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Steph Turner Responds to Your Needs Like No Lawyer Can

13 min read - downloadable PDF

A. Engaging query

Ever made a bad choice? We all have. Does the law now shame you for that bad choice? Shame on them for giving us so many damn poor options in the first place!

Which do you think is more likely?

Your personal choices create your feelings of loneliness, or feeling smothered, so you only have to make better personal choices to never feel so lonely or smothered again.


There are times you objectively need companionship that you subjectively feel as loneliness, and there are times you objectively require some solitude which you subjectively experience as being smothered.

Let’s see why you would prefer this second option. Let’s get to the point on why we have laws in the first place: our needs. Laws only exist to guide each other’s actions to respect the reality of our diverse needs. Our inflexible needs come first. Flexible laws then follow. This episode’s theme: how your needs exist as objective facts.

B. Branding

Welcome to Need-Response for You, the podcast that speaks to your needs.

I am your host, Steph Turner, the author of You NEED This, the book introducing you to the new social science of anankelogy, the study of need. Other social sciences—such as psychology, economics, sociology and political science—all exist to create answers for our many needs.

Anankelogy gets right to the needs themselves. Now anankelogy brings you the new professional service of need-response as an alternative to having to rely only on lawyers, politicians or judges. Need-response puts your inflexible needs first, ahead of flexible laws. As long as lawyers and politicians fail to faithfully serve your needs, need-response holds them to account for what those laws exist for in the first place: our needs!

Call in and speak your truth to power. Especially if you, or someone you love, has been wrongly convicted. If you need those in power to better respect your needs, then you…need…this!

C. Episode preview

In this first episode, we’re going to put your needs first…for a change. While no one sits above the law, no law sits above the needs for which they exist.

We need a revolutionary new way to better understand and to serve our many overlooked needs. Laws alone cannot respect our specific needs. Our law-based institutions repeatedly fail to serve my needs, your needs, or all of our needs. In this episode, I introduce you to a pioneering alternative to the mere legalism of laws and law enforcement. I assert the higher authority of love.

D. Laws fail me

I’m living proof that politics and the courts fail to responsibly serve needs. Back in 1993, I came out as trans to my trans sister. We soon shared an apartment. Then a neighbor accused us asexual trans siblings of transphobic tropes widely believed back then.

A jury of our supposed peers bought into the coached testimony of this young accuser who was also traumatized by the adversarial judicial process. Both of us were wrongly convicted and—despite being identified as trans—we were sent to men’s prisons for many, many years. I maxed out in 2005 and came home. She “maxed out” by dying in prison.

The young accuser finally came out as gay, but ended up in jail as a repeat drug offender. I ended up on the sex offender registry for life, despite being asexual, and now remain homeless and underemployed. Whose justice needs were actually served here? Were laws prioritized over needs?

E. Needs before laws

Have you ever met a lawyer or politician who truly understands and addresses your actual needs? Of course not!

Let’s face it. The legal system fails us left and right. Politics that shape laws disappoint almost everyone. The adversarial judicial system overlooks most of your affected needs. Both objectify you by forcing you to fit into their win-lose boxes. Both pit the vulnerable against each other to appease elites. Both avoid accountability to how it repeatedly does more damage than good. The whole legal system repeatedly fails to serve your specific needs. It’s not even designed to let you resolve your needs.

Once snatched up in the grip of the so-called justice system, little to no attempt is ever made to address underlying needs. You are immediately objectified into their convenient categories: victim or suspect, complainant or defendant, survivor or criminal. Everyone gets dehumanized on some level. And they dare call it justice.

This impersonal and even dehumanizing system prioritizes their own needs ahead of those being processed through it. They dare call this justice. They do little to nothing to ensure the affected needs on all sides to a conflict get fully resolved. They dare call this justice. They impose privileged state violence to confront interpersonal acts of violence, while benefitting from further violence. And they dare call this justice.

Most violence stems from unaddressed trauma, so the judicial system adds to that trauma—virtually guaranteeing a supply of bodies to traumatize again and again and again. But for what need? Theirs? How well is society served by this dehumanizing approach? How are communities kept safer, and at what human costs? How are families and individuals impacted by this imposing process?

Of course, we must collectively have some way to stop interpersonal acts of violence. Honestly, how well is law enforcement serving this need? How many of us have been duped to accept their lower standard of dehumanizing us to fit their process needs?

F. Understanding needs

Here is a core problem I see in law enforcement: they have drifted as an institution from their founding purpose to keep the public safe, because they are poorly equipped to deal with the needs that shape public safety. I see a need for them to better understand the needs they exist to serve. I am now filling that need, with anankelogy, to get to the source of public safety: our vulnerable needs.

Anankelogy, and its application in need-response­—that’s need-hyphenated-response—adds the discipline to address interpersonal acts of violence by identifying and addressing underlying needs.

The judicial system and law enforcement lack this discipline when referring to acts of “crime”. Crime, to be sure, is a social construct easily manipulated by politics. No wonder those with the least political clout are more easily identified as criminal. After all, it is not a crime to traumatize another with a racist label, or with derogatory innuendo, but that is arguably just as violent and impactful and damaging as physically hitting that person.

Need-response takes us up a notch. Where the judicial system aims no higher than relieving your pain from violence, need-response seeks to remove causes for pain by meaningfully resolving the underlying needs on all sides. Where the judicial system imposes win-lose outcomes, need-response seeks win-win outcomes. Where the judicial system pits us against each other as mutually hostile categories, need-response raises the standard by replacing such norms of alienation with a disciplined process of mutual engagement, toward resolving each other’s impacted needs. Think about restorative justice, for example.

Need-response can either work with and complement the authorities, or rise above them. While no one sits above the law, no law sits above the needs for which it exists to serve. No one holds authority over your needs; you cannot stop needing to avoid retraumatization, for example, because some official insists you suck it up and follow their orders without question. There is no sustainable social order without sustainable respect for our impacted needs. Need-response adds this deeper respect in order to result in sustainable good for us all.

G. Saving law enforcement from itself

For the judicial system and law enforcement, this can be a light of hope to improve their outcomes, to responsibly impact communities, and to accountably deliver on their mission to keep society safer. But I am bracing for the very likely reaction of resistance. The one entity granted license to exact violence can cleverly impose that privileged power to resist the higher power of love. It does so all the time.

We are so accustomed to “needing” law enforcement, that most who have never tasted the failings of the judicial system don’t want to question its legitimacy. They see a cop car drive by and feel safer. Those of us who know its failings may feel something different when viewing that cop car drive by. Those of us most traumatized by the system can feel retraumatized when that cop pulls up and starts impersonally interacting with us. When law enforcement neglects their actual impacts on needs fueling problems of violence, they compromise their legitimacy.

Need-response can help them regain this fragile legitimacy. Need-response can help them more successfully serve the needs for which they exist to serve. Need-response can guide the pursuit for justice by addressing equally everyone’s inflexible needs.

In the process, need-response challenges the popular belief that we are governed by laws. No, we are not literally governed by laws but our behavior is always governed by our inflexible needs, which are guided by flexible laws. No legitimate law can forbid you to feel hungry, but can guide your behavior to get food in accord with the needs of others. No reasonable law can outlaw your emotional reactions to your history of endured trauma, but can direct you to not harm others in the process.

Laws work best where they guide us to act in ways that enable our needs to resolve, without interfering with the needs of others. Laws fail where they get in the way of addressing and resolving our needs.

If your need for food goes unmet for too long, no law can insist you not be hungry enough to the point that you get desperate to get some food by any means available. If your need to ease the pain of unaddressed trauma festers too long, no authority can declare that you not get desperate to the point that you would consider almost anything to get rid of such overwhelming pain. Law performs poorly where it fails to address our underlying needs.

H. Laws alone fix nothing

Mindlessly obeying all laws can easily pull you into depression. I know I have to be careful not to sink into depression when feeling powerless about the wrongful conviction I suffered decades ago. I must remain vigilant by staying aware of my impacted needs, to identify and address each one the best that I can. Even if the law ignores them, or wrongly provokes them.

But there is only so much I can do within the law. Now I must transcend the limits of the law with need-response. I have pretty much exhausted law-based remedies for correcting this egregious error. Now I must step outside and above the limits of law. I must get right to the needs that keep us collectively glued to the law. I must stop trusting the institutions of law to see its own network of errors and shortcomings. I must resolve the needs that laws ostensibly exist to serve, either by complementing law enforcement or competing with it from a stance of tough love.

If you need the courts to review your criminal conviction, then perhaps you can relate. If you too are overlooked by current law-based solutions, what can you do? Just resign to your fate? Submit to abusive power? Accept feeling disappointed with our powerful institutions and then just move on the best you can?

Hell no! This injustice was unacceptable back when it happened. It remains unacceptable. And my anger warns me it will remain unacceptable until resolved.

I have exhausted most of my state remedies, and told in their view that the trial court only made harmless errors. You know, there’s another word for their resistance to acknowledge their many harmful mistakes: self-righteousness.

I have applied to several innocence projects, who I continue to find massively disappointing. Most local innocence projects prefer the low hanging fruit of those cases where they can see an easy win in court. You could be fully innocent of all charges, but if the law cannot see a way to correct itself, then lawyers remain dreadfully unresponsive to your justice needs. I’m done with that!

I. Alternative to a broken system

The narrow option of win or lose in court sits at the bottom of this injustice. The reality of needs does not care about win-lose outcomes. Your needs either must fully resolve or you will lose your ability to fully function and suffer some pain, which risks dragging you further into desperate acts for relief. The more law enforcement overlooks the needs it impacts, the less it can legitimately serve our justice needs. Any injustice in the name of justice is no justice at all.

Why do we keep trusting a system that repeatedly makes costly errors to somehow find these tragic mistakes and responsibly correct them? It’s like we keep hitting our heads against a wall. If we keep on doing what we’ve been doing, then we’re going to keep getting the trouble we keep getting.

If the legal system cannot reliably provide just outcomes and safe communities by addressing all the underlying needs, then it’s about time to create a more responsive system.

J. Introducing need-response

Welcome to need-response. A new professional service that gets right to the source: our needs! The source of every problem is unmet needs. Need-response prioritizes each other’s personal needs over impersonal laws that overlook the source of our many problems. Need-response can either complement a humbled law enforcement institution, or compete with it, if it resists the higher standard of resolving needs, for which laws exists to serve.

Need-response applies the new social science of anankelogy, the disciplined study of need. All the social sciences—like psychology, sociology, economics and political science—these all exist to create answers for our many needs. Anankelogy goes straight to the needs themselves.

I introduce this new academic discipline of anankelogy in the book I self-published in 2021, called “You NEED This”. You can sample its contents at my website