This Restorative Justice Life

81. Restorative Re-entry and Finding Full Freedom w/ Marlon Chamberlain

June 02, 2022 David Ryan Castro-Harris Season 2 Episode 17
This Restorative Justice Life
81. Restorative Re-entry and Finding Full Freedom w/ Marlon Chamberlain
Show Notes Transcript

Marlon J. Chamberlain is an advocate for people directly impacted by the justice system. Marlon brings over 20 years of lived and professional experience to his work at Heart Alliance.

Marlon has an established track record of creating effective coalitions. Previously, he served as the Englewood Project Manager with the READI Chicago Program at Heartland Alliance. Prior to that, he was a Community Organizer with the FORCE (Fighting to Overcome Records and Create Equality) Initiative.

In this episode, you will meet Marlon (0:55), hear about his experience within the criminal justice system (5:05), and how he views restorative justice as an essential step to growth after incarceration. He shares his initiatives and role at NACRJ (30:23) and answers the closing questions.

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David (he/him)  
This Restorative Justice Life is a production of Amplify RJ follow us on all social media platforms at amplify RJ, sign up for our email list and check out our website at amplify rj.com. To stay up to date on everything we have going on. Make sure you subscribe to this feed on whatever platform you're listening on right now, so you don't miss an episode. Finally, we'd love it if you left us a rating and review. It really helps us literally amplify this work. Thanks for listening, enjoy the episode. Welcome to this restorative justice life, the podcast that explores how the philosophy practices and values of restorative justice apply to our everyday lives. I'm your host, David Ryan Garcia Castro, here's all five names for the ancestors. And I'm the founder of amplify RJ. On this podcast, I talked with RJ practitioners, circle keepers, and others doing this work about how this way of being has impacted their lives. Marlon, welcome to this restorative justice life. Who are you?

Marlon Chamberlain  
I am an African American male who is directly impacted by the criminal justice system. Who are you? I'm a husband and father to a kids.

David (he/him)  
Who are you?

Marlon Chamberlain  
I am a leader who really believes in collective leadership.

David (he/him)  
Who are you?

Unknown Speaker  
A person of faith who believes in black liberation theology?

David (he/him)  
Who are you?

Unknown Speaker  
A person who believes in the value of mental health, mental health and therapy?

David (he/him)  
Who are you?

Unknown Speaker  
A student of life who believes in learning and has a passion, a passion for

David (he/him)  
learning? Who are you

Unknown Speaker  
an organizer who believes in building relationships and developing leaders.

David (he/him)  
We're gonna get to the intersections of all of those things and dive into this restorative justice life in just a moment.

Elyse (she/her)  
Hey, folks, I'm Elise, your producer. And today we are welcoming Marlon Chamberlin as our guest today, you are in for such a treat, because Marlon is an advocate for people directly impacted by the justice system. Marlon brings over 20 years of lived and professional experience to his work at the heart Alliance, and many other initiatives. In order to interact more deeply with the content that we're putting out through this restorative justice life, you should sign up for our mighty networks, where we are having a exclusive podcast discussion group every month, and where we post discussion questions after every single episode, so that you get to think even deeper to what you listen to. As always, thanks for listening. And let's get back into it.

David (he/him)  
And welcome back, Marlon, so excited to meet you. And also have you here. I've heard very many wonderful things about you. And I can't wait to get into some of those things. But it's always good to check in at the beginning of these conversations. So to the fullest extent that you want to answer the question right now, how are you?

Unknown Speaker  
I am great. It's been a great week, a lot of positive things happening. We actually have an event tomorrow, where we will be bringing folks from all across the state of Illinois together to create language to repeal and replace the 1994 crime bill.

David (he/him)  
Beautiful, you know, your work, organizing, advocacy. So many things stem from I imagine your experience directly being impacted by the criminal legal system. But I imagine restorative justice as a framework was something that you even if you didn't have the words for started for you even before that, so in your own words, how did this journey get started for you?

Unknown Speaker  
So you are absolutely right, like, like this journey. For me, I believe just even reflecting back started from when I was a little kid. And just watching like my grandmother, like my grandmother was somebody who believed in the value of relationships. She was a person of faith. She believed in holding folks accountable. But but but holding folks accountable in love. And so that's the culture that I grew up in to where we understood that, that when you love somebody, that you hold them accountable, but you also hold them and hold them accountable in a way to where you restored them back into community. And so what did that look like? So that could look like anything from my grandmother pinching you and then explaining to you like, if I were if and I did act up in church, my grandmother would pinch me and then after church, she was sitting me down and explain to me, like why she pinched me or why she sort of tapped my hand to say like when you're in public or when you're in church, you should pay attention and listen. But she did it in love. And because I knew that my grandmother loved me, like, dearly, like I was able to receive that. And she allowed me an opportunity to also sort of share, like my experience and talk about how sometimes in church, I was bored. And so she allowed me an opportunity to sort of like, like, almost argue my position, but at the end, she would win, but the way that she would discipline me would always be in love.

David (he/him)  
Right? And that discipline word, right, discipline is not punishment, discipline is teaching. Absolutely. Right. And I know that trips people up in many circumstances, you saw that from your grandma, growing up, how else did these kinds of relational ways of being manifest for you as a young person?

Unknown Speaker  
So it's, it's funny, because even when I ventured out into the streets, the sort of like mosque, I guess, you would say, like, just the the people that I associated with, like, we would, we would have, like, we will fall out sometimes. And, and the way that we would sort of resolve conflict was was it was done in a restorative way, like we didn't, we didn't resort to violence, and every argument or every sort of like, like moment of conflict, there were times when we actually talk things out. And I just think about also my, my experience in prison was very restorative in a sense to where I saw men communicate with each other and listen to each other, in a, in an environment in place that people traditionally wouldn't expect to see this. And so for me, I think all throughout my life, even when I couldn't put sort of like words to what was happening, the more and more I learned around a more, the more and more I learned about restorative justice, I realized that I had been practicing some of the skills of restorative justice, but just didn't know it.

David (he/him)  
Yeah. Again, I'm curious if there's an example that comes to mind because people don't think of prisons as incredibly restorative places. I imagine you're talking more about the interactions between fellow people who are detained instead of, you know, the systems and structure that puts you in those places?

Unknown Speaker  
Absolutely, absolutely. Absolutely.

David (he/him)  
Are there examples that you want to highlight?

Unknown Speaker  
Yeah, so an example that I would give him in the federal prison system, so So each sort of like they call them cars, and a car is simply like you and the state to where you're from. And so that's how people sort of associate with each other. So when if you were new on on the compound or at the institution, people would direct you to a specific car based on your state. And what would happen is, is that that representatives from different states, if that was an issue, different representatives would come together, and say, Hey, let's talk this out before people result to violence or fighting or whatever it may be, people will come together and resolve conflict. And so there were many occasions, I mean, as you can imagine, we live with each other, like we were around people 24/7 with no way of sort of like, like going off to like yourself. And so there will be situations that happened around the TV, the phone, the weightlifting, like equipment, and people would talk it out and really sort of almost form a circle to talk through, like the conflict. And then I would also say not like I didn't, I would also give an example of like, how we use circles, like what we would do is that when people would be getting ready to transition out or go home, we would have a circle to celebrate the person. And so we would all gather in a circle. And we would all go around in the circle and talk about what we've learned from that person. And then also give them sort of like some words of advice as they transition out of the system. And so those are just two examples of how like we used restorative justice practices without even knowing that that's what we were doing.

David (he/him)  
Right without even knowing the words, these ways of being right, being interconnected building relationships, repairing relationships, when there's harm is something that we all have within us. We've talked a lot on this podcast about, you know, learning about restorative justice, justice, quote, unquote, like formally, isn't really about learning something new. It's about a rekindling of truth that we have inside of us. It's a remembering. It's in some ways restoring ourselves. ofs to being in right relationship with, you know, self and others. And so, you know, it's not surprising to me and probably not surprising to most of the people who are listening to this who are already oriented towards justice, and prison abolition and advocacy for people who are impacted by the criminal legal system. You know, when people are put in community like this, we do have the ability to solve problems together, we don't need the state to get involved. We don't need the state to hand down punishments for situations that don't necessarily necessitate punishment, the necessary state support, or they necessitate a conversation between two people or two parties, that the state has nothing to do with, to the extent that you're comfortable sharing. I'm curious, in your RE imagination of your encounters with the criminal legal system? How could things have been different? Oh,

Unknown Speaker  
good question. I was on a panel this Monday in Lake Forest college. And I was asked the same question. And all throughout my sort of prison experience, or even just my experience of of living, sort of like a criminal lifestyle, like at no point that anyone ever asked me why, like I was hustling, like, at any point. And I think if someone would have sat down, and genuinely asked me, Why do you keep going back to selling drugs, I think that would have changed my life. Because at the time, like I was expecting my first child, I didn't grow up in relationship with a good relationship with my father. And so that was added sort of anxiety and pressure. And so I made a bad decision to sell drugs. But it if someone would have intervened and just said, Hey, can I can I sit down? And I really want to understand, like, Why? Why you keep, you know, going back to selling drugs, I think, to me, that would have allowed me to open up and share sort of like my experience of what I was going through, and would have been open to receive help.

David (he/him)  
Yeah. Do you? Can you articulate a why in this moment?

Unknown Speaker  
So at the pool, at that term, I felt like that was the only choice that I had, because I sought out can also from several people, and, and really didn't get any help. And I also asked my father, like, what should I do? Like, at the time, the mother of my two oldest kids was pregnant. And my father basically told me to leave her. And that was advice that I knew just in my gut, it just didn't sit well with me. And so what I saw in that environment of where I grew up, is that, that people made it happen, whether illegally or or, or illegal, you made it happen. And to me at that time, is what I saw as like, that is what a man should do. And so I made a decision based off of what I knew, the sort of like the associations that I had, and this sort of false, like narrative of that whatever you do, you do what you have to do to take care of your kids, is what I was sort of operating from. Now looking back, I know that that if I would have just taken my time and say, okay, Marlin, career wise, what can you do now to begin to set yourself up, to move into a career, and to be the father who you want, who you want to be to be there for your son? Like, I could have made some some different decisions. But my network was small. My thinking was small. And I made a decision based on the here and now, without sort of looking at the long term effects of what that decision, what sort of the life that it would lead me to?

David (he/him)  
Yeah. And so what I hear in that is that you needed guidance, you needed options, you needed opportunity, you need support. And when you got caught up in the legal system, the solution was, No, you're gonna go away. Absolutely. And hope you learned your lesson. Absolutely. Right. And, again, people who are listening to this podcast are probably already already oriented towards the criminal legal system does not meet the needs of anybody impacted, right? The people who cause harm, and when you're talking about selling drugs, you can talk about how communities are harmed or the people who you're selling to are harm but that's still not really meeting the needs of anybody involved by removing one person. From the cycle of, you know, the illicit drug trade in absolutely the United States or in Illinois, specifically, somewhere along the way, I don't know if it was, while you were still in prison, or after you got out, you discovered or were enlightened to the word restorative justice. When was that? And what was that experience like for you?

Unknown Speaker  
So I will, I will say this going into the system, when I was arrested on this federal my federal case, the day that I was arrested, like, I knew I was tired, I was I was ready to get out the game. And the day that I was arrested, going into the system, I went into the system with a different mindset. I think there were a couple of moments that that shifted for me, but one that I remember specifically, especially after I started to learn more about restorative justice was I was in a program and the program that I was in, if someone in our unit did something, the entire unit sort of suffered the consequences of whatever the action the infraction was. And I remember complaining about this. And I remember one of the sort of treatment specialists calling me out, but really, he called me because he called me into community. And what he said to me was, he said, Marlon, how do you think your daughter feels when she's at cheerleading practice, and she looks in the stands, and everybody else's father is there, and you're not there to support her. And he gave an example of how like my son, if he was at football games, like was suffering the consequences of my decisions.  And it wasn't a call out, it was a call in because what it taught me, it taught me the value of community, and how my, my decisions impact the community. And so I think, for me, that was my introduction to sort of like RJ practices. But since I've been home, I've been, I've been through several RJ trainings where I spent the weekend community with folks. And it was just an experience of us that I had never, never experienced, because for one, it's almost like it forces you to listen. Because if you don't have the talking piece, you're forced to really listen in a way that I wasn't used to. So I was forced to actively listen to people, and then also make connections. Because doing the rounds of like how you sort of like enter into circle, you begin to build relationships before you jump into whatever it is, if there's an issue that you want to address. If this is a circle of celebration, you build relationships first, and then you go into like the celebratory parts of the circle. And so I would say it started when I was incarcerated. But since I've been home, we incorporated RJ principles into like the I was doing violence prevention work. And part of what we did was we incorporated the principles into our like day to day operations, the curriculum, how we interacted with participants, how we interacted with staff. And so we built that into our culture. And so I would say it started on the inside. And then once I was released from prison, just being introduced to the actual skills that you can build from from the RJ work was really sort of infused in the culture of of all of the work that we did in violence prevention, where,

David (he/him)  
yeah, how did you enter that field? Right, because of the transition out of prison is not an easy one for anybody. What were the supports available to you? Who were the people that you want to shout out? You know, what was that journey? Like?

Unknown Speaker  
So I will definitely say my family first and foremost, like my family was very supportive, very forgiving. I didn't feel like they were holding, like my mistake over my head like they were they were very supportive. I would also also shout out Eddie Bocanegra, who was the one who introduced me to advocacy work in the community renewal society who taught me like, like the the value of organizing, and the congregations that that were a part of CRS I would say that that the support, like the support that I received from family and friends is what really helped me during my transition period, but I didn't initially start off doing violence prevention work. I started off doing organizing work, and then after three years transitioned into sort of like the violence prevention work, and so there's a lot of people that Michelle day been one of them who, who really sort of like invested a lot of time and energy and mentoring me around just like restorative justice practices. And so like just just the support from family, friends, and multiple people who have invested in my leadership in this work in Keith Lewis, I mean, it's a bunch of people I could name.

David (he/him)  
Yeah. And you know, the subtle thing that I'm trying to get at is like, who are the people that you want to invite on this podcast? Who are formative in that? So we'll we'll circle back to that later. But you know, as you were doing the organizing work, as you were doing the community violence, violence prevention work, not violence, introduction, right. violence, violence prevention work? What Yeah, yeah, violence prevention, you talked about how RJ was infused in that, what did that look like within the context of those programs?

Unknown Speaker  
So in the virus prevention work, we would start all of our meetings with a check in. We were creative, and some of our questions when we would start meetings to be more intentional, about like, just the relational aspects of the work and the value of being in right relationship with staff and participants, because we were working with perpetrators and victims of gun violence. And so

David (he/him)  
who all say like are often the same people?

Unknown Speaker  
Absolutely. Absolutely. Yep. We would also so are sort of like disciplinary and like process, like we infused RJ principles, meaning if somebody broke a rule, we didn't just suspend folks like that, like, there would be consequences. But the way that we were restore people back into the program was we would use RJ practices, like we would have a circle with the person that was harmed, and the person who initially may have caused the harm, and we would talk through it, and then that person will be restored back into the program. And then we wouldn't hold it over their head. Like once, once we made amends, and we talked through it, that person was restored. And then we would also sort of, in the circle, talk about like, what supports are needed to make sure like, if it was a An example would be, let's say, one of the rules was you had to be in the program by 915. If you were late, three times more, you may be suspended for one day. And then when we would have this circle, one of the things that we would talk about is are you having transportation issues, like how can we support you to make sure that you can get here on time. And so we would get to the why it wasn't just Okay, let's punish this person. Let's kick them out the program, it was really around how can we help support you if it was a fight? We would bring both parties together? Or if there were brawls, which there were we had, you know, different folks from different mobs from all over Inglewood? We would we would, of course, break up the fight. And then we would try to bring both sides together to say, Can we sit down and talk about what happened, and then process that together. And then we would do this before they they actually left like the program site. Because what we also knew is that if individuals left that program site and went back into community without resolving the issue, that it could spill over into the community. And so we would separate individuals, we would talk to them. And then initially, we would say, Hey, can we bring everyone together? We would give them an opportunity to say yes or no. And in most cases, they say yes, because we had created those relationships, where they trusted us. And so we would bring both all of the individuals together, we would talk through it. But then we would also talk about in instances where this happens again, how can we handle this in a different way. And I would say a nine out of 10, like situations when this happened, we were able to talk through it to where they were able to shake hands. Now I'm not saying that they walked away best of friends, but they shook hands and agreed that it wouldn't carry over into the streets, and then they will come back to work together. I mean, come back to programming the next day and we would have peace.

David (he/him)  
Yeah. Without going into specifics of any one situation right? And confidentiality. What did you often identify as like the root causes of these kinds of conflicts?

Unknown Speaker  
So I would say what, what we would hear from them is respect or disrespect. And so whenever they would like if it was a situation where someone felt disrespected, things will escalate. And it can be something as simple as you sat in my chair or you you accidentally kicked my foot. So it just depends if they were working together and one person wanted to be the the lead for the day and they were told that they couldn't be the lead, it would just be little things that that would sort of escalate into other things. Or there will be situations where it was something that happened in the streets before programming, and they would see each other. And this will be the first time that they've been in like close proximity, and then things will escalate.

David (he/him)  
Yeah, and I think that speaks so much to the need for the relationship building. Even more, right? You have when you have a relationship, someone with someone, you can say, Hey, man, you're in my seat, right? Or like, Oh, I'm sorry, I kicked your leg. My bad. It's all good. You know, and so restorative justice, not just being about that repair of harm process, but what are the things that we can do to make sure that we have relationships, rooted in respect, right, rooted in trust, read it in equity, to make sure that we're preventing that kind of harm from happening. First place,

Unknown Speaker  
I would also add a space to heal. Because what we also, we also saw this a lot is that when things would happen, whether it was family related, if we lost the participant, like we would, we would have circles to talk about it. And that's not something that you normally see, like when when things happen in the street, like, folks are not processing like men, I love this person. And now they're no longer here. And so we create a space to cry, and to reassure folks that it's okay. Like being sad is a normal emotion, that that you can process and really talk through, like what this law so this person meant to you. So we create a space for that, which is how you sort of like resolve trauma, or you learn to manage trauma. And so we created that space, where folks were comfortable, to be vulnerable, and to say, Man, I love this guy. And now this guy is no longer here. So we also created space for individuals to heal.

David (he/him)  
Yeah, yeah, it's so important to do that work on an individual level with people. And now a lot of your work has shifted to policy to prevent all of these kinds of things from happening in the first place, changing the conditions under which you know, the criminal legal system impacts our people. Tell us about your all of your organizing work, some of the campaigns that you're doing.

Unknown Speaker  
Absolutely. So the fully free campaign is a multi year statewide campaign to end permanent punishments for individuals with the rest or conviction records. And we intentionally decided to use the word permanent punishments and not collateral consequences. Because collateral suggests that that these laws were accidental. And we don't believe that they were accidental. And so we've been able to launch this campaign in 12 cities across the state, the state of Illinois, and these were all led by directly impacted individuals. And the way that I sort of described the campaign is like in three buckets. One, we want to build, we want to build collective power, statewide collective power, meaning this movement is not led by one person, I'm not the leader of this movement, there are there are hundreds of leaders that are helping us lead this this movement. And so we want to continue hosting events where we can recruit, identify and develop new leaders that are directly impacted to help us lead this work. The second bucket is we want to build relationships with our local media outlets. And so the folks in Southern Illinois are looking to build relationships with with radio stations, news outlets, the newspapers, because we want to influence the media, we want people to see a different side of individuals who have been incarcerated or who are living with an arrest record, because the media sort of portrays people that that have been to prison as if we're these monsters. And so we want to humanize the issue. The third bucket is we want to build relationships with our elected officials. And so when we introduce policy, we can then educate our legislators on how these hundreds of permanent punishments are impacting people across the state. Our data shows that there's an estimated 3.3 million people in Illinois that are living with an arrest or conviction record. And so that is the demographic of folks that we want to go after, to really help equip them and enable them to act on their for their own liberation. And so this campaign is not just about eliminating policy, but it's also about let's humanize the issue. And let's let's use facts and Data to talk about real public safety that doesn't restrict or hinder or create barriers. But it creates opportunities and creates resources so that people can be restored back into communities.

David (he/him)  
Can you define public safety in your vision, or

Unknown Speaker  
my definition of public safety is opportunities and resources. And so we know that the data shows that permanent punishments primarily impact or disproportionately impacts communities, black and brown communities. And so what we want to do is we want to level the playing field, the same resources and opportunities that people have on the north side of Chicago, or in certain communities across the state, we want everyone to have those same opportunities. And so this is about equity. It's about tearing down the barriers that that certain people face in certain communities and creating a world where everyone has an opportunity. And it's also preventative. Because if we remove a lot of these barriers, we could prevent people from even going into the system in the first place. I always say that recidivism is a reflection of the system, not an individual. And so when individuals go back into the system after they've been released, that is a failure of the system, not the individuals,

David (he/him)  
right, when I think about, you know, opportunity and supports, right? So many times when people come out, they there are no supports, are there very limited sports, there are very limited opportunities. And I know that there has been legislation over the years like things like ban the box where you can no longer ask like, Have you been convicted of a felony on job applications? And you know, giving people a little bit more opportunity in that way. But even things like student loans, things like access to housing, access to other support, like are restricted for people who have been directly impacted by the criminal legal system in those ways. Is that also a part of what you're organizing for?

Unknown Speaker  
Absolutely. So to give you a a give you a concrete example, this year, we introduced a bill called the free act. And it's the family's estate Equity Act, the free act. And basically what this bill does is it removes the language from the 1975 Probate act that restricts individuals with felony convictions from being an executor, or administrator of an estate. An example my father last year passed away in March, he appointed me as his as his executor. But because I have a 25 year old conviction, I wasn't able to carry out the wishes of my father, because of my background. And so we introduced this bill to remove the restriction that would allow over 600,000 people in Illinois to carry out the wishes of their family members. And so we've done a lot of like just Legislative Research, where we actually looked at the entire Illinois code and statutes to identify all of these hundreds of barriers. And we'll have information and really have a memo and we'll begin to downpour this information or download this information into our leaders. Because what we want to do is take away the vague sort of term of barriers, like we'll have specific language, just like I'm saying, the the probate act is restricting injured individuals from being an executor, or administrator will have specific language to each barrier so that we can be more specific because right now, there are blanket barriers, meaning no matter what the conviction is, if you have a felony conviction on your record, there are certain industries, whether it's housing, employment, etc, that just completely bars everyone.

David (he/him)  
This is work that is restorative in nature, in that it's like correcting wrongs changing policy. I think in some ways, you know, you want to ask for more, right? Like for the people who these policies have harmed? What are the reparations for that? Is that a part of what you're asking for? Is that too pie in the sky?

Unknown Speaker  
No, it's not too pie in the sky. I think that's that's about equity and fairness. So absolutely. We're asking for reparations and reparations could be just like they were the government was given out stimulus checks. During the pandemic, we're saying that that is the type of reparations whether it's free college education at a free college tuition, whether it's monthly checks, but we are like a part of our strategy is to ask for those reparations for the harm that has been done to our communities.

David (he/him)  
I think a lot about you know, people think about restorative justice just between like, oh, one person did this to this person and we repair but right, the systems of causes harm, right. And of course, we want this seems to stop causing that harm, right? So like, eliminate those harmful policies. But like what does it mean for the systems and the actors that control those systems to actually do things that address the needs that their harm has caused? There's, there's so much in there, what is the opposition that you're running into?

Unknown Speaker  
So this year with the the free Act, the opposition that we're running into is, is people are asking about like, Well, what about people who committed financial crimes. And our position is, is that we believe we believe in all of us, and none meaning that we won't negotiate in a way to where we leave certain folks out, regardless of the conviction. And then I would also say some of the opposition has just been when we talk about the fact that one of the core sort of principles of the campaign is that a criminal record or conviction shouldn't follow anyone for life, no matter the conviction, some people are uncomfortable with hearing that. And the first thing that folks want to name is well, what about people who committed violent offenses, or people who have committed sex offenses and opposition is, is that that pathway to living a fully free lifestyle may be different, depending on the conviction, but that everyone should have a pathway to being able to be fully free? Now, I was just going to close with saying, and some people are uncomfortable with that.

David (he/him)  
Yeah, they're, I think, in the maybe more liberal all say liberal ideas of like, criminal legal system reform, right? Oh, the nonviolent drug offenders, let's like, you know, yeah, let's, let's take things away that will allow them to have like better opportunities. But it's, it's not just that, right. We're trying to dismantle all of it. And again, it's not about like, letting people off off the hook for things they've done. But like, you know, people do things for a reason, right? What are the supports that they can be given to make better choices moving forward? What are the barriers that we can eliminate from them, to help them to make it easier to make choices that will benefit them in their communities? You know, one of the reasons that we have you here is that not only are you doing great work in Chicago and community in Illinois, across the board, you're going to be highlighting some of this at the NAC RJ Conference, which is July 7 through nine with the pre conference day on July 6 of and you know, everybody who's listening to this, we definitely would love to see you there. What is it that you'll be sharing at the conference,

Unknown Speaker  
really just just more about the fully free campaign given sort of like an overview of what some of the hundreds of barriers, what that currently like exists, like, like how they impact people across the state, the demographics of of folks that that are being impacted by these permanent punishments, but then also talking about like what we believe is a strategy to eliminate these permanent punishments. And so it will really be me just given a general overview of the campaign and talking more around about how people can get involved in the work that we do. And I do just want to say this, because I also just think about like people, the systems, so called were sent to prison to be rehabilitated. And folks go to prison, they served their time of incarceration, they complete all of the stipulations of parole probation. But I think where a lot of people like maybe maybe just a little ignorant to is that people think that once you're home, it's over. And no matter what, like even after you complete all of the stipulations, and you complete, you finish probation and parole, and you go back to school, and you get your master's degree, and you do all of these wonderful things. They are steel barriers, and we call it the prison after prison, where people live with a lot of these sort of like, like barriers for life. And so we're gonna also just talk about how how this impacts people, and how this sort of like strips the dignity of individuals that are directly impacted to where people feel a shame. And we want people to feel liberated, fully free is about moving out of bondage and moving into a space to where I'm no longer ashamed of the fact that I made a mistake and we want to restore the dignity of individuals that have an arrest or conviction record and so we're going to just talk about like, like the impact but then also all offer individuals an opportunity to get involved and what we believe this movement is about which is, which is really creating real public safety and and creating opportunities for people that are coming home from prison.

David (he/him)  
Yeah, the beautiful thing about NACA J. and conferences like this as people come not only from all over the country, but all over the world, there's a wonderful exchange of ideas. But that doesn't necessarily just happen at a conference. What are some models or things that you've seen in other places in the country that you're drawing inspiration from?

Unknown Speaker  
Not so I will say a couple of things. So there is a campaign called the time done campaign that is being led by the Alliance for Safety and Justice, that is really centered around saying that at what point can a person move forward in life, very similar to fully free, I would also say, the Clean Slate work, clean slate legislation, which is really given individuals an opportunity to have their record automatically expunged after a certain certain amount of time. So there, there are several sort of campaigns that that are happening across the country right now that we constantly sort of brainstorm and think through, like, what's working, where, how is this working here, and so we trade ideas. And then there's also a couple movements that all of us or none, that's, that's happening, there's chapters, all across the country that are doing organizing work, whether it's around restoring voting rights, or creating opportunities for individuals. So they're out, there's a lot of great work happening across the country. And I'm just I'm excited to be connected to all of these networks. Because what it does for me is it gives me an opportunity to learn and pick the brains of people that have been in this work longer than I have.

David (he/him)  
Yeah, absolutely. And for people who there are many people who are in Illinois, who listen to this just because of my Chicago and this work, but they're also a national audience. And in I think we got some Canada, some Australia, some Europe as well. How can people who aren't necessarily in Illinois support fully free?

Unknown Speaker  
So absolutely, you can you can folks can go to our website, to sign up to receive campaign action alerts and campaign updates. You can also make donations to the campaign to help and what I would say is any donation that is made to this campaign is invested in centering the leadership and expertise of those that are directly impacted. And so to give a concrete example of how donations help support this campaign is this last legislative session, we were able to bring leaders down whether it was on the train, or just being able to reimburse folks for gas money to come down to participate to lobby legislators in support of legislation that helps us but those are just ways that that that people can get involved that are not necessarily from Illinois and Illinois, is you can make a donation. And then you can also invite us out because we would love to take this campaign across the country and help folks sort of organize and talk through like the steps that we took to start the campaign here in Illinois.

David (he/him)  
Yeah, absolutely. And you know, the links to everything. The way to get in touch to campaign information. that'll all be in the show notes. We've talked a lot about the way that this has manifested in your professional life. I'm curious how restorative justice has impacted you as a person as Marlin living life in the world Marlin the father, the partner, the friend, the brother, son,

Unknown Speaker  
absolutely. So I would say it's helped me forgive myself. And just learn in this process, like the word restorative, like like, like, as someone who has been to prison was gone 10 and a half years away from my kids. Like I came home with a lot of guilt and shame of just like knowing that that I wasn't able to be invested in involved in my children's life. And so it's allowed me to sort of like like to forgive myself and to say like, okay, it's okay Marlon, like you made a mistake and and moving forward, like, like, you have an opportunity to rebuild those relationships and it's not something that's going to happen overnight. It's something that you have to continue to plant seeds and make investments and be consistent and rebuilding those relationships that that I last time. I would also say that even in my my family like what my wife If like in the way that we have conversations or how we sort of like talk with the kids like we, we try to, we try to, but every night we try to form a circle to pray together to hear from each other. On birthdays, we sit in a circle, and we go around and we talk about what we appreciate about each other. Well, what we like what Mayra about each other. And so there's just little things or little like skills or just practices that I've learned that I've infused in not only just like myself as an individual, but just into, like, how we interact with each other as a family.

David (he/him)  
Yeah, no, that's beautiful. Like, it's not just the reparative things, right? That's important. And especially when you are repairing that relationship with yourself, super important, but you know, the things that you're like we talked about before constantly being able to build those relationships invest in those relationships. They are preventative, and in some ways, just making peace proactively. You know, we've talked about this fully free campaign and what it means for people who have been impacted by the criminal legal system, large scale across the state of Illinois. But for you Marlon, what does it mean to be fully free.

Unknown Speaker  
So to me, to be fully free means to live a life without bondage. And what I mean by bondage is the internal sort of shame and guilt, or the the stereotypes or the myths, that that people create about people with records. And so it means to live free of that. It also means to live in communities where, where opportunities are the norm, and resources are the norm. So it means that the sky's the limit that whatever you put your heart and mind to, that you can you can achieve. And so people are able to live out their desires, their hopes, and dreams and, and evolved. And so to me, that is what fully free looks like, or living for the fully free lifestyle looks like to me. Yeah, yeah, I always say this, I like to flip the words backwards, and say that it means to be free and live fully.

David (he/him)  
I want to transition into the questions that everybody answers when they come on this podcast. So in your own words, define restorative justice.

Unknown Speaker  
I will say right relationship with community.

David (he/him)  
Yeah, I talked about a lot of the ways that happens. You've been doing this work for a while, and it hasn't always been smooth sailing, I imagine what has been an oh, shit moment, as you've been doing this work? And what have you learned from it, I would

Unknown Speaker  
just just off the top of my mind up to like just the top of my head, I would say that being a community and being in relationships with just multiple people can be, can be chaotic, and complicated. And I think I haven't always, like I don't always deal with stuff the right way. Or just in general, just in dealing with people. And so I would say that just being in this work, and this work could be could be overwhelming. And learning how to sort of like separate the work from family life or creating boundaries, for me has been challenging. And so I have sort of like these Oh, moments all the time. But I'm thankful that I'm just I'm able to, like I have people, like in my support network that are here to sort of coach me and, and to encourage me and to into just to affirm me and push them forward in the work. But I would just say, just when you have a lot of relationships, sometimes it can be complicated on like, how do you prioritize what relationships? And how do you manage being in all of these relationships with people in this work and just in family in general?

David (he/him)  
Yeah, yeah, that's a what that brings up for me. It's like this idea of boundaries. And I'm curious how the boundaries for like taking care of yourself manifests for you.

Unknown Speaker  
So that is something that that I'm learning and growing. And I think what what I'm learning like it, my birthday is coming up may 5, and I told my wife, we're actually going to Punta Cana for my birthday. And I'm not taking my computer. Like I'm not taking anything that will remind me of work. So just being intentional about creating spaces for me to take care of myself, whether it's me going to get a massage or me going to get my nails done and my feet done. But just just being intentional and actually planning and putting things on the cat on my calendar has helped me sort of create these bounds Laundry is to take care of myself. So so that's what I will say it. But I would also say it's a journey. It's not something that I've mastered. Because you can't go until you burn out, and then decide to do these things. It's just, it's me trying to be more intentional about creating space. For me to sort of like have time for myself.

David (he/him)  
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. It's a practice for me, too. That's why I asked other people how they're doing. Because no, juggling so many things. Can't forget the relationship with yourself. You get to sit in circle with four people living or dead? Who are they? What is the one question you ask the circle?

Unknown Speaker  
Oh, so one, my grandmother. So my mom. Three, I would say Malcolm X. And for I will say Jesus.

David (he/him)  
All right. So you're got the question.

Unknown Speaker  
And the question that I would ask is, What is something that you wish you knew, like growing up that you realize is like, something of value or something that could have changed your life?

David (he/him)  
The fun part about this is now I'm going to turn that question to you. So growing up, what's something that you wish you knew that would have been valuable or changed your life?

Unknown Speaker  
So for me, it's easy. The appreciation and value of relationships. And the reason why I say that is I lost my mom when I was incarcerated. And if you would have asked me before I went to prison, then I love my mom, I would have told you Yes. But what I realized now is that when you appreciate people, you spend time with them. And the streets took me away from my mother moved to Atlanta when when I moved to Atlanta, Georgia, and I would go to Atlanta, and spend months and would go see my mother the day before I left, because I will be in the streets, partying, and putting all of these other things before they were like that relationship. And so what I realized now is the value of time and relationships, and you can't take that for granted. And so when you love people you appreciate and when you have opportunities to spend time, and to learn, like I wish I could sit with my grandmother and asked her like, what are some of the things like that you struggle with? Because I saw my grandmother struggle, but I always saw my grandmother push forward. And I never asked like, how do you do it? Or what drives you? And so those are the types of questions that I wish I could have that time back to really understand like, how were they able to hold on to their faith, when everything around them looked like it was in chaos? Like those are the things that I would love to hear them sort of talk to me about?

David (he/him)  
That's a word. That's a word right there. Somewhere is I want to end just on that. But we have a couple more we have. You know, we have hundreds of people listening to us right now, maybe 1000s, and millions at some point along the way. What is one thing you want everyone listening to this to know could be a mantra could be an affirmation to be something else.

Unknown Speaker  
One thing that I would want people to know, is that everyone deserves I don't even want to say a second chance, but a fair chance. And I think for me, that I think that I'm a living example of of how people can make mistakes, and still rebound, and and move forward in life and, and evolve and really live out their dreams. And so the one thing I will want people to know is that that we should never give up on people and give people grace to grow, give people opportunities to change because I think sometimes we can, we can look at someone and because they've made a mistake, even though we may not realize that we still hold it over their head. I remember I'm close with this Les Les Brown, who is a public speaker who I admire. He used to say if you look at a man as he is he only can become worse. But if you look at a man in the ways that in the ways that he could have be then he becomes what he should be. And I believe that like I believe that it starts with how we see and perceive People and give him people grace, to change and to grow.

David (he/him)  
Yeah, you keep coming up with these, like, really profound things to end on. But there's still two more questions Timor. And we kind of broached this earlier, but who is one person who you think should be on this podcast, and you've got to help me get them on

Unknown Speaker  
one person that should be on this podcast, it's a couple of people that come to mind that I think should be on this podcast. I'm gonna say Greg chambers, um, very unique story served 28 years in prison. And I don't want to tell his story. But I just think he has a unique perspective. And, and could definitely talk about like just restorative justice and what that means to him.

David (he/him)  
Beautiful, looking forward to that connect. And finally, we've talked about it a little bit, but let's just remind folks, how can people support you your work and the ways that you want to be supported.

Unknown Speaker  
So the ways that folks can support our work, please go to the website and fully free.org and sign up to receive campaign action alerts. And also just get involved if folks want to reach out to me and schedule a one on one. My email address is also on the website. I am a relational person, and I love to create space to continue building those relationships, you can make a donation to the campaign. Um, but other than that, just just get involved, connect with us and get involved.

David (he/him)  
Beautiful. Thank you so much, Marlon. You've given us some really concrete things to do to support. And you've also given us so many gems through sharing your stories, and experiences anything else you want to leave the people with?

Unknown Speaker  
No, I appreciate this opportunity. I love you all and look forward to building and working together.

David (he/him)  
Beautiful. Well, everyone else. We'll be back with another episode with someone living this restorative justice Life next week. Until then, take care.

Elyse (she/her)  
Wow, thank you so much, Marlon. There's so much that we can learn from this episode, I found it to be really impactful. And I think Marlon sits in such an interesting position as someone who has made it through the criminal justice system that is very punitive, and doesn't always create pathways for people post prison. That's one of the main things that he wanted to approach through his restorative practices. Because restorative practices means so many different facets of your life need to be restored. Even though you might be restored back to society after serving a sentence, you still have to restore relationships with your family, restore relationships with your community, restore relationships with yourself. And the criminal justice system on its own does not really help with that, especially with job assistance or mental health awareness and training. And that's why it is so important to have people like Marlon doing this work. And I think it's important to also ask ourselves, How can we support people who may be incarcerated? And how do we give people a second chance. And like you said in the podcast, not everyone necessarily deserves a second chance, but everyone deserves a fair chance. And that also brings in the intersectionality between race and marginalized communities that are more likely to be put in prison and to be put through these punitive cycles. Which means that it is even more important that we are using restorative justice methodology to restore our communities and prevent future harm. As always, thank you so much for listening. And if you're interested in hearing even more discussion prompts and questions, make sure to sign up for our mighty networks, which is linked down below, where you can join our exclusive podcast community where we will be hosting podcast group discussion, which is a great way to support amplify and restorative justice and the podcast. As always, thanks for listening, and I'll talk to you next week.

David (he/him)  
Like what you heard, please subscribe, rate review and share this podcast on whatever platform you're using right now. Or if you're old school, tell a friend. It really helps us further amplify this work. You can also support us by following us on our social platforms, signing up for our email list, signing up for a community gathering, workshop, or course. So many options, links to everything in the show notes or on our website, amplify rj.com Thanks so much for listening. We'll talk to you next week.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai