On January 27, Marissa Alexander served her last day behind bars as was agreed to by a plea deal arranged in November 2014. She still has two years of house arrest to serve, but will be able to work and attend her children’s school functions. Please read the press release below that was put out by the national Free Marissa Now mobilizing campaign.
Radical Women took up the defense of Marissa because our experience has shown that justice for women who defend themselves is won through grassroots community organizing as much as it is in the courtroom. It is thanks to the collective efforts of many individuals and groups that Marissa is out of prison. Your phone calls, letters, demonstrations and actions pressured the courts to overturn her conviction and 20-year sentence.
This was not the ending many of us had hoped for when the case began – full acquittal was the goal. But the state relentlessly persecuted her, and State Prosecutor Angela Corey threatened a 60 year sentence if a jury found Marissa was found guilty at her second trial. So she accepted a plea deal.
Justice was not served in this case, as it so frequently isn’t for women of color and those who are physically or mentally abused by their partners. Marissa Alexander was a victim of spousal abuse who attempted to defend herself and found herself portrayed as the attacker by a racist and sexist legal system. Racial stereotypes that depict Black women as aggressive and full of anger helped stack the cards against her in the courtroom.
Radical Women joins the call for expunging Marissa Alexander’s record. We also demand the passage of a strengthened Violence Against Women Act, and an end to race and sex discrimination in the criminal justice system, including a stop to mandatory minimum sentencing.
In addition, Radical Women calls for massive increases in funding for jobs, aid to families, and shelters and services for everyone fleeing domestic violence regardless of their race, sexual orientation or immigration status. In the end, we need to overturn capitalism, the vicious economic system that so often forces women to stay with abusive partners, and create an egalitarian world that is safe and just for all.
National Executive Committee
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
From: Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign; FreeMarissaNow@gmail.com
Marissa Alexander Released from Prison;
Supporters Celebrate, Demand Full Freedom
Supporters of Marissa Alexander in Jacksonville, across the US, and all around the world are overjoyed that Alexander has been released from jail after serving 3 years behind bars for defending her life. In 2010, Alexander, a black mother of three from Jacksonville, Florida, was forced to defend her life from a life-threatening attack by her estranged husband by firing a single warning shot that caused no injuries. State Prosecutor Angela Corey prosecuted Alexander, pursuing a 60 year mandatory minimum sentence. On November 24, 2014, Alexander accepted a plea deal that included time served of nearly 3 years in prison, 65 additional days in the Duval County jail, and 2 years of probation while under home detention. Today marks the end of her time behind bars.
“We are thrilled that Marissa will finally be reunited with her children, her family, and her community,” said Sumayya Coleman, co-lead of the Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign. “Today’s hearing revealed that Marissa intends to attend school to become a paralegal and she is a wonderful mother to her children who urgently need her. Amazingly, the State continued their campaign of punishment by trying to add two more years of probation. Fortunately, they failed, and Marissa will be released today! Marissa and her family will need time to begin recovering from this arduous and traumatic experience. It’s been a long and painful journey and, though her release from jail is definitely a win - no 60 years, the journey of seeking ultimate freedom is not over. Marissa will be forced to be on strict home detention while being under surveillance for two years. This is by no means freedom in the sense we feel she deserves. Our next agenda is to seek full restoration for Marissa and her family, including the expunging of her so-called criminal record, and a systemic transformation that prevents black women and all survivors of domestic violence from experiencing the hostile and brutal treatment from policing, prosecution, and prison systems that Marissa has endured. We will push for improved legislation and monitoring of systems that penalize victims of domestic violence who choose to save their lives by force. This is by no means a conclusion.”
Alexander will be forced to wear and pay for a surveillance ankle monitor, and forbidden from leaving her home with the exception of attending work, church, her children’s school, and appointments with doctors or the court. This will effectively “prisonize” her home, as noted by journalist, Maya Schenwar. This practice of extending a prison culture of surveillance, punishment, and confinement into people’s homes and communities has significantly increased in the U.S., creating what Prof. Beth Richie has described as a “prison nation,” especially for black women. Coercing probationers to pay for surveillance monitors is also part of the increasing privatization of punishment in the U.S.
Since 2012, the Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign has organized to free Alexander from the punishing experience of being prosecuted for self-defense. Supporters have organized in Jacksonville, across the United States in dozens of cities, and around the world to demand Alexander’s freedom. Aleta Alston Toure’, co-lead of Free Marissa Now said, “For almost three years, this campaign has raised critical awareness about Alexander’s case, raised much needed donations for her legal defense fund, and raised a movement that takes a stand against mass incarceration and domestic violence. If this targeting of Marissa had unfolded behind closed doors and without powerful pushback from people who believe in justice, we believe she would still be in prison today. Organizing matters.”
Organizers are hosting a number of direct actions in support of Alexander’s freedom. In Jacksonville, organizers will hold a press conference today at 12pm on the Duval County Courthouse steps. They will also welcome a display of The Monument Quilt, 350 quilt squares containing stories from survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in solidarity with Marissa Alexander. The quilt will blanket the Duval County Courthouse lawn on January 27th, 8 am – 2pm.
Local organizers will convene a televised People’s Movement Assembly to be held on January 28th, 1pm at WJCT/ PBS, 100 Festival Park Ave. The assembly discussion will focus on state violence against women and will include Dr. Kimberle Crenshaw, Columbia University, UCLA, & the African American Policy Forum; Kerry McLean, National Lawyers Guild, Dr. Faye Williams, National Congress of Black Women; Dr. Rose Brewer, University of Minnesota; and Dr. Beth Richie, University of Illinois, Chicago and INCITE!. The assembly will be hosted by local Free Marissa Now member, Denyce Gartrell.
The Chicago Alliance to Free Marissa Alexander led a recent major fundraising push that raised $11,000 to help Alexander cover the cost of her ankle monitor for the two year period of home detention. They are organizing a January 27th discussion about how to talk to children with imprisoned family members about incarceration, which will occur at 6pm at 637 Dearborn St. in Chicago.
The Free Marissa Now Bay Area collective also organized a caravan that traveled from Oakland, CA to Jacksonville, FL, raising awareness about Alexander’s case in cities along the way. Details about all of these events can be found at freemarissanow.org.
“It’s hard to summarize the incredible outpouring of rage, love, and commitment to freedom that has arrived from all around the world in solidarity with Marissa Alexander,” said Alisa Bierria, also from Free Marissa Now. “Hundreds of people have donated, created art and media, and organized direct actions, letter writing sessions, and teach-ins in Jacksonville, Chicago, Berkeley, Los Angeles, New York, Pittsburgh, DC, New Orleans, St. Louis, Seattle, Denver, Miami, Canada, Australia, and many other locations. The dozens of projects that Marissa’s supporters have organized have been creative, brilliant, and impactful. Together, we have not only helped to ensure Marissa’s release from prison, we have hopefully shown why we must keep addressing the connections between domestic violence, reproductive violence, and state violence. We warmly thank and honor every person who has contributed to this historic freedom movement."
Free Marissa Now notes that Alexander has asked supporters to use her case to bring more attention to women in similar circumstances, such as Tondalo Hall and Charmaine Pfender.
Organizers will publish a report about the Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign on their website, freemarissanow.org, in the coming weeks.
The Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign is an international grassroots campaign led by a core of organizers representing the African American/Black Women's Cultural Alliance, New Jim Crow Movement - Jacksonville, and INCITE! Women of Color and Trans People of Color Against Violence. For more information, see www.FreeMarissaNow.org.