Town Hall Reflections from Reid Mihalko’s Accountability Pod

On April 18, a Town Hall Meeting was held to give campers a chance to engage further with the community accountability process and ask questions directly to Reid. Accountability Pod members Angel Adeyoha and Cassandra Perry facilitated the evening and Cathy Vartuli was on hand to bring forward some of the concerns from the campers.

It became clear from that call that there are a number of misconceptions still lingering about how the process of restorative justice works, who drives these processes, and the role of this accountability pod. We are posting this with the intention of clearing up these misconceptions.

Primarily, this is to remind folks what the role of the accountability pod is. We are not gatekeepers. We are not babysitters. We neither punish nor reward. We are not the deciders of Reid Mihalko’s fate. The pod was formed at Reid’s request to help him through an accountability process based largely on methods used by activist organizing communities (more details on this in our initial posting). Our role is to advise, to note patterns and pitfalls as a check to reduce harm, to encourage unlearning of harmful patterns/behaviors, and to coordinate. Our commitments are to Kelly, Reid, our shared community/industry and this process.

In helping with Reid’s accountability process both to Kelly and to the larger community, and acting as a counterbalance to past patterns, we’re also acting as allies to Reid’s larger goal of cleaning up the campsite.

At times, this will put us at odds with the wants of particular individuals. We regret that this may feel like a lack of consideration, but at the same time, there is only so much we four can include in our scope. We do need the community to be part of the process and we continue to welcome you in asking your questions and stating your wants. That does not mean that we can always necessarily meet your wants in this process.

When you are having challenging feelings about this process, we ask that you sit with the following questions:

  • Are you currently trying to help Reid or yourself?
  • If you are trying to help Reid, are you respecting his wishes?
  • If you aren’t focused on Kelly, Reid or this restorative justice process, are you helping this process?

Another element that came up in the meeting was that many felt silenced on Reid’s facebook threads by the comment moderation policy that was put in place. Our aim was to make sure that those conversations centered on ‘survivors’, yet we neglected to clearly define which survivors we were centering.

This was a mistake on our part, as so many of us are survivors, but clearly we were not centering all survivors as individuals in that thread. Survivors are part of rape culture too, just as we all are, and capable of harmful behavior and rhetoric.

We are centering survivors who are not centering the wellbeing of abusers or offenders. We are also creating space for folks who have been harmed by Reid to use their voice without it being overwhelmed by support for Reid.

Every one of us in this community and culture are programmed to respond with victim blaming and a punitive model. When survivors engage in that, we have to center those being actively harmed. Feeling hurt by what we perceive as punishment for an offender doesn’t fall under that. We encourage anyone feeling hurt by Reid directly to report that to Kelly’s pod. We encourage anyone feeling hurt by this accountability process, the moderation policy, or the present scope to seek support in community and also to take time to consider who the moderation policy supports. We can not support every single community member in this process, but we hope that the outcomes make a safer community for us all.

We apologize for the hurt brought by our lack of clarity at the beginning of the moderation process and will bring this lesson forward to ensure we do not repeat the same mistake of providing information without also providing the specific framework for that information.

We also ask that observers to this process remember that this is happening at a human pace. In a world that has become used to next day delivery, this may feel uncomfortably slow. This is one that will kick up vulnerabilities for many different people involved in various levels of engagement with this process; this is not anything we can remove. This is intense work and as much as possible, we encourage you to find support structures amongst each other as Angel, Alex, Cassandra, and Heather are unable to take on any more work in this process.

Finally, it is worth noting that most restorative justice processes do not involve such a wide or public scope. Doing this online and so publicly is not ideal, and yet it is necessary to provide transparency as part of the community accountability process. We are trying to strike a balance with a huge number of factors at play. We are also doing this in a community for whom the process of restorative justice is relatively new as many remain steeped within a punitive framework.

We encourage folks to look further into this process and offer this link as an easy entry point:

https://cjiwr.com/about-us/what-is-restorative-justice/

This is a great piece to read about who’s responsible for what in an accountability process: https://restforresistance.com/zine/centering-survivors-in-transformative-justice

This isn’t easy work to move through, as individuals and as a community. It’s not unusual to have someone stepping back from a more public role feel like a punishment, or a taking-away, or for even supportive scrutiny to bring up protective feelings and impulses.

These feelings are a normal part of the process, and as uncomfortable as they are, they give us a chance to reexamine the culture we grew up marinating in, and find new ways to do the work of supporting each other in living up to our ideals, rather than holding to old cultural patterns that may enable those we care about.