Victoria Law is a writer, photographer, zinester and mother. In 1996, she helped start Books Through Bars - New York City, a group that sends free books to prisoners nationwide. In 2000, she began concentrating on the needs and actions of women in prison, drawing attention to their issues by writing articles and giving public presentations, culminating in her book Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women. She is also involved with ABC No Rio, a community arts center on the Lower East Side.
Victoria Law’s research indicates that women prisoners are even more overlooked by mainstream society than their male counterparts. She explains how their struggles to improve their health care, abolish sexual, maintain contact with their children and efforts to further their education have been ignored or dismissed by those studying the prison-industrial complex.
The last decade has seen a growing movement toward abolishing prisons. At the same time, antiviolence organizers have called on prison abolitionists to take the issue of gender violence seriously and to develop initiatives to address it in the context of prison abolition. Fueled by increasing recognition that women of color, immigrant, queer, transgender, poor, and other marginalized women are often further brutalized – rather than protected – by the police, grassroots groups, and activists throughout the world, are organizing community alternatives to calling 911. Such initiatives, however, are not new. Throughout history, women have acted and organized to ensure their own and their loved ones’ safety. This article, which originally appeared in the journal Contemporary Justice Review, examines both past and present models of women’s community self-defense practices against interpersonal violence.