~ ~ ~ M E M B E R O P I N I O N ~ ~ ~
The views & opinions expressed here are those of the author & do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of JUUstice Washington.
Looking for a meaningful topic to study with a small group? Please learn more about prison abolition by visiting the resource page at www.nonewwashingtonprisons.com Getting involved is a proactive way to tell elected officials to stop funding expansion of prison infrastructure. Funding is needed for basic needs like housing, food, education, child care, transportation.
Perhaps you have been working diligently through the years on reforming the criminal justice system, learning from knowledgeable, dedicated professionals who are motivated to be public servants, working for offices like city police, the county courthouse, or the state Department of Correction. Thank you for your dedication! Your commitment and work is appreciated! Your insights and wisdom are needed. When you share how this work shaped your learning and work for justice, you encourage others. You may be helpfully offering practical, generation-connecting questions like, “So what step needs to happen next?” or “How does this keep people safe?”
For the first question: a practical step is to be sure to address racial justice in any community justice work. If your community seems predominantly white, all the more reason to increase racial justice skills. Besides recommendations from your Minister and Religious Education Director, there is https://www.uuare.org/
addtional-resources Consider subscribing to a BLUU box! https://www.blacklivesuu.com/ If you read Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow” years ago, talk with others following her current work for Black Lives. Share what you learned from it, and what steps you’re taking to honor that.
Encouraged by my congregation’s value of racial justice, I have learned about stopping expansion of prison infrastructure, from my local chapter of SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice). Attending public city and county meetings, I have seen that while our elected officials make many budget decisions, it is citizens’ role to speak up for our values. Like us, elected officials are people doing their best, with varying amounts of institutional power. At meetings, where government leaders and community members were planning new jail beds for projected increased future need, I’m grateful to have been able to speak up, about struggling hungry families that need that tax -payer money now. And how, if our system requires people to get arrested before getting help, how can we fund basic needs for our neighbors before they get handcuffed? While these aren’t a template for action, they are still worth raising. Elected officials are often very creative people! It can seem like they’re most accountable to those who’ve traditionally been represented in positions of power. Michelle Alexander illustrated how the current system is racist and unjust. Our system of mass incarceration, the largest in the world, is completely unsustainable, and is fairly recent. Human history is full of creative solutions.
For the second question: here’s what I’ve learned from reading. While most rapists aren’t in jail anyway, most incarcerated people haven’t committed violent crimes. Most people who do commit violent crimes were victims of crimes. The next step I encourage is to learn: check out the resource page and FAQ of www.nonewwashingtonprisons.com
. Identifying and unlearning internalized biases frees my attention up to recognize important nuances, to have my actions and words be experienced as safe and welcoming, by more people. To make our culture more safe for everyone, we can advocate for allocating tax payer dollars to funding basic needs. Jail time does not help a victim or perpetrator heal. The idea of ‘putting people away’ to make society safer makes people disposable. It’s related to our nation’s history of eugenics. We can do better.
You are welcome to join people advocating for transforming the systems which criminalize people with Brown skin and other marginalized identities, like being poor, disabled, non-binary/ transgender. Our national association recommended we learn about prison abolition in 2015. On a recent panel, Andrea Ritchie promoted prison abolition. The founder of Black and Pink is a Unitarian Universalist minister. Please check out www.nonewwashingtonprisons.com or “No New Washington Prisons” on facebook to learn more. If you have UU grandkids, they may join you!
By: Anne Hundley, member of Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation, firstname.lastname@example.org