Life Criminal Justice Advocate and Yogi Steven Medeiros is Taking...

Criminal Justice Advocate and Yogi Steven Medeiros is Taking Life’s Challenges in Stride


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On a breezy late-May afternoon in Berkeley, California, Steven Medeiros stands atop a craggy peak in Indian Rock park, a popular bouldering and hangout spot that overlooks the San Francisco Bay skyline. With a denim jacket flung across his shoulder and the wind in his face, the 42-year-old looks more like an Avenger or a GQ cover model than a UC Berkeley student. In a few weeks, Medeiros, who lost his left leg in a motorcycle accident when he was 25, will travel to Honolulu for a summer gig working on the ACLU of Hawaii’s Smart Justice Campaign, a national criminal justice initiative that aims to reduce the prison population and address prosecutorial accountability. An activist and advocate for police accountability and prison reform, Medeiros is pursuing a master’s degree at Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy (ranked one of the country’s best) so he can effect change from the inside by helping to reimagine current systems and structures.

Listen to Steven talk about healing from complex trauma on YJ’s The Yoga Show podcast.


Medeiros, who identifies as Latinx and Hawaiian, has both witnessed and experienced the oppressive, detrimental effects of the American criminal justice system on people of color and impoverished populations. Growing up in Fremont, a racially diverse city in the Bay Area, he was exposed early on to police harassment of his community. His mother, a single mom who suffered from addiction, was incarcerated for a drug offense when he was only four years old. With his father out of the picture, Medeiros went to live with his paternal grandparents, who raised him. Eight years later, newly released from prison, his mother was murdered—run down by a truck while walking home from her job at a fast-food restaurant in East Oakland. The case went unsolved, but witnesses say they saw the truck chasing her, suggesting it was a targeted attack. As an adolescent, the impact on Medeiros was monumental. “For the next nine years, I engaged in a lot of toxic behavior, hanging out with troublemakers, gang members, people from broken homes who were dealing with similar things that I could relate to,” he says.

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