As I often recount, I was a 16-year-old child when I was arrested. My offense resulted in me being sentenced as an adult, to spend the rest of my life behind bars, with no chance for parole.
I survived decades in Pennsylvania state prisons, including around 10 years in solitary confinement, because of the fierce advocacy of my family, and the support I received inside from mentors and Black Liberation Movement elders who were already decades into their sentences when my incarceration began.
Twenty seven years later, in 2018, I stepped out of SCI Greene after the Supreme Court ruled that sentencing children to automatic life without the possibility of parole is cruel, unnecessary, inhumane, and unconstitutional.
When I won my freedom I immediately joined the staff of the Abolitionist Law Center in my native Philadelphia, finally working on the outside with the people I’d been building with for years from the inside. Two years later I became ALC’s Executive Director.
Since then, ALC has experienced tremendous growth and vital progress in our work to combat the harms of the criminal punishment system.
And we’ve become leaders in the movement to radically alter the landscape around mass incarceration and related issues in the all-important swing state of Pennsylvania.
So today, I’m asking for you to stand with us by making a tax-deductible contribution to ALC to show that you care about people like me and you want to end the racist, classist prison system that has shattered the lives of so many others from communities like mine.
As an ALC supporter, you know that we employ two broad tactics in our fight for freedom: we’re both a non-profit, public interest law firm, and a grassroots community organizing project.
We wield class action, impact, and accompaniment litigation. We mount pressure campaigns and mobilize affected communities. And we reshape the narratives around the criminal punishment system, and target every point on its conveyor belt: policing, the courts, cash bail, probation, parole, jails, and prisons.
In 2022 ALC has continued making progress achieving sweeping changes to carceral policies around restricting solitary confinement, challenging death by incarceration (life without parole), and defending the rights of imprisoned people with disabilities, and those who need psychiatric treatment and other medical care.
We’ve ratcheted up our scale and pace of bringing people home…like Bradford Gamble, an elder suffering from Stage 4 cancer, who after decades behind bars, faced the excruciating scenario of having to decline medical treatment in prison in order to qualify for “compassionate release” to spend his final days at home with family.
We’ve kept fighting to limit incarceration in the first place, and protect those who are trapped behind bars, especially the most vulnerable like those with mental illness who are often brutalized and subjected to solitary and other forms of torture.
And we’ve extracted financial resources from carceral institutions and redirected them to those the system has harmed.
People who are currently or formerly incarcerated and their loved ones are the leaders here. Folks who are directly impacted by state violence are building the strategic alliances and power to end it. But to succeed, we know we need a broad community standing with us as we fight for freedom.
Pennsylvania is a key battleground state and the stakes couldn’t be higher. So I’m personally inviting you:
Join us. Help us.
Renew your commitment as a member of our abolitionist family. Please donate to decarcerate today and for abolition tomorrow.
Robert Saleem Holbrook