Everything that People Against Prisons Aotearoa does is part of our effort to build a fairer, more just world without prisons.
We heavily focus on mobilising people power to demonstrate to the people who hold power that we’ve had enough of the injustices of the prison system. We regularly hold rallies, pickets, marches, and direct action about issues we care about. At the moment, we’re part of the Health not Handcuffs coalition and running the Arms Down NZ campaign, but we’ve also mobilised people around solitary confinement, prisoner voting rights, double-bunking, sexual assaults in prisons, as well as more general calls for an end to mass incarceration.
This is not all we do. We aim to improve the immediate well-being of incarcerated people while challenging the existence of the criminal justice system itself. Our prisoner advocacy team communicates and works alongside incarcerated people when the Department of Corrections denies them their fundamental human rights. Our advocates give prisoners a voice outside of their prison cells, shedding light on the negligence and violence they experience. Our advocacy team are our direct link to prisoners, showing us where our interventions are most necessary. Advocates make visits to prisoners all over the country and make sure their everyday needs are being met. Our advocacy team cannot provide legal representation or advice.
We also run a prisoner penpal network that connects hundreds of prisoners with the outside world. The Prisoner Correspondence Network (PCN) fosters friendships, support networks, and knowledge sharing between incarcerated and free members of the community. Prisoners regularly write to us explaining how important their penpals have been. Sometimes, a letter from a penpal will be the only thing that makes a person’s day bearable. If you can take the time to write to a prisoner, you can sign up to be a penpal at reconnect.pcn.nz.
Transformative justice is a core part of how we’re building a world without prisons. Transformative justice is a different way of responding to harm than the criminal justice system. It uses community-oriented responses to harmful behaviour that knows that people can change and learn from what they have done. You can find out more about transformative justice in our transformative justice training booklet. We hold education and training sessions about transformative justice, helping empower communities to use non-criminal justice responses to deal with harmful behaviour.
PAPA produces high quality, peer-reviewed research on issues in the New Zealand criminal justice system. We use this research to communicate important ideas and issues to everyday people and to inform criminal justice debates. Our belief that a world without prisons is necessary doesn’t just come from our fundamental values of equality and justice. It’s backed up by research. Research across the world continues to show that prisons are entirely ineffective in keeping communities safe and that there are better ways to respond to harmful behaviour.
These are only some of things PAPA does to advance our cause. All these approaches, and all the good they have achieved, are only possible because of our membership. We are making real, life-saving change by harnessing the collective power of everyday people. If you want to be part of our efforts to build a safer, more just world, consider becoming a member.