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Blog Series: Alternatives to the Criminal Legal System


NEW Blog Series: Alternatives to the Criminal Legal System


The organizing work that helped to develop today’s response to domestic violence included a specific focus on criminalization and law enforcement responses that we are still reckoning with to this day. While it created legislation to protect some from intimate partner violence and establish it as a social issue, it also created structures and funding that formalized and required relationships between domestic violence and law enforcement agencies. This approach has continued to underinvest in prevention and community healing—including frameworks originating from Black, Indigenous, Native, and Activists of Color. We now know that multiple solutions are needed to address a wide spectrum of survivor needs.

The mainstream movement is now coming to terms with the harm it has caused by creating spaces that are not safe for and cannot serve all survivors. Locally, domestic violence survivors, advocates, and preventionists are identifying systemic inequities and innovating toward alternatives while policy advocates work  to ensure that legislation at national, state, and community levels are constantly being improved to include the needs of all survivors and communities. Our new blog series, Alternatives to the Criminal Legal System, highlights powerful examples of reasons and methods for these alternatives. 

For our latest issue, we share methods of enacting change throughout the various levels of our society. Cat Brooks from the Anti Police-Terror Project shares her first-hand narrative as a survivor of violence from an intimate partner and the carceral system and framework of community organizing she champions today. Tunisia Owens and Nishara Gunasekara elaborate on the discriminatory history of the criminal legal system and offer ways to confront that history through organizational and policy change.

If you haven’t already seen read our May installment, view the work of previous authors: Delphine Burns and Dalia Ochoa-Navarro contribute one example of working with people who have caused harm, sharing learnings from launching their Positive Solutions pilot program. Tonjie Reese speaks up about the systemic inequities that specifically affect Black girls and send them down the school-to-prison pipeline. Liz Zambrano tells her story of survivorship, how the criminal legal system failed her, and how she felt empowered to join an organization that works to identify a variety of policy goals that are safe and responsive for all.

We acknowledge that multiple solutions are needed to end violence in all forms. We can move toward this vision of healing and collective liberation by centering the needs of LGBTQ+, disabled, Black, Indigenous, Native, and Survivors and Communities of Color. 

After you’ve read these pieces, we’d be grateful to hear your reflections. Have you been organizing alternatives to the criminal legal system? We welcome you to write a blog post for our series. 


We can’t incarcerate our way out of this
By Cat Brooks
Sep. 16, 2021

Las Vegas, Nevada circa 1992.

I was 17 when I met him.  In the rooms of a 12-step program.  Scared. Alone. Confused. He was 28 and my sponsor’s boyfriend. Charming. Funny. Handsome. I didn’t realize I was being lured in until I was trapped.  Though that’s not what I would have called it then.  I was a kid. I thought I was in love.

The verbal abuse started first. A “bitch” here. A “whore” there.  A slow wearing down of my confidence.  An erosion of myself esteem.


The Criminal Legal System: Alternatives and Reform Through the Lens of Survivor Advocates
By Tunisia Owens & Nishara Gunasekara
Sep. 16, 2021

Domestic violence affects everyone, across racial and ethnic backgrounds, gender expression, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic levels. That being said, domestic violence overwhelmingly affects communities of color and women. Specifically, Black, Indigenous, and Hispanic 1 women are subject to domestic violence at higher rates than White women (source).


Breaking the Cycle of Violence by Calling for Safety & Justice
By Liz Zambrano
May 27, 2021

I wish I could say I am the first person in my family to be affected by domestic violence, but I am not. I believe I am the first to start breaking the cycle that has tormented my family for generations. During my journey, I’ve learned law enforcement and the criminal justice system only help to an extent. To help you to protect yourself & your children, find resources and heal deeply entrenched abuse patterns reinforced by cultural and societal beliefs, you need to find the proper support.


The War Against Black Girls: Addressing the adultification bias
By Tonjie Reese
May 27, 2021

There is a right of passage Black women go through before reaching adulthood – we realize that people may treat us like we’re twice our ages. Even before reaching adulthood, we’re aware that we have to be more responsible than other kids, and there will be times where we have to prove our innocence. For many of us, we were very young when we learned to fight, escape, and protect ourselves. Growing up, my loved ones prepared me for any and every adversity they thought I might face – even the ones they created. They knew, and I later learned, about the war against Black girls.


Positive Solutions
By Delphine Burns and Dalia Ochoa-Navarro
May 27, 2021

What is Positive Solutions?

While the COVID-19 pandemic presented unique challenges to the way we at Monarch Services traditionally run our programs and serve clients, we have been able to adapt and adequately serve our clients, both individually and in group settings. One example of this success is the long-anticipated launch of the Positive Solutions program.