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From the archives: Healing justice resources

The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) has a long history of challenging imprisonment in the United States. Here are just a few documents we have produced over the years to help educate people about the issue and inspire action. 

"the problem of prisons" cover with drawing of prisoners walking in a circle
The problem of prisons, 1970

In June of 1970, AFSC published a pamphlet by David F. Greenburg called The Problem of Prisons. The pamphlet offers a sweeping critique of the prison system and proposes abolition as the only long-term solution. At the time of the pamphlet’s publication, there were roughly 400,000 people incarcerated in the United States. Today, there are more than 2.3 million, making Greensburg’s message more relevant than ever.

Cover of "Perspectives on AFSC criminal justice programs"
Perspectives on AFSC criminal justice programs, 1977

Created by AFSC’s Justice Task Force, this position paper outlines why AFSC is committed to changing the criminal justice system, explores the ways racism, sexism, and classism have helped shape that system, and identifies objectives for immediate and long-term change. The document concludes with AFSC’s Minutes on Criminal Justice, which were adopted by the Board in 1978. 

Cover for "Fortress Economy" document
The fortress economy: the economic role of the U.S. prison system, 1990

This booklet, first published by AFSC in 1990, situates the development of the prison system in the context of the social, economic, and political context in which it operates. Examining who goes to prison and who profits from it, The Fortress Economy sheds light on how mass incarceration developed and what we can do to stop it.

"In a time of broken bones" report cover
In a time of broken bones: a call to dialogue on hate violence and the limitations of hate crimes legislation, 2001

Since the 1980s, many progressive organizations have come together to work for the passage of hate crimes laws. In a Time of Broken Bones presents a  provocative challenge to consider the unintended consequences of many hate crimes laws—consequences that compound rather than counteract the systemic violence of racism, misogyny, homophobia, poverty, and economic exploitation. 

Human Rights report cover
Human rights abuses in U.S. prisons, 2005

AFSC’s Bonnie Kerness shares testimonies from people who have experienced human rights abuses in US prisons. The document touches on youth, women in prison, solitary confinement, and mental illness. It ends with a discussion of strategies for promoting international human rights discourse and ending abuse in the US prison system. 

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