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Looking At How Oppression Is Enforced

At the recent Working Class/Raised Poor Workshop led by Dan Nickerson, I called a topic group for people wanting to discharge on their contact with the criminal justice system. This had been something on my mind for some time, but it seemed like a very scary and unsafe thing to do. It somehow seemed a bit safer to do this at a working-class workshop. Four people turned up, and I was delighted that I'd taken this first step.

I had contact with the criminal justice system, via a family member, over a period of three to four years. I learnt many things during that time-about how the system functions, the harshness of that "secretive" world away from the eyes of society, the mistreatment of prisoners, the pressure on prison officers to conform to the oppressor role, and the lack of respect and dignity accorded to family members.

Apart from the distress at seeing how my family member was hardened and hurt by the experience of jail, the most difficult part for me was that, as relatives and friends, we were also treated as if we'd committed a crime, as if we were "bad," untrustworthy, and not-very-nice people.

A prisoner's sentence, and the secondary sentence on family and friends, never quite goes away for the rest of their lives, due to the general distress in society about crime and injustice and the confusion about the "goodness" of human beings and the possibility of discharging old hurts and behaviors and "changing."

All human beings are inherently good, including prisoners (and prison officers!).

With correct information and access to discharge, the prison population would be greatly reduced (instead of increasing, as at present) and eventually, would barely need to exist.

Prisoners are an expression of our oppressive class system and point out to us the work we need to do toward our goals of a fair and rational society. I wonder how many others there are in RC who've had contact with the justice system but aren't saying? It would be wonderful to hear your stories and what you have to say. Either it is the secrecy and shame which is keeping us quiet, or RC is not yet a representative enough group to look welcoming and safe for prisoners and their families. Something for us to aim for in RC!

There is a great article in Present Time, July 1992 called "Make Room for Us in RC" about being a "bad" girl at school and trying now to find a place in the RC Community. There needs to be room for everyone who wants to be in RC.

Barbara Freeman
Perth, Western Australia
reprinted from the August 1995 Zest in the West,
the newsletter for the Western Australia RC Community


Last modified: 2021-06-01 12:29:59+00