AFSC has compelling reasons to engage in advocacy around criminal justice reform. First, our organization grew out of the experiences of conscientious objectors, many of whom served time in prison for their convictions. Second, the Quaker belief that “there is that of God in every person” makes it impossible to turn away from the individual accused of a crime, the incarcerated person, or the returning citizen. This philosophy also accounts for the Friends’ approach to misdeed, which is to seek healing and restorative justice, not retribution and punishment.
The documents in our Archives show our longstanding efforts to assist people who are labelled as criminals, their families, attorneys, and advocates, as well as individuals and groups seeking to reform the existing system. Due to the sensitive nature of the topic, photography is limited. Resources include data-driven research papers, how-to manuals, conference posters and brochures, and fundraising publications. The collection, which dates largely after 1970, demonstrates how often we worked in coalitions and created new organizations and supported them until they could function independently.
Some of the most prominent topics are: women in prison, torture, solitary confinement (which we define as a form of torture), the school-to-prison pipeline, incarceration of refugees and migrants, for-profit prisons, and unequal treatment of People of Color—which most recently has given rise to the Black Lives Matter movement. Since addressing prisons and immigrant rights are two of our current key issue areas, we also offer many contemporary resources on our website.