When white people learn about the horrors of slavery, we may think, “If I had been alive during that time, I would have been an abolitionist!” Well, friends, we ARE living during that time. We can be abolitionists. We can call for an end to the horrors of mass incarceration, detention centers, police brutality, etc.
Today I’ll highlight two campaigns led by righteous organizations that are working to dismantle these oppressive systems.
For a second year, members and supporters of Southerners On New Ground (SONG) are taking action to bail out Black women who are entangled in the criminal legal system to get them home to their families for Mother’s Day. This is part of a campaign to end money bail completely. Money bail fuels mass incarceration and disproportionately impacts Black and low income communities. In Asheville, the Black Mama’s Bail Out Action will take place on Friday, May 11.
Click here to donate to the AVL Bail Out fund (please share that link with others)
SONG reminds us:
- Bail is another tool to capitalize on the pain of Black communities. Black people are often accused and put in cells based on discriminatory and racially biased policies and monitoring. Cash bail often keeps Black people in cells because of their inability to pay.
- When mothers languish in jail because of money bail our families and communities suffer. The costs are devastating. Women often lose their jobs, housing or even children only to be found innocent. Some women, like Sandra Bland, have lost their lives.
- As mass incarceration has taken root and the bail industry’s influence has grown, more and more people are being held before trial because they can’t pay bail.
“This is a vision is rooted in the history of Black Liberation, where enslaved Black ancestors used their collective resources and purchased each other’s freedom before slavery was abolished. Until we abolish money bail and mass incarceration, we’ll have to free ourselves.”
SisterSong recently held a presentation in Asheville about a statewide campaign to fight the practice of shackling incarcerated women while they are in the hospital to give birth. Days after I attended that presentation, I learned that the campaign was successful, and that NC Department of Public Safety has updated its policies.
After that win, SisterSong posted: Shackling people during and after childbirth is both cruel and unsafe. There is still much work to be done to ensure the strongest version of the policy moves forward and to push for consistent enforcement, but we are pleased that NC prison officials are making changes. This is a huge testament to the power of grassroots organizing. READ our official statement on the victory in North Carolina: https://conta.cc/2Gfqg3v
“Prisons are places that cause real harm to individuals and communities. We need to reform the entire system and work to provide alternatives to incarceration; but, in the meantime, we can try to mitigate pain and suffering by pushing for changes that can help to provide more dignity and care to people who are incarcerated.
People’s human rights do not end when they enter the walls of a prison. We will continue to work to ensure the humanity of every individual. Putting the end to the shackling of pregnant and laboring people is an important first step.” – SisterSong
My understanding is that these new policies only apply to our state-run prisons, and so it is possible that shackling is still occurring in county jails, (as well as in other states without policies preventing it).
We must ask, if the inhumane practice of shackling has been going on for years, what other atrocities are still happening in our prisons, jails, and detention centers?
“Ash Williams, North Carolina organizer for SisterSong, said the practice of shackling can’t be disentangled from larger systems of white supremacy, reproductive oppression and mass incarceration. ‘We don’t want an alternative to shackling. We want an alternative to prison, which makes the shackling possible,’ they said.” (Indy Week)
As abolitionists, we can advocate for alternatives to the current system such as diversion programs and restorative justice.
Here is a video explaining restorative justice:
While I do not have any experience with the practice of restorative justice, I understand it is a model that it is grounded in community involvement and mutual support. I introduce it here to spark our imaginations as we visualize new paradigms.
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