October 3, 2018

The Audre Lorde Project Endorses the Mass Bailout Project


“Sometimes we are blessed with being able to choose the time, and the arena, and the manner of our revolution, but more usually we must do battle where we are standing.” --Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches.

The Audre Lorde Project (ALP) is committed to bridging struggle across intersections and ending all forms of oppression, including that of the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC). We support sharing ourselves and our stories to connect our communities. As a progressive organization seeking radical social justice, we recognize the need to strategize, mobilize, and organize to move important and necessary work forward. We endorse this mass bailout because we understand the real impact of the PIC and that people deserve to be with loved ones and at a home while they wait for a trial.

The Prison Industrial Complex disproportionately impacts Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Two Spirit, Trans, and Gender Non-Conforming People of Color and is maintained by capitalism, racism, sexism, and patriarchy. We seek to uplift the movement to end cash bail and release those on Rikers, beginning with trans people, cis women, and young people as a means of confronting the imprisonment and containment model that preys on our most vulnerable community members. The Audre Lorde Project is currently engaging in coalition building work and alliances that will push for abolition and not simply close Rikers in exchange for new jails in our neighborhoods and communities. By linking with prison abolition movements, we will continue on the path to creating a world without imprisonment, policing, and other forms of punishment and control.

We recognize that this direct action is not a cure-all, and prison abolition has no direct simple path. As our namesake, Audre Lorde, preached, “The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house.” We cannot merely narrow our focus on today's events or even the ending of cash bail – we must destroy the Prison Industrial Complex, and simultaneously dare to create a new ideology and practice that will bring about the transformation of the roots of oppression into the roots of liberation. We must imagine, like Octavia Butler, weaving our ancestral practice with our collective dreams while we construct a future without Rikers, without any prisons; without capitalism; without racism, sexism, patriarchy, transphobia, and homophobia.

What is important is that we engage with these difficult conversations, including those around reform of the PIC, beginning [if necessary] with the end of cash bail. Prison abolition is a collective endeavor that requires destroying and reimagining models that don’t serve us, rather than just pushing back against them. It requires systematic change that will uplift and uphold transformative justice instead of punitive measures. The destruction of the PIC requires concrete practices, models, dialogues, and action. With each person bailed out, we increase our ability to listen to our greatest assets – those with firsthand experience – and build our movement with their thoughts and ideas centered. By asking these questions and learning from our community, we can address our current punishment system with newer tools and tactics.

There are two necessary lanes on the road to liberation: transformation and harm reduction. While we are trying to destroy the PIC, we know that there are people inside trying to survive. We can hold the complexity of both these collective needs. In addition to abolishing prisons, we work to create alternatives to the only systems we’ve been allowed to know. This is abolition. Through the Audre Lorde Project’s Safe Neighborhood Campaign, the Safe OUTside the System Collective seeks to rebuild wellness and safety systems in Central Brooklyn that have been uprooted by policing and gentrification. Gentrification works in tandem with policing to displace our social safety networks. When we identify criminalization and disposability as tactics the state uses to fuel capitalism, we know the opposite has the potential to destroy it. Building community, radical neighborliness, calling each other instead of the cops, not casting any of our parts or our people out, developing alternative forms of accountability - this is how we’ll abolish the prison industrial complex.

“I realize I don’t know very much. None of us knows very much. But we can all learn more. Then we can teach one another. We can stop denying reality or hoping it will go away by magic.” --Octavia E. Butler, The Earthseed Series: Parable of the Sower.



  • The prison industrial complex (PIC) is a term we use to describe the overlapping interests of government and industry that use surveillance, policing, and imprisonment as solutions to economic, social, and political problems.
  • Cash Bail is money that you pay as a deposit for the release of a person who has been arrested (also known as a defendant).