In affirming OutReach’s statement in support of All Black Lives and the Black Lives Matter Movement that we released June 1st, we want to share our support for Dane County resolution 2020 RES-145 which serves to address and name systemic racism in Dane County, as well as encouraging divestment from systems of incarceration in favor of investment in transformative, just alternatives to incarceration.
Prior to Covid-19 the County Board approved a $148 million dollar Dane County jail expansion project to replace the current jail. Many reasons were cited such as safety concerns for employees and those who are incarcerated. And while these are legitimate concerns that need to be addressed, we know that building a newer, bigger detainment center won’t help address the systemic inequities that drive mass incarceration, especially among Black, Brown, Indigenous, and People of Color (BBIPOC), and especially those at the intersections of race and other marginalized identities, such as queer and trans BBIPOC (QTBBIPOC).
Since Covid-19 we have seen the jail population decrease significantly, in part due to significant community efforts through Free the 350 Bail Fund, as well as due to illness in the jail. Incarcerated individuals are at high risk of contracting Covid-19 as it is impossible to social distance in the jail, they are in contact with staff members who may be exposing them to Covid-19, and incarcerated individuals are often accused of faking illness, and/or not having their illness taken seriously, as a way to get out of the conditions of incarceration. And often the solution to illness, including physical and mental health issues, is to put an incarcerated individual in solitary confinement. This is fundamentally inhumane and dehumanizing.
Additionally, as an organization that focuses on LGBTQ+ rights we must recognize the role that incarceration plays in criminalizing our community, and those most vulnerable among us. Most jails and prisons force trans incarcerated folks to be segregated by the gender that they do not identify with, and when they are victimized with violence they are often thrown in solitary confinement “for their safety.” We know that much of the crimes that trans people are incarcerated for are a result of poverty and scarcity of access to resources, such as jobs that pay a living wage, affordable housing, and even emergency services. Trans Black women are disproportionately impacted by the intersections of race/gender/class that put them at higher risk of being victimized by societal violence and the violence of incarceration. Jail creates more trauma and poverty and pain that leads to greater marginalization within society.
We support the resolution and the intention to move towards preserving individuals’ humanity, and justice for all who are impacted by systemic oppression that results in disproportionate outcomes of criminalization, incarceration, and the prison industrial complex.
While we support the reforms presented in this proposal, we also recognize that these reforms are first steps in a greater effort to reimagine our carceral systems and move toward systems rooted in transformative justice.
Sincerely from OutReach LGBTQ+ Community Center,
Jill Nagler, OutReach Board President
Steve Starkey, OutReach Executive Director