Amend The 13th: On the vital importance of ‘Strategic Release’ to Community Development

Joka Heshima Jinsai

Prison Focus Issue 53
Fall 2017

Greetings Sistas and Brothas.

As the National Agenda of ‘Amend the 13th’ continues to find resonance with the People, we see great enthusiasm for its major components such as support for the Millions for Prisoners March, the Autonomous Infrastructure Mission (A.I.M.) and the Abolition Petition, but of equal importance is public support for the concept of ‘Strategic Release.’
Intentional instability

What has fueled the legacy of legal slavery in Amerika from the Jim Crow era to the present day is unstable and intentionally underdeveloped communities. One of the chief contributors to this instability is systematic recidivism and lack of effective leadership in the process of community development, reclamation and stability. U.S. policies of mass incarceration have fractured family units, have exacerbated generational poverty, have facilitated the school to prison pipeline and have solidified social containment policies for New Afrikans, Latinos and the poor into concrete barriers to social progress no less real than the prison walls which hold so many.

A New Progressive Mentality

But this process of systematic dehumanization also produces its opposite: New Men and Women who have been transformed by their experiences with the productive system into genuine social progressives, the very antithesis to this structural hate. Such New Men and Women have given their very lives to transforming the criminal mentality into a progressive mentality, and transforming their communities into bastions of social progress and stability.

The unfortunate reality is that the U.S. is an attrition-based society, one that prizes retribution and punishment over restorative justice; one that values the conquest of resistance, while viewing mercy as weakness. Though there is overwhelming evidence that these draconian measures do not diminish, but instead actually fuel criminalization, Amerikan policymakers continue to capitulate to the ‘growth’-model of the Prison Industrial Slave Complex (PISC). It was this social reality which led New Afrikan Political Activists to develop the concept of STRATEGIC RELEASE.

The Highest Threshold of Rehabilitation

Under Strategic Release, a Prisoner’s grant of parole, pardon or clemency is based on the positive impact he or she has had on their community and society during his or her imprisonment, and the even greater positive impact they will have on society as a whole if released.

Consideration for Strategic Release is based on a subject’s work product and proven record of service to the community and society, and a formal commitment to continue to work in the service of the community and the People into perpetuity once released.
As such it is the height of social restitution, providing direct restorative justice to the People and our communities, requiring a lifetime commitment to society’s progress and welfare. Strategic Release also requires a minimum of 25 years of confinement as, according to the state’s own Bureau of Justice Statistics, recidivism rates for those 50 and over, or who have served 25 years or more, are virtually non-existent.
This means Strategic Release is the highest threshold of rehabilitation, public safety and social justice any Prisoner can achieve, warranting the highest reward: A second chance to serve society, physically present in their communities.

Reducing Crime

It is this physical presence of Strategic Release subjects in our communities which lies at the heart of its vital importance to the process of community development. The formal adoption of Strategic Release will have a direct impact on reducing crime and violence in our communities where it has been generational, while diminishing the social inequities at the root of criminalization through the contributions and activities of those granted release.

The prospective Prisoners considered for Strategic Release are committed to solving the ills of society without working with the state or law enforcement, but instead through directly working with the People and community; thus they remain perpetually accountable to those who have granted them release. Strategic Release is therefore vital to any community development scheme, as those released to the community, [as] much as fire transforms lifeless ice into life-sustaining water, [they] will breathe healing and life-altering development into our struggling communities.

Viable Alternative to the Carceral State

Strategic Release will provide us all with competent and dedicated leadership at a time when we are facing a crisis in leadership in so many of our communities. Strategic Release will serve as a blueprint for the expansion of restorative justice initiatives and act as a viable alternative to the maintenance of the traditional carceral state. This means Strategic Release will serve to undermine the Prison Industrial Slave Complex (PISC) at the point of criminalization: our communities.

The programs and mentorship provided by Strategic Release subjects in our communities will shut down the school-/poverty-to-prison pipeline at the source. Because the subjects for Strategic Release have literally spent decades analyzing and developing solutions to the ills of society from the perspective of the most disenfranchised and oppressed, the programs, initiatives and institutions they have developed represent a degree of innovation unknown in mainstream Amerika.

Rehabilitation through Serving the People directly

Strategic release provides a new impetus for our imprisoned Sistas and Brothas to take self-development beyond mere rehabilitation, forward to the realm of social activism and a genuine committment to serving the People (and society as a whole). These new interconnected social, economic and political relationships produced by the impact of Strategic Release subjects and their work product will serve to move society as a whole away from the greed, hate and naked self-interest which has exacerbated its core contradictions, on to more cooperative and harmoneous modes of social life beneficial to us all.

Support the Concept of Strategic Release

I encourage you in the strongest terms to advocate for the formal adoption of Srategic Release by your community and state legistlatures; support local petitions for Strategic Release and contact your local community organizers and encourage them to support the concept of Strategic Release.

Please visit the sites of the affinity organizations listed below for additional information and links to others currently pursuing formal adoption of Strategic Release in states across the nation. Amend the 13th stands in solidarity with them and all those actively pursuing the implementation of Strategic Release.

Until we win or don’t lose,

Joka Heshima Jinsai

Founder & Executive Director
Amend the 13th: Abolish Legal Slavery in Amerika Movement
Please visit: www.amendthe13th.org