- George Gascón, San Francisco District Attorney and former Chief of Police.
- Frederick Hutson, founder, CEO and Head of Product for Pigeonly, a service which allows inmates to efficiently and affordably connect with their families and loved ones.
- Pastor Michael McBride of The Way Christian Center in Berkeley, who also serves as the Director of Urban Strategies for the PICO National Network and LiveFree, an organization committed to ending mass incarceration.
- Heather Starnes-Logwood, Executive Director of Live in Peace, a non-profit that seeks to empower and advance youth and families in East Palo Alto.
The discussion was moderated by Taia Ergueta, Able Works Board member and President of An Hour and a White Board.
— Notes —
(The following are “live” notes and are not exact transcripted quotes.)
The US is 5% of the world’s population, but nearly 22% of the world’s prison population.
You can’t understand most things from a distance, Bryan. You have to get up close. – Bryan Stevenson’s grandmother
Mass Incarceration, Drivers, Impacts, Effective Interventions, Abundant Citizen Opportunities, HUMANITY.
Ergueta: It struck me how often a failure of being in touch with one’s own humanity, or to recognize the humanity in others, is at play.
McBride: Let us recognize that personal choice is not the only factor that causes people to end up incarcerated. We are all created in the image of God, with a higher purpose, a shared identity, that is not defined by the worst thing we’ve done in our lives.
Few are guilty, but all are responsible – Abraham Joshua Heschel
Gascón: We have relegated this “problem” to “society.” We use the criminal justice system or the police force to address it. We’ve increased laws, and the punitive nature of our system. And, we have rewarded people for this behavior.
Hutson: Economics is a driver. People are not selling drugs because it is cool. We’re preserving prisons for people that we’re mad at, not people that we’re afraid of.
Starnes-Logwood: We like punitive, except when it’s us, then we like restorative justice. We have to go back to the core of systemic racism, we have to fight it. While it may bother us, it has to do more. It has to activate us.
McBride: We have to surface the trauma, and the environmental issues that are buried underneath the tough exterior. They don’t know, from day to day, if it’s going to be the police or “pookie,” who will physically keep them from simply walking down the street. That collective impact of trauma requires us to have a conversation around healing. Every homicide in the city costs the city around $2M, per homicide. It takes $25,000 per person to stop shooting. It is literally cheaper to pay “pookie” not to shoot than to pay the police to go around and chase the shooters. Will we invest in this kind of strategy and healing opportunities?
Gascón: We have a criminal justice system that fails 60-70% of the time. And we pay for that. How many of you would pay for your smartphone if it failed just half that, about 30% of the time?
McBride: There are many profiteers off the pain in our country.
Hutson: About 40% of our employees were once incarcerated. They work hard, they show up on time. They’re higher performing, because they have more to lose.
How do you rehumanize people?
We wouldn’t walk into a hospital and receive treatment that isn’t evidence-based, but we do that all the time with the criminal justice system. Locking up people doesn’t make us more safe. It makes us less safe by running people through the system. There’s plenty of data out there for this.