Why Enhancing Criminalization Won’t Make Us Safe

In a recent interview on the radio program Against the Grain, Dean Spade talks about “five realities about violence and criminal punishment that are helpful for analyzing the limitations of… any enhancement of criminalization that we’re told will make us more safe.”

Here is one that’s particularly relevant to our work:

The third reality is that most violence doesn’t happen on the street between strangers, like it seems to on TV, but between people who know each other, in our homes, schools and in familiar places. Images of out-of-control serial killers and rapists who attack strangers feed the cultural thirst for retribution, and the idea that it’s acceptable to lock people away for life in unimaginably abusive conditions. In reality, the people who hurt us are usually people we know, and usually are also struggling under desperate conditions, and/or are victims of violence. Violence, especially sexual violence, is so common that we couldn’t possibly lock away every person who engages in it. Most violence is never reported to police because people have complex relationships with those who hurt them, and the whole framing of criminalization where bad guys get put away does not work for most survivors of violence. If we deal with the complexity of how common violence is, and let go of a system built on a fantasy of monstrous strangers, we might actually begin to focus on how to prevent violence, and heal from it. Banishment and exile, which are the only tools offered by the criminal punishment system and immigration enforcement system, only make sense when we maintain the fantasy that there are evil perpetrators committing crimes, rather than facing the reality that people we love are harming us, and each other, and that we need to go to fundamental root causes to change that.”

Follow the link to listen to the whole interview.


Check out our new mini-zine, Strategies for Survivors

We’re excited to announce our new one-page zine, Strategies for Survivors. View or download the PDF at: https://phillysurvivorsupportcollective.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/strategiesforsurvivors.pdf

Note: This zine is designed to be printed on legal size paper (8.5×14).

Get in touch if you want paper copies — you can email us at survivorsupport@riseup.net, or call (215) 618-2020.

Please spread the word to anyone you think might find the zine useful!


New policies aimed at preventing prison rape

The U.S. Department of Justice recently released new National Standards to Prevent, Detect and Respond to Prison Rape. These standards include a number of victories for movements to end sexual assault. In a press release, Sylvia Rivera Law Project highlighted victories in the new standards that were the outcome of organizing by incarcerated transgender & gender non-conforming people. Two that will have a strong impact are: case-by-case consideration is required for housing in a male or female facility, not just a blanket decision based on genital status, which means more trans women will be housed in women’s facilities; and there is a ban on physical examination of transgender inmates solely for determining their genital status.

However, as SRLP’s press release points out, this “victory” is complicated for us who know that the only way to end the violence of the prison system is through abolition, not reform.

This step is an important effort in reforming systems of incarceration that target, isolate and expose our communities to violence and death. As we hold this rule as victory, we also recognize the limitations of reform in correctional systems that are in place to maintain systems of hierarchy, capitalism, violence and racism that formed the basis for slavery, convict-leasing, Jim Crow legal frameworks and ultimately provide the backdrop for many of our constitutional frameworks.

Read the full press release from Sylvia Rivera Law Project.