Transformative Justice Working Group

The Nashville Feminist Collective is interested in the implications of the prison industrial complex (PIC) for feminism(s). Recognizing that the terrain of the feminist movement is multiple and contested, as a group, we seek to deepen our understanding of what has been termed “carceral feminism,” an approach that sees the criminal legal system as the primary “solution” to gender-based violence. As Beth Richie documents in Arrested Justice: Black Women, Violence, and America’s Prison Nation (2012), such an investment has left many women, particularly Black women in low-income communities, more vulnerable to interpersonal and state violence. The collaboration between the mainstream feminist anti-violence movement and the criminal legal system has also fed into the unprecedented expansion of the prison system, in which women and girls are the fastest growing population and women of color, trans and queer folks are disproportionately represented. This reading group will look at the implications of carceral feminism for Nashville and the nation and explore transformative justice-based alternatives.

We host monthly events. For an up-to-date list of our events, see or our calendar.

We also work closely with the Tennessee Prison Books Project (TPBP) which is dedicated to connecting people outside of prison to people in prison through sharing books and strives to center women, queer, transgender and young people who are imprisoned in their work. Check them out at:


Addressing Harm, Accountability, and Healing Resource List (Critical Resistance)
Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective
Black Women’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Challenging Male Supremacy
Coalition for Safer Spaces
Community & Allyship-Feminist Action Support Network (FASN)
Community United Against Violence (CUAV)
Creative Interventions
For Crying Out Loud
generationFIVE Perpetrator Accountability-FASN
The Harm-Free Zone Project
Muxeres en Movimiento
Perpetrator Accountability-FASN
Philly Stands Up!
Philly Survivor Support Collective
Project NIA
Quarrel The Zine: Stories of Survivor Self Determination, Direct Action, and Strategies for Safe Spaces
Safe Hub Collective
Safe OUTside the System Collective (SOS)-The Audre Lorde Project
StoryTelling & Organizing Project (STOP)
Support New York
Tiger’s Eye Collective
Transformative Justice: A Curriculum Guide-Project NIA
Transforming Harm
What To Do Instead of Calling the Police: A Guide, A Syllabus, A Conversation, A Process


We invite everyone to use “people first” language in place of the terms “inmate,” “offender,” “criminal,” “convict,” and “felon” by referring to “people who are (formerly) incarcerated,” “people who have a criminal conviction,” etc., even when the readings do not. (See “Names Do Hurt: The Case Against Using Derogatory Language to Describe People in Prison” by Victoria Law and Rachel Roth).


Race, gender and mental health in jails and prisons
Frontline’s “The New Asylums” (video – 60 minutes)
Women in Prison Need and Want Treatment for Physical, Sexual Abuse
Women in Prison: An Issue of Blaming the Individual for Social Problems
James Gilligan on the Psychology and Treatment of Violent Offenders

Sexual-abuse-to-prison-pipeline for girls
The Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline: The Girls’ Story by Human Rights Project for Girls
Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline Report: A Native Perspective

Impact of drug policy on women
The Impact of Drug Policy on Women” from Open Society Foundations
Punished for Addiction: Women Prisoners Dying from Lack of Treatment RH Reality Check
How America Overdosed on Drug Courts” from Pacific Standard Magazine

Reproductive justice
Into the Body of Another” by Olga Khazan, The Atlantic (May 2015)
Woman Thrown in Jail for Having an Addiction While Pregnant by Tana Ganeva
Making Reproduction a Crime from Dorothy Roberts’ Killing the Black Body

“Sin by Silence” ( which looks at the experiences of battered incarcerated women in the California Institution for Women and their organizing for change. The trailer is available here:

Domestic violence and failure-to-protect laws
Battered, Bereaved, and Behind Bars” (BuzzFeed 2014)
These Mothers Were Sentenced to at least 10 Years for Failing to Protect their Children from a Violent Partner” (BuzzFeed 2014). For context we looked at TN’s Failure-to-Protect law (chart listing), “Evidence of Battered Woman Syndrome Often Hinders a Victim’s Claim” from “Battered Woman Syndrome: A Tool for Batterers?” (Fordham Law Review, 1995-1996, pp. 179-182), “Tenn. has Stand Your Ground self-defense law” (Real Clear Politics, 2012) and Tennessee’s current self-defense law.

Real Men Advance, Real Women Retreat: Stand Your Ground, Battered Women’s Syndrome, and Violence as Male Privilege
No Selves to Defend: Poems About Criminalization and Violence Against Women originally compiled to raise funds for the legal defense of Marissa Alexander
Out in the Night, a synopsis of the film is available on PBS here.

Challenges women of color who are experiencing domestic violence face in seeking help 
Gender Violence and the Prison Industrial Complex: Interpersonal and State Violence Against Women of Color
Nashville: Domestic Violence and Incarcerated Women in Poor Black Neighborhoods
Safe Return: Working Toward Preventing Domestic Violence When Men Return from Prison

Black women’s experiences of state violence and police brutality
#SayHerName: Resisting Police Brutality Against Black Women AAPF 2015

Sexual Assault in jails/prison
Angela Davis’ (2003) “How Gender Structures the Prison System” (book chapter); we read about a procedure called the “labia lift” (2010) by Krystal Voss for Women and Prison: A Site for Resistance and we read a short selection from “It’s War In Here” (2007) a report on the treatment of transgender and intersex people in NY state men’s prisons from the Sylvia Rivera Law Project.


AbleismAccording to Lydia Brown, ableism is the “systematic, institutional devaluing of bodies and minds deemed deviant, abnormal, defective, subhuman, less than. Ableism is violence.” For more information see “Glossary of Ableist Phrases” and “12 Words You Need to Ban from Your Vocabulary to Be a Better Ally.”

Accomplice Defined generally as a person who helps another commit a crime and specifically in the context of social justice by Indigenous Action Media as one who fights “back or forward, together, becoming complicit in a struggle towards liberation.”

Calling In – A strategy outlined by Ngọc Loan Trần as “a less disposable way of holding each other accountable” and offered in more detail by Sian Ferguson. Also, see “6 Signs Your Call-Out Isn’t Actually About Accountability” by Maisha Z. Johnson.

 Carceral Feminism – Feminism that relies on the criminal legal system as the primary “solution” to gender-based violence. See Victoria Law’s “Against Carceral Feminism.”

Community Accountability – defined by Incite! as “a community-based strategy, rather than a police/prison-based strategy, to address violence within our communities.” For more about the strategy, go here.

Consent – defined by Philly Stands Up! as “an exchange of affirmative words and actions regarding sexual activity; agreement, approval, or permission that is fully-informed and freely and actively given without physical force, manipulation, stress, or fear.”

Criminal Legal System (aka: the criminal justice system) – defined by Philly Stands Up! as “a set of institutions, practices, policies, and attitudes for addressing instances of harm. The criminal legal system relies heavily on punishment and is comprised of law enforcement, courts, and prisons/jails.”

Feminism defined by bell hooks as “a movement to end sexist oppression.”

Gender, Biological Sex & Sexuality – As Inda Lauryn indicates, gender is “how a person identifies and expresses themselves as male or female, or—for many somewhere in-between. This relates to social and cultural norms, expectations, values, attitudes and behaviors.” Biological sex “describes the kind of sex organs, chromosomes, and hormones a person has, and thus how they are often described: male, female, or intersex.” And sexuality encompasses “the sexual knowledge, beliefs, attitudes, values, and behaviors of individuals,” according to the Sexuality and Education Council of the United States. For a more complete list of terms see “A Beginner’s Guide to Understanding Important Gender and Sexuality Terms.”

Jail & Prison – Prison is a general term that encompasses a range of institutions of incarceration, including jails, which are run by the county or municipality and are typically designated for temporary detention.

Prison Abolition – defined by Critical Resistance as “a political vision with the goal of eliminating imprisonment, policing, and surveillance and creating lasting alternatives to punishment and imprisonment.”

Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) – defined by Critical Resistance as “the overlapping interests of government and industry that use surveillance, policing, and imprisonment as solutions to economic, social and political problems.”

Reproductive Justice – defined by Loretta Ross of SisterSong as “an expansion of the theory of intersectionality developed by women of color and the practice of self-help from the Black women’s health movement to the reproductive rights movement, based on the application of the human rights framework to the United States….We believe that the ability of any woman to determine her own reproductive destiny is directly linked to the conditions in her community and these conditions are not just a matter of individual choice and access.”

 Transformative Justice – defined by Philly Stands Up! as “a way of practicing alternative justice which acknowledges individual experiences and identities and works to actively resist the state’s criminal injustice system.”

Trigger Warnings – explained by Sian Ferguson as “notes that preface possibly traumatic content.” For more background on why we use trigger warnings, see “What, Why, When, Where, and How?: 5 Common Questions About Trigger Warnings Answered” and “When You Oppose Trigger Warnings, You’re Really Saying These 8 Things.”

Women of Color – defined by Loretta Ross as “a political designation” and “commitment to work in collaboration with other oppressed women of color who have been minoritized.” Learn more about the history of the term here.