A life of its own

Laurel Townhead
Monday, 14 April 2014

Helen wrote about the Justice Matters for Women Event in a previous blog post and mentioned that this event was not the end of the line. We planned to continue work on this following the event but we weren’t sure quite what form that would take. The commitment, frustration and sense of common purpose expressed at the event have given us a kick start for the next phase of this project. 

Like Helen and Rebecca at the Centre, I came away from the event buzzing with the energy and ideas, with that special feeling of having been a part of a moment when something else began to feel possible. As I said at the end of the event, these are the moments that sustain me as I work for change in an increasingly challenging environment. 

The key things I took away in terms of informing what happens next were:

  • Passion: this matters, and it matters to a broad range of people from different sectors. 
  • Collective voice: there is a “we” and, whilst there will not be unanimity on all points there is enough common ground to build on. 
  • Energy: we should take this on, we are ready to do something, there is a hunger to find the time to step back from the day to day and work for social justice, not just “better” criminal justice.   

So what next? The Centre and Women in Prison will pull together a call for action, drawing on the discussions at the event and coming back to you to build on the groundswell of support for action to tackle the status quo which we felt at the event.

It is no small task that we have taken on… bringing about real justice for women means tackling the economic and power structures that perpetuate inequality, it means challenging the attitudes that undermine women’s safety. But by coming together, re-boosting each other’s energy to keep challenging the over-expansion of criminal justice into women’s lives and equipping ourselves to articulate a vision for just world for women we can achieve change. 

It is a challenge to articulate what it is we want to see – we are so firmly grounded in the challenges of the current system that we struggle to step back, re-think and focus on what we want, rather than on what we don’t want. This is what I think was meant by the comment mentioned in the previous blog about  making the unimaginable visible. And this is where I think we can have an impact: By equipping ourselves and others to speak with confidence about challenging criminal justice dominance and mission creep, and to communicate a vision of the alternative.  

We will be looking to all of you to help take this forward. It no longer feels like this is the Centre’s and Women in Prison’s project alone. Bolstered by your energy and knowledge, informed by your ideas and frustrations it feels like Justice Matters for Women is all of ours now. It is becoming something bigger and more ambitious than we initially planned. It is taking on a life of its own – I look forward to working with you all as it grows. 

Laurel Townhead is Policy & Campaigns Manager at Women in Prison