“We absolutely have to improve conditions for people who are incarcerated now, but it’s also possible to have this world where we don’t put people in cages at all.”
— Kris Henderson
In 2014, friends Kris Henderson and Nikki Grant had been organizing against mass incarceration with Decarcerate PA for several years and had just graduated from law school. “We wanted to figure out how to make our organizing work a part of our jobs and our legal work,” says Henderson. They founded Amistad Law Project to provide legal services to incarcerated people and to push to abolish prisons.
Amistad Law Project received grants from three Bread & Roses funds this year — the Black-led, Black-centered Organizing Fund, the Phoebus Criminal Justice Initiative, and the Racial & Economic Justice Fund — for a total of $25,000, the maximum amount an organization can receive from Bread & Roses in one fiscal year.
“I really like the process of going to an interview at Bread & Roses and having a conversation with folks,” Henderson says. “We tell about the work, but also how we do the work, and who we are as people and our relationships with one another.”
Amistad Law Project’s lawyers visit clients and allies in prison to build relationships and develop movement strategy. “We have a bunch of cases that are aimed at getting people serving death by incarceration sentences home,” says Henderson. “We also have cases around health care that folks aren’t receiving in prison that they should be.” The organization is suing on behalf of a client who did not receive treatment and died from complications of hepatitis C.
“Prison abolition is not this thing we have as a sound bite,” Henderson notes. “It’s something we hold as a really deep value and belief, and it informs the work that we’re doing. We absolutely have to improve conditions for people who are incarcerated now, but it’s also possible to have this world where we don’t put people in cages at all.”