Free Them to Heal Us: Building Power of People Harmed by Prisons and Police

free them to heal us logo shows two red hands shaking and the text free them to heal us in bold

At the heart of Amistad Law Project’s work is our commitment to building the power and self-determination of everyday people who have been harmed by prisons, policing, injustice and poverty across Pennsylvania. In April of 2021 we took another step towards this goal, reinvigorating our Free Them to Heal Us network with virtual chapter meetings in Delaware County and Philadelphia. 

Free Them to Heal Us first emerged in April of 2020 in response to the onset of the COVID-19 crisis. As COVID-19 tore through the prisons, people in power did little release incarcerated people or keep them safe and politicians directed resources away from community necessities like schools and housing to overfunded police departments, prisons, and bailing out wealthy corporations - we knew that no one was coming to save us. We needed to take action. We saw that many people were deeply worried about their loved ones in prison, but were challenged by isolation and unable to meet or take action in person.

We began meeting virtually, gathering on Zoom in weekly support spaces, getting trained on how to advocate online and taking digital action to bring people home from prison. As the pandemic wore on, it became even more clear that the safety and freedom our communities deserve wouldn’t be passed down from the top, but would be built in community, person by person from below. When we re-launched Free Them to Heal Us this Spring, the heart of our mission was bringing together more people affected by mass incarceration to build power together. Our mission is to organize people directly impacted by mass incarceration, policing, injustice and poverty who have not yet been plugged into movement spaces so we can grow our movement to get free. 

Over the past couple months, Free Them to Heal Us has held virtual chapter meetings in Delaware County and Philadelphia, bringing together over 40 people directly impacted by mass incarceration who were not previously engaged in movement spaces. New members of Free Them To Heal Us shared their experiences with each other, and together we envisioned a world in which incarcerated people are treated in line with their full dignity and humanity.

a collage shows 4 different people at a Free Them to Heal Us meeting

Since the Spring we’ve focused in on bringing people home through the Board of Pardons and the parole board, reuniting people with their loved ones and lifting up the need for pathways home from prison.  We took action together in June, leaving scores of voicemails for members of the Board of Pardons calling on them to use their vote to bring people home. In the coming months, we look forward to meeting in a hybrid format online and in person, building up our skills and chapters, and deepening our political education so we can be effective advocates and organizers. 

We’ll support each other, help incarcerated loved ones get applications in to the Board of Pardons, and continue taking action to bring people home. Step by step, we are building out collective power to free people from prison and win our communities the resources we deserve. 

Learn more about Free Them to Heal Us by reading our 5 Point Program to Get Free.

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