People Against Prisons Aotearoa (PAPA) is a prison abolitionist organisation working for a fairer, safer, and more just Aotearoa.
We started in February 2015 as a group concerned about the treatment of transgender people in prisons. Since then, we have become a mass-based organisation that works with different communities to address the worst problems of the criminal justice system, and to build a better one.
We do a whole range of things to make this happen. PAPA regularly mobilises people power around key issues. We organise protests, marches, and direct action to highlight and address injustices. We are working with dozens of prisoners and their whānau at any given time, advocating on their behalf, and we provide hundreds of prisoners with a link to the outside world with our penpal network. We also regularly produce high quality research on the criminal justice system, and provide education sessions about alternatives to prisons.
We are entirely volunteer-run. We have no paid employees and rely on small donations from our membership to keep us going. We exist because the community wants us to exist.
All the evidence shows that prisons don’t reduce crime. They take you away from your support networks, put you in an environment where violence is the only solution to your problems, and then expect you to come out a better person.
Prisons have never kept our communities safe and never will. They are places where people experience incredible violence every day. People take that violence out of prison when they leave and bring it home. Prisons make our communities less safe.
PAPA believes that everyone has the ability to change. No one is born a criminal. When someone has hurt others, that does not mean they are destined to keep hurting others for the rest of their lives. If people are treated with dignity and respect, and given the resources they need to survive and thrive, we can live in a less violent and more peaceful society.
We see prisons for what they are: a club to bash down poor people, brown people, and those who our society doesn’t want to make space for. Prisons across the world double down on inequality and make elites stronger. They are a fundamental obstacle to social justice and equality.
That’s why we are prison abolitionists. Abolitionists believe that prison itself is the problem and that prisons should not exist at all. We know that no matter how hard you try to change prisons to make them better, they still have the same effects.
We believe that there is a better way to achieve justice for everyone. Prisons can never be part of the way we get there.