Voices of. . . Justice Now.

I am very very excited this week to present our Voices of series for May featuring the amazing organization Justice Now. Justice Now is located in Oakland CA and works at the intersection of violence against women and incarceration and prison expansion. They are one of the amazing organizations that fights for prison abolition.
In their own words,

Our mission is to end violence against women and stop their imprisonment. We believe that prisons and policing are not making our communities safe and whole but that, in fact, the current system severely damages the people it imprisons and the communities most affected by it. We promote alternatives to policing and prisons and challenge the prison industrial complex in all its forms.

This weeks posts will blow your minds both from women inside the prison system to advocates working alongside them.
Thank you Justice Now for joining us in our Voices of series! Give em some extra love feministing fam!

Join the Conversation

  • LogrusZed

    I examined the site and the “who we are” etc links, and I’m a bit confounded. Are we talking the complete removal of incarceration as a form of punishment, or just an end to the incarceration of female criminals, or some other undefined objective?
    Because I gotta’ say, and I’m a pretty compassionate guy who has a lot of frustration with the lack of rehabilitation in our nation and the lack of humane treatment for convicts (as well as a real issue with some of the things people get locked up for), there are still people of all chromosomes who need to not be out walking loose.

  • bearerfriend

    LogurusZed,
    Justice Now is committed to end the imprisonment of all people, regardless of gender identity–transfolk, cisgender people, everyone.
    If you would like to learn more about the movement for prison abolition, I would recommend:
    http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/davisinterview.html
    or
    http://www.criticalresistance.org/article.php?id=51
    It is important to remember that prisons were invented in the 17th century. There was a time before prisons. And we are now working to imagine a time after them.

  • ForbiddenComma

    I agree that the current prison system is rotten (especially in regards to nonviolent offenders), but what we are lacking are ideas on things to replace them.
    Call me jaded, but I don’t think that merely providing “food, housing, and freedom” for all will 100% eliminate violent crime. What do we do with violent people – such as rapists – to keep them from harming others? Is there any realistic scenario that does not involve taking away basic civil rights from the rapist for the good of the society?
    Similarly, how do we get around needing police? The “alternative neighborhood watches” mentioned in the second article merely sound like a new police force with a nicer-sounding name.

  • noname

    What alternatives to prisons and policing are they promoting? Their site does not say. (I see major problems with the US prison system, but abolishing them altogether seems like an awful idea).

  • noname

    Stupid post by me above. Promoting alternatives does not necessarily mean abolishing prisons and policing altogether. Their website is still very vague about what these alternatives are, though. Anyone here know what they are actually advocating as far as real world policy?

  • Mina

    “Stupid post by me above. Promoting alternatives does not necessarily mean abolishing prisons and policing altogether. Their website is still very vague about what these alternatives are, though. Anyone here know what they are actually advocating as far as real world policy?”
    Well, bearerfriend’s statement “It is important to remember that prisons were invented in the 17th century. There was a time before prisons.” reminds me of the non-prison punishments used before the 17th century.

  • LogrusZed

    Mina: It’s also a misleading statement.
    While the “modern” prison concept or detaining people as a form of punishment is relatively recent, the notion of detaining people is a lot older than 3-4 centuries old.
    Also it’s kind of a non sequitur that just because something comes from any given time period it is either a good or a bad thing. As you imply, confinement was probably a step forward in many ways from the previous methods of punishment (corporal/capital).
    I really can’t get behind any “movement” that is so simplistic as to state they wish to abolish the entire notion of confinement across the board while offering no real alternative.
    If someone said “coventry” I would even consider it, just because I have always wanted to be Snake Pliskin in “Escape From New York”.

  • noname

    Mina – So you can’t figure out what they are advocating, either?

  • identity

    I visited their site and am likewise befuddled. Some of the issues have a visceral appeal: decreasing crime through improving the conditions of the poor, decreasing the reliance on a system that both requires society to pay a high financial cost to punish crime and the criminal to be mistreated in ways that aren’t part of their sentence, etc, but they don’t say anything at all about how crime should be addressed. If they think crime can completely eliminated, they’re simply blind to its causes. I emailed them at the listed contact, I’ll pass along any response I get.
    A lot of the information contained in links posted by bearerfriend is just unsettling. No police? Community response? It sounds like anarchy. Fine if you want to resolve a property dispute, but what happens in the event of a violent crime? A meeting? A vigilante mob?
    From the first site:
    The underlying idea is that in many cases, the reconciliation of offender and victim (including monetary compensation to the victim) is a much more progressive vision of justice than the social exile of the offender.
    Yeah, switching to a fine system would be cheaper for the government and might financially benefit the victim more than if the offender was sent to prison, but isn’t that entitling those who have the means to break the law? If the punishment for rape is a steep fine and a person can afford it, hasn’t rape become a purchasable commodity?
    From the second site:
    Some organizations that work closely with survivors of sexual violence have begun to reject intervention by the police while developing their own community-based alternatives for safety and conflict resolution.
    Community-based alternatives? Conflict resolution? For rape? Are you serious? These are either euphemism for a mob justice or it’s seriously decreasing the consequences for sexual violence, either way it’s disturbing.

  • Mina

    “A lot of the information contained in links posted by bearerfriend is just unsettling. No police? Community response? It sounds like anarchy. Fine if you want to resolve a property dispute, but what happens in the event of a violent crime? A meeting? A vigilante mob?”
    For that matter, what happens in the event of a violent crime against someone who’s not the most privileged in the community? Would a neighborhood of people who granted the attacker more privilege (male privilege, straight privilege, whatever) necessarily to do any better than their local police department would?
    “Yeah, switching to a fine system would be cheaper for the government and might financially benefit the victim more than if the offender was sent to prison, but isn’t that entitling those who have the means to break the law? If the punishment for rape is a steep fine and a person can afford it, hasn’t rape become a purchasable commodity?”
    Indeed.
    According to the article “Nokia boss gets record speeding fine,” 14 January, 2002, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/1759791.stm :
    “…In Finland, traffic fines are proportionate to the latest available data on an offender’s income…
    “…Mr Vanjoki had to pay a fine equal to 14 days of his income in 1999, which was about 14 million euros ($12.5 million)…”
    Meanwhile, even if the fine for rape is set to n% of the rapist’s income, a higher-income rapist (or one with rich friends and relatives) may still be better able to afford than than a lower-income rapist would (a la the difference between not buying one’s 5th car and not paying one’s rent that month)…

  • identity

    Meanwhile, even if the fine for rape is set to n% of the rapist’s income, a higher-income rapist (or one with rich friends and relatives) may still be better able to afford than than a lower-income rapist would (a la the difference between not buying one’s 5th car and not paying one’s rent that month)…
    That’s even under the progressive notion that the fines would be applied at a level proportionate to your income, no guarantee. What about the opposite of your example – someone who has nothing to take away commits the rape, what is the punishment? A fine system certainly wouldn’t work for the extremely poor either, a % base makes the “cost” of the crime as low as $0, a fixed amount they would simply be unable to pay – what then? Again, we lack an idea of what the other alternatives could be.

  • Dykonoclast

    As a prison abolitionist, I would like to apologize to Justice Now for the ignorance of my fellow commenters.
    For a world without prisons or the social conditions that created them.

  • identity

    I think we’ve been quite clear that we’re just muddling around in ignorance on the subject. Justice Now still hasn’t responded to my inquiry, and their website doesn’t address alternative policy. My response was to the two links on the subject posted above, not to Justice Now. If you can tell me where I’m wrong in the quotes I pulled, please do. I don’t think anyone posting here is closed to the idea of prison abolition, there’s just an absence of information here. Would you mind pointing us in the right direction? Seems kind of rude to swoop in and say we’re all idiots without a why attached.

  • Mina

    “Call me jaded, but I don’t think that merely providing ‘food, housing, and freedom’ for all will 100% eliminate violent crime.”
    Especially since some violent crime is committed by wealthy people. For example, when domestic violence happens in some wealthy households too (husband against wife, employer against live-in servant, etc.) I doubt it’s because the attacker was supposedly too oppressed to know better.

  • Mina

    BTW, I know that the current system tends to give more-privileged convicts less jail time than less-privileged people convicted of the same offenses. Even if they’re violent offenses instead of stuff like marijuana possession. Now, part of the issue seems to be the disagreement between “reduce racism by locking up rich white rapists too” and “reduce racism by giving lower-income black racists slaps on the wrist too”…

  • LogrusZed

    Dykonoclast: Don’t ever apologize for me, it’s sanctimonious presumption like that that makes some people not even want to know where you’re coming from.
    As to our ignorance: If you read the thread you’ll see where some of us have tried to get more information, at least one of us going so far as to write the org and get a null response.

  • Alice

    What about corporal punishment? Surely that would be an equal-opportunity penalty, and only the most incredibly cruel punishments, which would presumably not be used, could be worse than being locked up for a year or more.