A world without prisons: Improving prisoners' lives and transforming the justice system

Foldy, E. G. & Walters, J.
Justice Now Teaching Case. The Electronic Hallway and Research Center for Leadership in Action, 2004. Available from https://hallway.org.

Cassandra Shaylor and Cynthia Chandler founded Justice Now in 2000. They push hard for prison abolition while advocating for better health care and conditions for prisoners in California's two largest women's prisons. They prioritize the leadership of prisoners, and offer interns the opportunity to work and meet with women inside prisons to learn firsthand about prisoners' human struggles as well as the policy implications of state sponsored violence. Their strategies include the following:

  • Conduct Legal Visits Inside Prisons to Expose and Challenge Human Rights Abuses: Shaylor, Chandler and the Justice Now interns spend as much time as possible inside prisons to uncover human rights abuses and organize to challenge them. They build relationships with women inside and become the eyes and ears to the outside.
  • Build Leadership Among Prisoners: Justice Now engages people in prison in the organization's work at every level. They also assist women who are already working as activists within the prisons.
  • Push the Prison Abolition Frontier: While Justice Now helps to improve health care and other conditions, they oppose prison reformation efforts. Instead they push for prison abolition.
  • Spread a Vision of a World Without Prisons: Through plays, music, oral histories and toolkits, the organization helps envision and promote a new approach to building lives, not locking people away.

In this leadership story Shaylor and Chandler, along with Justice Now interns and activists, describe their experiences in this case example.

Wagner Faculty