This Restorative Justice Life

42. Exploring Restorative Libraries and Teen Services w/ Stephen Jackson

July 08, 2021 David Ryan Castro-Harris Season 1 Episode 42
This Restorative Justice Life
42. Exploring Restorative Libraries and Teen Services w/ Stephen Jackson
Show Notes Transcript

Over a period of 10 years Stephen has been a Restorative Justice practitioner/trainer and has facilitated and implemented various community and youth programs. In 2015 he started Global CommUnity Associates, a Restorative consulting firm grounded and centered in the cornerstones of perpetual learning, truth, common values, and progress. Stephen currently serves at Oak Park Public Library where in 2016 he aided in the integration of Social Services into Public Libraries. In 2020 Stephen transitioned into the Manager of Teen Services. Stephen is a licensed realtor and a firm believer that home ownership is the biggest way of investing in communities and promotes this through buying and selling real estate. He uses his extensive background of serving communities to serve his clients well.

You will meet Stephen Jackson (0:55), and hear about the foundations of his work (3:00). He unpacks the responsibilities of men (8:28) and how restorative justice affects his world (12:08). Stephen discusses his work in a restorative library (19:18) and the work he does to promote racial equity (25:39). He shares the virtual efforts of the library (30:41) and how to manage harm (41:42). Stephen discusses the role of policing in his community (54:11) and answers some closing questions (59:56).

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David (he/him)  
Stephen, welcome to this restorative justice life. Who are you?

Stephen Jackson  
I'm still learning? That's who I am.

David (he/him)  
Who are you? 

Stephen Jackson  
I am Dad. 

David (he/him)  
Who are you? 

Stephen Jackson  
I am husband. 

David (he/him)  
Who are you? 

Stephen Jackson  
I am son. 

David (he/him)  
Who are you? 

Stephen Jackson  
I am legacy. 

David (he/him)  
Who are you? 

Stephen Jackson  
Community member? 

David (he/him)  
Who are you?

Stephen Jackson  
Guess finally now, Stephen.

David (he/him)  
All right. Well, Stephen, thank you so much for being here. We're gonna get into all of those things and more, because you're going to talk about the work that you do. But that's okay. It's always good to just check in we're not defined by our work. Let's check in to the fullest extent of the question, or as much as you want to answer. How are you? 

Stephen Jackson  
Still learning? 

David (he/him)  
Tell me how you're feeling.

Stephen Jackson  
I'm feeling honored. It's been a while since I've seen and you were a resident of Chicago last time I saw you. So I'm honored to reconnect.

David (he/him)  
Absolutely. Like Chicago was such a formative time and space for me 2014 to 2019. meeting so many Titans in this work, and you a little bit out west Oak Park, we count you. You've been doing amazing. restorative justice work, not just in the context of your role as manager of teen services at the Oak Park Public Library, but in the way that you move through the world. I'm curious, how did this restorative justice journey get started for you?

Stephen Jackson  
Oh, I guess it was too hard to be around 2006-2007. I was in a correctional facility. And there was a program called lifestyle redirection. And it had all these elements that I later found out that after I was released. That were restorative practice, it wasn't framed as restorative practices at the time that I was doing it. But once I got the language, I was like, oh, that's what that was. So that was my first introduction. And then later on in about 2010. I started really like getting, getting language, getting trained and serving my apprenticeship.

David (he/him)  
Yeah, you know, so much of this work that people do around these words, restorative justice aren't necessarily tied to the words restorative justice. What was it about the work in that program that really resonated with you?

Stephen Jackson  
It was the vulnerability I was in prison. And like, you had killers, rapists, you name it. And those are just some of the worst, or what will be deemed as some of the worst type of types of crimes and people that were in this space. all in the same same space, all these men in the same space, and just being completely vulnerable. Defining man's rose, talking about domestic violence, talking about a bunch of different things and just sharing and with confidentiality. And like, it'd be created a brotherhood of different cohorts of people who went through this program. It was done in a circle. All facilitators, were women. But like, it was nothing that nothing wrong with that, but I'm just remembering and recalling. But it was it was the safeness of a space that really, like impacted a lot of men

David (he/him)  
Including yourself. And I think, you know, as men, right. And we were talking about this two episodes ago with Carlos Malave, who you were sharing some of the things about like the vulnerability that it takes to do this work is not something that we were socialized to do, right? You got to be hard. You got to be tough. What was it like being introduced in that way to this process in a space that is not vulnerable? You are vulnerable when you were in prison, but like you're thought to even more protect yourself. What was it like to go through that process? While in a space like that?

Stephen Jackson  
What was really, that is when you were talking about what I consider next as that I took from one of the exercises, one of the facilitator is the man box. It was an exercise called the man box. And what they did is they drew a box on the whiteboard. And then they just started saying, just free association. What makes a man what things were you taught as being a man than some of the things you were just saying? They filled up this box in like, an extra question, is like, how reasonable is it to believe that you can be all of these things that we put in this box, and it's just hit him? You know, I was like, it's a great exercise. Not only is a great exercise, but it really resonated, resonated with a lot of people. So that particular is just as we would call it, that when you hear we're saying, the different roles that men, people identify with men take on.

David (he/him)  
Yeah, and like, that's not something that we are even taught to think about. It's just like, the expectation, and I think I remember, you know, Shedrick Sanders, he, he mentioned that on like, one of the episodes that earlier episodes of this podcast as well, that exercise being a transformative thing, where it's like, Hey, you can't live up to this standard of the old, nobody lives up to the standard. So like, why don't you just be yourself in this space? And like who you are, is is okay, there are things about you that, you know, we want to, to change to be like, more, more human, right? But you don't have to live up to this expectation of all of these things that we we think men have to be you transition out of that space and learn more formal words, for restorative justice. What was that learning process? Like? Who are your teachers? What were the spaces? 

Stephen Jackson  
Cheryl Graves.

David (he/him)  
Episode number one of this podcast, episode number seven of this podcast, shoutout to the OGs.

Stephen Jackson  
It was amazing. It was transformative. Like, it really like he bought everything together. For me, I was able to really just dive headfirst into the work. And we were trained with community members, and community members. And it was, it was groundbreaking for community members that were there. And when I look now, at that group that I'm still associated with, one is the mayor of Oak Park now. One is doing amazing work equity were in the community. This is I was able to cover about 20 weeks, I like to stick it to the people that asked to associate with the other regular basis, but it was transformed. Just to answer your question.

David (he/him)  
Yeah. And I think, you know, one of those things that happens in Cheryl and Pam. And you know, I don't know if I was a part of that.

Stephen Jackson  
She was she what she was a part of that.

David (he/him)  
Gotcha. Or is another one of those, OGs who's now passed three years ago. But, you know, doing that work in those spaces with learning circle practices, really allows us to, to share, and you've brought that into so many different parts of your life. Before we were recording, you were telling me on this call that you know, for you restorative practices, restorative justice is not just about you know, the programs that you do the questions that you ask it is about how you move through the world. This being this restorative justice, life and life covering all the things.

David (he/him)  
 How has this way of being impacted the way that you've moved through the world and in all of the ways we can start with your family or we can start with work? Where do you want to go?

Stephen Jackson  
We'll start with family. My wife, shout out to Dr. Celeste Jackson. My right hand. She's a PhD in psychology. And like when we met, we were being around some of our research, we met around some of our research. And this has been a part of our life apart of our business a part of everything that we do. Part of our real estate business part of our mental health counseling business, our consulting business. It's just ingrained in everything because, like you said, it's a way of being excited. So it's a way of life. It's not a lifestyle, not necessarily methodology, or anything like that. 

Stephen Jackson  
The way I was taught is you have an ownice placed on you throughout the rest of your life because you are a peacekeeper. So I was also taught that when you become an elder, an elder not necessarily defined as, as age, but defined as on three components, having the knowledge and wisdom, a lot of people have those two. But but they're in most important, one of the most important components of the 3 is respect from the community. So if you don't have those intent, those those three components, some say that do not necessarily don't qualify as being an elder. So carrying those three components everywhere you go, people look at you anywhere I go in any community, maybe in academia, in Austin in opar, Rosen anywhere I go. There's a level of respect because it's reciprocated. So we actually people, that, that gives me the respect of the community or the spaces that are so they, they permeate everything, we can go to work. 

David (he/him)  
Well, let me let's go back, like cuz you talked about like a bunch of different places where you're doing work. But you know, when you're talking about your family, with your wife, now with your children, these principles of interconnection and respect and equity, how do those manifest in those relationships

Stephen Jackson  
with my children, they have a say, all the time that I bring in me being the overriding decision making in the situation is if it's life or life or death. And then they still deserve an explanation of why my behavior was the way it was, I'll say for instance my son runs industry. And I scream and I have to go run in school or whatever, you know, or when I tell him he can't go across the street. And, and it's not I can't tell him in the moment because his life may be in danger, which just ironically, happened this morning, I was on a bike ride with my son. And he was just rolled out into traffic, which Yeah, but with my family, everyone has a say. So everyone has a voice. And everyone deserves an explanation, especially when it impacts them. And all my decisions impact my family as me being the father and the head of the household.

David (he/him)  
Yeah. Can you think of like a concrete situation? whether whether big or small, where and what did that look like?

Stephen Jackson  
Because my, my, my I have a two month old and I have like I told you 20 month old and then my soon to be nine year old, he doesn't live with me. So that's few and far between when I have to. We FaceTime have conversations over the phone, okay. I can think of one. There was an instance where he was, my soon to be nine year old, was being disrespectful towards his mother. She called me had me FaceTime him. And there was there was reason why he was showing up the way he was, though I didn't necessarily agree with the way he treated his mother. But shout out to his mom and no disrespect to his mom. But I created a space where you can actually have a conversation and share why he was showing up the way he was showing up. And I wasn't necessarily defining him by the actions or the words that he was saying to his mother. I was defining him by who he was. And I gave him an opportunity to have a voice. know some people were raised Do as I say, not as I do. And do as you're told or be seen and not heard. And those are not restorative at all, for to allow a seven year old because he's seven at the time to have a voice. It empowers him. So he's the one of the most inquisitive people as most six, seven, soon to be nine year old now are, but he knows that his voice is respected and valued and has merit in situations a life where it involves him.

David (he/him)  
Definitely, and I think two things are coming up for me. I'm laughing because sometimes people say like, Oh, I noticed like whatever you're going through in life shows up in this podcast and and so in some ways that's true. The James Baldwin quote about children have never been very good at listening to what they've been told but never failed to imitate their elders. Right. Has come up in like probably the last four or five episodes. Right. And I was just talking about that in a workshop that I was running earlier today. Where that do as I say, not as I do, like, doesn't really work out. But the other thing that I'm thinking about is how, right now, I'm reading with a couple of friends All About Love by bell hooks. And when she's talking about, you know, the need for parents to have like another voice or like adults, having partnership in raising children to be that other voice when you just can't with your with your child, right, and having somebody to be able to help zoom out and think about like, hey, let's hear what this young person who's full of knowledge full of desires in the world. Let's hear them out. And like, how can weget to where we're meeting folks needs? Not just getting anybody's way, just because that's what they want.

Stephen Jackson  
It's fun to see, as well as the because you see a light go off in people's minds when they realize they can advocate for themselves or someone is respecting what they're saying.

David (he/him)  
Yeah, absolutely. Speaking of young people, right, some of the work that you do, is directly tied to young people. Right. You know, one of the reasons that I reached out is, a lot of people do restorative justice work within the context of the criminal legal system, or within the context of schools. And that work is all needed in that work is, is really valuable. A lot of times when we're working within that system, that work is harm reductive, if not transformative. But you know, you brought this work, like, like you said, wherever you go, one of those roles is as manager of teen services with the Oak Park library. So what does the restorative library look like?

Stephen Jackson  
A restorative library looks like a place where then community and forums how we move as an organization. Several years back, our executive director went on this path. It's called the hardwood Innovation Lab. A lot of everything there, a majority of what Harwood spoke about or speaks about is restored, but it wasn't necessarily called recall restored. So it was really community, community centered, everything, everything. So we formulated our strategic plan, and our mission and our vision around these around the community. We aim to have community conversations, which are like little mini circles, they were called that, where the community, we listened to the community. And then we integrated what everything that they said and formulated our mission, our vision and our values and our strategic plan. So that to me, what is what a restorative library would look like? And we revise, we always listen to our community. And they like I said, I've and I can keep reiterating. They inform what we do. And for me, that's that's what a restorative library looks like. Another component is my journey into library came on when social services were being integrated within public libraries. For those who don't know much of that about libraries or inner city libraries, or urban libraries. There are a lot a lot of populations who occupy the space who are who may be considered vulnerable populations. And from my perspective, teens are a vulnerable population. But people who are experiencing homelessness, people who are experiencing substance use or substance abuse issues or co occurring issues, sometimes frequent the libraries. So they're in need of service and library is a public facing organization. And those people need resources. So when we came in in 2016, with the social services department we did that we listened to the community found out 10 different domains, where people needed resources and partnered with over 52 organizations throughout the Chicagoland area to refer patrons who shared with us through outreach model where we we interacted with patrons and we started conversation we started those conversations when people build relationships with them, and then they share certain information with us was I did you know we have a social worker or some of the staff of our staff, who are called public safety will have conversations With the patrons and in the form of Robert Simmons, who is the Director of Public Safety and social services, and let us know refer them to us. And then we're able to have a conversation with them, and have them access the resources that are available to them, to help move them or transition them into the next phase of their life. So that to me, is what restorative restorative library looks like over sort of library looks like a library where you throw a  barber shop in it to create an environment where people can come in to have barber shops have sort of a restorative environment to begin with, because people come in and are able to express themselves freely, and not necessarily feel judged in doing so. So we've created that. So this is number of ways, in a community forum, these these things that we've been doing at the library. So there's there's a number of ways just listening to the community is to sum it all up.

David (he/him)  
I was goimg to say I like how you're emphasizing like, it's listening to the people who are most impacted, right? The community, and the specifics of those things are going to depend on the needs of any given community. Right. I'm curious, within the context of Oak Park, you mentioned two things, one, about those initial community conversations around mission vision, and like the overall trajectory of the library, what was the community input there? And then 2 like, when you're having those individual conversations with vulnerable community members? How does that look? Let's start with like that overall community conversation, what is the input that they were asking for? With the trajectory of library services?

Stephen Jackson  
What do you want your community to look like? really general questions, or what do you want to what? How do you see your community looking? Like what services do you need? There are three general really general questions, and I'm failing to recall at the moment, but I do remember one was, what do you want your community to look like? And we compiled all this information, and started moving in that direction. 

David (he/him)  
Do you remember the takeaways, the general takeaways? 

Stephen Jackson  
They were looking for equity. They were looking for access. They were looking to learn, find free, ultimately ended up being so we don't have any fines at our library. Those are things that come up. Just right now. Yeah.

David (he/him)  
Yeah. And then so you know, that influences how you allocate funding programs that you set up. And then when it comes to asking individuals who are vulnerable about, you know, what they need? What do those conversations look like?

Stephen Jackson  
I want to go back to the question, because you've made me You helped me recall. So now we also have an antiracist strategic plan. And I like to tell people when I share this it wasn't a reaction to a George Floyd situation because I've seen, I've seen a lot of organizations be reactive, after what has been happening in these communities, was actually publicized nationally, during a pandemic. And so these things have been going on prior. So our organization, and 

David (he/him)  
I'll say for people who don't know what Oak Park is, Oak Park is right west of Chicago, right. So you have the Austin neighborhood, which is a majority black neighborhood is often cited as one of the neighborhoods that has like the most gun violence, right? And then like, two blocks over is Oak Park, right, which is a much more racially diverse neighborhood. And within that diversity, right, many communities being represented. Racism still exists. And so you know, issues of racism did not just pop off because someone was murdered by police a couple 100 miles away in Minnesota, right? These issues have been long lasting in that community.

Stephen Jackson  
Exactly. Austin was a community that moved in and the late 80s is one of the communities in the Chicagoland area that has the most returning citizens. in in in in the State of South Park as I'm just speaking about Oak Park. For those who didn't know Oak Park has about 50 to 55,000 people. The community to the west will be reformed they have about 10,000 Forest Park another has about 13,000 Austin as a little under 100,000 97,000. And now the community to the south will be better when they have 54,000 and of those surrounding communities of Oak Park. Oak Park has a 97% high school diploma graduation rate. River fourth has a 99% Forest Park 95 Austin has a 36 percent graduation rate and Berwyn has an 80%. So when you talk about Austin versus Oak Park, that would look like a 97 versus 36% graduation rate. And then you look into the, the, those who have a bachelor's degree or greater, Oak Park will be at 70, Austin will be at 8.9. A little under 9%. So if you see the disparity, and then when you look at income apart 94,000 River forest 129, and this is that median income, Forest Park 62, often that 31. And then if we look at poverty and this is the last last category I'll share, Austin is that 20 29%, a little under 29%. Those percentage of the people also in poverty, you look at the other community, they're all in single digits except for bourbon bourbon, it's like 12, a little bit over 12. But river force is 3.6% of people that live in property. So just wanted to give them those who didn't know about Oak Park, a little overview of of the disparity from Austin to Oak Park, and even were buried within other surrounding communities.

David (he/him)  
And so when we're talking about bringing anti racism, like the need for it did not just start anti racism work in equity work. It's not just that these problems suddenly arose. Right, right.

Stephen Jackson  
Right. So we started on the path prior to this, as I mentioned, the George George Floyd, incident. And then we're continued on once the pandemic hit, we were able to have the wonderful and great Robert Spicer. Come in 

David (he/him)  
Episode Number 11. I'm shouting out all the OGs here

Stephen Jackson  
 yeah, he was able to come in and train 15 of our staff. And then he was able to come in a year into the pandemic and train another 12, 13. So now we have about 23 to 25, staff members train. And staff members are living and living the restorative principles. And this is restorative life, the inner restorative at the workplace. And we started internally. And that was so awesome, because it allowed them to really experience it, versus being trained and trying to turn outward into the community and try to do it. So we were able to, people are able to have bumps and bruises with each other would take new, and bring people together on a more personal level. And the respect level. So a little bit of a work in the work environment. 

David (he/him)  
Yeah. What does that look like? Like? It's it's community building? What does that look like in practice, especially during pandemic times?

Stephen Jackson  
we were virtual, but which I didn't really think possible. But after being in a year plus, where I was able to conceptualize is even more than experience and receive and what better. But what it looks like a support circle, because as you know, a lot of people experience a lot of death, we lost one employee to COVID, a really key staff member who's doing amazing work. So grief circles, so people just staff was able just to be supportive, and have their voices heard. At a time when people were isolated. It allowed people to experience what some of the patrons that came in, in library experience, are socially isolated. So when we talk about the pandemic, a lot of people have already experienced isolation their whole lives. So like this wasn't any different than what they were already experiencing. But for the staff, some of the staff to be able to have conversations around what they're experiencing, was really key. And for a lot of the staff members to engage at a time when people were engaged. 

David (he/him)  
Yeah, yeah. And so like when these staff members now have this way of being ingrained, right, and, of course, it's a journey for everybody right? To fully embody, nobody has reached perfection. And I'm sure that there are some staff members that are more on board than others. Right. You're now in the position where you get to have these conversations with with individuals who are experiencing harm experience looking for services. What do those conversations look like? I guess like before, and after these pandemic times. I know you said you're going back. Well, the week that this podcast airs, you will be back in person. Yeah. What does that look like? What have those conversations with community members look like on an individual level

Stephen Jackson  
How are you doing today? I'm Stephen Jackson manager of Teem Services. I've seen you around here a couple of times. Just wanted to let you know some of the things that we have going on today. This is what I do, you know, just share a little bit about myself, ask them their name, check in with them, and use yourself. Oddly enough, we have regulars in the library, people who like this is their thing, show up every day. So more than likely, you'll see people more than one time in a week or more than once. So when you see a person coming back regularly, that to me is the opportunity to have more conversations with this person. And I stand at the front of the building every day at three o'clock, five days a week, and welcome all young people. Because that was my specific area of service. But I would stand at the door, and welcome, introduce myself, and ask them their names and shake their hands and give them a smile. That's, that's what it looks like. For me, that's what engagement looks like to that vulnerable population, but to others with more adults. It's just having a conversation with as simple as that having a conversation introducing yourself and the environment where because possibly the way they show up, people are going the opposite direction of them are calling the police on them. So it just wasn't my approach I rather have a conversation with get introduced myself allow you to get to know me. And me get to know you.

David (he/him)  
Yeah, I'm thinking a lot about how what you said was very simple, like, How are you this? This is who I am. And this is what we got going on. But like, that's not often the approach that that people take when it's, you know, in a lot of ways like customer service, it's just like, how can I help you? What do you need, without like that relationship, that opening up into who you are into the like the beginning of our conversation, right? When you're being vulnerable, and putting yourself out there like, Hey, this is who I am, this is what I'm about like, people are a lot more likely to reciprocate. One of the seven core assumptions of restorative justice, right? Thinking about, you know, all humans want to be in a good relationship, we are wired, to want to be liked to want to be in good relationship. And when somebody demonstrates that kind of vulnerability, that kind of care, you're a lot more likely to have a positive interaction and be able to start to build a relationship. I'm not saying that you're best friends with everybody, right? But, you know, the simplicity of how are you in introducing yourself and sharing vulnerably? And I'm not saying share everything that has ever happened to you in your life? But like, no, this is who I am. And I'm here is a shift for a lot of people.

Stephen Jackson  
It is it really it really is. It was a it was a culture shock for the library, seeing to black men in administrative positions and in library spaces, which historically, they mirror the teaching profession, library library professional teaching profession, they marry each other and demographics. Largely woman female dominated, at least at the ground level, you know, just like in academic academia as well in school environment, male domination at the at the administrative level, but majority dominated by female library school libraries to say that the same sort of like having, like people come in, like, with a sense of ownership, you know, I grew up in Oak Park. So like, I know everybody there. I know a lot of people, and I have history in the community. So people were looking at me like... who does he think he is, you know, some people even said as much in just having conversations with random people, something that they've never seen in the space and now it's culture. 

David (he/him)  
Yeah. Yeah. What does that look like? You know, you're doing work specifically with teens. I know, the last year and a half has been a little bit different. But what has that looked like, historically? And what are you hoping to get back into?

Stephen Jackson  
So doing this process, prior to this pandemic, we didn't have a dedicated team space. So now post pandemic, we are awaiting a few days I last last, second to last piece of furniture. So we now have a dedicated team space. So it'll look different than it did prior to what I found out is the organization is prioritizing young people. And I can't say that that necessarily was the case in years past, because teams didn't have a dedicated space and Everybody else had something that said, Hey, this is for you, we have a first floor that is totally children, services like all the whole floor, then we had the second floor was a little bit more social. So teams found a little area corner, and they turned up, you know, because there's nothing really told them that this is for you. They just made it theirs and did age appropriate things I'd be like, oftentimes, I tell people, teens brains are still developing. So like they're making a list of firing, firing off. And then really impulsive just because their brains are developing. So we can't expect them to do certain things without setting the expectation and having conversations with with them to have these expectations. But what we have intentionally focused on Teen Services, to the point where we've separated it, prior to me being there was adult and teen services. And they separated teen services from adult services, and prioritized it more. So I right now manage teen services. So the sky's not even a limit. With what we're doing. When they design the space, they were able to design the space. So they'll be able to help set it up. It's always really awesome a lot of stuff that we're doing with them and focusing specifically on them, and allowing their voice. So we've created an advisory board that when we want to do things, we go to these, this group, and have conversations about them about what direction to go. One of the teams actually created a we created contest for them to win cash prizes, a team designed the logo for the teen services department. And was was compensated first, second or third place, they were compensated for it. So having a sense of ownership of something. Imagine designing a logo for the teen services at your local library, you can go in and say show your kids one day, I did that I remember when I you know, so just allow them to feel not allowing but creating the space for them to to create what they want to see is what our what our department looks like everything that we do is informed by them. 

David (he/him)  
Yeah, what are some of the things that are coming down the pipe. 

Stephen Jackson  
So we have an environmental club that has been meeting, and they've adopted a block. So they they do that once a month, the board is getting full. So we're about to have an election process. Now. Now that we have a bunch of teens that are really involved, we have a mural project to paint canvases. And so there'll be wall canvases of their, of what they want on these walls in this team space. We just had an ice cream socials recruitment event that the board created partner with Andy's custard. And they catered/provided of ice cream. And we were just in the park. Shout out to darcelle Washington, Alex Gutierrez, and our newest member of the team, Amy. I cannot pronounce her last name. I cannot pronounce her. I'm meet with Amy tomorrow. And I'm going to get it right. I don't want to butcher it. But Amy H, the newest member of the team as well. So we're just we're just we're just building right now. Really building, building a team that intentionally focused on young people. 

David (he/him)  
Yeah, absolutely. The community input is such a big part of this, right? A lot of times when I talk about restorative justice, a lot of times, people are just like, how do you repair the harm? How do you repair the harm? And that's a part of it. Right? How do we make sure that we have something to restore to in the first place, though, is super important as well, the ways that we're building and maintaining relationships, one will prevent harm. But when there is harm within the context of a library and your programs, how have you all like restoratively navigated some of those things.

Stephen Jackson  
We've we've had parents come in and young people sit down and circle and resolve issues where sometimes police will be involved. Even to the point that we had a we invited the police officer that was a part of the situation to the circle, but they were on another call. I couldn't make it that day. But to the point having having people sit down in the space and by we came to some really sobering realities of the trauma that the perpetrator was experiencing, and that took him to the level where he did with Did and like, people sympathize with the, with the perpetrator. Even the parents of the, of the person harmed, and the person who was harmed was able to, like understand more why this person was showing up the way they showed up. This person was experiencing some grief, had lost one of his best friends since childhood does, he suddenly had asthma attack and died. And he had been acting out ever since this happened, and, and this this wasn't wasn't different way he was acting out in this way. But we build relationships with the families. And we're able to call up the family call up mom, dad, grandma didn't have them come in to have these conversations and build relationships with the person or be the person who was perpetrating the harm. That was one that I can remember, specifically, where it was just super dope to see the process or at least the circle process and work in repairing the harm that was done.

David (he/him)  
Yeah, and when I think about police being called, right, you talk about vulnerable populations like this is like, life threatening. Right? And there, there are other ways are there. There are other ways of dealing with harm. Is that something that you are building into, you know, teen services and library practices, like not having to call the police?

Stephen Jackson  
Yeah, so when we do call the police the only time we do call the police is when, like threatening, like a, you know, danger. It's a certain that certain times that like we we don't have the resources to handle the situation. But when we do call, I've grown up in the community, I know, a lot of the guys some of the guys I went to high school with that are on the force. And then my police forces train Crisis Intervention training. So they have a level of training that where they're not as punitive. And when you have a relationship with people, they show up different, you know, so I meet him at the door. And by a day, David, this is what's going on, we just want, we just need you to escort this person out. Today, just today, this person did this, we told this person multiple times, they continue to do this. And this is usually the way it happens. Because first of all the time they can't do it. And there'll be a consequence. If they don't. And this is this was a consequence, they can't be here today, or they can't be here for the remainder of the week. But after this day, they can come back, we'll welcome them back. And we're going to actually really welcome them back when they do come back. And just because we we don't have the capacity to we don't have the authority sometimes to untill you build that relationship with them. So if I tell is it's gotten to the point now where certain things like if they come in doing what we told them, hey, you can't do that here. They'll be like, Alright, Mr. Jackson, oh, that we can't be here. Today. Come back tomorrow. And they'll come back tomorrow. And they'll change the behavior just because they know that there is a consequence. I've had a conversation with them. I actually know their name in times past where people just call the police don't have a relationship with these young people to even speak life into their lives, or, or have a respect level where they're actually gonna adhere to what you say. The most times, if I if I don't know you, usually that's when situations usually turn out like that. But once they get to know me and staff, they'll know like, man, Mr. Jackson was watching them as a kid. So they're not trying to jam us up. They actually care about us. One story, quick story. You know, storytelling is wonderful. As I was building the department, as a group of teens that came in, and we're having this act and behavior that people in library just weren't really fond of. So I knew all of them. So with intention started call them into my office every day when three o'clock, three fifteen, when I got there, call them in my office, put them in a circle go around and check in. One of the kids said...One question was, how was your day? One of the rounds that was your day? It wasn't to say, you did this yesterday, or anything like that. It was just to check in with them. And I just started checking in with them every day. And one kid said, Mr. Jackson, man, I, it's really dope that you asked this question because there's only one person that asked me that question, and that's my mom. When she gets in from work at night. No one asked me how my day is. I was like, that's really tripped out that like no one actually valued the day for one person. And it really resonated with me that like, they're used to having interactions that are punitive, in the school environment, used to be at the library environment. But now they have a space where they know they can come in, and people want to check on their well being.

David (he/him)  
Yeah, I mean, punitive at worst, and maybe just like transactional at best, right? where it's like, Hey, this is this is what it is. Do what you need to do and on to the next class, or here's the book that you need here. programs over time to go. Yeah, so much of this is just the relationships and, you know, shout out to Cheryl, in a lot of ways restorative justice is how are you? And what do you need? And we go from there.

Stephen Jackson  
And those are the questions that we ask. With, with with with the vulnerable basis. We don't, we don't go What's wrong, we don't, we're not doing that. How are you? What you need? Our staff, safe public safety staff are trained with Mental Health First Aid, as well as trauma informed. So they come in, and we make sure they could get these basic, baseline level trainings to show them how they engage, or make sure they have the skills to engage with the patients on the level where we treat them like human beings.

David (he/him)  
There are two things, it's it's a shift to adapt. But then it's also a shift to be able to be responsive to the things that people say, right? Because you can't just be asking those questions and be like, Alright, cool later. Right, you got to be able to respond and like the intentions of like, you were just talking about, like the way that you've intentionally built partnerships with people in the community to be able to respond to those needs. is so so important. How did those partnerships come up?

Stephen Jackson  
Relationships with people. 

David (he/him)  
What's a what's an example of one of those partnerships and relationships.

Stephen Jackson  
So my director of public safety, he is very, very, very extensive network of people that I'll use, I use, I use example of an instance where I felt the partnership with rush Chicago. So at a public library we we give on Wednesdays, free mental health assessments, from rush hospital. So they have clinicians coming in. And and the reason this, this came about because as I was doing the presentation, university leadership course, and I was one of the guest speakers about some of the resources that we have in the community. And like, we were getting our butts handed to us, with people who were having issues with mental health, and there was no mental health infrastructure that didn't have a fee associated with it. And oh, pardon. So Rush, Rush Oak Park they have a Rush Oak Park part. I had a conversation with Darlene Hightower, shout out to Darlene. And she was like, well, we don't have mental health infrastructure here in Oak Park. But I can connect you with Rush Chicago. And let's see what they could do. So by me, having that conversation with having that conversation and relationshop with Darlene, I was able to, I was able to reach out to rush Chicago, and facilitate a partnership, where we now have free mental health assessments, which is not many places. Those are least 150 as I am about to be a mental health clinician, that's 150 to $200, straight out the gate, to get a bit to get that intake assessment. And that now we built infrastructure now, where people are getting four free sessions, not only are they getting the assessment, but they get in four free sessions. And this is out of a library, your local library, you can go to your local library, your confidentiality be protected. And you can have this mental health assessment, and you can get four free sessions. So we were able to because we knew these people were able to reach out to them, tell them a need that we had and how could it be mutually beneficial. And we just made it happen Ra shout out to Ra shout out to Kristin, from Rush Chicago. And Dr. Kay, like it was people that like, made it happen, just because there was a need there. And it was because of relationships that we had in the form of people, not necessarily organizations. And that's the way it is with with our patrons. We don't, we do a warm handoff. We're introducing people, not organization there's organization attached to these people. These are people. And without those, we introduce them to the people. And when you do that there's a level of accountability. Because there's a lot of organizations that have a mission and a vision will collect people's personally identifiable information, and use that to get funding, but not necessarily provide the services that they're supposed to be providing. And that's what happens with vulnerable populations. And when when you have relationships with people, there's a level of accountability where that's not happening.

David (he/him)  
Yeah, I think like, That's such a beautiful, beautiful example, specifically, as someone who has health insurance, right, and has engaged in therapy at $50 a session, right. And so that's $200 a month, if you're going weekly, to be able to have some kind of services, like existing at the place where you go check out books, and I was gonna say, DVDs, but then I was dating myself back to like, when I was in high school and going actually, to the library,

Stephen Jackson  
 we still have DVDs, unfortunately. 

David (he/him)  
But know that that's, that's really beautiful. And I think the other part of that is, you know, the relationships. But you also have to ask, right, asking people, because I do think there are people who want to help, right? There are people who might not necessarily be like, abolish the police deep on the police, right? But if you're saying, from the perspective of somebody who's working in a library, like, Hey, we have these people in our community who need these services, can you help out, right? And shout out to the people who step up and do that, right. As much as we can say, like, you know, if we defund this part of the police and turn it towards mental health services, like, I also think like people should be able to, like, make that connection. But who am I who am I to judge like whatever way, I think like there's an ideological purity that sometimes we can get lost in when like, we can access Help and Resources for people in another way. It doesn't always have to be about getting the like the ideologically pure wins.

Stephen Jackson  
When you talk about defunding police, I think this is like a trigger topic for a lot of people. And I think it's just because of semantics. Because what it is is reallocating is really what people are saying want you to reallocate, and then with with, with abolitionists, I think that if you pose something to them, such as only people from the community can hold these positions. I think it would look different. Imagine if only we'll use Oak Park as example. Only residents of Oak Park could be police officers in Oak Park. You know what I mean? There's a different level of accountability. 

David (he/him)  
Yeah. Well, and I think like if you but if you scale that up to Chicago, right. Chicago is a really big city and I think

Stephen Jackson  
we have neighborhood neighborhoods. Chicago is a city of neighborhoods, like anywhere but Austin, you have to live in Austin, you have to live in Woodland, you have to live in Inglewood. Like you wouldn't you wouldn't mistreat, the the force will look different, first of all, in these communities that I'm talking about. People will look like them. Who you would know people like, Whoa, look, I mistreating Miss Johnson's son, when I went to school, it is hard to mistreat someone when you know their mom. That's how I tell people all the time. Well, you know, we know your mom, you know this person's Mom. It's hard to treat mistreat this person.

David (he/him)  
Yeah. And I think like, we apply that to people who are gang involved, right? Like we talked about, like street intervention. What, when you know that this is this is john john who's walking his brother to school, through your through your block. But you know that he's walking his brother to school because of whatever's going on in his life. That's one thing and he gets a pass. Right. But if you don't know him, you know, we're at odds. It's tough for me. I do think that there is a way that community safety there. There's a role for people who help keep the community safe. To adapt the current police force to look like those ways of making community safe. Like, it's hard for me to draw those connections because like in order to be a part of that police force, there's training, there's lots of training and things that are on the books and like things that are off the books, right. The culture of the culture of policing requires somebody to do so even if you are from that neighborhood, right? Even if you're someone who wants to protect people in your neighborhood. That job It asks you to do things that like are causing harm. Inherently

Stephen Jackson  
true. It street organizations came about because of what we're talking about. 

David (he/him)  
Right. 

Stephen Jackson  
You know, and they got corrupted because of the influx of drugs. And they're in the community, which were, which were placed there. But and I don't know how many people know the history of game. But like, they were 

David (he/him)  
I'm trying to remember like, how much we went into it with the vice lords. Derek Brown, who was on this podcast, and I think we touched on it a little bit. I think that's Episode Five. But yeah, t

Stephen Jackson  
they were community organizations. 

David (he/him)  
Right, right.

Stephen Jackson  
would like to to help. Okay, Miss Johnson's groceries to put air conditioning, to provide air conditioners for seniors in the summer when they don't have the right doing things like that. Right. So I don't when people say gangs, I don't there's no negative connotation, that that, that comes with that with me, as I was a gang member at one point in time. But I know the history, I know my history. So I understand it on a different level. 

David (he/him)  
Yeah, yeah. 

Stephen Jackson  
And I'm not gonna judge I'm not going to jugde. I don't know this next person's plight

David (he/him)  
For sure. There's not that I I'll say like, that's not like this restorative way of being right. And it's not for us to judge like, this is where you are. How are you? What do you need? And within within our, with our within our capacity as individuals within our, excuse me, within our capacity as members of organizations, members of communities, how can we be responsive to the members of the needs of our community? I think I said that, right. We're getting to that time where I want to transition to the questions that I asked everyone. We've talked about it in a number of different ways, but defined restorative justice.

Stephen Jackson  
I guess I will define it as an approach to repairing and addressing harm done within the community. It can also emphasize that every voice is being heard in a situation. For me, like this person that I think restorative justice is sometimes and justifiably, so, a lot of times reactive, versus restorative practices being proactive. In that way, you don't have to use certain strategies, so certain reactive restorative justice strategies to, to handle the situation. So, for example, restorative practices would be some of the things that we were talking about, meeting people saying hello, building a relationship versus restorative justice be having to have a conflict circle because in a conflict usually happens when you don't when people don't really know each other know what's going on with people. But when you build relationships, and in doing proactive things, such as having conversation, restorative strat chats, getting to know people asking their name, asking them how they are, what do they need, the stuff like that restorative, restorative practices are more proactive, so I think that makes sense to me, at least in my mind.

David (he/him)  
Perfect. That's beautiful. Um, what was a moment? That was like, Oh, shit, or like a moment that you messed up doing this work? What did you learn from it?

Stephen Jackson  
I try to deal with situations. I could there were two that were like one was a racism circle. I was so new in the game, and I didn't have I was trained but I didn't have my sensei with me in this situation. So I shouldn't have went in, so it went completely south. But what I learned was to someone new in in the practice, you always have to have a sensei and you have to have apprenticeship stage in the work because you can do more harm and get give the practice a black eye and do more harm than repairing the harm. So that's what that's that's what I've learned. Because that situation that definitely caught my heart and walked into like a really, really messed up situation. Have have your OG. Have your OG on location.

David (he/him)  
There you go, there you go. Or at least on speed dial. You get to sit in circle with four people living or dead. Who are they? And what question do you ask the circle?

Stephen Jackson  
This is sort of like the dinner, dinner party, pale pan parties dinner party? 

David (he/him)  
A little bit, a little bit of a twist.

Stephen Jackson  
 I know I see, four people dead or alive... I want to talk to my ancestors. And sort of know, I would want to ask them who we are. Because there's been so much confusion, or people that look like me, of who we actually are. And the more and more digging that I do, the more I realize a lot of us were here. When I say here, I say all this continent prior to other people getting here. And some of us some of a lot of us don't really necessarily have African ancestry, that people saying nothing against it, if you do, but we've been deceived. So I really want to like all my people, all four people, I guess my biggest question would be who we are. Who people from my bloodline are, because we've been all that's been whitewashed. So we don't necessarily know. So we call ourselves a color, or we associate ourselves with a continent of which we don't know if that's where we were from. So like, there's a lot of confusion. And like the net, the term that we identify ourselves, has no legal standing in the corner of law, like, Black has no standing in a court of law. So like, we're identifying ourselves, and legally, we have no value. So I want to talk to my people. The people who did this practice that we're, we're talking about right now,

David (he/him)  
I shared on this last podcast that I'm working through the way that I asked this question. So what is a place or situation that you witnessed recently, where you wish people knew this way of being?

Stephen Jackson  
I was recently working, I'm a real estate agent, I was brokering the deal. And like a person, the seller had, like, started being irrational, after we had inspected the property. So I work with people who look like me. I don't necessarily know their genetic origin, but they look like me. So we were in a historically white community. And it was just really skate shady stuff going on. And I was like, man, I just wish that they knew this way of being get to know people before they come up with these assumptions. Because I'm adult I'm a dope dude. And like, the people I work with are super dope people to like, is no reason for you to be acting like this. 

David (he/him)  
Yeah. As I was sharing You know, this work is often just pigeon holed into like schools and criminal legal system like it belongs everywhere in those everyday interactions that exists within our job. You talked about the way that it works in the library and like this other part of what you do. what is one mantra or affirmation you want everyone listening to now?

Stephen Jackson  
I'm still learning you know when and when people when I when I say that I took it from Neely fuller Jr. Read someone's book, The United independent, United independent compensatory code system concept. Textbook workbook for thought speech and our active for victims of racism, white supremacy. So he, he, he says is that when people ask him, and like and I thought about it, meditate on them like I'm using that. Like, because no matter what, you ask me how I am, what I how am I now I'm learning. And I'm talking to a guy the other day to me, you're gonna be learning till you die. So it keeps me humble. Because I really, really work hard to know content on certain things in my life. But when i when i when i when i come with this mantra. It keeps me humble to know that I don't know everything. I don't know as much as I think I know. And it keeps me in a vulnerable state to be receptive to new information. 

David (he/him)  
Yeah, absolutely. Who's one person that I should have on this podcast.

Stephen Jackson  
It's a group of people called a greater good foundation. Create a good foundation. Yeah, a greater good foundation Charles, Cody and East. So that's Joshua Easter. Charles Carter and Cody cotton. They make up a greater good foundation doing some amazing transcendent transcending work accross the country.

David (he/him)  
Make that connect. Gotta set up the email

Stephen Jackson  
I got you.

David (he/him)  
and finally, how can people support you in your work and all the ways that you want to be supported?

Stephen Jackson  
Get to know people, treat them with respect. Ask questions. Don't make assumptions. we're wired to have certain assumptions, but suspend judgment and use your critical thinking box. That's how it goes for everything that I do. Because, to me, critical thinking is a careful and deliberate determination to either accept or reject, or suspend judgment before making a decision. And until you have enough information, and then you can either accept or reject what's presented to you. So I, for me, that's how you can support what I do.

David (he/him)  
And if you happen to be in the Chicago in the greater Chicagoland area, how can people support library Oak Park,

Stephen Jackson  
you can go on our website at oppl.org/teens, to check and see out check and see what we're doing. You can check out us on our racist anti racism journey that we're that we're on, we're about to hire a director of equity inclusion, we're on a search now for that. So we're looking for that person. Just man, groundbreaking things going on in libraries, in particular, the library that I'm at, so I'm happy to be a part of that. So oppl.org 

David (he/him)  
Beautiful. Do you want to? I'm just looking at LinkedIn, global community?

Stephen Jackson  
That is my personal business, global community on my consulting business, global community associates. That is a global community associates.com Check us out.

David (he/him)  
What are the things that people can experience with you there

Stephen Jackson  
training, staff development, just learning opportunities on both ends. mentorship guidance. As I said trainings 

David (he/him)  
for both young people and adults? 

Stephen Jackson  
definitely, definitely young people. It doesn't matter organizations we work with everyone! So...

David (he/him)  
so yeah, we'll definitely have all of those things linked in the show notes. Is there anything else you want to leave listeners with?

Stephen Jackson  
A shout out to my wife who's holding it down right now. Holding down to babies under two right now, while I'm doing this, she is the reason why I'm able to do all the things that I do. So shout out to her. She is like the dopest person on the planet. Like Dr. Celeste Jackson, check her out on all social media platforms. She's doing amazing things with our life. And with my children, our children, so that's what I want to leave on because that's where I'm about to go and spend time with the family. 

David (he/him)  
Beautiful. Well, thank you so much for spending as much time as you have with us sharing your stories, sharing your wisdom, sharing your experience. That's how we grow and I'm really appreciative. I'm honored that you took the time to be with us. For everyone else listening. We'll be back next week with another episode. Take care till then.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai