NEW: Disrupting Carceral Narratives by Charlene Allen and Cameron Rasmussen

March 13, 2024

New piece in Inquest highlights the creation of our Justice Beyond Punishment Collaborative and what we have collectively learned in the last three years of working together

This piece originally appeared in Inquest

To live in the United States is to be aware of the high levels of interpersonal violence in everyday life. Far less often do we acknowledge the prevalence of state violence. On the rare occasions when the nation turns its attention to atrocities such as George Floyd’s murder by police, the public discourse around state violence tends to occur separately from conversations about street violence in our neighborhoods or family violence in our homes. Seldom do we examine the causal relationship between them all, recognizing and discussing the ways that state violence, inflicted as punishment, is deeply tied to the violence that happens in communities. 

For the last two years, the Justice Beyond Punishment Collaborative in New York has come together to challenge carceral punishment and advance community-based mechanisms for safety and justice. Our work is rooted in naming, exploring, and addressing the interconnection between state and community violence.

The origins of Justice Beyond Punishment are intimately tied to the work and legacy of the late Kathy Boudin, who cofounded the Center for Justice at Columbia University and codirected it for nearly ten years before her death. Kathy spent twenty-two years incarcerated for her participation in an armed robbery connected to the Black Liberation Army and the Weather Underground, in which three people were killed. Throughout her time in prison, Kathy was committed to the work of justice, building communities of care and healing.

Kathy took seriously the dominating and totalizing violence of the state, while refusing to turn away from the devastation that comes from the violence people commit against one another. When she got out of prison, her work focused both on challenging the harms of state violence and getting people out of its grip, as well as supporting people still inside in their own growth and transformation—including in coming to terms with the violence they had committed. Coming to understand the relationship between these two forms of violence became a central goal.

For Kathy, community and collectivity were both the method and the means, so creating a collaborative of diverse voices was an obvious approach to the work.

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