Getting to Know ARC, Inc.
Perhaps the best way to learn about the work of ARC, Inc. is to learn about the people who carry it out every day. In this issue, Deputy Director John Fox shares his thoughts on nearly a decade of work in the field of mitigation.
On what drives his work
"About 10 years ago, I was meeting with one of the first clients I ever worked with. His name was Angel. I visited him once or twice a week for six months. I was just tasked with keeping him company during the final stages of his appeals and to make sure that the rest of the defense team was aware of how he was doing. Because we spoke through a glass pane, for our hellos and goodbyes, we put our hands on the glass as though we were touching. It was like an extended high five.
Not long after I had been visiting Angel for six months, he was executed. That last visit we touched our hands to the glass one last time. It’s a moment I will never forget and often think about; it’s the strangest thing having to say goodbye to someone knowing that they are about to be killed. It’s an extreme sense of powerlessness. Since then, I have been very fortunate that none of my clients have been executed. I hope I never do again. Angel continues to drive my work – never again having to say goodbye to someone else under those circumstances."
On ARC, Inc.'s philosophy
"We are a very hopeful organization. We try to focus on the entire person, rather than one specific instance or moment in their life. It’s about finding the good in all people, even as we focus on the aspects of people's lives that prevent those things from shining through in every moment. Our work is about trying to push that hopefulness into a system that often becomes cynical and demonizes people. I think that is largely what this organization is about – trying to bring hope to individuals and communities through understanding all the complexities that make them who they are."
"To this day, I still write to my first client; we were able to get him a life sentence. To me, our clients are not defined by what they did. The system focuses on people at their lowest points, when they are most vulnerable. We pick this one moment in time and say that’s the totality of who someone is. What they’ve done – the fact that any of us can cause that much pain and suffering – is horrible. Yet, I haven’t had a client who hasn’t been a mix of good and bad, like everyone else."
On transforming the criminal justice system
"We take on our mission one client and one project at a time. The hope is that as we move further and further into other types of cases – like the juvenile work we are beginning to expand – our work can breathe life into this idea of taking into account the totality of a person instead of just locking someone up and throwing away the key because we decide that that's all they deserve.
It’s a snowball effect – the more cases we work and consults we provide, the more we can be out there talking with decision-makers within the system, the more change we can generate. I think the movement has already started, which you can see in how other people and organizations work toward this change, but the system has been out of hand for a long time, so it's going to take everyone's effort."