Press Contact: Joe Watson
Tucson, Arizona – June 29, 2019 – Over the past 27 years, the work of American Friends Service Committee-Arizona (AFSC-AZ) to reduce the criminal punishment system has been rooted in a fundamental Quaker tenant: Worth, dignity, and Light are present in all people. We stand with those directly impacted by incarceration, whom society often marginalizes with labels like “criminal,” implying that their mistakes make them less deserving of our love and compassion.
The diseased root of both our broken criminal “justice” system and our broken immigration system is the same—criminalizing behavior that those in power disapprove of, do not understand, or fear. Governments create laws to protect their perceived interests. We can apply the same lens to our federal government’s policy of criminalizing migration, incarcerating immigrants, and separating families. These policies are justified through the same process of fear mongering and criminalization—casting immigrants as “dangerous” and accusing them of flouting the law.
Both broken systems, in turn, are helping to expand a billion dollar industry that profits off of surveillance, supervision, and locking up people. This must stop.
While AFSC-AZ is relieved that children will no longer be separated from their parents, locking up individuals or families in detention facilities is not an acceptable alternative. Neither is placing them under costly and invasive electronic monitoring or other forms of surveillance. Not only are these criminalizing responses unfair, they are ineffective at addressing the root issues around migration. Just like mass incarceration does nothing to help people stop using drugs.
These responses don’t work because they completely ignore the drivers causing families to flee their home countries and seek refuge in the U.S. Families who take the risk of crossing the border are often escaping violence and extreme poverty in hopes of a better life. Like most parents, they would do almost anything to keep their children safe.
We need to address this situation by re-centering the conversation around our shared humanity, understanding the complex drivers of migration, and rejecting the false narratives that permit inhumane treatment of those labeled “criminals.”
American Friends Service Committee-Arizona (AFSC-AZ) works to reduce the scope and impact of the criminal punishment system in Arizona using research and documentation, advocacy, and policy reform to advance sentencing reform, halt prison expansion and improve conditions of confinement.