<html>
  <head>

    <meta http-equiv="content-type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8">
  </head>
  <body text="#000000" bgcolor="#FFFFFF">
    <div id="container" class="container font-size5 content-width3">
      <div id="reader-header" class="header" style="display: block;"> <font
          size="-2"><a id="reader-domain" class="domain"
            href="https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/10/against-carceral-feminism/">https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/10/against-carceral-feminism/</a></font>
        <h1 id="reader-title">Against Carceral Feminism</h1>
        <div id="reader-credits" class="credits">Victoria Law - October
          17, 2017<br>
        </div>
      </div>
      <hr>
      <div class="content">
        <div id="moz-reader-content" class="line-height4"
          style="display: block;">
          <div id="readability-page-1" class="page">
            <div class="po-bo">
              <div class="po-cn">
                <aside class="po-sb"> </aside>
                <aside class="po-ed"> </aside>
                <section class="po-cn__intro po-sd__intro wp" id="§0">
                  <p>Cherie Williams, a thirty-five-year-old
                    African-American woman in the Bronx, <a
href="https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CCYQFjAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fsfonline.barnard.edu%2Fprison%2FChallengingMythsPanel.pdf&ei=sIo8VNbPCLe_sQTiqIKwCA&usg=AFQjCNHMcSGbClsgCczUNJKQVHTkU3geog&sig2=2J3kuvoK7RPun1C6JyGYAA&bvm=bv.77161500,d.cWc">just
                      wanted</a> to protect herself from her abusive
                    boyfriend. So she called the cops. But although New
                    York requires police to make an arrest when
                    responding to domestic violence calls, the officers
                    did not leave their car. When Williams demanded
                    their badge numbers, the police handcuffed her,
                    drove her to a deserted parking lot, and beat her,
                    breaking her nose and jaw, and rupturing her spleen.
                    They then left her on the ground.</p>
                  <p>“They told me if they saw me on the street, that
                    they would kill me,” Williams later testified.</p>
                  <p>The year was 1999. It was a half-decade after the
                    passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA),
                    which deployed more police and introduced more
                    punitive sentencing in an attempt to reduce domestic
                    violence. Many of the feminists who had lobbied for
                    the passage of VAWA remained silent about Williams
                    and countless other women whose 911 calls resulted
                    in more violence. Often
                    white, well-heeled feminists, their legislative
                    accomplishment did little to stem violence against
                    less affluent, more marginalized women like
                    Williams.</p>
                  <p>This carceral variant of feminism continues to be
                    the predominant form. While its adherents would
                    likely reject the descriptor, carceral feminism
                    describes an approach that sees increased policing,
                    prosecution, and imprisonment as the primary
                    solution to violence against women.</p>
                  <p>This stance does not acknowledge that police are
                    often purveyors of violence and that prisons are
                    always sites of violence. Carceral feminism ignores
                    the ways in which race, class, gender identity, and
                    immigration status leave certain women more
                    vulnerable to violence and that greater
                    criminalization often places these same women at
                    risk of state violence.</p>
                  Casting policing and prisons as the solution to
                  domestic violence both justifies increases to police
                  and prison budgets and diverts attention from the cuts
                  to programs that enable survivors to escape, such as
                  shelters, public housing, and welfare. And finally,
                  positioning police and prisons as the principal
                  antidote discourages seeking other responses,
                  including community interventions and long-term
                  organizing.
                  <p>How did we get to this point? In previous decades,
                    police frequently responded to domestic violence
                    calls by telling the abuser to cool off, then
                    leaving. In the 1970s and 1980s, feminist activists
                    filed lawsuits against police departments for their
                    lack of response. In New York, Oakland, and
                    Connecticut, lawsuits resulted in substantial
                    changes to how the police handled domestic violence
                    calls, including reducing their ability to not
                    arrest.</p>
                  <p>Included in the Violent Crime Control and Law
                    Enforcement Act, the largest crime bill in US
                    history, VAWA was an extension of these previous
                    efforts. The $30 billion legislation provided
                    funding for one hundred thousand new police officers
                    and $9.7 billion for prisons. When second-wave
                    feminists proclaimed “the personal is the
                    political,” they redefined private spheres like the
                    household as legitimate objects of political debate.
                    But VAWA signaled that this potentially radical
                    proposition had taken on a carceral hue.</p>
                  <p>At the same time, politicians and many others who
                    pushed for VAWA ignored the economic limitations
                    that prevented scores of women from leaving violent
                    relationships. Two years later, Clinton signed
                    “welfare reform” legislation. The Personal
                    Responsibility and Work Opportunity and
                    Reconciliation Act set a five-year limit on welfare,
                    required recipients to work after two years,
                    regardless of other circumstances, and instated a
                    lifetime ban on welfare for those convicted of drug
                    felonies or who had violated probation or parole.</p>
                  <p>By the end of the 1990s, the number of people
                    receiving welfare (the majority of whom were women)
                    had fallen 53 percent, or 6.5 million. Gutting
                    welfare stripped away an economic safety net that
                    allowed survivors to flee abusive relationships.</p>
                  <p>Mainstream feminists have also successfully pressed
                    for laws that require police to arrest someone after
                    they receive a domestic violence call. By 2008,
                    nearly half of all states had a <a
href="http://www.nij.gov/publications/dv-dual-arrest-222679/exhibits/Pages/table1.aspx">mandatory
                      arrest law</a>. The statutes have also led to <a
href="https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/218355.pdf#page=23">dual
                      arrests</a>, in which police handcuff both parties
                    because they perceive each as assailants, or they
                    can’t identify the “primary aggressor.”</p>
                  <p>Women marginalized by their identities, such as
                    queers, immigrants, women of color, trans women, or
                    even women who are perceived as loud or aggressive,
                    often do not fit preconceived notions of abuse
                    victims and are thus arrested.</p>
                  <p>And the threat of state violence isn’t limited to
                    physical assault. In 2012, <a
                      href="http://www.freemarissanow.org/">Marissa
                      Alexander</a>, a black mother in Florida, was
                    arrested after she fired a warning shot to prevent
                    her husband from continuing to attack her. Her
                    husband left the house and called the police. She
                    was arrested and, although he had not been injured,
                    prosecuted for aggravated assault.</p>
                  <p>Alexander argued that her actions were justified
                    under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. Unlike
                    George Zimmerman, the man who shot and killed
                    seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin three months
                    earlier, Alexander was unsuccessful in using that
                    defense. Despite her husband’s <a
href="http://www.scribd.com/doc/90595503/Marissa-Alexander-Alleged-Victim-Disposition">sixty-six-page
                      deposition</a>, in which he admitted abusing
                    Alexander as well as the other women with whom he
                    had children, a jury still found her guilty.</p>
                  <p>The prosecutor then added the state’s 10-20-LIFE
                    sentencing enhancement, which mandates a twenty-year
                    sentence when a firearm is discharged. In 2013, an
                    appellate court overturned her conviction. In
                    response, the prosecutor has vowed to seek a
                    sixty-year sentence during her trial this December.</p>
                  <p>Alexander is not the only domestic violence
                    survivor who’s been forced to endure additional
                    assault by the legal system. In New York state,
                    67 percent of women sent to prison for killing
                    someone close to them had been abused by that
                    person. Across the country, in California, a prison
                    study found that 93 percent of the women who had
                    killed their significant others had been abused by
                    them. Sixty-seven percent of those women reported
                    that they had been attempting to protect themselves
                    or their children.</p>
                  <p>No agency is tasked with collecting data on the
                    number of survivors imprisoned for defending
                    themselves; thus, there are no national statistics
                    on the frequency of this domestic
                    violence-criminalization intersection. What national
                    figures do show is that the number of women in
                    prison has increased exponentially over the past few
                    decades.</p>
                  <p>In 1970, 5,600 women were incarcerated across the
                    nation. In 2013, <a
                      href="http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/p13.pdf">111,300
                      women</a> were in state and federal prisons and
                    another <a
                      href="http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/jim13st.pdf">102,400</a>
                    in local jails. (These numbers do not include trans
                    women incarcerated in men’s jails and prisons.) The
                    majority have experienced physical and/or sexual
                    abuse prior to arrest, often at the hands of loved
                    ones.</p>
                  <p>Carceral feminists have said little about
                    law-enforcement violence and the overwhelming number
                    of survivors behind bars. Similarly, many groups
                    organizing against mass incarceration often fail to
                    address violence against women, often focusing
                    exclusively on men in prison. But others,
                    especially women of color activists, scholars, and
                    organizers, have been speaking out.</p>
                  <p>In 2001, Critical Resistance, a prison-abolition
                    organization, and INCITE! Women of Color against
                    Violence, an anti-violence network, issued a <a
href="http://www.incite-national.org/page/incite-critical-resistance-statement">statement</a>
                    assessing the effects of increased criminalization
                    and the silence around the nexus of gender and
                    police violence. Noting that relying on policing and
                    prisons has discouraged organizing community
                    responses and interventions, the statement
                    challenged communities to make connections, create
                    strategies to combat both forms of violence, and
                    document their efforts as examples for others
                    seeking alternatives.</p>
                  <p>Individuals and grassroots groups have taken up
                    that challenge. In 2004, anti-violence advocate Mimi
                    Kim founded <a
                      href="http://www.creative-interventions.org/">Creative
                      Interventions</a>. Recognizing that alternative
                    approaches to violence need to be demonstrated, the
                    group developed a site to collect and publicly offer
                    tools and resources on addressing violence in
                    everyday life. It also developed the <a
                      href="http://www.stopviolenceeveryday.org/">StoryTelling
                      and Organizing Project</a>, where people can share
                    their experiences of intervening in domestic
                    violence, family violence, and sexual abuse.</p>
                  <p>In 2008, social-justice organizers and abuse
                    survivors Ching-In Chen, Jai Dulani, and Leah
                    Lakshmi Piepnza-Samarasinha compiled “<a
href="http://www.incite-national.org/media/docs/0985_revolution-starts-at-home.pdf">The
                      Revolution Starts at Home</a>,” a 111-page zine
                    documenting various efforts in activist circles to
                    hold abusers accountable. Piepnza-Samarasinha
                    described how trusted friends helped devise
                    strategies to keep her safe from a violent and
                    abusive ex who shared many of the same political and
                    social circles:</p>
                  <blockquote>
                    <p>When he showed up at the prison justice film
                      screening I was attending, held in a small
                      classroom where we would have been sitting very
                      close to each other, friends told him he was not
                      welcome and asked him to leave. When he called in
                      to a local South Asian radio show doing a special
                      program on violence against women, one of the DJs
                      told him that she knew he had been abusive and she
                      was not going to let him on air if he was not
                      willing to own his own violence.</p>
                    <p>My safety plan included never going to a club
                      without a group of my girls to have my back. They
                      would go in first and scan the club for him and
                      stay near me. If he showed up, we checked in about
                      what to do.</p>
                  </blockquote>
                  <p>In their article “Domestic Violence: Examining the
                    Intersections of Race, Class, and Gender,” feminist
                    academics Natalie Sokoloff and Ida Dupont mention
                    another approach taken by immigrant and refugee
                    women in Halifax, Nova Scotia, one which tackled the
                    economic underpinnings that prevent many from
                    escaping abusive relationships.</p>
                  <p>The women, many of whom had survived not just abuse
                    but torture, political persecution, and poverty,
                    created an informal support group at a drop-in
                    center. From there, they formed a cooperative
                    catering business, which enabled them to offer
                    housing assistance for those who needed it. In
                    addition, women shared childcare and emotional
                    support.</p>
                  <p>As these examples demonstrate, strategies to stop
                    domestic violence frequently require more than a
                    single action. They often require a long-term
                    commitment from friends and community to keep a
                    person safe, as in Piepnza-Samarasinha’s case. For
                    those involved in devising alternatives, like the
                    women in Halifax, it may require not only creating
                    immediate safety tactics, but long-term organizing
                    that addresses the underlying inequalities that
                    exacerbate domestic violence.</p>
                  <p>By relying solely on a criminalized response,
                    carceral feminism fails to address these social and
                    economic inequities, let alone advocate for policies
                    that ensure women are not economically dependent on
                    abusive partners. Carceral feminism fails to address
                    the myriad forms of violence faced by women,
                    including police violence and mass incarceration. It
                    fails to address factors that exacerbate abuse, such
                    as male entitlement, economic inequality, the lack
                    of safe and affordable housing, and the absence of
                    other resources.</p>
                  <p>Carceral feminism abets the growth of the state’s
                    worst functions, while obscuring the shrinking of
                    its best. At the same time, it conveniently ignores
                    the anti-violence efforts and organizing by those
                    who have always known that criminalized responses
                    pose further threats rather than promises of safety.</p>
                  <p>The work of INCITE!, Creative Interventions, the
                    StoryTelling and Organizing Project, and “The
                    Revolution Starts at Home” (which sparked so much
                    interest that it was expanded into a <a
                      href="http://southendpress.org/2010/items/87941">book</a>)
                    are part of a longer history of women of color
                    resisting both domestic and state violence. Their
                    efforts shows that there is an alternative to
                    carceral solutions, that we don’t have to deploy
                    state violence in a disastrous attempt to curb
                    domestic violence.</p>
                </section>
                <aside class="sr-at__slot sr-at__slot--left">
                  <div class="sr-at__element"><a
href="https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/10/against-carceral-feminism/%0Awww.bgsp.edu/socialjustice"
                      target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><img
src="https://images.jacobinmag.com/2017/10/03131622/BGSP_SJHR_Ad_300x250_v2.jpg"></a></div>
                </aside>
              </div>
            </div>
          </div>
        </div>
      </div>
      <div> </div>
    </div>
    <div class="moz-signature">-- <br>
      Freedom Archives
      522 Valencia Street
      San Francisco, CA 94110
      415 863.9977
      <a class="moz-txt-link-freetext" href="https://freedomarchives.org/">https://freedomarchives.org/</a>
    </div>
  </body>
</html>