The Criminal (in)Justice Committee is a bright example of how previously unimagined collaborations can coalesce when public space is utilized for phenomena other than commerce.
The CiJ Committee arose from a teach-in, occurring at McPherson Square during the occupation last autumn, on the prison industrial complex. An assemblage of intergenerational, multi-ethnic, multi-racial, and formerly incarcerated DC organizers felt the urgency to bring the prison industry, political prisoners, and the New Jim Crow to the center of any serious discussion regarding change and resistance.
We came together with an understanding that a broad-based, multi-racial, anti-sexist movement could be led by the wisdom and imaginations of sisters and brothers most affected by this country’s thirst for prison and its hunger for profits. Such a movement must develop in order to eradicate the stigma of criminalization, sever ties between prisons and profit, end the New Jim Crow, and fundamentally uproot and transform today’s “criminal justice system.” We need a far-reaching movement to dismantle decades of prison building, punitive legislating, and racist policing and judging. We need a powerful culture based in love, justice, and resistance to sustain such a movement.
The CiJ Committee comprises activists, artists, workers, educators, students, musicians, and returning citizens who have been working for years around issues of prisoner re-entry, affordable housing, and land liberation. Popular education, campus activism, and labor organizing are the avenues for the movement’s and committee’s success.
The CiJ Committee understands this struggle involves interconnections among property rights, land development, mass incarceration, private prison industry, gentrification, big banking, government corruption, racist judicial enforcement, food justice, and failing U.S. schools. While each organization might focus on one critical area, we must all remember a vision of unity.
We have launched a boycott campaign against Wells Fargo for its investments in the private prison and immigrant detention industry. The committee has found this issue a productive nexus between people who empower themselves by closing accounts with financial institutions that deal in repressive industries and educational tools that illuminate the intimate dynamic at play among incarceration, government, police harassment, racial profiling, big banking, and corporate opportunism.
Though all four of the “too big to fail” banks engage in blood-soaked investments, Wells Fargo is currently being targeted because of its DC connection. Wells Fargo received a notorious $43 billion taxpayer funded bailout, but yet it continues to foreclose on thousands of homes in the DC-metro area, leaving many families homeless. As the chief investor in GEO Group, the world’s second largest private prison corporation, Wells Fargo is contributing to locking up more than 1,000 DC residents at the GEO-run Rivers Correctional Institute in Winton, NC. Rivers is widely known as an abusive facility where guards engage in abuse and where scant opportunity is given for prisoners to positively develop themselves.
With over 2.5 million people in lock-down, millions more are under some kind of “correctional supervision.” Hundreds of thousands are being held in detention. In protest, people should be flooding the streets everyday! As of yet, this is not happening.
By believing in love as a fierce political concept and winning each other over with commitments and relationships, we can build a culture in opposition to the death culture that runs through mainstream America. We can overturn the ruthless logic of profit and property over people and life. None of this can happen without organizing. Join the Criminal (in)Justice Committee and any other radical organizations that are getting at the root of the matter, poised for a movement and assembling a complex culture of resistance to sustain one.
All Power to the People!