2016 Program: Criminal Justice
This session asks participants to go into the intersection of race, geography, gender, and incarceration to explore the unique ways it impacts our communities. This interactive session will allow attendees to reflect upon the centrality of the penal state in producing/enforcing structures of gender, reproductive, and sexual injustice, as well as explore and build upon the strategies that formerly-incarcerated cis and trans* women are using to change policy, decarcerate their communities, and pave the way for others coming home. Session is hosted by the staff and volunteers of Women With A Vision, Inc. (WWAV), New Orleans’ only Queer, Black-women-led organization doing grassroots and policy level work at this intersection. Through our work, WWAV argues that “my existence is political,” using public health, human rights, and Black feminist frameworks, alongside the liberation histories of the Deep South, to craft new visions for change.
In the 19th century, Jim Crow laws enforced racial segregation at the state and local level. By the 20th century these laws were replaced with discriminatory drug and crime policies that created a new, racially biased system of mass incarceration. From the increasing use of fusion centers to police technologies and predictive policing practices, the Internet and related digital technologies facilitate the speed, scale, and secrecy of policing -- and exacerbate racial bias. Across the country, communities of color are fighting back. Learn about the ways high-tech policing threatens racial justice, hear stories of resistance, and learn how you can protect your city from racial bias in high-tech policing.
Reproductive Justice uses a human rights framework to radically re-envision reproductive politics. Coined in 1994 by a group of African American women, the term Reproductive Justice describes an intersectional framework that examines the social and structural conditions that impact our ability to form the families we choose. The Reproductive Justice movement has since transformed and challenged the pro-choice movement singularly focused on abortion, which has been reluctant to incorporate analyses of imperialism, white supremacy, and population control into its narrow “choice” focused framework. How can a reproductive justice framework deepen our understanding of racism and racial justice? Why is challenging white supremacy, population control, and mass incarceration central to both racial justice and Reproductive Justice work? And what is at stake for our racial justice work when it is not rooted in dismantling gender oppression? This session will introduce participants to the Reproductive Justice framework and its three core tenets. Through the creation of an interactive timeline, participants will be invited to explore concrete connections between racism and reproductive oppression in the past and present, and identify avenues for incorporating Reproductive Justice into our racial justice work.
Black Trans people have been the targets of intimate partner, stranger-based, and state violence for a long time. There has been recent heightened exposure of this violence, as highlighted through the expansiveness of Black Lives Matter! Movements, through national trans liberation days, and even through mainstream media. The conversation however, rarely includes the resiliency of Black Trans people. The wealth of resilience strategies and healing tools of Black Trans people will be the focus of this session. Participants will leave with a "medicine bag" of tools. The workshop will include making a collective altar and tribute to our trancestors, a self-love selfies photo booth where people can post their pics on an Instagram account that we create, a short presentation about Atlanta's Pre-Arrest Diversion program, and creating a "medicine bag" of healing tools and resilience strategies that will be collected and emailed out later.
Public discussion is growing around the implementation of restorative justice. NYC Council allocated $2.5 million dollars to RJ work in public schools. LA created an initiative for RJ programming in many of its schools. Restorative justice in its modern iteration in educational settings was originally pushed by community organizations as a way to challenge racial inequity in “discipline” practices. However, many of these publically-backed “interventions” have no components of racial justice, no contexts of mass incarceration, and no connection to RJ’s roots in indigenous communities. In this session we’ll critically examine this context and explore a more grounded, racially just, and radical form of restorative and transformative justice. We see RJ/TJ as a philosophy and practice that works to divest from traditional models of punishment, a method to work towards racial justice, and an avenue to create structures of shared power and accountability. Together, we will share tools and restorative practices that are easily transferable into community and school spaces. By modeling practical applications of restorative and transformative practices such as community building circles, examples of harm and conflict circles, affective statements and more, we will provide participants with activities that can be easily transferred and adapted to schools and community spaces. In addition, all participants will be provided with a resource packet with sample activities to take back to their respective communities.
The exchange of stories can have tremendous implications for movement building – developing new coalitions, insights and questions that provoke new and vital bodies of research, inspire the creation of artistic works, and build community - catalyzing the kind of cultural change needed to end mass incarceration. So how do we use public storytelling as an instrument of radical cultural change? We need a public reckoning through mass storytelling that will challenge the American public to ask: what responsibility does the US have to repair the harm done to families and communities targeted by the “war on drugs” and draconian criminal justice policies? In this participatory workshop, we will use a creative visioning process to crowdsource the ideas, dreams, visions, and critical questions vital to building a world beyond prisons. Participants will get to contribute their stories and bear witness to the experiences of those impacted by incarceration. Finally, together we will envision strategies and practices for healing and restorative justice participants can take back into their work within communities directly impacted by mass incarceration.
VOTE has been a leader on criminal justice policy issues, particularly as the core of their membership comes from a jailhouse lawyer approach to identifying problems, openly challenging injustices, and crafting alternatives. Along with sister organizations also fighting to Ban the Box, we successfully broke new ground with a petition that forced President Obama to issue an executive order in 2015. VOTE has been a national leader in challenging the same rationale for exclusion from public housing, and in 2016 won a new policy in New Orleans that is a starting point for others. Our 2016 legislation and litigation voting rights campaign is being fought in Louisiana: the most incarcerated state in the world, and home to the most violent and storied forms of race-based voter disenfranchisement.
In the 21st century, oppressors need not talk about race because they have convictions to label who is in the "Us" or "Them." Yet these convictions are created through race-based policing in schools and communities, and structural racism throughout the decision-making process of the system. This session is not to tell us what we already know. It is for activists and strategists who want to integrate race and convictions in a way that works- and in a way that does not exclude roughly 50 million white Americans (and their families) who also suffer the impacts of a conviction.