New Justice: A World Beyond Prisons

New Justice: A World Beyond Prisons


PRISONS, POLICE AND PUNISHMENT THROUGH INCARCERATION. ARE THEY WITH US FOREVER IN THE LAND OF THE FREE? SUSTAINED CAMPAIGNS FOR CHANGE ARE BEGINNING TO PAY OFF. AND AT THE COMMUNITY LEVEL, IT TURNS OUT THAT A WHOLE LOT OF PEOPLE AND PLACES ALREADY MAKE PEACE WITHOUT COPS. TODAY, WE IMAGINE A WORLD BEYOND PRISONS. IT MAY BE CLOSER THAN WE THINK. THAT’S COMING UP ON “THE LAURA FLANDERS SHOW.” THE PLACE WHERE THE PEOPLE WHO SAY IT CAN’T BE DONE TAKE A BACK SEAT TO THE PEOPLE WHO ARE DOING IT. WELCOME! ♪ [MUSIC] ♪>>IT IS SOMETIMES SAID THAT WE CAN’T BE WHAT WE CANNOT SEE. SO ARE WE ABLE TO IMAGINE A WORLD WITHOUT JAILS AND PRISONS? WE’VE HEARD THE MIND-BLOWING STATISTICS. THE U.S. IS THE WORLD’S LEADER IN INCARCERATION. WE’VE READ ABOUT THE ATROCITIES THAT CONTINUE TO TAKE PLACE IN PRISONS AND AS A RESULT OF BEING IMPRISONED. THERE HAS BEEN SOME PROGRESS, A GROWING MOVEMENT, TO ABOLISH PRISONS AND JAILS. THEY CALL IT ABOLITION. BUT HOW AND WHERE WOULD WE EVEN BEGIN TO DISMANTLE THIS ENORMOUS SO-CALLED PRISON-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX? AND WHAT ARE THE REAL SOLUTIONS THAT ENCOMPASS THE NEEDS OF THE VAST AND DIVERSE COMMUNITIES THAT HAVE ALREADY BEEN HARMED? THERE IS SO MUCH TO THINK ABOUT AS IT RELATES TO ECONOMIES, HARM, REPAIR, JUSTICE, ACCOUNTABILITY, THAT I’VE ASKED THREE PEOPLE TO COME AND HELP ME THINK IT THROUGH, THREE INDIVIDUALS WHO ARE DOING THIS WORK ON A DAILY BASIS. COMMUNITY ORGANIZER WITH THE AUDRE LORDE PROJECT AND THE ANSWER COALITION, KERBIE JOSEPH. WRITER, ACTIVIST AND STRATEGIST KENYON FARROW, WHO IS SENIOR EDITOR OF THEBODY.COM. AND ESTEBAN KELLY, WHO IS A COFOUNDER OF THE MOVEMENT TRAINING COOPERATIVE, AORTA, BASED IN PHILADELPHIA. AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE U.S. FEDERATION OF WORKER-OWNED COOPERATIVES. WELCOME, ALL! THANKS FOR COMING IN. GREAT PANEL OF FOLKS. ENORMOUS QUESTION. AND THERE MAY BE PEOPLE SAYING, ABOLITION? CAN WE JUST TALK ABOUT REFORM? SO WHY DO WE TALK — WHY DO WE WANT TO THINK ABOUT ABOLITION? WHAT MAKES IT AN IMPORTANT THING TO THINK ABOUT? AND WORK TOWARDS? WHO WANTS TO START, KERBIE?>>I THINK, WELL, ONE, ABOLITION HAS HAPPENED BEFORE. IN 1865 WHEN SLAVERY WAS ENDED. THAT WAS THE ABOLITIONIST ACT. THE PROBLEM IS THAT THEY PUT A REALLY HORRIBLE LOOPHOLE IN THE CONSTITUTION THAT WAS NEVER IN — THAT SAYS THAT IN CASE OF INCARCERATION, SLAVERY STILL EXISTS, RIGHT? AND WHEN YOU LIVE IN A SYSTEM THAT MAKES THAT DECISION, TO PUT IN A LOOPHOLE LIKE THAT, IT’S NOT ONLY REFORM THAT WE HAVE TO LOOK TOWARDS. IT’S BUILDING OUR COMMUNITY BUT ALSO BUILDING IT IN A WAY TO LIBERATE OURSELVES FROM THE SYSTEM IN GENERAL.>>YOU WORK WITH SOME ORGANIZATIONS THAT DO THAT.>>YEAH. SO I AM THE SAFE OUTSIDE THE SYSTEM COORDINATOR AT THE AUDRE LORDE PROJECT.>>SAFE OUTSIDE THE SYSTEM?>>LITERALLY CREATING WAYS THAT WE ARE SAFE OUTSIDE OF THE SYSTEM THAT OPPRESSES US.>>AND WHAT DOES IT INVOLVE ON A DAILY BASIS OF WHAT YOU’RE DOING?>>SO IN THE WORK THAT I DO, I TEACH DE-ESCALATION, COMMUNITY SAFETY. I DO MEDIATION IN HOMES. IN A WAY TO BUFFER POLICE INVOLVEMENT IN A COMMUNITY THAT’S ALREADY OPPRESSED. THE AUDRE LORDE PROJECT IS AN ORGANIZATION THAT FOCUSES ON THE DAILY EXISTENCE OF LGBTQ, GENDER NON-CONFORMING FOLKS OF COLOR, WHICH ALREADY HAS HORRIBLE STATISTICS ABOUT HOMELESSNESS AND MENTAL ILLNESS AND SURVIVAL OF CRIMES AND BEING CAUGHT UP IN THE MASS INCARCERATION SYSTEM IN THE FIRST PLACE.>>AND YOU, ESTEBAN, HOW DO YOU THINK ABOUT THIS QUESTION OF ABOLITION? AND DO YOU SPEND MUCH TIME THINKING ABOUT IT IN THE COURSE OF YOUR ECONOMIC WORK?>>ONE OF MY CO-OPS IS AN ORGANIZATION CALLED AORTA. WE DO POLITICAL EDUCATION. SO PART OF THAT WORK INVOLVES HELPING INSTITUTIONS, INDIVIDUALS, COMMUNITY LEADERS, UNDERSTAND POSSIBILITIES, DO THAT ENVISIONING, EVEN DO SOME OF THE — TAKE SOME OF THE STEPS INSIDE THEIR OWN WORK AND THEIR OWN INSTITUTIONS TO SHIFT TO DIFFERENT AND ALTERNATIVE MODELS OF JUSTICE. AND THEN I’VE ALSO BEEN DOING ORGANIZING FOR OVER 10 YEARS NOW WITH A COLLECTIVE CALLED PHILLY STANDS UP, WHERE WE’RE SIMILARLY TRYING TO EXPAND POLITICAL EDUCATION AND UNDERSTANDING AND PLAY IN THAT ENVISIONING AND IMAGINARY SPACE, ENVISIONING A WORLD WITHOUT PRISONS AND DOING THE MENTAL WORK AND THE HEART WORK OF WHAT IT WOULD TAKE TO GET THERE. AND A LOT OF THAT ACTUALLY STARTS WITH ZOOMING IN ON A SMALLER SCALE, BECAUSE WE CAN’T MAGNIFY AND AMPLIFY ALL THE PROBLEMS. IT’S NOT JUST A STRUCTURAL ISSUE THAT PRISONS ARE AN INSTITUTION. IT ACTUALLY IS A QUESTION OF RELATIONSHIP OF EVEN CONCEPTUALLY, WHAT DO WE SEE AS HARM? AND WHAT DO WE SEE AS OUR RESPONSE TO ADDRESSING HARM? OR TRAUMA. LET ALONE RECOVERING FROM IT. AND WHAT DO WE DO WITH HUMANITY OF THE PEOPLE, WHICH TURNS OUT IS EVERYBODY, WHO HAS CAUSED HARM, NOT THAT IT’S ALL PROPORTIONALLY THE SAME HARM OR AS GRAVE, BUT WE ALL HAVE BEEN PERPETRATORS OF HARM IN ONE WAY OR ANOTHER. SO STARTING TO ACTUALLY SHIFT AND RECENTER IS A POINT OF DEPARTURE FOR LOOKING AT THIS WORK IN A REALLY APPLIED WAY. THEN BEYOND THE POLITICAL EDUCATION WORK, A LOT OF WHAT WE DID IN PHILLY STANDS UP HAS WORKED VERY DIRECTLY ON A VOLUNTEER BASIS AROUND SEXUAL ASSAULT SITUATIONS. AND SPECIFICALLY, OUR COLLECTIVE WAS DESIGNED TO WORK DIRECTLY WITH PEOPLE WHO CAUSED HARM IN INSTANCES OF SEXUAL ASSAULT, IN OUR OWN BACKYARDS, IN OUR OWN GRASSROOTS COMMUNITY. SO THIS IS NOT NONPROFIT WORK, NOT FUNDED WORK, BUT REALLY WORKING IN COMMUNITIES OF COLOR, QUEER COMMUNITIES, POLITICAL COMMUNITIES, TO HOLD PEOPLE ACCOUNTABLE. AND IT’S NOT LIKE WE STARTED THAT WORK WITH A WHOLE BUNCH OF TRAINING. AT THE TIME, NONE OF US WERE LICENSED IN ANYTHING. ANY COUNSELING OR ANY OF THAT WORK. BUT ACTUALLY, BY JUST SLOWING DOWN WITH INTEGRITY AND TAKING THE TIME TO MEET PEOPLE WHERE THEY’RE AT AND ACCOMPANY THEM IN A JOURNEY, IT TURNED OUT THAT IT TAUGHT US A LOT OF LESSONS. SO THAT ENDED UP BEING WHAT WE REBROADCAST TO OTHER GRASSROOTS COMMUNITY ORGANIZERS IN SOME OF THE LESSONS THAT CAN BE EXTRAPOLATED FOR HOW WE MOVE TOWARD TRANSFORMATIVE JUSTICE WORK.>>KENYON, WHAT’S YOUR FORM OF DEPARTURE FOR THIS?>>I THINK THE QUESTION ABOUT, WHY FOCUS ON ABOLITION AS OPPOSED TO REFORM, I THINK WE OFTEN KIND OF GET STUCK AT THE QUESTION OF PRISON ABOLITION OR JAIL, SO WE THINK ABOUT JUST THE PHYSICAL KIND OF, LIKE, BUILDING WHERE PEOPLE ARE, YOU KNOW, IMPRISONED. I OFTEN KIND OF TELL PEOPLE, I’M ACTUALLY INTERESTED IN PRISON-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX ABOLITION, SO IT TAKES US TO A BROADER KIND OF PERSPECTIVE, WHICH I THINK SOME OF THE OTHER PANELISTS ARE GETTING AT. THINK ABOUT REALLY, WHAT IS THE WORLD IN WHICH WE’VE CONSTRUCTED THROUGH WHICH PUNISHMENT AND KIND OF PUNITIVE MEASURES DRIVE DAILY LIFE IN SO MANY WAYS? SO I THINK ABOUT — NOT JUST ABOUT WHAT HAPPENS TO, YOU KNOW, THE PERSON WHO, YOU KNOW, GETS ARRESTED AND GOES THROUGH THAT SYSTEM, BUT I ALSO THINK ABOUT, YOU KNOW, THE PEOPLE WHO, YOU KNOW, FOR WHICH, YOU KNOW, GET SUSPENDED IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS, RIGHT, OR WHO GET EXPELLED IN SCHOOLS. I THINK ABOUT WHEN PUBLIC BENEFITS LIKE FOOD STAMPS OR, YOU KNOW, OTHER WELFARE BENEFITS GET TAKEN AWAY FOR, YOU KNOW, A DRUG OFFENSE OR, YOU KNOW, HAVING TO DO MANDATORY DRUG TESTING FOR THOSE THINGS. I THINK, WHEN I THINK ABOUT, YOU KNOW, A WORLD WITHOUT, YOU KNOW, PRISONS, I’M ALSO THINKING ABOUT A WORLD THROUGH WHICH WE DON’T RESORT TO KIND OF PUNISHMENT AND PUNITIVE MEASURES FOR EITHER THINGS THAT WE HAVE CONSTRUCTED, CRIME, QUOTE UNQUOTE, BUT REALLY ARE ABOUT SOME DIVISION AROUND SORT OF HARMS THAT ARE REAL AND SOME THINGS THAT ARE COMPLETELY KIND OF CONSTRUCTED AND IMAGINED AS HARM.>>UH-HUH. YOU WORKED FOR A LONG TIME WITH QUEERS FOR ECONOMIC JUSTICE, AMONG OTHER GROUPS. WHO WERE YOU WORKING WITH, AND HOW DID YOU SEE THIS PLAY OUT IN THAT COMMUNITY?>>SURE. SO I WAS THE FORMER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR FOR QUEERS FOR ECONOMIC JUSTICE, AS YOU KNOW. I THINK THE WAY WE SAW IT, DOING THAT WORK WITH KIND OF POOR AND LOW INCOME FOLKS MOSTLY IN THE NEW YORK CITY SHELTER SYSTEM, THEN WITH OTHER QUEER AND TRANSGENDER FOLKS WHO WERE, YOU KNOW, NEEDED PUBLIC BENEFITS, THOSE ARE THE TWO PILLARS OF OUR LOCAL ORGANIZING WORK. ONE OF THE WAYS IN WHICH QUEERS FOR ECONOMIC JUSTICE GOT STARTED WAS BECAUSE OF THE KIND OF IMPACTS ON QUEER, PARTICULARLY QUEER WOMEN, AFTER THE WELFARE REFORM ACT OF THE MID-90’S, IN THE CLINTON ADMINISTRATION. SO PEOPLE STARTED TO SEE, IN NEW YORK CITY, MORE QUEER WOMEN ENTERING THE NEW YORK CITY SHELTER SYSTEM. SO THE KIND OF FOLKS WHO ARE MOSTLY QUEER FOLKS, WORKING IN THE NONPROFIT, YOU KNOW, SYSTEM OF SOCIAL SERVICES. THEY WERE SEEING ALL THESE WOMEN COME INTO THE SHELTER SYSTEM BECAUSE OF THE PROVISIONS IN THE WELFARE REFORM ACT THAT, YOU KNOW, DEMANDED THAT A SORT OF, YOU KNOW, FATHER HAD TO BE NAMED ON A BIRTH CERTIFICATE IN ORDER FOR THE FAMILY TO GET BENEFITS. AND SO IF YOU HAD QUEER WOMEN WHO WERE IN RELATIONSHIPS TOGETHER, AND WHO WERE RAISING CHILDREN, OFTENTIMES THE SORT OF NONBIOLOGICAL PARENT WOULD BE AFRAID, ONCE THE CASE MANAGER CAME TO THE HOUSE, THAT THE KIDS WERE GOING TO BE TAKEN AWAY IF IT WAS DISCOVERED THAT THE FATHER WASN’T THERE OR THAT — SO THEY JUST WOULD GO INTO THE SHELTER SYSTEM SO THAT THE FAMILY COULD KEEP THE BENEFITS. THAT TO ME IS THE PRISON-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX, RIGHT? AT WORK IN A WAY THAT IS NOT JUST ABOUT THE PRISON ITSELF. SO I THINK FOR US AS AN ORGANIZATION, WHEN Q.E.J. WAS STILL AROUND, WAS REALLY THINKING ABOUT, YOU KNOW, HOW DO WE THINK ABOUT THE WAYS IN WHICH THE SOCIAL SAFETY NET SYSTEM KIND OF PERPETUATES FORMS OF HARM AND DEPRIVING PEOPLE OF THINGS THAT THEY NEED, YOU KNOW, THROUGH VERY SORT OF PUNITIVE MEASURES.>>SO YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT THE QUEER COMMUNITIES, LARGELY QUEER PEOPLE OF COLOR BUT NOT EXCLUSIVELY. I THINK OF TWO THINGS. ONE, WE’RE IN AN ERA WHERE WE’RE ALSO SURFACING CONCERN AND ATTENTION TO THE BRUTALITY THAT THIS COMMUNITY ALSO EXPERIENCES IN THE INCARCERATION SYSTEM, BUT ALSO OUT OF IT. SO KERBIE, HOW DO YOU THINK ABOUT JUSTICE IN THAT CONTEXT? WE HAVE — I DON’T WANT TO SAY AN EPIDEMIC OF VIOLENCE SPECIFICALLY AGAINST, YOU KNOW, TRANS, BLACK WOMEN, BUT YOU COULD SEE THAT WE ARE EXPERIENCING A NEW DEGREE OF AWARENESS OF HOW MUCH VIOLENCE THERE IS AGAINST A POPULATION THAT’S HAD VERY LITTLE VOICE OR BEEN GIVEN VERY LITTLE AMPLIFICATION FOR THEIR VOICES. AND THERE ARE PEOPLE THAT SAY, WAIT A MINUTE, BEFORE WE HAVE ABOLITION, WE HAVE TO HAVE JUSTICE. WE NEED TO HAVE PEOPLE SORT OF ACCOUNTING FOR BEING — AT THE MOMENT THEY’VE BEEN GOING WITH IMPUNITY. SOME PEOPLE HAVE NOT HAD ANY RIGHTS YET.>>I THINK SOMETIMES WHEN WE TALK ABOUT MASS INCARCERATION, ABOLITION, WE DON’T THINK THAT ALL THESE THINGS ARE SUPPOSED TO WORK IN TANDEM. I THINK IT’S VERY IMPORTANT TO HAVE THAT. BECAUSE WE LIVE IN A SYSTEM THAT WORKS TOGETHER EVERY DAY TO FIND DIFFERENT WAYS TO OPPRESS OUR COMMUNITIES THAT ARE ALREADY AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BARREL. AND WHEN YOU MENTIONED JUSTICE, I THINK ABOUT LAYLEEN XTRAVAGANZA, WHO DIED AT RIKERS ISLAND A FEW WEEKS AGO, BECAUSE THE C.O.’S REFUSED TO HELP HER IN ANY WAY WHILE SHE WAS DYING IN HER CELL.>>THIS IS AN AFRO-LATINA TRANS WOMAN WHO DIED IN SOLITARY, OWING $500 CASH BAIL.>>AND IT’S SO INTERESTING, BECAUSE THOSE PEOPLE WHO SAY, WELL, WE HAVE A CASH BAIL REFORM THAT’S GOING TO COME INTO EFFECT IN 2020, WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR PEOPLE LIKE LAYLEEN WHO ARE DYING EVERY DAY, WHO ARE GETTING MISGENDERED, BEING PUT INTO THE WRONG FACILITIES IN THESE PRISONS TO FACE MULTIPLE LAYERS OF ABUSE, FROM OTHER INMATES, FROM OTHER C.O.’S, FROM THE STATE. NO NEW JAILS IS ACTUALLY A CAMPAIGN THAT IS KIND OF ONE OF THE — I’M ONE OF THE ORGANIZERS — THAT’S LOOKING AT IT IN THAT WAY OF, LIKE, WE NEED TO BE WORKING TO TRANSFORM OUR SOCIETY, AND THERE’S RESOURCES THERE THAT CAN DO THAT. THAT WOULD BE JUSTICE. THAT THE RESOURCES, THAT COMES FROM OUR TAX DOLLARS, BE PUT INTO OUR COMMUNITIES SO OUR PEOPLE ARE NOT GOING TO JAIL FOR SURVIVAL PROGRAMS OR WHAT THE SYSTEM LABELS AS VIOLENCE, WHICH IS I THINK ANOTHER THING TO FACE TOO. WHOSE DEFINITION OF VIOLENCE ARE WE LOOKING AT, AND WHO IS BEING DEFINED AS VIOLENT?>>JUST TO BE A — I MEAN, SHE DIED INCARCERATED. THAT’S ONE PROBLEM. THERE HAVE BEEN A LOT OF TRANS PEOPLE AND OTHERS DYING IN THE STREETS BECAUSE OF VIOLENCE COMMITTED AGAINST THEM.>>YEAH.>>WHAT ABOUT THOSE PEOPLE?>>SO WHAT WE HAVE IS THE SYSTEM AT WORK IN TERMS OF INDOCTRINATING US TO BE VERY BACKWARDS, HATE OURSELVES, AND TO HAVE NO RESOURCE IN SURVIVAL TO BLAME IT ON PEOPLE WHO LOOK LIKE THEM OR PEOPLE WHO AREN’T LIKE THEM. AND I THINK WHEN YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT THIS CULTURAL SHIFT, EVEN IF ABOLITION HAPPENED — WE WERE DISCUSSING THIS — EVEN IF ABOLITION HAPPENS TOMORROW, EVEN IF WE HAVE ALL THE MATERIAL RESOURCES THAT WE NEED TO SURVIVE AS A COMMUNITY, AS A PEOPLE ACROSS THIS NATION, THE RICHEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD, THERE’S STILL A MENTAL OPPRESSION THAT WE WOULD HAVE TO FACE AND HAVE TO DEAL WITH. THAT’S WHAT OUR COMMUNITIES DEAL WITH EVERY DAY, THAT PEOPLE WHO LOOK LIKE YOU, WHO CAN BE AN ELDER, WHO CAN BE A SINGLE MOTHER, WHO CAN BE SOMEBODY IN YOUR CLASSROOM, CAN LOOK AT YOU AND UNLEASH VIOLENCE AGAINST YOU, WHETHER IT BE VERBAL, MENTAL OR PHYSICAL AND THEN TO BE IN A SYSTEM WHERE IT TELLS YOU THAT THE ONLY THING YOU CAN DO IS CALL 911 TO DEAL WITH THAT ISSUE, INSTEAD OF BRINGING PEOPLE IN TO MAYBE MEDIATE THAT ISSUE, TO DO POLITICAL EDUCATION, TO REFRAME PEOPLE’S MINDS.>>IN ADDITION TO THE PUNITIVE, WE ALSO HAVE THE SEPARATE AND DISTANCE.>>YEAH.>>HOW ARE YOU DEALING WITH THAT? BECAUSE WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT, ESTEBAN, IN YOUR EXAMPLE, YOU’RE SAYING, OK, WE HAVE THE HARMED AND THE HARMER, AND EVERYONE ACTUALLY PROBABLY HAS BEEN HARMED. WE NEED TO STAY IN THE ROOM TOGETHER OR IN THE COMMUNITY OR IN THE TOWN OR IN THE BUILDING OR IN THE FAMILY. OR IN THE WORKPLACE. WE DON’T HAVE — WHAT IF WE DIDN’T HAVE THE OPTION OF JUST BANISHING? AND WHAT HAPPENS? HOW DO YOU ADDRESS THAT?>>WELL, IT’S ABOUT MOVING CLOSER, RIGHT, AS OPPOSED TO DISTANCING AND PUSHING AWAY, WHICH IS WHAT THE CURRENT PUNITIVE SYSTEMS ARE SET UP TO DO. IT’S NOT ADDRESSING THE PROBLEM. IT’S REDUCING THE PROBLEM TO A PERSON, NOT TO INACT OR THEIR BEHAVIOR OR SOMETHING THAT HAPPENED, BUT IT’S TOTALIZING IT INTO THE PERSON, EMBODYING IT AND THEN REMOVING THEM FROM THE COMMUNITY. SO WHAT WE’RE DOING IS ACTUALLY THE OPPOSITE. IT’S DRAWING THEM IN AND MOVING CLOSER. WHAT’S ACTUALLY IMPORTANT IS THAT THESE NEED TO BE COMMUNITY RESPONSES, BECAUSE IT CAN ACTUALLY BE UP TO A SURVIVOR TO STEP IN AND BE, LIKE, LET ME MOVE CLOSER TO THE PERSON WHO CAUSED HARM. ABSOLUTELY NOT. IT’S NOT ABOUT A MIDDLE SCHOOL PEER MEDIATION MODEL, ALTHOUGH THERE’S A LOT OF LESSONS FROM THAT. IN FACT, I DRAW ON SOME OF THE PEER MEDIATION TRAINING THAT I GOT WHEN I WAS 12. IT’S ACTUALLY WAYS THAT THE COMMUNITY CAN STEP UP TO BE AN INTERMEDIARY, TO TAKE ON THAT WORK, TO BE THE ONES WHO SURROUND AND MOVE CLOSER, NOT JUST TO THE PERSON WHO CAUSED HARM BUT ALSO ALL OF THE ATTENTION THAT NEEDS TO GO TOWARD THE HEALING TO THE PERSON, TO THE COMMUNITY OF SURVIVORS AND THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN HARMED, WHO ALSO NEED ATTENTION. THEY NEED LOVE, CARE.>>SO ARE WE LEARNING ANYTHING, FOR EXAMPLE, FROM IMMIGRANT POPULATIONS WHO ARE VERY AWARE THAT THE STATE IS NOT GOING TO HELP THEM? I’M THINKING OF UNDOCUMENTED PEOPLE WHO DARE NOT CALL THE POLICE. THAT’S JUST ONE POPULATION. THERE ARE MANY OTHERS REPRESENTED AT THIS TABLE. ARE WE LEARNING FROM THOSE COMMUNITIES HOW TO ADDRESS THIS IN AN INTERESTING WAY?>>I WOULD SAY — I MEAN, I CAN TAKE THIS FROM MY OWN LIFE. I GREW UP IN CLEVELAND, OHIO, IN A HOUSING PROJECT, IN THE 80’S, RIGHT? HEIGHT OF THE CRACK ERA. AND GENERALLY SPEAKING, PEOPLE DO NOT CALL THE COPS, RIGHT, FOR, YOU KNOW, ANY REASON. AND THERE WERE DEFINITELY SITUATIONS THAT HAPPENED THAT WERE INTER-COMMUNITY VIOLENCE. MY MOTHER WOULD TAKE IN WOMEN WHO WERE BEING ABUSED BY THEIR MALE PARTNERS IN THE COMMUNITY. AND WE HAD SOMETIMES A WOMAN AND TWO OR THREE OTHER KIDS, IN OUR HOUSE FOR SOMETIMES A COUPLE OF WEEKS AT A TIME. MY STEPFATHER, MY UNCLES, OTHER MEN IN THE COMMUNITY, SOMETIMES WENT TO THAT MAN’S HOUSE, RIGHT, TO THEN, LIKE, YOU KNOW, RESPOND. LIKE WE WANT TO TALK ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED OR WHATEVER OR WOULD STEP IN. SO I SAW VERY EARLY EXAMPLES OF PEOPLE BEING ABLE TO, AS MUCH AS THEY COULD, TRY TO KIND OF MANAGE THOSE SORT OF DYNAMICS. THE OTHER THING I WOULD SAY TOO, JUST PART OF THE KIND OF MASS INCARCERATION ITSELF IN THAT SYSTEM HELPED PERPETUATE THE KIND OF ISOLATION PEOPLE FEEL IN COMMUNITIES. SO WHEN YOU STARTED TO KIND OF ARREST SO MANY PEOPLE AND YOU CREATE SUCH LEVELS OF INSTABILITY, SO THEN PEOPLE IN COMMUNITIES DON’T KNOW EACH OTHER ANYMORE, IN WAYS THAT THEY DID, SO THEN THE RESPONSE TO CALL THE POLICE SEEMS LIKE A LOGICAL RESPONSE, BECAUSE THOSE COMMUNITIES THEMSELVES HAVE BEEN SO FRACTURED BY THE MASS INCARCERATION ITSELF.>>THAT GOES BACK TO YOUR ORIGINAL POINT, WHICH IS WE’VE HAD THESE SOLUTIONS BEFORE AND HAD THEM FOR A LONG TIME.>>BEFORE, IT WAS CALLED TRANSFORMATIVE JUSTICE. IT WAS THE BLACK PANTHERS DOING IT. BEFORE THE PANTHERS, IT WAS THE PEOPLE THAT THE NEW YORK CITY LAND IS COMPLETELY BUILT ON. LIKE THESE ARE VERY OLD STRATEGIES THAT HAVE BEEN USED BEFORE POLICE WERE ABLE TO WALK THE BEAT FOR FUGITIVE SLAVE ACTS. PEOPLE WERE FINDING WAYS TO LIVE TOGETHER COLLECTIVELY AND DEAL WITH THE HARD SITUATIONS AND NOT DISPOSE OF COMMUNITY MEMBERS BUT LOOK AT PEOPLE AS HUMAN BEINGS, WHEREAS THIS SYSTEM DOESN’T. IT DOESN’T LOOK AT US AS HUMAN BEINGS AT ALL. WE ARE NUMBERS THAT CAN BE FUNNELED IN AND OUT.>>THIS SPEAKS TO THE CONDITIONS IN WHICH WE ARE ALL OPERATING, LIVING, FINDING OURSELVES. IT SEEMS THAT ON THIS QUESTION, THE CONDITIONS ARE KIND OF CHANGING. ONE EXAMPLE I LOOK AT RECENTLY IS THE QUEENS DISTRICT ATTORNEY RACE, HERE IN NEW YORK, WHERE AN OUT, QUEER, SELF-DESCRIBED SOCIALIST RAN ON WHAT SHE DESCRIBED AS A DECARCERATING PLATFORM. HERE SHE IS. TIFFANY CABAN RUNNING FOR D.A. IN QUEENS.>>WE ARE RUNNING ON A BOLD, NOT JUST PROGRESSIVE, DECARSERAL PLATFORM. [AUDIENCE CHEERING] THIS IS ABOUT FEELING. THIS IS ABOUT SAFETY. AND MOST OF ALL, THIS MEANS THAT IF SOMEONE DOES END UP IN OUR CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM, THAT WHEN THEY GET OUT, THEY HAVE THE TOOLS AND THAT THEY ARE NOT PUT IN A POSITION WHERE THEY FEEL LIKE THEY WILL BE FORCED BACK IN AGAIN. [APPLAUSE]>>AND WE ARE CHALLENGING ENTRENCHED POLITICAL INTEREST. AND WE KNEW IT WOULD BE A HARD FIGHT. BUT WE HAVE THE COMMUNITY ON OUR SIDE.>>WOO HOO!>>WE HAVE COMMUNITY MEMBERS WHO NOT ONLY WANT BUT DEMAND REAL REFORMS HERE IN QUEENS, TO DEMAND A DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S OFFICE THAT WORKS FOR THEM.>>YEAH!>>COMMUNITY MEMBERS WHO BELIEVE THAT WE DON’T HAVE TO SACRIFICE PUBLIC SAFETY FOR EQUITY. COMMUNITY MEMBERS WHO AREN’T GOING TO BUY INTO THE OLD-SCHOOL FEARMONGERING OF OUR BLACK AND BROWN COMMUNITIES THAT ONLY SERVE THE STATUS QUO.>>WOO!>>AND OVER THE PAST SIX MONTHS, WE HAVE BUILT THE MOST BEAUTIFUL, THE MOST POWERFUL, THE MOST DIVERSE COALITION OF HARDWORKING FOLKS THAT A BOROUGH-WIDE RACE HAS EVER SEEN.>>SO THAT IS WHAT HAPPENED IN A QUEENS BOROUGH D.A. RACE. AT THE PRIMARY LEVEL, TIFFANY CABÁN LOOKS TO BE THE NEXT D.A. SHE WAS ENDORSED BY TWO PEOPLE RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT, PLUS THE NEW YORK TIMES. I MEAN, THIS ISN’T THE REVOLUTION, BUT IT IS SPEAKING TO CHANGED CONDITIONS. ESTEBAN, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?>>IT ABSOLUTELY IS. AND WE WERE ABLE TO I THINK PUSH THAT FORWARD A LITTLE BIT IN MY COMMUNITY IN PHILADELPHIA, WHERE WE HAD D.A. LARRY KRASNER ELECTED. THAT CAME FROM MOVEMENT. THAT CAME FROM A LONGSTANDING CAMPAIGN FROM GROUPS LIKE DECARCERATE PA, PUT PEOPLE FIRST, AND EVEN SOME OF THE ORGANIZATIONS I WAS TALKING ABOUT, THESE SMALLER, COMPLETELY BELOW THE RADAR, UNFUNDED, UNINCORPORATED INITIATIVE PROJECTS, EVEN JUST COMMUNITY RELATIONSHIPS THAT WE HAVE BEEN TALKING ABOUT, THAT HAVE BEEN PUSHING A DIFFERENT KIND OF POLITICS FOR HOW WE ADDRESS HARM, JUSTICE AND EVEN THE EPIDEMIC AND THE PHENOMENON OF ALL OF THE PROBLEMS, ALL THE RIPPLES OF VIOLENCE, FROM THE CRIMINAL LEGAL SYSTEM, FROM POLICE VIOLENCE, AND IN OUR CASE, ONE OF THE POOREST, LARGE CITIES IN THE UNITED STATES. SO THAT COALITION OF COMING TOGETHER, BECAUSE THIS WAS A MULTI-RACIAL COALITION, THIS WORK DOESN’T MOVE FORWARD OTHERWISE — OF BRINGING TOGETHER STREET PEOPLE, LGBTQ PEOPLE, BLACK AND BROWN PEOPLE, LONG AND IN LOCK STEP WITH PROGRESSIVE WHITE FOLKS, DOING THIS ORGANIZING AND UNDERSTANDING THAT IN ORDER FOR OUR COMMUNITIES TO BE SUSTAINABLE, WE’VE GOT TO ALL COME TOGETHER AND PUSH FORWARD AND CENTER A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT KIND OF POLITICS. IT DOES HAPPEN AT THAT PRIMARY LEVEL OF LIKE, WHO ARE THE CANDIDATES RUNNING AND VETTING AND FINDING A CANDIDATE IN THE KIND OF PROFILE THAT LARRY PUT FORWARD, SOMEONE WHO HAD BEEN DEFENDING OUR COMMUNITIES FOR DECADES AND DECADES AND TO ACTUALLY SAY THIS IS THE PERSON THAT WE WANT IN THIS TYPE OF ROLE WAS INSTRUCTIVE. THEN WE STARTED TO SEE DIFFERENT VERSIONS OF THAT HAPPEN ALL AROUND THE COUNTRY. I’M DEFINITELY INSPIRED BY IT.>>I IMAGINE TIFFANY SAW THE SUPPORT. YOU SAW IT IN THE CLIP, FROM CONGRESSWOMAN ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ. SHE TALKED ABOUT A DECARSERAL PLATFORM. WHAT DO YOU THINK THAT IS? WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING TO SEE, KERBIE?>>I’M JUST LAUGHING. I’M SORRY. I GIGGLES BECAUSE — [LAUGHTER] I WAS JUST THINKING ABOUT DE BLASIO’S PLAN OF BUILDING FOUR NEW JAILS AND CLOSING DOWN RIKERS IN 10 YEARS, WHEN HE’S NOT IN OFFICE AND CLAIMING THAT’S DECARCERATION WHEN YOU’RE BUILDING 6,000 NEW CELLS FOR PEOPLE TO BE IN. I THINK IT’S VERY IMPORTANT THAT SHE HAS A PLATFORM TO BRING UP SOME OF THE THINGS THAT WE’VE BEEN ORGANIZING FOR, FOR A VERY LONG TIME. BUT I THINK ON THE VERY MICRO LEVEL, THAT THE WORK THAT — I KNOW I FOCUSED ON IS BUILDING WITH COMMUNITY MEMBERS, PIECE BY PIECE, TO TEACH THEM ABOUT WHAT ABOLITION IS, WHAT DEINCARCERATION CAN BE AND WHAT PLANS POLITICIANS WHO ARE IN OUR FAVOR ARE PUTTING INTO ORDER. THERE ARE PEOPLE IN OUR COMMUNITY WHO DON’T KNOW WHO THIS PERSON IS, RIGHT? THERE ARE PEOPLE IN OUR COMMUNITY WHO DON’T KNOW WHAT WE’RE TALKING ABOUT, BECAUSE OF LANGUAGE, BECAUSE OF BEING SO HIT BY REPRESSION THAT THEY CAN’T EVEN THINK STRAIGHT TO HAVE A CONVERSATION, EVEN THOUGH THEIR LIVES ARE POLITICAL, THEIR EXISTENCE IS A POLITICAL EXISTENCE. WHEN WE THINK ABOUT HOW TO MOVE FORWARD, WE’RE THINKING ABOUT TEACHING PEOPLE HOW TO BE THAT COMMUNITY SAFETY, TEACHING PEOPLE, THIS IS HOW WE DE-ESCALATE. PART OF THE SAFE NEIGHBORHOOD CAMPAIGN THAT OUR PROGRAM RUNS IS LITERALLY TEACHING BUSINESSES DE-ESCALATION IF SOMETHING HAPPENS IN THEIR STORES, TEACHING SHELTERS DE-ESCALATION IF SOMETHING HAPPENS WITH THEIR YOUTH OR TEACHING SCHOOLS HOW TO DE-ESCALATE INSTEAD OF CALLING THE POLICE THAT’S ALREADY IN THE HALLWAY TO COME AND ARREST THE YOUTH. AS A WAY — SO POLICE DON’T INTERFERE TO ARREST ANY MORE PEOPLE.>>KENYON, WE OFTEN ASK PEOPLE ON THIS SHOW, WHAT’S THE STORY THE FUTURE WILL TELL OF THIS MOMENT?>>I THINK IT’S — WE’RE AT A SORT OF A CROSSROADS. I THINK IT WILL DEPEND ON WHERE THINGS GO. AND I’LL SAY MY FEAR FIRST IS THAT, MY FEAR IS THAT THIS MOMENT, THAT THERE WILL BE A KIND OF POTENTIAL CO-OPTATION OF OUR MOVEMENTS AND OUR LANGUAGE SO THAT WE HEAR PEOPLE TALK ABOUT ABOLITION BUT THE SORT OF DETAILS ARE ACTUALLY JUST ABOUT SORT OF MOVING THE PIECES AROUND SO THAT THERE’S STILL SOME FORM OF KIND OF PHYSICAL STATE CONTROL, RIGHT? WHETHER IT’S MORE PEOPLE ON HOUSE ARRESTS, OR THESE OTHER KINDS OF TECHNOLOGIES. BUT I’M HOPEFUL IN THINKING THAT, AS MUCH AS, YOU KNOW, FOLKS LIKE MY CO-PANELISTS WHO ARE DOING THAT WORK IN COMMUNITIES, THAT ONCE PEOPLE BEGIN TO REALLY KIND OF EXPERIENCE WHAT A REAL SORT OF ABOLITIONIST POLITIC AND NEW SOCIETY CAN LOOK LIKE IN THEIR OWN LIVES, NO AMOUNT OF SPIN THAT A POLITICIAN COULD PUT OUT COULD MOVE THEM TOWARDS SOMETHING THAT GETS US AWAY FROM THAT.>>KERBIE?>>AND I THINK IT’S VERY IMPORTANT THAT WE FOCUS ON REALLY BUILDING PEOPLE POWER. ONE OF THE THINGS THAT WE EXPERIENCED AS PEOPLE IS FEELING THAT WE CAN’T DO ANYTHING. WHAT CAN WE DO, WHEN A SYSTEM FEELS BIGGER THAN YOU ARE? AND REALLY WORK ON THE FACT THAT THE SYSTEM IS ACTUALLY AFRAID OF PEOPLE COMING TOGETHER. THE WORK THAT SHE DID IN BUILDING HER COALITION, THAT IS WORK THAT IS FEARED BY FOLKS WHO WANT TO MAINTAIN THEIR POWER AND MAINTAIN THE STATUS QUO THAT SHE WAS SPEAKING ABOUT.>>LAST 10 SECONDS TO YOU, ESTEBAN.>>I THINK TRANSFORMATION NEEDS TO BE SYSTEMIC AND INTERLOCKING. SO CENTERING A POLITICS OF PRISON ABOLITION MEANS THAT WE’RE ACTUALLY CHANGING EVERYTHING ABOUT OUR ECONOMIC LIVES, OUR SOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS, EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE, ALL THE WAYS THAT WE BECOME INTERDEPENDENT. THAT’S HOW WE TRANSFORM BOTH INSTITUTIONS ON A LARGE SCALE AT OUR SOCIETY AND AT A VERY MICRO LEVEL OUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH ONE OTHER.>>THANK YOU ALL. YOU’VE STARTED THE BALL ROLLING IN WHAT I THINK IT WILL BE A CONTINUING CONVERSATION. YOU’RE WATCHING “THE LAURA FLANDERS SHOW.” GO TO OUR WEBSITE AND GET MORE INFORMATION ABOUT ALL THESE GUESTS AND SOME OF THE RESEARCH MATERIALS THAT WE HAVE DRAWN ON FOR TODAY’S SHOW. THANKS FOR WATCHING. ♪ [MUSIC] ♪

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About the Author: Sam Caldwell

5 Comments

  1. Interesting that these communities who want to speak on Black Trans women are not including the decriminalization of Sex Work into their message. Layleen was held on a $500 bail for a 2017 NYPD sting on street-based sex workers. Whorephobia within the media continues to support a narrative that is perpetuating the genocide of Black Trans women.

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