Dear Dennis Watkins,
I’m writing to you as a member of Black and Pink Chicago, an open family of LGBTQ people who are incarcerated and free world allies, to say that Bresha Meadows should be released and allowed to heal along with her family. Like Bresha, queer and trans people all too often are criminalized for acting in self-defense, particularly trans women of color.
When the justice system incarcerates survivors for protecting themselves from dangerous and even potentially fatal violence, the system is saying loudly and clearly that only certain lives matter. The system prioritizes the lives of people who harm rather than people who have been harmed, it prioritizes the lives of those who hurt rather than those who have been hurt, and in doing so, reveals itself as a system of injustice rather than justice.
Our members have faced domestic violence, transphobic violence, and racist violence, and they have then been further harmed through incarceration by the system that is supposed to protect them. Recognizing the violence of punishing survivors, we demand that this young girl be released so she can recover and heal from the trauma she has experienced, including the trauma of unjust incarceration.
I myself was far more fortunate than Bresha and her family, because I was able to leave a controlling marriage in which I knew it would be unsafe to raise children. However, I remember how alarming it was simply to know that he had a gun hidden in the house, knowing that statistically that made his physical abuse of animals and his controlling behavior towards me more likely to escalate. I can only imagine how it would have felt had my situation become truly unsafe and had I been required to protect myself and my family only to face incarceration and punishment. While my own story ended without physical violence, it speaks to the violence of incarceration as a system, for my ex-husband had been profoundly affected and changed by the violence he witnessed and participated in during his years as a corrections officer.
The prison system is not safe for anyone, but it is particularly unsafe and inappropriate for a 15-year-old child who acted as she had to in a desperate situation to protect her own life and the lives of those she loves.
Free Bresha Meadows. Self-defense is not a crime.