For many poor women and women of color, sexual, emotional, and physical abuse early in life can lie at the root of an addiction that leads to a drug-related charge. In addition, male violence and coercion is often implicated in the lives of women incarcerated for a range of criminalized acts, from drug importation to prostitution. If feminist activists do not embrace a politics of prison abolitionism, their demands for exceptional treatment for a handful of cases do not speak to the majority of women prisoners who are the survivors of violence. In many cases, resources that are racialized or class-based determine whether a woman will deal with violence in “law-abiding” ways (for example, get a prescription for anti-depressants or other legal pharmaceuticals, call the police, take out a restraining order, find a new home) or ways which come into conflict with the criminal justice system (for example, use illegal substances, be coerced into prostitution or drug dealing, use physical violence). Without a general campaign to release all women prisoners, speaking for this “innocent” minority limits the politics of antiviolence, cutting it off from its revolutionary potential.
Julia Sudbury, Rethinking Antiviolence Strategies: Lessons from the Black Women’s Movement in Britian, in Color of Violence: The INCITE! Anthology