Like any cyclist who has almost been hit or doored by cop cars, I have a complicated personal relationship with the Chicago Police Department. I’ve had cops flirt with me, and paternalistically check on me to make sure I was ok when I was being hit on at a bus stop. An officer once leaned out of an SUV window and sing-songed “Somebody wants to get hiiii-iiiit” when I merged across lanes to turn without signaling or lights. I’ve also squatted painfully on streetcorners, crying and scared and sore and shaking with adrenaline, waiting to report that I’d been hit-and-run to a police officer who never came.
I am very aware that my contact with the CPD, while not exactly positive, has been incredibly influenced by my privileged status as a a relatively educated and wealthy, ambiguously mixed-race resident of the northwest side. Cook County’s law enforcement and incarceration system uses prison as a substitute for mental health care, makes it more difficult for children on the South Side to stay in school through disproportionate targeting of minority youth, and profiles innocent citizens who are allegedly statistically more likely to be involved in a violent crime. In tandem with societal factors such as income inequality and segregation, these practices ensure that people of color in disadvantaged neighborhoods have less opportunity and are more likely to experience arrest, incarceration, and violence.
Tiny Fix believes in social justice, and we believe in Chicago. These flaws in the city we love are impossible to ignore, and require the cooperation of all of its citizens to move to a more just future. Below, you’ll find information about a number of local organizations dedicated to reforming the prison system and developing community-based alternatives to the system of policing and incarceration. We hope that you’ll take the time to learn more about this issue and get involved.
Launched in 2009, Project NIA is an advocacy, organizing, popular education, research, and capacity-building center with the long-term goal of ending youth incarceration. They believe that several simultaneous approaches are necessary in order to develop and sustain community-based alternatives to the system of policing and incarceration. Their mission is to dramatically reduce the reliance on arrest, detention, and incarceration for addressing youth crime and to instead promote the use of restorative and transformative practices, a concept that relies on community-based alternatives.Check out their Tumblr for more frequent and timely updates than the Project NIA site, and make sure to follow @PrisonCulture, the informative twitter account of the founder/director of Project NIA.
The TJLP is a collective of radical lawyers, social workers, activists, and community organizers who are deeply committed to prison abolition, transformative justice, and gender self-determination. They provide free, zealous, life-affirming, and gender-affirming holistic criminal legal services to low-income and street based transgender and gender non-conforming people targeted by the criminal legal system. They assist transgender and gender nonconforming people with legal name changes, publish a zine written by trans* people about their experiences with incarceration, and organize Write to Win, a correspondence project that connects prisoners with networks of allies on the outside.
The JHA works to achieve a fair, humane and cost-effective criminal justice system by promoting adult and juvenile prison reform, leading to successful re-integration and enhanced community safety. Make sure to check out their blog.
The Chicago Freedom School trains students to lead campaigns to change school and community policies around issues such as zero tolerance policies, homophobia in schools, education reform, public school course requirements, school hiring practices and policies, the school-to-prison pipeline, community violence & healing, sexual/reproductive health issues, mental/physical concerns, and food justice.
The Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, Project NIA, and the Chicago Freedom School partnered to produce five zines that can be printed and used as educational material. Links to individual PDFs formatted for reading on your computer are below:
Graphic History of Juvenile Justice in Illinois (PDF)
Girls in the System (PDF)
Youth Stories (PDF)
School-to-Prison Pipeline (PDF)
The Prison Industrial Complex is… (PDF)