Kelly Hayes interviews S&P member, Mariame Kaba, about the S&P commutation campaign in New York.Truthout. Excerpt below:
Hayes: Cynthia Nixon’s promise to commute the sentences of criminalized survivors, if she is elected, was a surprise to many. What do you think the significance of that promise is, in this political moment?
Kaba: She is responsive to organizers’ concerns and willing to be educated on important issues. It would be good if many more candidates for office approached issues in the same way. Why should domestic violence survivors, for example, be criminalized for using violence to defend their lives or that of their children? Anyone can see that this makes sense. We happen to believe that criminalization itself is a form of radicalized gendered violence. We made that case and Cynthia Nixon agreed that this is wrong.
Hayes: The ideological standoff between Cuomo and Nixon echoes a larger divide among Democrats right now — with one side calling for voters to support entrenched, establishment Democrats, while others are pushing for candidates with more progressive agendas. What do you think is at stake in these debates for campaigns like yours?
Kaba: Our work focuses on freeing prisoners and ending criminalization. Prisoners are not seen by most elected officials in the Democratic Party as “important.” Felony disenfranchisement means that many prisoners are blocked from voting, and therefore, they aren’t seen as constituents. It’s very important that we push Democrats to get serious about enfranchising prisoners and formerly incarcerated people. They have a right to weigh in on governance issues and issues that impact their lives and the lives of their families. Establishment Democrats haven’t taken these issues seriously over the years. We have to push with and on behalf of prisoners for them and their issues to be seen rather than invisibilized. This is an important moment to do this within the Democratic Party.