This Restorative Justice Life

82. Right Relationships in Restorative Justice w/ Elena Quintana

June 09, 2022 Season 2 Episode 18
This Restorative Justice Life
82. Right Relationships in Restorative Justice w/ Elena Quintana
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Elena’s work includes creating programs, research, and events that promote socially just solutions to public safety problems. She partners with community members and agencies, law enforcement, detention facility staff and inmates, as well as universities and government in an effort to implement socially just policies and practices that are beneficial to all.

You will meet Elena (0:55), learn about the science of restorative justice (14:12),  and hear about the importance of right relationships and mentorship (21:41). Then, Elena shares about the criminal legal system and community partnerships (26:21). Finally, she answers the closing questions (59:29).

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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. Elena, welcome to this restorative justice life. Who are you?

Elena Quintana (she/her):

Well, I am super passionate about justice, which is probably why you asked me to be on here.

David (he/him):

Who are you?

Elena Quintana (she/her):

I am a family member, a mother and wife and a daughter and a sister and aunt and I'm very passionate about the role as family member.

David (he/him):

Who are Yeah,

Elena Quintana (she/her):

I am. I am a mentor, especially to people who have been incarcerated.

David (he/him):

Who are you?

Elena Quintana (she/her):

I am a traveler. I am a bird lover. And I am a practitioner of non violence. But I say I was a friend. I am a brunch maker, a maker of many branches.

David (he/him):

And finally, who are you?

Elena Quintana (she/her):

I am a worker.

David (he/him):

Thank you so much, Elena for being here on this restorative justice life. We're gonna get to the intersections of all of those aspects of who you are right after this. Hey, folks, I'm Elyse, your producer. And today we are welcoming Elena Quintana to the podcast. In this episode Elena shares about her interests, including violence prevention, mass incarceration, reentry issues, therapeutic approaches to dealing with trauma, immigration, and methods to increase public safety in ways that are socially unjust. We are so excited to have her on the podcast today. Without further ado, let's get back into it. Welcome back, Elena. It is so good to be with you. It's been a while since we've connected. It's always good at the beginning of this conversation. So check in so to the full extent of the question, or to the fullest extent that you want to answer the question right now. How are you?

Elena Quintana (she/her):

I am doing great. I feel busy. And I feel like I'm constantly looking for money for various restorative justice projects. But I'm excited to be able to be doing them and in a context of of excitement and collaboration.

David (he/him):

Yeah, there is infinite work to do. And you've been doing this work across lots of different spaces with lots of different communities, lots of different people. We're going to talk about all of those in a moment. But you know, you've been doing restorative justice work for a long time, even before you knew the word restorative justice. So, in your own words, how did this journey get started for you?

Elena Quintana (she/her):

I had been doing violence prevention work and had had a really rough year. Very difficult year. Of it started with you know, I had been involved in this hospital program that I started in Chicago, with Christ Hospital here, near Chicago. And that's a level one trauma unit that saw all of these people from 55th Street South. So any shooting victim or homicide victim, I would often get a call. And it would be up to me to try to find responders like community responders and hospital responders, to be able to stop retaliation and to try to use that moment of injury as a moment to contain a crisis and keep anything worse from happening and also, to use them in an emergency to transform the lives of the people who are injured. So I had been taking alone for two and a half years, all of the calls from this trauma unit, and it was like incredibly taxing, and emotional as you can imagine. In the context of this. My nephew earlier that year had been in a coma, and then my, and then my own my, my cousin's son, who I had raised for four years, died tragically in a car accident. It was just a horrible year, I will just suffice it to say, really bad year, a lot of the clients that I'd worked with a couple of them had been shot and killed and hardier. And at the end of that year, in November 2006, I was invited by Father Kelly to have precious blood ministry of reconciliation here in Chicago, who's supposed to prolific restorative justice practitioner, and advocate. And he invited me over to the center to be trained in restorative justice. And I thought four days seemed like a really long time to be trained. And I'm was trained, of course, by great Cheryl Graves, who was, you know, I know that you featured as well on your podcast. So Cheryl Graves, and Margaret, what is her last name, but now she lives in Australia, that Margaret, trained me and I just was, I think that my whole life was transformed in that moment, because it had been such a very hard walk for me, both professionally and personally. And I was in so much need of being in a healing space myself, that it allowed me this learning about restorative justice and the relational healing aspect of it helped me to understand that there was a different way to function in the world and as a worker, and I think that it really transformed the work I did from that moment forward.

David (he/him):

Yeah no, it, there's this piece of coming into a circle training, like you're saying, like, Oh, this is so long, four days, what are we going to do, and I often hear from folks, you participate in the process that that for days, comes at an opportune moment at a moment where you as a person need it not you as the Oh, Violence Prevention Research Data Coordinator, I'm going to use this for work, but you know, the things that you're experiencing in your life, the ability to be held by that community in circle for four days, really hits home is there are there moments from that initial experience with circle that stand out to you that you'd be willing to share?

Elena Quintana (she/her):

The pace of it was so slow, and everything was about relationships to everybody else, and being in this creating this really intentionally sacred space where people could unpack everything that was going on, in a pace that felt really like respectful and humane and connected. And you know, Kate Prentiss came for part of the training and key premise is just amazing in terms of her ability to deepen whatever is going on. And I remember in that training, she talked about, you know, it's not what anybody else brings in the circle. It's what it's what it's like trusting the process that everyone will bring in what needs to be brought in. And so just kind of flattening the hierarchy in hearing, every voice felt really, really right to me. And the pace of it felt really, really necessary. And I remember that as being really healing and respectful. And really, something that just lifted up humanity, as opposed to just flattening me with more stressful input. It was taking time to really listen to every story, and that was lovely.

David (he/him):

Yeah, there. That was 16 years ago at this point, I think if I did my math correctly. And you know, you were still in the middle of your violence prevention work, before you have transitioned into the work that you're current. Well, all the multitude of work that you're doing now, how did that shift the way that you were doing your violence prevention work.

Elena Quintana (she/her):

You know, I think I did evaluation, and I think that that was my official title was director of evaluation for violence prevention, but I was able to do so many other things. And I think that when I was in that space, it really focused me on how do I help build, really the best capacity for all of these people that are doing outreach, and all these communities that are experiencing all this trauma. And I really started focusing much more on creating healing spaces. So even though I had been thinking about creating healing spaces before, it was really about having much more time and space, in order to sit with people and be in relationship with people in community in a really thoughtful way. And so I had to deal a lot, work a lot with parents who had lost their children, tragically, and I think being able to slow things down and have a process by which to do that was a game changer for me, because it wasn't about the stress of the grief or the loss. It was about the strength of the connection, and how that could help you get to a better place. Because I myself had experienced it as well.

David (he/him):

Yeah, I'm, I'm thinking a lot about your background in psychology. Right. And nobody, nobody that I know, grows up to say, like, you know, I want to be the Director of Research and Evaluation for violence prevention program, or like, I want to be the director of the Institute of Public Safety and social justice, which you are now, but like there was something inside of you or something that was developed in you early on, that was oriented towards this healing. You know, where did that come from, for you?

elena:

You know, I think more than just healing, that's so much of who I am, is about helping people to see the best in themselves, and to actually understand their true potential, which may be even something more or different than what they themselves thought of themselves. That's, that's, that's my jam, for sure. And I think that has, I tend to go where that is most needed. Violence Prevention, the world of violence prevention, is definitely a place for that is very much needed. And I think, once I started learning, especially more about trauma and the neurobiology of trauma, and about the ACEs study, and all that sort of thing, I really started seeing violence, and the need for healing, really, as all just unaddressed childhood trauma. It's all unaddressed child trauma. And one of the things that is so powerful about even the science of restorative justice, which people do not talk about, is that it heals trauma, the connections that we have with each other, actually restore and repair brain function, help us to our bodies to like, be healthier, help us be less stressed to help us produce less cortisol, there's a whole science to this, that is just so incredibly powerful. And so I think, I think I just inherently am very interested in feeling that kind of sense of equanimity in the world and being in right relationship with people. And I think that always attracted me. But learning about restorative justice was like the way for it to happen in a really natural and easy way.

David (he/him):

Yeah, can you go into a little bit more like not too super technical for maybe not like psychology of psychological term and neuroscience? Geared audience but like, can you go a little bit more into the science of what the repair of those, I guess, neural pathways maybe? What looks like when you're doing this work?

Elena Quintana (she/her):

Yeah. So when you're in a state of stress, I think many people understand the stress response of like, you get this heightened fear and you kind of clam up, pre Fight, Flight, freeze, all these kinds of things that happen immediately, and everybody understands the stress response. But the other side of that is dropping into your body. It's the relaxation response. And so being trauma informed, is actually the state that people are in when they're practicing restorative justice. And that is being completely relaxed in relationship with other people. And that that relaxation helps lower your cortisol, it can actually lower inflammation within the body, it can help calm the amygdala, as the 911 Center in your brain like emergency emergency, it helps calm the amygdala, and helps let the prefrontal cortex which is the area of reason and abstract reasoning, and it helps allow that to function in a better way. And even supports neuroplasticity, meaning, brain growth, and healing in ways that people didn't even know were able to happen previously. I mean, people kind of felt like once the brain was set it set, but people who have analyzed like the neurobiology of restorative justice, have found that your brain can continue to heal and grow in really functional ways. And I have found this to be super true in my work within the prisons. And when we're able to sit with people that have like, off the chart levels of childhood trauma, which people who are locked up, the vast majority of them have off the chart childhood trauma. And that does not mean that they have bad parents, it does not mean that they are unloved, it means that they grew up in a situation where the traumas that were happening in them far outnumbered the kind of resources that they had to deal with those traumas. And that could be historical trauma, that could be racism, that could be interpersonal violence, that could be community violence, could be just a number of things going on.

David (he/him):

Yeah. Part of that is a segue into the work that you're doing in prisons. But before we get there, I want to think about, you know, where, you know, you talked about this was a, an urge for you to help people see themselves for their fullest potential. Who did that for you,

Elena Quintana (she/her):

You know, my parents are all very important was my mom, who was a single mom, who took me to violin lessons and did all those things. And I mean, those types of foundational relationships are like so important. My father, my stepmom really helped to nurture some of my, my experiences as a teenager. But really, what I what I wanted to I mean, I think a lot of people have those experiences of their parents as being foundational and loving and, you know, important. And certainly that gives me a great foundation. I think beyond them in my other family members, were was an person named Louise Miller and Louise Miller was somebody who created something called the teen advocate program, and it was in Los Angeles County in in the 80s. And when I was in high school, I was chosen to be a teen advocate, which is basically and I got this unbelievable training in to be like a public health care professional. And it was as if that job were like, made for me, I just was like training to do all the things that I wanted to do. And I got this tremendous education that really helped cement my interest in helping strengthen communities and help people live better lives.

David (he/him):

The beauty of a podcast is we get to take it out and slow this down. There's often someone like that for people who end up doing this work or you know, people in general who go on a journey to doing healing work helping guide you to where you are, or their specific things that Louise is it? Yeah. Are there specific things that she did that were helpful for your growth or development?

Elena Quintana (she/her):

Oh, absolutely. I mean, that education, everybody could get the kind of education I got, as like a public health care professional, like, we would have a very different society. Louise just killed it in terms of really understanding what's important in terms of helping, like balancing between practical knowledge. And the way to really be able to create good relationships with people so that you can transfer that knowledge. Knowledge transfer was like really important. And so there were a lot of means to do that of working in a free clinic of doing lots of talks in high schools, like area high schools, and also running helping to run a program like a drinking driving prevention program. All of those things I did, like when I was 14, 15, 16 years old, I even got to help teach at a at Cal State Long Beach. It was great. I mean, it was just like, it was such a practical and good example of how much young people can do if you equip them with what we need in order to, you know, thrive and move forward. And I think that we underestimate and under provide for so many young people, and for me to have gotten that education when I was 14 years old, is amazing. And life changing.

David (he/him):

Yeah, and then the mentorship you got that guidance you got the support you got is in contrast to a lot of the experiences that the people who you ended up working with, got and not to say that there is not mentorship, there's not community, there's not help and support in communities have high inter communal violence, where there are, you know, as flawed as ACES is, as a measure, but like there are like high a scores, where it leads to people, often being shooters or being shot at right people being system involved in some way, shape or form, like, there is so much preventative work that gets to be done upfront through these mentorship, this relationships where they are able to be seen for who they are, their potential and not just like the problems that they're causing, as you worked in programming, over the years in violence prevention, and then transitioning to what you've done in Atlanta, and we can get into specifics of that. How has the support of alongside the like programming the like the interpersonal sport alongside the programming been integral to what you've done?

Elena Quintana (she/her):

Well, okay, I have to say this. I grew up in with pretty humble beginnings. And my family is like, super humble, have a family. I mean, that's just kind of a thing is like, you are kind to others, and you work really hard. And we, you know, grew up without a lot of money. And when I when I moved to I actually moved from Tempe, Arizona to California. And when I moved to California and got to be a part of this, I felt like it was pouring resources into an a very thirsty thirsty sponge. I understood the power of that. And part of what was poured into me was an unbelievable kind of consciousness building as well, because even in like the early 80s, I was getting educated on racism and classism, and sexism and homophobia. And there were all these kinds of conversations around equity that I was taking on when I was a young person that were very unusual for that point in time. And because I understood how much that liberated me I was, it was like forging it in me to want that for everyone else. And so, I was when I was given resources. I I intended to use every drop of those resources to pass them on to as many people as possible, because I felt so liberated and given wings by them. And that was the best feeling in the world. But the better feeling in the world is being able to also do that for others, and be able to pass that knowledge on just keep transferring the knowledge, and the love and the community. And it grows and grows and grows, and then those people want to pass it on. And that's exciting to be a part of that whole chain.

David (he/him):

Yeah, what has that ethos of passing it on looked like in your programming? And how have you helped instill that in the people that you've worked with?

Elena Quintana (she/her):

Well, I mean, a piece of just who I am is like, I'm not see, I'm not a fancy person. I'm really like, I feel most at home, and sometimes my best self, when I'm in the prison, and I'm just able to like, be around my people and talk about things that really matter. Like, those conversations are so great for me. So they're so much more exciting than, like, you know, lots of other things that I do in life. And I think those are things that I feel very privileged to see and do and be a part of, for myself, not because I feel like I'm doing anybody any favors. And I feel so grateful that that is part of my journey.

David (he/him):

You're involved in lots of different community partnerships. You've talked about some of them in the present. Can you talk about, like the origins of that specifically, and maybe some of the other things that you've been able to be a part of coming out of Adler?

Elena Quintana (she/her):

Yeah, I'll go back to the first thing you said about the the violence prevention stuff, I wanted to say. The being the director of evaluation means that I just needed to make sure that the stuff that we did worked, and that's really important to me like that things that we do actually have the intended consequence. So I was able to, like build on programming and training and make things work even better. And I've really carried that with me, either, because I know that restorative justice works. And I really, because I was going into helm my own shop, I was able to build up only the projects that I felt like, could really be based in restorative justice. I didn't have that, you know, that wasn't my own shop that I was coming from. So to be able to build something from the ground up. I felt like I was rolling up to like some all you can eat buffet, and I could like, do whatever I wanted, like, What program do you want that addresses public safety in a socially just manner, I want to do this, and this and this, and this. And I just was like, Oh my gosh, I'm so excited to be doing all these things. And so, but my real focus is, I want to be able to efficiently and affordably build the infrastructure to create off ramps to this to the cradle the prison pipeline. I want the off ramps, but I also want to decarceration communities successfully. And I think that restorative justice and addressing trauma is the way to do that. And so all of the programs and projects that we have going on at the Institute on public safety, social justice has that in mind.

David (he/him):

I guess how do you evaluate restorative justice? That is something that people across the field have have struggled with, whether it's in schools, whether it's in the criminal legal system, right, like, there's one way of saying like, Oh, we reduce recidivism, we reduce suspensions, we reduced expulsions, and all that. But that's not the end all be all, how else are you evaluating the impact of your program. So

Elena Quintana (she/her):

the most transformative thing, and this is based in science, the most transformative thing in terms of addressing trauma and helping people to reach their greatest potential. And stay out of the legal system is having positive people around you who will help you when you need it. That's the that's the thing that makes all of our lives better and awesome. Having positive people around you when you most need it. So whatever, like evaluators come in, and they're like, Did you did you receive aid and did you get rearrested? They're thinking about all these things, and some of those things like rearrest may happen of no fault of the person who is the participant or whatever.

David (he/him):

Right. My brother was driving me to work and he is still system system involved or affiliated right and because I happened to be in the car with him? That's a violation of parole. Right?

Elena Quintana (she/her):

Yes, exactly. Okay. So things like this happen that have nothing to do with the transformation, that person. So you it's really important when you think of evaluation that you pick the right indicators to measure. And I always talk about indicators, and I'm hoping I'm making this exciting, but what are you, whatever you measure whatever indicators you pick, you are incenting in the behavior of others, because tracking that as a thing to get better. And so what restorative justice helps us to understand is that the quality of relationships and the amount of time you spend, and the kinds of goals that you create for yourself and the number of people you have to help you get to those goals, you need to be tracking those things, because those are the magic ingredients.

David (he/him):

Yeah, you are what you measure or you are what you are.

Elena Quintana (she/her):

Yeah, that is correct.

David (he/him):

Yeah. So what does that look like across your programs?

Elena Quintana (she/her):

So across the programs, I mean, really, we try to be really true to what the mission of each program is. And make sure that like, we're mission, we're very mission consistent. We're not about chasing money randomly, or just, you know, whatever, we're really, really trying to affect change, and build capacity for communities and individuals as we go along. Do you want to hear about each of the different program?

David (he/him):

I would love to hear an example like specifically of like how you collect data, or measure, like the success of one program in particular, or a couple of programs in particular, whatever is most present for you or you think is the most exciting or the one that you're most excited about.

Elena Quintana (she/her):

So I think for the restorative justice hubs. The restorative justice hubs are created out of a collaboration between a number of stakeholders and one of the things that the Institute on public safety, social justice does, that is our kind of biggest contribution to the hubs, in some ways, is being is really centralizing the data, where are we. And so we are the webmasters and provide technical assistance and training all of the hubs. And a huge part of what we do is track whether connections are being made with the people who most need those connections. Whether those people are being are being helped to create goals, whether those people are getting connected, being accompanied to the kinds of connections they need, in order to help them to stay out of the legal system and to invest in their own potential as human beings. We look at the time that they spend connected to a program, and the quality of that time, as well, like what they've done with that time and that sort of thing.

David (he/him):

You said a word that is familiar to me, might not be familiar to some people in this space about accompaniment. That's a really crucial piece of what the RJ hubs do that might be different from social, other social, other social services organizations, can you talk about things?

Elena Quintana (she/her):

The way we measure is actually connected to upholding the five pillars, and the five pillars start with radical hospitality. And, and the second one is accompaniment. So radical hospitality is like really meeting people where they are, and trying your best to like, be able to create relationships and build bridges to the people that are farthest away, and then accompany them on their journey into community. We really, really want people to feel like they can heal in the bosom of community. That's super important because we are all healing community.

David (he/him):

I'm familiar with them. But people aren't familiar with those five pillars of the RJ hubs. You talked about the first two did you want to talk about the last three years.

Elena Quintana (she/her):

So there's radical hospitality accompaniment, there's also there's also a engagement of service providers, like for community who so we do a lot of advocacy for people to get the services and supports they need. There's also involvement with families because we want to make sure that young court involve people live in a rich context where their families are supported. And then the last. The last one is that all of the restorative justice hubs come together to collaborate in a learning circle. So we all come together once a month to talk about how we can deepen restorative justice and our work together as a collaborative.

David (he/him):

Yeah, and for those who want to know more about the work of the RJ hub, specifically, RJhubs.org, we'll link that in the show notes, great community organizations all across Chicago, some of the places where I got my start in restorative justice work. And, you know, lots of great work being done. You talk about your role as the evaluators, some of the technical support for the hubs, and, you know, measuring engagement being the thing instead of like, Did you recidivate and like, I think we don't want people to recidivate right. We don't want people to be come more systems involved, that causes more harm that causes more separation from community ultimately, when that happens, how do you hubs How do you all continue to engage? And maybe this is segue not specifically about the hubs, but like, into your work that is inside systems?

Elena Quintana (she/her):

Yeah, I'm I love CAVE is the community anti violence education project that is connected to the education Justice Project and Danville Correctional Center. And education Justice Project is a it's a university in prison program. And there were a number of people that were studying there, out of Champaign Urbana. And they were very interested in starting a violence prevention group. So all these all these men who were locked up who were taking college classes, wanted to figure out how they could use the education they had received. And as well as just their passion about trying to help younger people from cycling through the prison again, and again and again. And they wanted to figure out, how could they start something that was really meaningful. So they started this Violence Prevention Study Group, and I went as a speaker, like a guest speaker, because they wanted to hear about a Cure Violence where I had worked formerly. And so I spoke a little bit about that. But then I also said, I really want to talk about adverse childhood experiences. So I told him about that study of adverse childhood experiences. And we, in that study group, we really created like an affinity group to learn more about the way that trauma affects people. And how addressing trauma could be used as a means of violence prevention. And so that work within the prison was started. So twice a week now, group of volunteers goes into sit with the cave participants to be able to really talk about there was use of a curriculum by Sandra bloom, called the self curriculum. And we talked about safety, emotions last and future. But all of it is done in a restorative context. And there's a lot of science behind what we talk about. And then there's also a big aspect of it is that those people who will participate in the CAVE sessions that are deep and rich discussions of personal transformation and growth, they act as outreach workers back into other housing units within the prison and spread that knowledge far and wide.

David (he/him):

Yeah, there have been a lot of wonderful people who have come out of that, that program and what is it that happens when they're coming back into community?

Elena Quintana (she/her):

You know, I get a front seat view of these most amazing people that are just transforming and blossoming to like, the greatest form of themselves. And it's just absolutely fantastic to be able to see and there are so many people that are locked up that are just wasting a it's just a waste of their human potential. Because these are people who are very zealous about spreading peace, and good relationship and accountability and all of these good messages just out of their own personal transformations. And so lots of the people that are involved in cave have been locked up since they were teenagers, some as young as 13 years old. And they are just hungry for places to be able to mature emotionally, and to be able to think about how they can make their best contribution. And so a number of these people have paroled out and have taken these great leadership positions, and held up like their experience within cave as an important moment of personal transformation.

David (he/him):

One of the reasons that you're here today is because you and some of the members of cave are going to be presenting on your work at the NACRJ conference in July, which is July 7 through 9th with a free conference day on July 6, in Chicago, a link to that in the show notes for everybody. Sufficient plug. What is it that you're excited to share, for their work at the conference?

Elena Quintana (she/her):

Oh, I'm so excited because some of the people who created the cave program are going to be speaking about what has happened in their life since where they have gone, but also just how it has, how it is promising as something that can happen in more places. Like, for example, we're doing another prison program, and that was really born out of cave. There was some discussion throughout cave of how can we really be more accountable to the people that were harmed through the crimes of the people that were involved in cave. And, and, and so we started really researching about ways, legal ways that we could broker conversations between people who caused harm and the people that they harmed. So for most, yes, so basically, if you are convicted of a crime, and with a victim in it, basically you are forbidden by law to have any contact or contact with that person that you harmed. And it can be seen as like intimidation, or assault or whatever I mean, it can be criminalized very, very easily. And I'm not taking it lightly that there are people that have caused harm that want to continue to cause harm. And that's why those laws exist, because they're trying to protect people who have been victimized from further victimization, nobody wants people to be victimized. So that's why those laws were created. But they are kind of an overreach when it comes to restorative justice. And last year, I think last year a law was passed, that basically said that if you are involved in restorative justice process, that it basically makes it legal for the information that is shared to be privileged. So that means like, it's the same as like, you know, attorney client privilege or akin to it, so that people can speak freely within a restorative justice process, and be able to get the healing that they are seeking in an open way without constantly editing their words or their thoughts based on the law. So we're able to really engage in a meaningful healing space because that law was changed in Illinois.

David (he/him):

Yeah. And so this is now manifested in the healings harm, healing of harms project. After harm. Yeah. Healing after harm project. What does that look like that work? Yeah, so link in the show notes.

Elena Quintana (she/her):

So we're actually just bought that domain yesterday, which is funny. So we are just getting off the ground, basically, this great inspiration from cave which is healing after harm. And it is two ways where people can have contact to create healing after harm. The first one is the establishment of an apology letter bank. And that apology bank is basically a place where people who have caused harm can write in in the state of Illinois, and to apologize for the people that they have harmed. And then the people that were harmed, are notified of the existence of these letters and can choose whether or not they wish to read the letter, whether or not they wish to have the letter read to them whether or not they'd like to have a victim advocate to walk through the process with them of reading a letter. And so it's basically seen as a victim service, where it helps You know, victims who choose to read the letters may feel more relieved that the person who harmed them has transformed since the time of the crime and allows them to kind of see where that person's heart and mind are now. And that is of great relief to many people who don't know what happened to the person. And they're kind of frozen in that moment of being harmed by someone who may have been locked up for a long time now and has really transformed into a totally different person. So that's the apology letter being the second piece of it, our harm dialogues and harm dialogues are at the request of the victim. So if a person has been harmed, they can request to have a dialogue process with the person who harmed them. And that is a longer process that takes usually between six months and two years, of being able to broker conversations around expectations, around goals and all sorts of things in order to finally come together into a dialogue process where people speak face to face, of course, with support and mediation, to be able to talk about how the harm that they share affected their lives. And so that's a very powerful process that brings about a lot of healing. And so we are just wanting to start that process in the state of Illinois now.

David (he/him):

What can you speak to the importance of this process, taking months to a year, and not just like, alright, you want to do this, let's get together.

Elena Quintana (she/her):

You know, sometimes people think about restorative justice circles as like good for, you know, if you break a neighbor's window with a baseball or something, and for sure, that's really nice to have a restorative conversation in that, you know, after something like that happens, but I think the most important, restorative justice is done with the most serious harms that you can imagine things that you feel might be unforgivable. Things like sexual assault, or getting shot or having a loved one get killed. Those are experiences that people feel often are like unforgivable crimes. But I have to tell you, if we don't move forward into a space, of transcendence, then becoming embittered in that moment, is really, really a hard slog in life. And it is incredibly liberating and healing for people to be able to understand even the worst crimes in the context in which they are committed. And to be able to see the humanity and in the situation of the person who committed them. And to be able to be a cat for that person to truly look into the eyes of the person they harm, and to be accountable for that harm. That is something that the legal system does not really afford, very often. And it is life changing for both sides of the harm.

David (he/him):

Yeah, yeah. And it happens over time. Something Absolutely,

Elena Quintana (she/her):

You have to do it slowly, you have to make sure that everybody feels good about it. It's a real process. And there may be times actually where you start the dialogue. And, you know, just the fact that, you know, there are people talking to each side of the party and you realize that, you know, coming together isn't the best thing to do. But there's a lot of resolution that can come with just creating a conduit of that kind of advocacy, restorative advocacy, that's, that's running between those two parties, that sometimes enough to allow people to find true closure. True healing.

David (he/him):

Yeah. There's this piece that people often think about with restorative justice, where people who are in opposition to resistance restorative justice is about like, I never want to force somebody who has been harmed into a space with the person who harmed them. Right? And 100% We're not doing that you're not doing that, like this is a voluntary process

Elena Quintana (she/her):

that is initiated by the person who was harmed.

David (he/him):

And that, but to the point that you were just making, that doesn't mean that healing can't happen for people without ever meeting face to face. Right? We have community supports for everybody, when, you know there are these needs that are caused by their harms. In workshops, we do this activity called feelings and needs, right? Right, where we're highlighting how people who have been harmed, and people who cause harm in a situation like often need really similar things sometimes that they, they can address the needs for each other. But other times, like the support needs aren't the responsibility of the people involved. Their community gets to support them. And going through a process like this, even the preparation, like you said, gives folks the ability to get some of those needs met and move forward in their lives in a in a healthier way, in a way where, to the beginning of our conversation, they have new neural pathways being created by being held in community. It's, it's a, it's a really, really beautiful thing.

Elena Quintana (she/her):

Oh, I was just as you're talking about being held in community that is, in fact, the the biggest, you know, with this beautiful study that was done in Washington state, they really looked at what were the most important things that would address childhood trauma, and reverse childhood trauma actually give you the kind of healing spaces and it was really being able to be in right relationship with other people. And I just, I'm just, I just think, I wish people would understand when you talk about work in prisons, about how important it is to support public safety, to invest in effective transformation of the people who have caused harm, because prison systems often only exacerbate the harm. And unless we were trying to like create more victims, we need places and spaces where transformation can happen. And restorative justice is such an effective and beautiful way of making that happen.

David (he/him):

What about the people who say, why are we giving more resources to the state when we could be investing in community like with this abolitionist ethos, and I know like that exists within you, but like, you're still engaging in these systems, because that's where people are, can you speak to that attention.

Elena Quintana (she/her):

Denying people, their humanity doesn't serve anyone. It actually is corrosive to our communities. Once we start dehumanizing people, we are agreeing to create a permanent underclass on which the prison industrial complex will thrive and grow. And so for anybody who doesn't want mass incarceration, and like stifling people's human potential to be like, the biggest moneymaker, and then we need to start thinking about addressing truly addressing how to stop creating more victims. And stopping creating more victims starts with the person, the victim who caused the harm in the first place. Like, it's very interesting, once you commit a crime, it's like, it's like you lose your right. To be able to address whatever harm was caused you. It's like you lose your victimhood, once you perpetrate against somebody. And if we want to actually stop creating more victims, we need to address the harm that every person has experienced, and lift up the humanity of everyone, especially the people who are most hurting. And those are people who are very often the people who are creating harm in other spaces.

David (he/him):

Why are we trying to make prison better when we should be like, like, why are we bringing these programs into prison, giving more funding to the state? When like, we need to be defunding divesting from

Elena Quintana (she/her):

Oh, okay, so basically, restorative justice has like a meta analysis that was done in the UK found that for every dollar, you invest in restorative justice programming, you get a nine pound return on investment. So it's like a one to nine ratio. So actually, when you invest in restorative justice, you're actually saving money elsewhere like that you could be spending in community that you will not have to invest in like intergenerational trauma going on. So the reason why it's like not just good for people's brains and families, it's also good for community for safety. And it's a great way to kind of, to invest in something that has a positive return on investment, I, prisons have a negative produce a negative return on investment, meaning every dollar that you invest in them, costs more money, because of the intergenerational problems that come out of them. If we invested more in something that actually worked, we'd be like saving way more money and having way more public safety. Instead, we invest trillions of dollars in this hulking sausage factory of a legal system that produces a negative return on investment, why aren't people questioning that? When people are in prison, and we are wasting that time, in terms of people have nothing but time and opportunity to be thinking through some of the things that really do are effective in terms of creating community, and transformation. And that's the beauty of CAVE. And that's what happens in CAVE is that they take the space and opportunity while people are incarcerated, to really create these sacred healing spaces, it is so rare to have that in prison at all. Because we just basically, as a society, piss away, all kinds of opportunity to really catch people in and create these kinds of sacred transformational moments for them while they're locked up. Because we write off people who are locked up, we write off their humanity, we read them, okay. So when people get out, it becomes intensely difficult to be able to do the same thing, because they come out all is kind of noise and responsibility and chaos and families that are like sometimes really harmed by their absence. And it's so much more difficult to be able to find the time and the space, to be able to provide those kinds of healing opportunities, when there's all these competing, just survival things going on. So I don't think I'm making prison better by going into the prisons and doing the work. I think I'm utilizing the time that is already given to people so that they're allowed to use it in a liberatory way.

David (he/him):

Um, you know, we've talked a lot about how this work has been impactful in your professional life across the many different spaces, you've talked about, you know, the privilege that you feel, being able to go into the spaces and be be held in community also by those folks. How has restorative justice in this way of being impacted your life as a family member, as a friend, as a leader, the person moving through the world?

Elena Quintana (she/her):

You know, I think I am somebody who is very much feels I am blessed to have feel a very passionate purpose in my life. And so I don't feel like a huge division between work Atlanta and family. And then I'm really like, in, in both of those places, I'm really about how can I lift up whatever is going on? How can you know people feel connected. And I think that there are so many, many people that I've met through my work that have become my chosen family, and have been really integrated with my family. My birth family are. And I think that that's just about, you know, creating a healthy and loving and interdependent community. And I feel really grateful for the family I was born into and in the family I've chosen.

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.

Elena Quintana (she/her):

Restorative justice, is being in right relationship with others. It's the philosophy that we belong to each other we need to do right by each other.

David (he/him):

You've been doing this work for a long time. Over the course of the years. What has been an oh shit moment. it, what did you learn from it?

Elena Quintana (she/her):

You know, I guess a moment that I just have over and over again, and it's not one moment. But it's the, this idea that you can easily scale things up. And so you'll get the sexy initiatives that, you know, will be for, like 1000 people to get into the workforce or be outreach workers or whatever. And there's like this very quick scale up. And for me, it's like, people don't understand that the pace if you want to go fast, go slow. Because if you know, the thing about the the kind of irony about restorative justice, is that it seems like a very slow process. And it's actually the pace at which healing occurs. And so if you want to really heal people, and change communities, you need to go local, you need to reach people in a in a daily way, over little doses over a long period of time. And it changes it transforms generations, generations, you can't just do some 12 week, you know, thing of CBT and just call it good. That's not going to make the same kind of differences, as showing up every week, for two years, caring about somebody's private progress, and being there when they need a ride to get shot so that they can get on the football team. I mean, there's all these little and big ways that we show up for each other as community members, that are the thing that is so transformative. And I wish we would stop getting so excited. I wish the funding community would stop getting so funded about like, the quick political wind that looks good, without the kind of long term intergenerational wealth that we need to build.

David (he/him):

Yeah, I feel like that's a whole nother conversation about funding this work. Shout out to the UN, I want to say shout out to the people who do it and who understand and give freely, like with minimal strings attached, right or no strings attached. We need more of you tell your friends. You get to sit in circle with four people living or dead. Who are they? And what is the one question you ask the circle.

Elena Quintana (she/her):

And I would pick three people that have died in my life that I miss very much. When is my my cousin son that I helped to raise Eddie. And then my two grandmother's and I think I would honestly be like, how could I have loved you better? How could I have loved you more? Like I just wanted that's like, it just goes back to like, what means something to all of us as humans, it's the people that invested in us and that we invested in because that's what's so transformative.

David (he/him):

This one is a little bit more personal. But I want to I still want to turn that question back to you. And ask you, how could you have loved yourself?

Elena Quintana (she/her):

I do think that I mean, obviously there's I think that there are things that I can do like to physically love myself better, like get more sleep and don't eat so many sweets and, you know, I always do my exercise which I've gotten better at so that's good. So there's like things like that, that are just about that. But very honestly, who I am is this work and so I honestly everybody I that this doing the work and being around the people I get to be around when I do this work is loving myself. Like I really do live in a way that makes me happy with myself and my life and my opportunities and getting to be around people like you and people like that are doing really great restorative justice work and helping people that understand restorative justice. They're the coolest people in the world. And I just love that I get to do this. So I feel like I keep myself in a pretty good space to continue to do that because it just recharges me. Yeah. So yeah, it's like I professionalize being in relationship. And I get so excited about healing spaces and creating healing spaces. And I've gotten good at helping people in certain situations. And so using that knowledge to just continue to help people thrive and grow is great for me.

David (he/him):

There are hundreds of people listening to this conversation right now, maybe 1000s, and millions in the future, what is one thing that you wish they could all know, after walking away from our time together?

Elena Quintana (she/her):

So the first thing that came to my mind is that they're beautiful, and they should be kind to themselves. And when you're kind to yourself, you're so much better for other, you know, it allows you to emanate that kindness, and it's very catching.

David (he/him):

This last, the two more questions. And this one comes with a little bit of homework from you. And we kind of talked about this before. Who's one person that I should have on this podcast? And yeah, it helped me get them on.

Elena Quintana (she/her):

Oh, I had somebody my Oh, what about Lisa Daniels? Also, I'm going to tell you not for nothing but Xavier Makara Bay. Oh, holy shit, you gotta get him on. You have got to get him on. He is fantastic. And I would be happy to introduce you. He just brought the house down. He is a prolific speaker. And I would love for him to be on your podcast talking about restorative justice. He went through a restorative process himself. He was involved in a murder when he was 13 years old. And he has spent his while he was locked up for a bunch of years. But then he has spent his life as a free person advocating for the rights of children in the legal system. And he the pinnacle of his life. And I'm not even saying that exaggerating. I mean, he's had a lot of success. But he talks about it as the day he got to sit down with the family of the purse of the person who was killed in his case. And yeah, and he's amazing.

David (he/him):

I very much look forward to

Elena Quintana (she/her):

Yeah!

David (he/him):

And then finally, how can people support you and your work in the way that you want to be supported?

Elena Quintana (she/her):

I think it would be great if they would if they want to support you can go the Institute on public safety and social justice is a part of Adler University. And so if you want to look up our webpage and see what we're doing, that would be great. They obviously can monetarily help, or can get involved in being restorative justice, volunteers for the healing after harm program as well.

David (he/him):

Beautiful, and again, linked in the show notes. Anything else you want to leave for the people

Elena Quintana (she/her):

that want to say to you, thank you for doing this podcast. It's such a great service. And I just want everybody to know more about restorative justice.

David (he/him):

So tell a friend subscribe rate review, all the things.

Elena Quintana (she/her):

Review, especially for an apple podcast, make sure you get the reviews going.

David (he/him):

Beautiful. Well, thank you so much, Elena, for that for those inspiring words for the listeners to end off on. And for all the wisdom and your stories that you shared over the last hour or so. For everyone else. Thank you so much for being here. And we'll be back with another conversation of somebody living this restorative justice Life next week. Until then take care.

Elyse (she/her):

Thank you. There's so much that we can learn from this episode. And one of the main things that I pulled out from this was the importance of having positive people around you. One of the ways that she measured restorative justice was also in the ways that you have positive people surrounding you and how many positive people and how positive those people may be in your life as an important measure of how much growth may have happened after a restorative justice kind of intervention. Who are those positive people in your life? And are you that positive person in anyone else's life? If you say no to either one of those questions, I think that shows it's a sign to reach out to others and to strengthen that community bond. Also in the conversation of how to measure restorative justice, you brought up some really important points and the way that our current systems do not really Measure restorative justice and the benefits of those because we often don't consider relationships, as as important as they are. It is proven that these methods are really beneficial, especially the testimonies and conversations and relationships. How can we create a system that honors relationships as an important part of them? Because our current system, the criminal legal system, and even our school systems don't honor relationships as much as they should. So how can we create a system that does? As always, thank you so much 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.

(Cont.) 82. Right Relationships in Restorative Justice w/ Elena Quintana
(Cont.) 82. Right Relationships in Restorative Justice w/ Elena Quintana
(Cont.) 82. Right Relationships in Restorative Justice w/ Elena Quintana
(Cont.) 82. Right Relationships in Restorative Justice w/ Elena Quintana