Laverne Cox partnered with us on our End Solitary campaign by reading a letter from SRLP member Synthia China Blast in a video, but has since requested that we remove the video from our site because of her concerns about Synthia’s convictions. We understand her decision is based on concerns about violence against children. We also understand that it is challenging to respond to the reality of violence within our communities, and is an ongoing challenge many of us face in our lives and work. While we understand this struggle, we also reaffirm our support for Synthia China Blast, and our position on prison abolition and transformative justice.
SRLP is aware that there are people within and outside of the transgender and LGB communities who question our unwavering support of our incarcerated members, regardless of their underlying convictions. We firmly believe that regardless of a person’s crime, no one should have their human rights violated or be subjected to state sanctioned torture. Supporting any individual person is not about pardoning their crime, but about protecting the rights of all incarcerated people and ending the use of systematic torture as “punishment”.
As an organization, we will not be responding directly to the attacks launched against each Prisoner Advisory Committee (PAC) member who is brave enough to share their experiences of incarceration on our blog or in other media formats. We will reiterate that SRLP represents transgender, gender nonconforming and intersex people who are low-income and/or people of color. Our communities are subjected to state violence on a daily basis. All oppressed communities eventually mirror the violence and oppression they experience. In other words, violence begets violence.
SRLP seeks to dismantle systems that perpetuate state violence and challenge the violence that we inflict upon each other. SRLP’s Prisoner Justice Project seeks to build community with people who are isolated in detention and create spaces for them to have positive relationships. We need all of our community members to be safe and free from violence so they can help re-imagine systems of community justice. This means working tirelessly to combat the sexual violence, denial of necessary medical care and other forms of daily dehumanization experienced by ALL of our incarcerated community members. We do not research the underlying convictions of our PAC members because we do not believe a state conviction tells the entirety of a person’s story. Nor do we believe that anyone should live in fear of sexual violence on a daily basis or be subjected to other forms of violence solely because of their gender identity or conviction. Not only is this a basic foundation of our work, but it is something the constitution requires.
Consequently, when SRLP asked Laverne Cox to read a letter from Synthia China Blast, we did not have, and therefore did not share details with her about Synthia’s conviction. In the wake of the video’s publication, articles about the murder of 13-year old Ebony Nicole Williams are being shared. We understand that these articles are troubling for people, including Laverne Cox. Out of respect for concerns raised, we are removing the video.
SRLP will continue to pursue our End Solitary campaign as solitary confinement is torture. SRLP will continue to support Synthia’s removal from isolation and her access to educational programming inside prison. More broadly, SRLP will continue to push for policies that reduce the violence experienced by our incarcerated community members because we do not believe that any of our community members’ lives are disposable. Further, we do not believe that exiling community members who inflict harm will do anything to keep our communities safer. We do hope this process pushes forward conversations about transformative justice that do not decide who is deserving and undeserving of gender self-determination and safety.
Sign the petition at http://srlp.org/endsolitary