ABOLITION & REIMAGINATION
ABOLITION & REIMAGINATION
Liberation has proved unattainable for too many under current social and political systems. Abolition and re-imagination of these systems is thus integral to our efforts to liberate. SISTAH zine explores these ideas below.
Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan (@thebrownhijabi) is an educator, writer and poet. Her work aims to disrupt, interrogating ideas that arise from discussions of history, race, knowledge and power. Her absolute rejection of the global systems of white supremacy, imperialism & capitalism and her radical politics of hope speaks wholly to liberation. SISTAH zine was humbled to be able to have the below conversation with Suhaiymah.
SISTAH: How and why did you, and why should we, shift from promoting diversity & inclusion to dismantling systems and building them anew? What would those new systems look like?
SUHAIYMAH: There are really two ways to understand things. One is that the fault is not the system itself, but it's just who wields power within the system. That position leads us to feel if we have more black judges or we have more women in the Home Office, then the structures will become inherently less violent.
However, the other option is that the systems themselves were founded to uphold structures of violence. So, no matter who is at the steering wheel or within those structures, no matter how good their intentions, violence persists. You can only seek reform. That's good to a certain point, but it's not going to create fundamental change. We have a woman of colour as the Home Secretary right now. How much is that helping the lives of women or people of colour in this country? Of migrants and refugees?
When it comes to reimagining our systems, I think history is really important because it allows us to see that things are constructed. For example, prisons, the police force, and the concept of the nation state are all constructions from recent history. Importantly, they are ideas that sought to and seek to benefit the beneficiaries of capitalism and colonialism.
That being the case, the question “what's your alternative?” becomes very easy to answer, because by stating that these ideas are constructions, that they have a beginning and can therefore have an end, we can bring them to an end by simply having alternative ideas, building alternative constructions
This has to be a collaborative process. It should look many different ways for many different people. We're not looking to kind of refine and reproduce this notion of ‘one size fits all’ solution and, in fact, it would be very imperious to do so.
If we think about bell hooks’ idea of kind of centring the margins, meeting the safety of those who experience the extremities of violence right now would be a really good way to begin structuring things because you will, by default, benefit everybody. An example could be taken from the current system. If you're an asylum seeker blocked from free and safe routes to accessing safety and resources, could we not create a system where you can safely and legally access those resources? And if we do that, I think we’d start asking questions about housing and homelessness in general. When it is a possibility that you come to another place and you become homeless, how do we mitigate that risk? This leads us to questions about some sort of universal wealth redistribution or some basic income. So, I think as soon as we start imagining a future where everybody is safe, it becomes incumbent upon us to ask questions about everything within that world.
I think safety and liberation are bound together. I don't think you can be free until you're safe and then how can you even know what your freedom might look like until you're safe? Liberal ideas of freedom are always to do with free speech, you know, freedom of expression, freedom to whatever. But how can you even access those freedoms, when you don't have the freedom to eat, to live, to survive, to have housing, to have health care. I think it's very convenient that those kinds of liberal ideas never include a redistribution of wealth.
SZ: To young activists pushing for abolition, what would you say? How do we create change in these directions?
S: I think firstly, it is always useful to have demands that come out of lived experience. That's why it is useful to start with the spaces you're in. Although, I think what often happens is the demands that we make manage to be regurgitated into the system that we want to abolish and produce some sort of limited version of that demand. So, it becomes reformist. Refusing the co-option of our demands is thus essential.
When we talk about transformative justice, we already have lived examples of where this works. Abolition isn't a story about imagining something completely out of the ordinary. I think it's actually rooted in everyday interpersonal interactions where we redistribute wealth & resources. But these practices are completely undermined, often very gendered and not deemed legitimate or good sources of knowledge or empirically based evidence of alternative ways of living. We can use those.
First we demonstrate that, even on their own terms, these systems don't work. Prisons do not even prevent crime. The border doesn't even stop migration flows.
Then, we show that on our terms, these systems don't work. They are leading to death and leading to conditions of genocide. Then, thirdly, we demonstrate that we have knowledge as communities. We have the knowledge to provide alternatives that already essentially exist. I think the more demands are made and the more we connect these different kinds of spaces, it will be very clear that there is a bigger vision of something that we could all contribute to. I think that we are building this in quieter pockets that aren't typically seen to be hubs of political life.
SZ: There have been safe spaces for healing and organising created by Muslim women for centuries. These radical actions are often erased by a colonial gaze. Can you reflect on this?
S: The label of organizer or activist has become much more prevalent over the last five or six years and it's interesting to see who gets labelled as such. When I think about my own life, and also historically, who the organizers of communities are, it's often women, specifically women of colour. But we don't talk about this as organizing because we just see it as gendered labour. I think this speaks to the fact that we don't really see care as something political. We don’t recognise that care is really the basis of all of this.
Something I would say has been really troubling has been the lack of centring care in these activist or decolonial spaces. I think we have a very short-term vision of ‘people are useful for so long as their ideas are kind of radical, so long as they are providing us labour.’ I think in those ways we replicate a lot of extractive capitalist logics onto one another. And we only want to come together when it's going to have a clear productive outcome. So, I think that there is something to consider about the place of care in our politics because how can we talk about abolishing criminal justice systems or borders or surveillance structures when, within our interpersonal relationships, we're not willing to abolish what I call ‘intimate tyrannies’. We're not willing to think about the interpersonal ways in which we're upholding dominance ourselves or belittling different types of deprivation.
For me, I really think of spirituality as well because something that I take from Islam and from my own faith is that you do have to start with your own heart. It's by a constant process of reflection that the interior and the exterior holistically join.You can't talk about changing the world without also trying to change your inner world. I do think that’s often deemed a very gendered agenda; women primarily think about self-care and the internal world. bell hooks speaks about domination in our relationships.What this idea also speaks to is the fact that our demands get co-opted by current systems. We're not really thinking outside of the operative logic of the system. Dominance, tyranny, conceited arrogance, persist in our interpersonal relationships. We must address that interior aspect alongside the exterior.
SZ: You often evoke Islam as a spiritual grounding for your work; how do we welcome Islam’s spirituality to activist and decolonial spaces?
S: I think one thing that I would reflect on is the fact that a lot of colonial spaces or places or spaces that purport to be invested in decoloniality are bound up with secularism. So, the secular is not a neutral category. If we really want to disrupt knowledge production, if we're really wanting to ask questions about what constitutes legitimate sites of knowledge production, I think it really does demand us to rethink that hierarchy. I don't feel that's being done. I think instead we're taking that reformist rather than abolitionist stance, and thinking that it's important to include Muslims in these conversations because this is a racialized subject. In fact, more than that, Islam itself demands decolonial thinking because it is an epistemology that is pre-colonial, but also because it's an epistemology that roots itself in divinity by believing that there's a script that comes from divine knowledge. So, I do think there's something to be said about the place of Muslims in a lot of these spaces and how I think often there is a fetishization increasingly of Muslim as identity, but without allowing people to be necessarily Muslim as Muslim.
That's insidious because it really replicates what we see from the state, which is an investment in social engineering a subject that is Muslim in everything but belief.
SZ: Your poetry is such a powerful form of activism. How do you view the role of art in activist spaces?
S: When we look to art, we see the history of the resistance to the system and we hear the voices of dissent. It makes sure there's always a record of “we didn't acquiesce to this” in the way that top-down history would like it to be integrated with the history of the powerful.
Art is maybe one of the only sites in which imagination and feeling are legitimate forms of knowledge and so I sometimes feel like, with poetry, that there is something about emotion and evoking emotion, that surpasses those forms of empirical-based debate in academia. If I experienced a certain thing and I tell you, this is how I feel, I'm actually giving you the best insight into racism, Islamophobia, and so on, because you're seeing the embodied experience of somebody who lives these realities. I think there's something about that that is inarguable in a way that presenting some sort of academic argument is not
It often puts up a mirror to those parts of society that we're not really allowed to question otherwise.
I think maybe the final thing is just that art kind of evades the forms of surveillance and policing that maybe make it more difficult to say these things in other spaces. So sometimes I think that being approached as a poet or being asked to speak somewhere as a poet, that it comes with an ability to speak quite freely. I think that it allows you to disrupt spaces in a different way because you appear somewhere as a poet and you say something very revealing about the nature of society or about your lived experience and people are presented with a reality they have to face. They have to think about it and ask questions about it.
One thing we have is deprivation of imagination. Art then becomes a site of imagining and of being able to write our utopias into existence. We can paint a utopia. We can envision different types of living, existing and relationships and whatever else.
SZ: Your recent talk on a feminist vision of peace for LSE explored the idea of feminism’s collusion (throughout history & ongoing) with structures of colonialism/white supremacy. Could you speak a little about how that manifests itself today & particularly how Muslim women experience this?
S: The notion of women's empowerment, or gender equality has always been hand in hand with colonialism. Lord Cromer, a classic colonialist, said in the late 1800s, that one of the reasons that we need to demolish the Egyptian economy is that what holds Egyptian society back is the way they treat their women. So, there's always been this association between misogyny, Western white supremacy and empowerment. Of course, that notion of empowerment was really a justification of what he was doing to decimate the Egyptian economy and really what he was doing to prevent Egyptian women from being educated. You have to remember that at home as well. Lord Cromer was completely against women voting, being co-founder of the Anti-Suffrage League.
We see this today. It is particularly aligned with Muslim countries where there is a narrative imposed of an inherent misogyny that can only be eradicated through Western intervention. The invasion of Iraq, the invasion of Afghanistan, was accompanied by images of Muslim women and the clothes that they were wearing. There’s this invocation of liberation, as if we will be liberating these people by invading and demolishing their civil & social infrastructures and the economy.
I think it's also seen today in the imagery around refugees and asylum-seeking people. The politics of why these things are occurring is twisted. So rather than saying Western intervention has caused economic and environmental catastrophe that leads people to seek safety in other places, we invoke an idea that these are patriarchal, backwards, barbaric cultures that people come from and they're coming to the West to seek safety.. So that is why, in the discussions around Nationality, British values, migration & refugees, you also always have these invocations towards female genital mutilation, forced marriage and women wearing hijab. British policy becomes framed as some feminist saviour intervention, like we're going to save these Muslim girls from their patriarchal, dominant culture. I think we still see modern forms of racism and Islamophobia being justified by invoking feminism.
We have a limited notion of feminism in the idea that liberation lies with police or authorities or the state in any way. This is an idea favourable for white feminism as the state will be an officer of a kind of safety for white middle class women. When we consider that, it becomes really clear that this is a really limited notion that not only works hand in hand with racism and imperialism, but also kind of entrenches it further, because you have women relying on systems of violence in the name of empowerment.
SZ: You also spoke of the language of “peace” being weaponised against those fighting oppression. Could we discuss that idea a little more? How does this language get weaponised & how can it be reappropriated for the good of the oppressed?
S: I think first consider what is presented to us. Peace is always an inherent good. Violence is then marked as inherently bad, inherently destructive, inherently something to be stopped. So, the first question I would raise is “is violence always inherently bad?” The violence of the state is never even marked as violence. We don't talk about imperialism as violence, don't talk about capitalism as violence. What about homelessness as a form of violence, deprivation of communities as a form of violence?
If we wanted to talk about peace in the context of the UK internally, the first thing I would say is we need to end socio-economic violence. When we talk about peace, wealth redistribution isn’t spoken about. That is because it would be demanding that states are held accountable for ending socio-economic violence and doing that threatens those who hold the majority of wealth, power and influence in this country.
The second question regarding violence is whether violence is the only language left for people to air grievances. If we think about the ‘debates’ over the summer around riots and uprisings in the US in light of police violence, the mainstream media wasn't highlighting that the violence was a response to structural violence and systemic racism that kills many and psychologically terrorizes communities and has done so for centuries. Instead, the emphasis is on property damage. Violence is used as a word to produce certain narratives against certain communities.
In this situation, peace becomes a silencing mechanism. That's why we have the protest chant “No justice, no peace.” When peace is a silencing mechanism, it means consenting to the conditions that currently exist and prioritising that over the safety and justice that people deserve.
In the US and elsewhere, the only way we can have long-term peace is to secure long-term justice. This would mean making sure that people are not being terrorized. To ensure that, it's the violence of the state that needs to change. I am really of the opinion that any violence perpetrated by individuals is really only a tiny reflection of what the state perpetrates.
On reappropriating that language of peace, we have to remind ourselves that we will need to remain critical about that because the language of security is constantly manipulated, by the state, by corporations, globally. But what it's actually about for them is the security of property, of capital, and the state itself and a few people. So, when I think of safety, when I think of peace, it really speaks to everything we spoke about in this conversation about moving from the margin to the centre the experiences of the poor, the migrants, the people of colour in this country, what it would mean for the state not to terrorize them psychologically and for them not to experience such socio-economic deprivation, and for them to have housing, universal basic income, legal access to services.
We need to reflect on how peace is used to both neutralize and displace harm, but also to distract us. Then, we must focus on places that will actually guarantee safety.
IN CONVERSATION WITH SUHAIYMAH MANZOOR
IN CONVERSATION WITH SUHAIYMAH MANZOOR
IN CONVERSATION WITH SUHAIYMAH MANZOOR
Images courtesy of Eliott de Smedt Day
Images courtesy of Eliott de Smedt Day
Women & The Carceral State:
We Survive Together
Noella Kalasa discusses the reprehensible treatment of women by the US justice system and the specificities of their experience of a carceral state, topics previously subject to erasure in carceral justice discourse.
Women make up the fastest growing segment of the US prison population, and the United States holds ⅓ of the world’s incarcerated women. While carceral justice discourse has tended to focus on men, the number of women in prison and immigration detention has quietly risen in recent years, where they are faced with medical neglect, sexual assault, and family separation. Criminal justice has especially failed Black women, who persistently fall through the cracks in Civil Rights and Feminist advocacy. To be women, and to be Black, has led them to suffer multi-layered consequences from the crises of mass incarceration and housing, which have been driving their rates of incarceration and which stem from the United States’ legacy of racial discrimination. In “The New Jane Crow: Women’s Mass Incarceration,” Michelle Goodwin writes, “the theater of Black men’s pain obscures other horrific realities in policing and the criminal justice system’s violence against women. Namely, institutional and infrastructural violence against women, particularly women of color in and by the criminal justice system.” For the women impacted by mass incarceration, the loss of men in their communities has put many of them in precarity- forced to earn enough for their families while also bearing caring responsibilities alone. This means sometimes resorting to prostitution, drug trafficking, and fraud. Only 36% of the arrested women in the US are arrested for violent offenses . Rather, women are targeted by police for drug offenses, often related to their partners—think of Breonna Taylor’s horrifying case.
WOMEN & THE CARCERAL STATE: WE SURVIVE
Image courtesy of Clara Vannucci
Excerpts from conversation with a former inmate highlight how the paradoxical system of “criminal justice” has become an instrument of racist and patriarchal structures which impoverish, traumatise and kill.
I will never be the same as I was before prison
The story of Evie Litwok, who was incarcerated while in her 60s, epitomizes how women are silent sufferers of distinct injustices linked to mass incarceration in the United States.
“My name is Evie Litwok and I am a formerly incarcerated, aging, New York, Jewish, lesbian, feminist. I have been in prison twice … when I saw a police woman in my building a few weeks ago when I got off the elevator, I thought “she’s there for me.” You can’t get over this fear that they’re gonna come get you, out of your system. Prisons create a medical health situation which is unhealthy and it’s a disaster. I will never be the same as I was before prison.”
Image courtesy of Broken Project
Violence, untreated illness, unsanitary conditions, addiction, and mental health crises are rife in women’s prisons, with around 30% of women in New York State prison having been identified as currently or potentially in need of psychiatric treatment, while the figure for men is much lower at 11%. In Are Prisons Obsolete, Angela Davis notes how “[historically] women have been incarcerated in psychiatric institutions in greater proportions than in prisons … Deviant men have been constructed as criminal, while deviant women have been constructed as insane.” 70% of guards in US federal women’s correctional facilities are male, and while there is no denying that the difficult conditions in prison fuel mental health difficulties, there is also no denying how misogyny exacerbates the violence of incarceration by increasing the control on women in prison and reinforcing gender norms. This is especially hard on queer, trans and nonbinary people who face added layers of oppression; more likely to be harassed, bullied and targeted by sexual violence. The decredibilization and dismissal of incarcerated women did not end with the disability, women’s and civil rights movements, and Davis mentions how female ‘deviants’ continue to also be sexualized.
Michael Thomas, who worked as a correctional officer at Rikers Island for 26 years, describes to interviewers from the Broken Project how: “The males can have certain things but in the female's house, if they have fruit, bananas, we have to chop it up … the males [could] get it in full but you got to make sure you chop the bananas for females because you don't want them to have no-- toys, later on at night. So that's the thing that- that you know- that goes on… but you have to make it safe, right?” The presumption that inmates’ sexual desires come before their appetites is built into basic ‘safeguarding’ procedure for meals. This is the extent to which misogynistic norms are ingrained in the system.
Welcome to the women’s house
Compared to male inmates, women are three to four times more likely to have been either child or adult victims of abuse, with 54% of girls in juvenile detention in the US reporting having been sexually abused. Once inside prison, the culture of violence and abuse continues, with pervasive and persistent cultures of sexual assault plaguing the institution. Evie tells us: “Sexual violence is so prevalent in prison that it hits every single one of us. The guards walk over to you and they say, “ Do you want to see your kids? I want to see you.” “You want visitation from your mother. I want to see you.” There’s no such thing as consensual sex in prison…. [The prison guards] can limit your phone, email or any privileges. They control your ability to remain in contact with everybody that you know.” When women enter detention, whether guilty or innocent, they are faced with a strip search which involves forced internal examination by correctional officers. Refusing this search can get them placed in solitary confinement (this has been coined State Sexual Assault by Sisters Inside). This is the first of many instances of sexual assault women can expect to encounter throughout their incarceration. Inmates report receiving pelvic exams for common illnesses such as colds, and there is widespread impunity for prison guard inflicted abuse within the system. 1 in 4 females experience sexual assault during their time in US prisons. Beginning with state-imposed strip and body cavity searches, sexual assault percolates through the institution, becoming embedded into women’s experiences.
Thomas describes what inmates typically faced after arriving at Rikers, New York’s most infamous jail (planned for closing after years of protest by prison reform/abolition activists): “The initiation for females, coming into the Women's house, they call a jelly donut. This means that a female inmate will be on her monthly cycle, then you get a beautiful young lady like one of y'all coming in-- you'll see them fighting in the back of the dorm and be like why're they fighting?-- but you are so oblivious, that you don't know. You’re very beautiful, and you[‘re] coming in, and they say, “who’s gonna be my Beyonce tonight?” And it's her, but she doesn't know it. So what they'll do is-- the D*kes will hold you down and you'll get that inmate that's been on her monthly for a week and she'll take that sanitary napkin and hold it all in your face and say “Welcome to the Women's house.””
Can you imagine being handcuffed and shackled to go take a shower?
Units and measures designed to keep inmates safe are among the most damaging to their mental health. In another segment of his interview, Thomas describes monitoring inmates in the solitary confinement unit, known as ‘Protective Custody’: “Can you imagine being handcuffed and shackled to go take a shower? … Now we talkin’ about people that don't even have clothes on so I’m- we struggling with an inmate that’s soaking wet, to just to cuff ‘em, to get them back in the cell so he can go back because that's how bad it is […] Working in that area, closing someone in like that and opening up their cell and feeding them with a tray through a slot and then closing it… I think that just dehumanizes human beings. I mean to the grade of like nothing.”
WOMEN & THE CARCERAL STATE: WE SURVIVE
Image courtesy of Jamel Shabazz
Each day, at least 80,000 US prisoners are held in solitary, where they only have 1-2 hours of human contact per day, and no access to recreation or educational activities. This has been named a form of torture. The pretext of ‘Protetive Custody’ has led to thousands of trans and gender non-conforming people, assigned to prisons according to their biological sex, being placed in solitary confinment. As little as six days in solitary confinement can have permanent psychological effects on individuals, referred to as “social death” by some psychologists.
Evie: “In solitary, you're locked in a cell for 23 hours near 60 other women who are screaming “get me the fuck out of here” at the top of their lungs. You are listening to women lose their minds. And they are in there because they stole an apple because they were hungry or because they had an extra paperclip. They were not in there because they were fighting. They were not in there because they were terrorists. They were in there because they had something extra that they shouldn't have had.”
Documented not to work
For those who are incarcerated, whether in jail, prison, or immigration detention, overpriced commissary and phone call fees make it extremely difficult for low-income detainees to access necessities and contact those outside their facilities. An even greater burden is placed on women, who, in the US, do not have the right to menstrual products, putting them more at risk for humiliation and blackmail by correctional officers when they cannot afford or access sufficient period protection. Over 65% of incarcerated women are mothers of minor children, and between 1997 and 2002, the number of proceedings to terminate the parental rights of incarcerated parents more than doubled across the US. Children who are left to care for themselves or in foster care suffer from precarity and stigma, while having little contact with their parents on the inside.
Image courtesy of Jamel Shabazz
WOMEN & THE CARCERAL STATE: WE SURVIVE
Francis, 23, interviewed for the Broken Project, recounts: “My mother was incarcerated when I was 23. At that time, I also had two siblings who were 4 and 6 years old, very young. My mother was the head of the house. She was the one who took care of the family, paid the bills and all that stuff. I was a college student. The kids were going to school as well and so you can only imagine that when the breadwinner is taken out of the equation, there is no bread. If your mother is in prison, your father is in prison, your cousin, your brother, you feel that guilt. People look at you like you are from the same blood and assume you will end up doing the same things. Kids will make fun of you without knowing what they are laughing at. You are bullied for something that has nothing to do with you as an individual.”
Children are facing the consequences of a system which extorts their parents of the little they have before trapping them in precarity. According to the ACLU, “Poverty is one of the most significant factors in women’s involvement in the criminal justice system,” with a staggering 92% of women in prison reporting incomes under $10K in 1994.
After prison, the cycle continues. Public housing authorities have the right to adopt policies that exclude individuals with criminal records from eligibility from housing, and similar policies apply towards receiving cash assistance and food stamps for those with drug convictions. In the United States, the around 70 million formerly incarcerated, along with the undocumented migrant population in the country, add up to nearly ½ of the workforce in the US. Due to their status they are effectively documented “not to work,” as described by Ruth Wilson Gilmore (RWG) in an interview with Verso. Criminal records making it extremely difficult to find employment, the formerly incarcerated find themselves trapped in a cycle of illicit work to provide for themselves, with the risk of being arrested again.
We survive together
While prisons were conceptualized as an alternative to the death penalty and other forms of retributive justice, it is clear that they are not made to rehabilitate: dehumanization, exclusion and isolation are built into carceral institutions. Women, people of colour, immmigrants and queer people are disproportionately affected by this system because the dominant frameworks in which US, and, by extension, global systems of punishment exist consider these groups to be lesser than the ruling class. This is a theme which Davis discusses this further in the final chapter of Are Prisons Obsolete, as well as in Freedom is A Constant Struggle. Khalil Cumberbatch, interviewed by the Broken Project on criminal justice reform, begins his story with the following:
“I am formerly incarcerated. I survived six and a half years in the prison system and then five and a half months in immigration detention. When I tell my story, I always lead with that. I have lived through two systems that are working intentionally well, as they were designed to work. They are designed to break you. They are designed to tell you that you are less than human. When someone survives that, that makes them an expert.” He goes on: “Why are there neighborhoods like Southside Jamaica, Queens? Why are certain neighborhoods in DC, certain neighborhoods in Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, all the major metropolitan cities across the country, why are those neighborhoods in the condition that they are in? And why are they allowed to be like that, still, to this day? We say things like there's a lack of resources but is there really a lack of resources in this country? Our government spends billions on weapons.”
In the United States, resources have been intentionally removed from marginalized communities while on the flip side being poured into the military and prison industrial complexes. While the communities targeted by policing in the country are framed as ‘violent’ and ‘criminal,’ the same state imposes inordinate amounts of brutality upon them through these institutions, as well as through the housing, education, and healthcare systems.
Despite this, communities have resisted this attack on their humanity- not through violence, but through love, respect, and care. Students working on the Broken Project learned from numerous community organizations, violence intervention projects and legal support systems which have been put in place to counter these injustices. Cure Violence in NYC has helped prevent hundreds of shootings since it began; the Fair Housing Justice Center has supported dozens of families in their fights for their rights to remain in their homes; Grameen VidaSana in Jackson Heights has allowed thousands of women to access healthcare without insurance. Having security, from within one’s block, to one’s house through to one’s own health can drastically reduce one’s chances of coming into contact with law enforcement, and this is where people have come together.
The ‘justice’ system’s reprehensible treatment of those it supervises is indicative of a broken structure put in place by a state which has persistently failed to consider all of those within its borders as equally deserving of life. In recent months, there has been a surge in the call for the end of the prison and policing systems. While participation in this new conversation on abolition is extremely important, equally so is the fact that in the way of reform, the last years have seen noteworthy changes to sentencing practices, access to education within prison, the clearing of decades-old criminal records, and the historic decision to close Rikers Island. We must fight for the survival of all prisoners whilst continuing to work on their liberation. We must remember their stories, and their names, in resistance to the continuous assault on their individuality and humanity, and celebrate those who are able to return home. For Evie, “Just knowing that I was walking out of prison within an hour was so overwhelming that I couldn't stop crying. I could hear voices at the window saying “Evie?” “Why's she crying?” I looked up and gave them a thumbs up. I said "I'm leaving." And they went nuts. 150 women on one side, 150 women on another side are screaming "immediate release.” Because whatever happened to me, impacted them. We survive together.”
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