I joined my current paid work after our organization had gone through what was seen internationally as one of the most progressive and far-reaching prison reform efforts, the Task Force on Federally Sentenced Women. Half of the members were community members, as well as a number of Aboriginal women. The Task Force seemed to promote a whole new approach to working with women inside, but what we ended up seeing was an appropriation of our language and a bastardization of our recommendations. While I was an abolitionist before joining, this experience very clearly led our organization to taking an abolitionist perspective, a vision of “Canada without prisons,” as our mission statement now reads. It was very clear the minute the report was done and the framework was put in place that even those well-intentioned and committed bureaucrats had to go about the business of systematically appropriating the language and bastardizing the approaches. I’ve spoken to people in other parts of world where similar reform approaches have led to similar results. In Britain there were great reform efforts planned for the Holloway Prison for women, and now all the women that were involved in that are abolitionists. We all recognize that the best prisons in the world are no prisons.


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