murder, sentencing, feminism, social justice
Advocates of decarcation often focus their critiques on imprisonment for non-violent offences. In this vein, current advocacy efforts to end mandatory sentences in Canada tend to carve out “serious violent offences” as not part of a reform agenda. In this chapter, Debra Parkes sketches out the contours of an argument for why feminists might not want to cede that ground, why anti-carceral feminism might involve centering our analysis on the most, rather than the least, serious crimes – starting with those who are serving life sentences for murder. Parkes identifies four non-exhaustive reasons for that focus. The first reason relates to the problem of using state violence through incarceration to address interpersonal violence. The second is about who bears the brunt of these sentences: in Canada, Indigenous women make up nearly half of all women sentenced to life in recent years. The third points to what we learn, and what informs anti-carceral feminist praxis, when we center the people who are living these sentences. A final reason relates to what we might be able to achieve, in concrete terms, by seeking to abolish these sentences.
Debra Parkes, "Starting With Life: Murder Sentencing and Feminist Prison Abolitionist Praxis" in Chloe Taylor & Kelly Struthers Montford, eds, Building Abolition: Decarceration and Social Justice (London: Routledge, [forthcoming in 2021]).