Everyday Abolition/Abolition Every Day

How drug users and street based folks are transforming harm into community

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Case Studies In Everyday Abolition: the Rittenhouse Transformative Justice Conflict Resolution and Harm Reduction Project

The Rittenhouse Transformative Justice Conflict Resolution & Harm Reduction project began in St. Stephens, a Toronto-based drop-in center catering to needs of drug users and street based folks in downtown area — includes counseling/case management, medical care, food, and community building.

The project is a peer-based model that includes: 12 weeks of training, on-going support of team, stipends, and organizing. The Peer team is supervised by 1 staff person and an advisory committee. Peer team signs up for shifts and offers: • Conflict Mediation as alternative to being kicked out, • De-escalation in milieu. • Facilitation of community meetings and trainings on related & relevant topics.

From co-organizer Joan Rusza: “We recruited and hired service users of agencies – who were current or former drug users and who had been criminalized by the legal system – and trained them to be transformative justice facilitators. The idea was to build capacity of participants to resolve conflicts in their own communities, and to reduce the use of barring in community agencies. We see this as an abolitionist strategy with the broader goals of strengthening community capacity to address social harm, and reducing contact with the legal system and incarceration.

It has been a privilege working with the group members, all of whom are brilliant, insightful, thoughtful, compassionate, and committed to building peaceful, supportive communities. In the summer of 2014, Chanelle Gallant and Lisa Marie Alatorre from Everyday Abolition came to St. Stephen’s to interview participants about their experiences of being in the project, and their thoughts about community, conflict, harm reduction and transformative justice. One of the women whose voice you’ll hear in this recording, Karen Daniel, died suddenly and tragically in a house fire in March of this year. I am grateful that she was able to hear this recording shortly before she died (thanks to Chanelle). She was loved and she is missed.”

Karen Daniel: “Cause when the law gets involved, they take this person and put him in the corner, take that person, put him in the corner, “never speak to each other again, and be on your way.” And that’s how society is. We’re just out there by ourselves. And you meet somebody who you can identify with, and you get in trouble for hanging out with that person because of the stigma, like, “Oh, they’re a crackhead.” “Oh, don’t hang around with them, they’re no good for you.” And you can have more community with that one person than with somebody that’s supposed to be to serve and protect. They’re not really protecting me. They’re serving me, yeah, but they’re not really protecting me.”

In memory of Karen.

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