The National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls hosted the “FREE HER” conference in Montgomery, Alabama. Hundreds of people (from all genders) attended the event on October 4-6, including staff of Civil Survival.
In Montgomery, staff had the opportunity to learn about the connection between slavery and mass incarceration through the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) museum and memorial. EJI “is committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, to challenging racial and economic injustice, and to protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society”. The museum is located in a former warehouse for enslaved black people, and is a couple blocks away from a previous slave auction block. The memorial has the known and unknown names of blacks lynched between 1877 and 1950.
The FREE HER conference by itself, was impactful and inspirational. For three days, attendees were able to hear plenaries and attend workshops. Some of the workshops staff attended included ending the prison-industrial complex where we learned about the funding behind incarceration; the intersection between criminal justice and environmental justice where many caught in the justice system face environmental and public health obstacles while incarcerated; full voting re-enfranchisement; the shutdown of jails; and finally restorative justice for families impacted by both survivors and those who get caught in the system who may be survivors themselves.
Overall, the conference was liberating and staff are looking forward to bring back what they learned to the larger Washington State communities.