Radical Acts of Justice
How Ordinary People are Dismantling Mass Incarceration
In the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, community bail funds surged, as a form of protest and a focus of philanthropic energy. While they were hardly new, bail funds garnered attention as an effective and individual means of responding to the failures of the police and the courts and a way to channel outrage in a pandemic era. And these funds have made a difference – after months of uprisings, thousands of protesters and ordinary people were freed from jail as millions of dollars were donated to bail funds nationwide.
In Radical Acts of Justice: How Ordinary People are Dismantling Mass Incarceration, Jocelyn Simonson, who has written extensively about the ways that social movements shift our views of justice, looks at bail funds and other ground-up actions that are, one by one, effecting social change and contesting preconceived notions about freedom and safety. She explores the problematic idea that individuals who are prosecuted are not the people who matter when it comes to politics. Actions like bail funds, courtwatching, and people’s budgets give agency to these individuals and their families and loved ones, and force us to recognize the deep forms of violence in each and every corner of the carceral state.
By focusing on the reforms that shift power to the people who are most directly affected by the system, Radical Acts of Justice proposes that communal resistance within the system is a form of justice-making itself. The stories of grassroots activism that Jocelyn Simonson follows are a reminder of the power, and unpredictability, of planting many seeds. These forms of resistance open up transformational possibilities that would otherwise elude us and that can lead to change that is both urgent and necessary.