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.
We Initiate Justice by activating the power of people impacted by incarceration. Activation means being educated on how to access power, being organized to build momentum and win victories, and dedicated to seeing policy implementation carried out in a way that benefits our communities.
Education – We educate our members in prison and their loved ones outside on topics like voting rights, how the public policy process works, recent changes to law and prison policy, and how to create, support, and implement criminal justice reforms. 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.
Organize – 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:
Advocacy – We also directly educate our base about specific laws and ballot propositions, and offer advice on whether or not to support them and why. We also attempt to draft, pass, and implement laws and ballot propositions created by incarcerated people and their loved ones every election cycle.
Initiate Justice will build on this momentum and continue moving toward divesting from prisons and investing in communities through the ballot initiative process.
Organize to support civic engagement of incarcerated people and their families.
Introduce and pass laws and 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.