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Lawyer and CEO of National justice organisation Sisters Inside is calling on community legal services across Tasmania to work together to abolish the prison system. 

“Prisons are not rehabilitative places they are tools of white supremacy and they need to be dismantled,” Ms Kilroy said.

“We want a world that focuses on abundance and healing and not scarcity and harm.”

“The only way to do that is to end the violence of policing, to close prisons, to do away with punishment, surveillance and exile.”

Ms Kilroy, who will speak in Hobart at the National Community Legal Centres Conference (March 22-23), said change needed to begin at the grassroots. 

She said the Tasmanian Government’s commitment to delivering more youth detention centres despite damning revelations about the treatment of incarcerated children, showed just how committed government was to locking up First Nations’ boys and girls.

“All the evidence tells us locking up children does not work, locking up adults does not work but the Tasmanian government is still going to push forward with these policies,” Ms Kilroy said.

“The question is why and the answer is because they are tools of white supremacy, they will deliver First Nations’ people into the incarceration system and that is what this system wants.”

Ms Kilroy, who has been the driving force behind the #FreeHer and #endtoxicprisons campaigns here in Australia, said lawyers were failing to understand the politics of incarceration. 

“Our understanding of the legal system is what has to change because we’ve been trying to use the legal system to change what is really a problem of capitalism, white supremacy, colonialism and power in this country,” Ms Kilroy said.

“The colonial legal system in this country has never been an institution of radical social change, it has been an instrument of ruling class oppression.”

“It is about preserving distributions of wealth and property and white supremacy and furthering the colonial project.”

She called on community legal services to no longer be “agents of the carceral state.

“As people interested in justice, we need to join the abolition movement, because this is a movement that can change the power dynamics of our society, no amount of “helping people” through legal representation in the community can do that,” she said.

 “And unless lawyers as agents of the carceral state are a part of that movement, part of a social movement that changes the way we think about punishment and exile, power and consequence, I don’t suspect that we are going to be able to fundamentally alter the architecture of incarceration and punishment in this country.”

“I got into law to liberate people, not help lock them up, or to further exile them from community.”

 Ms Kilroy will deliver her speech “Working in Solidarity with Grassroots Movements” tomorrow (March 23) from 3.30pm. 

How can you help?

The Sisters Inside Fund for Children supports children of women in the criminal justice system to choose their own future free of the burdens so commonly felt while their mother is in prison.

#Free Her Campaign

This campaign has been set up by Debbie Kilroy, CEO of Sisters Inside Inc.  The funds raised will be used to release people from prison and pay warrants so they are not imprisoned.