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Inside-Outside Organizing

Initiate Justice has an inside-outside strategy where we prioritize organizing people directly impacted by incarceration, inside and outside prison walls. Learn more about:

Prior to COVID, most of our organizing took place in prison visiting rooms, in front of state prisons, and inside prisons themselves. We also pursue social media organizing strategies that center online groups of people with incarcerated loved ones, so that they can share Initiate Justice information to their loved ones inside directly.

We have a two-pronged approach to our organizing:

  1. Education: We keep our community informed on the latest changes to California laws and prison policies that will affect them. We also create guides and offer trainings on how the public policy process works and how to create, support, and implement abolitionist reforms.
  2. Advocacy: We directly educate our base about specific laws and ballot propositions that we support to reduce incarceration from an abolitionist and intersectional lens. We also attempt to draft, pass, and implement laws and ballot propositions created by incarcerated people and their loved ones every election cycle. In addition, our Outside Organizers meet with elected officials to share their stories and uplift narratives that support our policy work.

Inside Organizing

  • We have more than 45,000 Inside Members who are currently incarcerated. That’s over half of California’s prison population. They voluntarily sign up to receive quarterly newsletters and policy updates from Initiate Justice. They also complete action items that we provide, often involving writing letters of support for bills that we are advocating for.
  • We have trained over 300 Inside Organizers who lead campaigns from inside CA prisons, spread useful and accurate information, and share our organizing strategy with their peers.
  • In some facilities, Inside Organizers lead Initiate Justice Activity Groups (IJAGs), a 9-week “self-help group” to teach advocacy, the legislative process ,and intersectional political education to people incarcerated on their yards. IJAG takes on different forms on different yards, depending on what the prison allows, supports and funds.

Outside Organizing

We are creating an outside membership and committee structure to engage our impacted members and help our community support this work outside of CA prisons. Components of our Outside Organizing strategy include:

  • The Institute of Impacted Leaders – The IIL is a crucial part of our work to develop educated and strategic organizers across the state that help us win victories against mass incarceration.
  • Outside Organizers – Upon completion of the Institute, graduates become Outside Organizers with us. OO’s are formerly incarcerated people or people with incarcerated loved ones who lead IJ campaigns in their community and region. We currently have full-time Outside Organizers in Los Angeles and the Bay Area to hold volunteer meetings and conduct outreach at prisons and in the community.
  • Outside Members – To be considered an “Outside Member” of Initiate Justice, you must either be an Outside Organizer (a graduate of an IIL cohort) or complete a membership application committing to IJ’s mission.
    • To become a Member, you must 1) Attend at least 3 monthly meetings in a 4-month period, 2) Complete a short orientation & application at the end of your first meeting, and 3) Sign up to support at least one of our committees.
    • Absolutely everyone is welcome to be a member or join a committee, but you do have to be directly impacted by incarceration to join the Institute of Impacted Leaders and become an Outside Organizer.
  • Monthly Member Meetings Every FIRST WEDNESDAY of the month, we invite all IJ Members and any prospective members to come together and learn about our work. Each committee gives a report on what they are working on and provides opportunities for further collaboration between members.
  • Action Committees – Members are asked to join one of our committees to remain active in the work. Committees may meet as often as necessary to accomplish their tasks, but at least once per month.