The following is a safer spaces policy for the Women and Trans* week of action against the prison industrial complex. This week of action is for folks who identify as women, non-binary, transgender, transsexual, gender queer and gender variant. It is an intentional space to share campaign information, organising approaches and direct action skills in a supportive and empowering environment for those commonly excluded or dominated by cis-men.

No one will be questioning anyone’s gender but we hope cis men will respect the importance of the event and leave us to it.

Safer Spaces Policy for Women and Trans Week of Action Against P.I.C

We aim to create collaborative, inclusive spaces where everybody’s opinions, ideas, and contributions are valuable, regardless of their ability, knowledge or experience. We want to create a feeling where, from the outset that all folks attending are able to feel valued and respected without fear of discrimination or assumptions due to their race, age, class, gender or gender identity, sexuality, abilities, dietary or lifestyle choices or other beliefs. We are also aware that our own assumptions, privilege and practices as facilitators need to be open to challenge.

At the start of this week of action and gathering we will spend time as a group co-creating some shared agreements (or ‘ground rules’) around what the group agrees are acceptable behaviours, as well as building the foundations of a ’Culture’ that will ensure that all participants are able to feel safe as they can be, and enjoy a positive experience at the gathering and during all the activities as part of this Week of Action. In doing this, the agreement will vary in detail at this particular event to any other organised by the Empty Cages Collective according to the particular mix of the participants and their needs. Participants come from a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences, and while such a range of different identities and ideas always makes for an amazing mix of creative and solutions-based thinking, people can sometimes annoy people or make them feel unsafe unintentionally – and sometimes intentionally. Therefore, in addition to any particular ground rules that might be emergent, we have an expectation that all participants will have read and will agree to abide by our Safer Spaces Agreement below. Please note that this is an evolving document, and we are open to any comments, suggestions or feedback that will enable us to improve it in any way.
Safer Spaces Agreement (Current version April 2016)

The aim of the Safer Spaces Agreement is to:
• Remind participants that creating safer spaces is people’s own responsibility, as well as the responsibility of the people around you,
• Remind participants that words, body language, actions, and behaviour affect other people and their feelings.
• Remind people to be aware of other people’s personal boundaries and ensure these are respected.
• Empower participants to feel safe and supported in ‘calling out’ behaviours by others that they find oppressive or discriminatory.

All course or event participants will at all times agree to:
• Respect people’s physical and emotional boundaries.
• Always get explicit verbal consent before touching someone or crossing personal boundaries.
• Respect people’s opinions, beliefs, differing states of being, and differing points of view.
• Be responsible for your own actions. Be aware that your actions do have an effect on others.
• If someone is upset or offended by your actions, you need to take personal responsibility for this, regardless of whether the harm was intended.
• Take responsibility for your own safety, and ask for help if you need it.
• Be aware that there may be times when children or vulnerable people may be in the space, and that their safety needs to be ensured.
• Not engage in any behaviour or language that may perpetuate oppression, for example being racist, ageist, sexist, transphobic, homophobic, ableist, classist, sizeist, or any bigoted behaviour.

If the Agreement is Not Respected:
A space should be inclusive of every individual where possible, but, if certain individuals are making the place unsafe, they are making it less inclusive for others. If you feel that you cannot abide by the Safer Spaces Agreement you should exclude yourself from the space. Individuals who disregard or continually behave in ways that contravene the Safer Spaces Agreement will be challenged about their behaviour, and may be asked to leave the week of action and gathering.

Acknowledgements to QC2012 Safer Spaces Agreement from which parts of the above Safer Spaces Agreement have been adapted.
Notes on Safer Spaces in the context of Prison Abolition

The P.I.C. (Prison Industrial Complex) wants us to believe that police, prisons, and surveillance are necessary to maintain the social order. What could “safe spaces” or “safety” look like, and, more importantly, how could we sustain them once the PIC is abolished?

Bench & Jenna, Philly Stands Up: As it is now, safe spaces tend to function as bubbles designed to stave off folks without anti-oppression politics or to respond to people who have perpetrated assault and have not been accountable. Although necessary, the establishment of safer spaces often feels watery, fraught, and tenuous. Safer spaces do, however, ask participants to act with awareness and intention around harm, violence, and risk. How do we transform these temporary spaces into a lasting framework for what we can and do expect of each other? PIC abolition is about reformulating safety so that instead of policing difference in the name of safe communities, safety means celebrating, acknowledging, and working through and with difference, all while holding self-determination as a central organizing principle of the world we wish to create and inhabit.

Since our current models of safer spaces can sometimes replicate the policing and surveillance we need to dismantle, it is critical that we find ways to creatively build community with each other without connecting our safety to somebody else’s exile. Part of this work means cultivating a culture of talking to each other and having high expectations for how we treat each other. Transformative justice highlights the need for placing at the center of our political practice a dedication towards developing (re)new(ed) modes of communicating with each other that are grounded in abundance, accountability, and love. Our movements and our political and personal relationships cannot afford to continue down the road of “call out culture,” where we overemphasize the role of critique at the expense of generative political conversations that allow for growth. Creating abolitionist visions of safety, then, is about challenging ourselves to understand liberation as collective and accountability as communitywide.