In support of prisoners and prison justice activism in Canada

Joint Effort works within the framework of an abolitionist perspective. We view the prison system as state violence because prison serves to maintain existing power and class relationships within the capitalist framework. As capitalism rests on systems of colonialism, racism, classism and patriarchy, prisons function to reinforce these systems within society at large; prisons are a function of the state. Claire Culhane states theat:

Society is based upon an unequal distribution of power and opportunity, disguising its discrimination against the poor and the powerless. It uses prisons as an instrument to create a criminal milieu that the ruling class can control. The existence of a just system of criminal justice in an unjust society remains a contradiction in terms, since no society can call itself civilized as long as one section has the power to brutalize another.
Culhane, Claire. No Longer Barred From Prison Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1991. p. 147.

From our collective prisoner support work it has become obvious to us that to view prisons as "rehabilitating" "deviant" members of society is a farce. Women, most of whom come from backgrounds of experience with poverty, racism, sexism and violence - in other words, women who have experienced many forms of disenfranchisement from a white middle-class status quo society - go to prison only to experience further and more extreme forms of disenfranchisement. Pam Flemming, who worked with End Legislated Poverty states that:

Sexism is only one form of systemic oppression. Classism and other herarchies of dominance are inherent to the legal system. For example, rich women don't go to jail very often compared to poor women. Is it because rich women are better human beings? Or is it because they are not forced to live on the streets, have never been forced to steal or prostitute in order to feed kids, because they don't get thrown in jails for having addictions, don't have to deal with an abusive welfare system that in turn steals their kids because of the mother's "lifestyle" of homelessness and uncertainty - meaning poverty?
Flemming, Pam. "Gender Bias in the Law: is it enough?" Canadian Women's Studies, Spring 1992.

Prisons do not meet the "needs" of women. Rather, they disempower, juvenalize, stigmatize, trivialize and further victimize women.

The very existence of prisons is questionable given the fact that prisons actually cause harm and sometimes death to women. Prisons serve to protect and to maintain a capitalist and colonialist power imbalance in society - especially with regards to women's so-called "crime" which is predominantly economically related. Women who are disenfranchised on the "outside", are criminalized and locked-up, only to experience further state sanctioned abuse on the inside. In this regard, prisons and the economic and political system in which they function are a threat to women's health and well-being. Prisons exist and get away with abuse because they are able to isolate the women inside. The lack of interest and neglect on the part of the left and feminist movements contributes to this isolation.

For these reasons Joint Effort does not support reforms to the system because reforms have only proven to perfect a tool of repression. We therefore see aboliton of the prison system as the only solution.

February, 1997
Joint Effort