This weekend the Empty Cages Collective facilitated a workshop on Gender and the Prison Industrial Complex at the Anarcha-Feminist Conference.

gender1As two workshop facilitators that identified as women this felt like a perfect opportunity to work with other anarcha-feminists to connect the dots between patriarchy and prisons.

The workshop started with a quiz, where participants were asked questions such as how much the female prison population had grown by in England and Wales in the past 15 years (115%). Or of the 23,183 incidents of self harm recorded in 2013, what percentage could be attributed to women – a massive 27% despite women being only 5% of the prison population.

We then introduced the prison industrial complex as a concept and reality, before moving on to explore together who is harmed by the P.I.C. We looked at profiles of criminalised women and spent twenty minutes exploring race and class and how they intersect with the system.

Moving on, we explored if prison abolition is a queer issue. We discussed points from the Justice Now Resource ‘Prison Abolition is a Queer Issue’ in small groups (Download it here – JusticeNow_prison_abolition_queer_issue). It was clear we unanimously supported one of the key points:“Queer liberation is only possible with the liberation of all oppressed and marginalised people. Challenging homophobia necessarily means simultaneously challenging and eradicating racism, misogyny, transphobia, classism, and xenophobia. Uprooting all these systems necessarily means opposing and uprooting prisons. If we do not oppose prisons and our culture’s hyper-reliance on containment, surveillance, and policing, our vision for justice is fundamentally incomplete.”

We then introduced the ideas of abolition, and every played a game exploring some of the impacts of reforms in terms of perpetuating and extending the prison industrial complex.

Finally we talked in small groups about where prison abolition fits in an anarcha-feminist framework. Many people focused on how state and interpersonal violence intersect, which led on to the accountability workshop as part of the conference.

Overall it was a really great workshop, with lots of shared experiences and stories bringing abolitionist politics to life.

Some more resources about Gender and the Prison Industrial Complex:

Some great books: