,

  • who they're there to support.

  • And collectively,

  • the group will find out ways to tangibly and tactfully

  • impact the outcome of that case.

  • They'll review police reports to find out inconsistencies;

  • they'll find areas that require

  • more investigation by the defense attorney;

  • and they'll go to court with each other,

  • for the emotional support

  • but also so that the judge knows that the person standing before them

  • is part of a larger community

  • that is invested in their well-being and success.

  • And the results have been remarkable.

  • We've seen charges get dismissed,

  • sentences significantly reduced,

  • acquittals won at trial

  • and, sometimes, it has been literally lifesaving.

  • Like in the case of Ramon Vasquez.

  • Father of two, family man, truck driver

  • and someone who was wrongfully charged with a gang-related murder

  • he was totally innocent of,

  • but was facing a life sentence.

  • Ramon's family came to those meetings

  • shortly after his arrest and his detention,

  • and they worked the model.

  • And through their hard work,

  • they found major contradictions in the case,

  • gaping holes in the investigation.

  • And were able to disprove dangerous assumptions by the detectives.

  • Like that the red hat that they found when they raided his home

  • somehow affiliated him to a gang lifestyle.

  • Through their photos and their records,

  • they were able to prove that the red hat was from his son's Little League team

  • that Ramon coached on the weekends.

  • And they produced independent information

  • that proved that Ramon was on the other side of town

  • at the time of the alleged incident,

  • through their phone records

  • and receipts from the stores that they attended.

  • After seven long months of hard work from the family,

  • Ramon staying strong inside jail,

  • they were able to get the charge dismissed.

  • And they brought Ramon home

  • to live the life that he should have been living all along.

  • And with each new case,

  • the families identified new ways to flex the knowledge of the community

  • to have impact on the court system.

  • We would go to a lot of sentencing hearings.

  • And when we would leave the sentencing hearing,

  • on the walk back to the parking lot

  • after someone's loved one just got sent to prison,

  • the most common refrain we would hear

  • wasn't so much, "I hate that judge,"

  • or "I wish we had a new lawyer."

  • What they would say was,

  • "I wish they knew him like we know him."

  • And so we developed tools and vehicles

  • for families to tell the fuller story of their loved one

  • so they would be understood as more than just a case file.

  • They started making what we call social biography packets,

  • which is families making a compilation of photos and certificates and letters

  • that show past challenges and hardships and accomplishments,

  • and future prospects and opportunities.

  • And the social biography [packets] were working so well in the courts,

  • that we evolved it into social biography videos.

  • Ten-minute mini documentaries,

  • which were interviews of people in their homes,

  • and at their churches and at their workplace,

  • explaining who the person was in the backdrop of their lives.

  • And it was a way for us to dissolve the walls of the court temporarily.

  • And through the power of video,

  • bring the judge out of the court and into the community,

  • so that they would be able to understand the fuller context of someone's life

  • that they're deciding the fate of.

  • One of the first social biography projects that came out of our camp

  • was by Carnell.

  • He had come to the meetings

  • because he had pled to a low-level drug charge.

  • And after years of sobriety,

  • got arrested for this one drug possession charge.

  • But he was facing a five-year prison sentence

  • because of the sentencing schemes in California.

  • We knew him primarily as a dad.

  • He'd bring his daughters to the meetings

  • and then play with them at the park across the street.

  • And he said, "Look, I could do the time,

  • but if I go in, they're going to take my girls."

  • And so we gave him a camera

  • and said, "Just take pictures of what's like being a father."

  • And so he took pictures of making breakfast for his daughters

  • and taking them to school,

  • taking them to after-school programs and doing homework.

  • And it became this photo essay

  • that he turned in to his lawyer who used it at the sentencing hearing.

  • And that judge, who originally indicated a five-year prison sentence,

  • understood Carnell in a whole new way.

  • And he converted that five-year prison sentence

  • into a six-month outpatient program,

  • so that Carnell could be with his daughters.

  • His girls would have a father in their life.

  • And Carnell could get the treatment that he was actually seeking.

  • We have one ceremony of sorts

  • that we use in participatory defense.

  • And I told you earlier that when families come to the meetings,

  • they write the names of their loved ones on the board.

  • Those are names that we all get to know, week in, week out,

  • through the stories of the family,

  • and we're rooting for and praying for and hoping for.

  • And when we win a case,

  • when we get a sentence reduced, or a charge dropped,

  • or we win an acquittal,

  • that person, who's been a name on the board,

  • comes to the meeting.

  • And when their name comes up,

  • they're given an eraser,

  • and they walk over to the board

  • and they erase their name.

  • And it sounds simple, but it is a spiritual experience.

  • And people are applauding, and they're crying.

  • And for the families that are just starting that journey

  • and are sitting in the back of the room,

  • for them to know that there's a finish line,

  • that one day, they too might be able to bring their loved one home,

  • that they could erase the name,

  • is profoundly inspiring.

  • We're training organizations all over the country now

  • in participatory defense.

  • And we have a national network of over 20 cities.

  • And it's a church in Pennsylvania,

  • it's a parents' association in Tennessee,

  • it's a youth center in Los Angeles.

  • And the latest city that we just added to the national network

  • to grow and deepen this practice

  • is Philadelphia.

  • They literally just started their first weekly participatory defense meeting

  • last week.

  • And the person that we brought from California to Philadelphia

  • to share their testimony, to inspire them to know what's possible,

  • was Ramon Vasquez,

  • who went from sitting in a jail in Santa Clara County, California,

  • to inspiring a community about what's possible

  • through the perseverance of community across the country.

  • And with all the hubs, we still use one metric that we invented.

  • It's called time saved.

  • It's a saying that we actually still say at weekly meetings.

  • And what we say when a family comes in a meeting for the first time is:

  • if you do nothing,

  • the system is designed to give your loved one time served.

  • That's the language the system uses to quantify time of incarceration.

  • But if you engage, if you participate,

  • you can turn time served into time saved.

  • That's them home with you, living the life they should be living.

  • So, Carnell, for example, would represent five years of time saved.

  • So when we totaled our time saved numbers

  • from all the different participatory defense hubs,

  • through the work in the meetings and at court

  • and making social biography videos and packets,

  • we had 4,218 years of time saved from incarceration.

  • That is parents' and children's lives.

  • Young people going to college instead of prison.

  • We're ending generational cycles of suffering.

  • And when you consider in my home state of California,

  • it costs 60,000 dollars to house someone in the California prison system,

  • that means that these families are saving their states

  • a ton of money.

  • I'm not a mathematician, I haven't done the numbers,

  • but that is money and resources that could be reallocated

  • to mental health services,

  • to drug treatment programs, to education.

  • And we're now wearing this shirt in courts

  • all across the country.

  • And people are wearing this shirt

  • because they want the immediacy of protecting their people

  • in the courtroom.

  • But what we're telling them is,

  • as practitioners, they're building a new field,

  • a new movement

  • that is going to forever change the way justice is understood in this country.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

Translator: Ivana Korom Reviewer: Krystian Aparta

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【TED】Community-powered criminal justice reform | Raj Jayadev

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    林宜悉   に公開 2019 年 10 月 12 日
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