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Message from Jason (November 2014)

Dear friends,

I hope this note finds you as well as possible. It’s hard to believe it’s already November. Also, here is another apology for our slow moving on newspaper things. We are always trying to figure out how to be most effectively on top of that. I appreciate that folks constantly hold us accountable and remind us that you depend on our newspaper for connection. It is our responsibility to get it out to you, thank you for bearing with us as we do our best.

I want to thank everyone who has sent in their survey thus far. We have already received nearly 900 surveys! It is pretty incredible. You will notice that it is printed again this month. Please do not fill out the survey more than once. We are tracking the surveys coming in, so we won’t add your name into the raffle or data again, so remember to only send in one survey. Thank you for being so generous with your responses. We are very slowly going through the surveys and look forward to having some kind of real assessment of the information we are getting from you.

I have been looking at some of the responses, just getting a brief look at some of what you have to say. One of the questions asks, “What is your vision of a world without prisons?” I have noticed that many of the responses include something that suggests we must have prisons. Some responses say that there are some terrible people you have met in prison that must be locked up. Others say that we need some way of punishing people. I have also read some that say if we do not lock people up then there will be chaos and people will just kill each other in the street. Reading these responses makes me think we need to print some more things in the paper about what abolition is and why we believe in transformative justice.

Not all of the responses have suggested we need prisons. One of the responses said it would be like a world full of rainbows and unicorns. Others have suggested that it would mean we are actually offering real rehabilitation. Some have suggested that it would mean freedom not only for themselves but for their family and friends. A few have written about the need to create real justice system that looks at healing both for those who have caused harm and those who have been harmed.

One of the long term goals of Black and Pink is to create a world free from prisons. We do not imagine that this is going to happen over night. It will be a process that involves all people. It will be a process that follows the lead of people of color, LGBTQ people, sex workers, prisoners, ex-prisoners, as well as survivors of harm. Traditionally the goals of abolition are broken up into steps. This is called the “attrition model.” In this model the work towards abolition includes a moratorium on all prison and jail construction, meaning no more building additional cells on an existing prison/jail and no building new prisons/jails. Another part of the model is “decarceration.” Decarceration is the process of getting people out of prison. When we say we want to repeal mandatory minimum sentences and let people out of prison, that is a decarceration effort. When we say we want to end Life Without Parole sentences and let people out, that is a decarceration effort. When we fight to stop life long civil commitments, that is a decarceration effort. The third part of the attrition model is “excarceration.” Excarceration is the practice of NOT putting people in prison. Excarceration is similar to decriminalization, making things no longer illegal (like sex work or drugs). Excarceration, however, also includes creating new practices for dealing with harm in truly justice centered ways. When someone does commit violence, when someone does sexually assault or murder someone, what are we going to do? This is when we turn to the ideas of transformative justice and restorative justice that we have printed in previous issues of the paper. This is when we create new and creative ways of getting people to take responsibility for the harm they have caused and also begin creating practices that allow those who have been harmed to be cared for. This is a big cultural change we are fighting for. We are trying to get away from punishment and simply throwing people away. We want to transform our culture into one that values all lives and sees no one as disposable. The belief that we can create a liberated world without prisons is why I end my note the same way each month because once there were no prisons, that day will come again.

In loving solidarity,

Jason

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