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In response to an article about the connection between a non-profit, Unconditional Freedom, that was offering educational and ‘character-building’ services at the Mendocino County jail and a for-profit business that markets sex as spirituality that we posted on October 6, Caryn Roth, Director of Operations at Unconditional Freedom, sent us the following piece stating, “Our programs have been canceled at the Jail and Juvenile Hall thanks to [Sarah Reith’s] salacious reporting, leaving the most vulnerable without access to programming and support.” We will post Sarah Reith’s rebuttal piece at noon. Below is Ms. Roth’s response to Sarah’s original article:
Over the roughly three years that Unconditional Freedom (UF) has proudly served the community of Ukiah, we have provided thousands of healthy, nutritious meals to the homeless, and worked alongside the staff at the Mendocino County Jail to provide educational enrichment programs for jail residents, staff, and guards. Over that time, we have operated with the highest of ethics and integrity, and formed close, trusted relationships with our partner organizations and the community, who have repeatedly praised UF for the quality and effectiveness of our programs.
That’s why we were devastated to hear Sarah Reith’s KZYX radio segment which aired on the morning of October 5, 2022, (and later posted to the Redheaded Blackbelt blog) repeating false and salacious media allegations against Unconditional Freedom. As a result, UF’s programs in Ukiah, including the programming at Mendocino County Jail and Juvenile Hall, have been canceled, leaving nearly five hundred local people who depend on UF’s services stranded and without these programs. The problem appears to be growing worse – as people and organizations with whom we had developed close and trusted relationships are beginning to dissociate from Unconditional Freedom for fear of reprisal. Just this week, one of our Free Food (formerly called Love to Table) partners declined our offer of fresh, organic meals, which have fed twenty-five people every week.
In short, Reith’s biased and inaccurate reporting against UF compromised stellar work which was making a positive difference in the lives of individuals in the community that we are honored to serve.
Let’s set the record straight. In the report, Reith conflates the work of Unconditional Freedom with that of the organization OneTaste. While Unconditional Freedom and OneTaste share similar philosophical outlooks based on rehumanizing marginalized populations and finding power in areas that society most often casts aside (prisons, homeless, and other marginalized communities), they are separate organizations which serve distinctly different audiences in distinctly different ways. The vast majority of UF’s three hundred volunteers and none of our thousands of program participants across the country have ever heard of OneTaste. This is a testament to UF’s independent mission.
The non-profit that would ultimately become Unconditional Freedom was originally founded in 2002 under the name Fill Up America. In its first nine months of service, Fill Up America distributed over 48 thousand pounds of surplus food and 13 thousand pounds of clothing. Fill Up America operated for over a decade and, in 2013, was selected for the 2013 San Francisco Awards for Community Service & Non-Profit Organizations.
In fact, Fill Up America, which later became Unconditional Freedom, predates OneTaste by more than seven years. OneTaste is a wellness and lifestyle company founded by San Francisco native Nicole Daedone in 2009. Before it closed in 2018, OneTaste provided courses and mindfulness practices, particularly on the philosophy of Orgasmic Meditation, a private coupled meditation practice, which improves wellbeing, focus, emotional intelligence, connection, and fulfillment.
OneTaste closed its operations amidst a controversy stoked by a false, shoddy and inaccurate media reporting about the organization. Since then, the company has labored tirelessly to rebut these false allegations by directly appealing to the standards bodies of news organizations who have mischaracterized the nature of OneTaste’s business activities. There is also significant civil litigation both in the United States and in the UK seeking redress from the harm these false claims have caused. These are ongoing efforts that have not ceased since 2018. And now, KZYX and Sarah Reith are adding to the false narrative.
Although UF Executive Director Marcus Ratnathicam and ten of UF’s staff and volunteers have worked at OneTaste, Unconditional Freedom has nothing to do with the practice of orgasmic meditation and has never promoted it to the populations it serves. In addition, UF has never tried to hide its association with OneTaste from its partners in law enforcement, because of the sensitivities around security and exposure to vulnerable populations. Well before this latest media reporting, UF leadership disclosed both the nature of its relationship with OneTaste, and the potential for media scrutiny of UF due to previous negative reporting on OneTaste. We operate from the highest standards of ethics and prudence, and never wish for our partners to be blindsided or deceived in any way.
In November 2020, Unconditional Freedom launched its Art of Soulmaking course for women in prison at the Central California Women’s Facility. In early 2021, UF began a similar program for both men and women at the Mendocino County Jail. The response to the program has been overwhelmingly positive nationwide, including the roughly 450 program participants locally, jail administration and staff, and the hundreds of volunteer letter writers who serve as pen pals to program participants. Never, while operating in these secure facilities under strict protocols, has there ever been even one instance of reported unethical behavior on the part of UF staff or volunteers.
Quite the contrary, UF has made significant positive contributions to Ukiah and surrounding communities and creating measurable positive effects for the jail population that we serve.
Results reported by prison residents who have completed the Art of Soulmaking program indicate:
- Stress decreased by 26 percent
- Anger decreased by 20 percent
- Optimism increased by 14 percent
- Depression decreased by 26 percent
- Gratitude increased by 14 percent
In addition, UF has:
- Established the first garden program in 10 years at MCJ for incarcerated women and expanded the garden program for incarcerated men.
- Established the first garden program for the Juvenile Hall detention center residents.
- Saved Mendocino County taxpayers roughly $20,000 dollars in the form of nutritious, organic garden produce yield since 2020.
- Offered twice-weekly classes in meditation and yoga.
- Created a program called Guards to Guardian providing mentorship and support for correctional officers.
- Offered Monthly Free Food meals using organic ingredients professionally prepared for MCJ staff and COs
- Provided a $20,000 chicken coop plus week-long construction project and training for jail residents.
- Constructed beehives to kick-start the apiary training program taught by the Mendocino County sheriff a on weekly basis
There are countless videos and other documentary evidence of the positive and constructive works of UF in the community. In fact, the Mendocino County Jail and Ukiah community has served as the model sought out by other local jails and prisons across the country to start their own Art of Soulmaking programs.
Despite all the positive and constructive contributions UF has made to the community, and the almost universal good will it enjoyed in Ukiah, KZYX radio reporter Sarah Reith decided instead to rehash salacious media allegations. She did this despite having no evidence at all that Unconditional Freedom had committed any wrongdoing.
We wish to reassure the community that we operated only out of a desire to contribute, have never intentionally harmed anyone, and have the best interests of the community at heart. We want to spark a dialogue here about how we can continue to support the Ukiah community and move past this unfortunate incidence of media-fabricated hysteria and division.
Director of Operations at Unconditional Freedom