Our existing criminal justice system is failing to keep our communities safe. The United States is the most incarcerated country in the world and California is the most incarcerated state in the United States. This system focuses on “crime” and “punishment” instead of harm and healing, and often utilizes violence to achieve its version of “justice”. Furthermore, funding is siphoned out of social services and education and funnelled into police departments and prisons, creating a cycle where people fail to receive the services they need to be safe and healthy and often ultimately end up a victim or perpetrator of violence.
Initiate Justice recognizes that the very systems that are meant to protect us—such as the police, courts, and prisons— are often the sources of violence, and that our communities need healing, evidence-based alternatives to these systems.
In order to make us all safer, and in order to keep our communities strong, we must proclaim what justice really means. Justice is not achieved when the police arrest someone or when someone goes to prison–Justice is achieved when the harm that has been committed is repaired and philosophies of healing, restoration, and accountability are upheld. Justice is achieved when our communities’ social services are fully funded and people can live free from state violence.
California ballot initiatives are key in creating sustainable policy change. Because ballot initiatives are enacted by voters as opposed to the Legislature, they have widespread legitimacy and therefore are easier to uphold and more difficult to dismantle. In recent years, initiatives such as Proposition 36 (2012), Proposition 47 (2014), and Proposition 57 (2016) have established meaningful criminal justice reform, indicating that California voters are ready to see the end of mass incarceration and the beginning of justice reinvestment in our state.
Initiate Justice will build on this momentum and continue moving toward divesting from prisons and investing in communities through the ballot initiative process.
Initiate Justice has an inside-outside strategy where we prioritize organizing people directly impacted by incarceration, inside and outside prison walls. Most of our organizing takes place in prison visiting rooms, in front of county jails, and inside prisons themselves. We also pursue social media organizing strategies that target online groups of people with incarcerated loved ones, so that they can disseminate Initiate Justice information to their loved ones inside directly. We have a two-pronged approach to our organizing:
1) Educating: We educate our members on how the ballot proposition process works, their voting rights, and how propositions are implemented once they are passed. We also educate our volunteers, who are not all directly impacted by incarceration, about the mass criminalization system and inform them of ongoing campaigns they can be a part of to further Initiate Justice’s work.
2) Advocacy: We also directly educate our base about specific ballot propositions and offer advice on whether or not to support them and why. We also plan to draft, pass, and implement ballot propositions created by incarcerated people and their loved ones beginning in the 2018 election.
Organize to support civic engagement of incarcerated people and their families.
Introduce and pass ballot initiatives that call for justice reinvestment every general election in California.
Substantially reduce our prison population while investing in health, economic opportunities, and restorative justice in our communities.