1. What is Prisoner Justice:
Prisoner justice is a movement to create a loving, safe and equitable society working to prevent mass incarceration. Simultaneously, JBP Prisoner Justice seeks to improve the quality of life for currently incarcerated individuals, and those re-entering after serving prison time. Prisoner justice requires us to think innovatively about alternative ways to deal with crime and punishment. Nurturing communities need to be built so its members do not choose incriminating avenues for economic stability.
2. The Issues
Issues in any particular community will vary. Therefore, local JBP groups will spend time pinpointing the issues they feel are most pertinent to address. Below are potential problems local communities may consider:
- Broken communities: There are several societal factors that lead people into situations that would cause him/her to be incarcerated. Unemployment, break down of the family structure, lack of access to quality schools, lack of humane housing conditions, violence, lack of access to good healthcare, and lack of youth activities/community centers all foster an environment that increase illegal activities leading to incarceration.
- Unjust application of the law: The government and police target communities of color and poor communities by having more of a presence in particular neighborhoods. Activists call this the New Jim Crow, because police target people of color more than white people with tactics such as Stop and Frisk, harassment, and arrests for smaller crimes such as public urination or gambling on one’s stoop.
- Prison conditions: Prison is supposed to be a place for rehabilitation that prepares inmates to reintegrate into society when released. This is far from reality. Many prisons are lacking programs that provide accredited education that can be utilized outside of prison walls. They are lacking work readiness programs that equip people with skills for a competitive economy.
- Alternatives to incarceration: Locking people up does not rehabilitate; it puts people in a less humane situation, strips them from community and family, and puts them around other people who are struggling with similar issues. There are not enough opportunities for offenders to enroll in alternatives to incarceration, where drug addiction is seen as a medical issue rather than a crime and therefore dealt with in a way to fix the problem rather than punish.
- Reentry: There is lack of support for people coming home from prisons. Individuals are excited about their new freedom, yet when they return to society they are faced with similar roadblocks that led them to prison in the first place: lack of self-sustaining jobs, lack of good-educational opportunities, and lack of support from the community.
3. Direct Actions
Below are a few suggested starting points and direct actions. Each local youth group will identify their community’s needs and solutions. There are three levels of suggested activism; choose your ways and get involved: Learn – Advocate – Engage
Learn: Read The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander , Against All Odds: Prison Conditions for Youth Offenders Serving Life without Parole Sentences in the US, Human Rights Watch January 2012 (Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth).
Visit the following sites:
Prison-industrial complex- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prison%E2%80%93industrial_complex
The Abolition Movement- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prison_abolition_movement
History of prisons in the United States- http://www.newjimcrow.com
Advocate: Volunteer with Juvenile Justice at the Correctional Association to reduce youth incarceration, volunteer with Drop the Rock Coalition to downsize the NY state prison population, lobby by meeting with representatives (in Albany), write letters, conduct interviews, do call-ins, write to the media to:
- 1. advocate for better educational and job opportunities in the community so legal means of making a living seem more desirable than illegal fast money
- 2. advocate for people presently incarcerated by demanding a truly rehabilitative experience in prison through pushing for educational programs and worker readiness programs
- 3. speak out against laws that target people of color more that white people such as Stop and Frisk, police brutality, and disproportionate presence of police in communities of color.
Engage: Protest Stop-and-Frisk with Campaign to End the New Jim Crow; support/assist organizations that are attempting to expand drug rehabilitation or alternatives to incarceration such as the VERA institute; create productive community activities for the youth after school; create a support system once people leave prison so individuals are not met with constant barriers finding a job, getting into school, reintegrating into their communities, finding housing, etc.; create job training classes; resume assistance classes, school/college advising classes, and housing resources support.