The Word For Freedom Is Demand

By Adlemy Garcia, Nana Duffuor, Catalina Bautista-Palacios, Jasmine Brown, Jessica Escobar, Anita Wills, and Diana Zuñiga

Oakland is where women gather on a Saturday morning in March, to ask ourselves this question: “Drawing from our histories, knowing what we know now, what needs to change?” We came up with a list of five demands. We direct our demands as a call to action to movement leaders, policymakers, our communities, our families, and ourselves.

As we came together to review a first draft of the report for which we spent the last year collecting surveys, meeting women outside of jails, conducting interviews and holding focus groups, we took a collective deep breath. This report process and the review that day has reminded us that as much as we are thriving, we are also still coping.

We spent the day sitting with the data, imagining what could be different, and collectively envisioning the campaigns, organizing strategies, and alternative systems of support that could lead us to a liberated future for us and our loved ones. For the first time, armed with this data, we were in a position to dictate what must happen next.

The demands outlined below reflect our unacknowledged labor, deep pain, and incredible resilience. They are a blueprint from which we hope gender justice, race justice, and criminal justice organizations can build to incorporate us fully as leaders in these shared spaces. To women with incarcerated loved ones we hope you will come find us—but not wait for us—and draw from this inspiration to create your own demands.

To women with incarcerated loved ones we hope you will come find us—but not wait for us—and draw inspiration to create your own demands.

In order to end the cycles of gendered and racialized harm caused by mass incarceration and rebuild our communities in its wake, we demand the following:

We demand the immediate return of our loved ones, an end to the kidnapping of our loved ones, and an immediate end to the incarceration of all people in this country, including those incarcerated in immigration detention centers.

Furthermore, we demand an end to all predatory and discriminatory laws, policies, and practices (including in the criminal, welfare, and immigration systems) that target, harass, and instill fear in us, and remind us everyday that we are not truly free.


We demand that every woman with an incarcerated loved one has access to healing and care, regardless of ability to pay or immigration status.

We know the history of and ongoing negligence and harm experienced by Black and Brown women seeking care within the U.S. healthcare system; we demand care that acknowledges the extent of this harm on our bodies. We demand choice in access to healing and care, including but not limited to: Western medicine, alternative medicine, holistic practitioners, therapy, and support from faith-based institutions.


We demand restitution from the state and all corporate beneficiaries of prison labor for their attacks on our professional development, educational opportunities, and other opportunities for access to social and economic wellbeing.

We demand an end to the corporate control of the goods and services we bear the cost of in order to sustain the livelihoods of our incarcerated loved ones.


We demand that criminal justice, racial justice, gender justice organizations, and organizations serving victims and survivors of violence recognize women with incarcerated loved ones as a highly impacted and impactful constituency.

With that, we demand that women with incarcerated loved ones are also prioritized for hiring and leadership within these organizations and our movements.


We ask to be held as we endure the deep pain of having our loved ones incarcerated and as we challenge the system that continues to harm us and our families.