With viewership of 13th, Ava DuVernay’s 2016 documentary about the insidious rise in mass incarceration, surging by 4,665 percent in the weeks after George Floyd’s death, it’s clear that the Black Lives Matter protests are impacting the way the masses view our criminal justice system. But four years after the film’s release, we still see rampant incarceration and injustice across the country. So the question is, What do we do to combat it? Community Justice Exchange is one of the crucial organizations working to put an end to criminalization in all its forms.
In 2016, the organization’s founder and director, Pilar Weiss, launched the National Bail Fund Network, a directory of bail funds accessible to people affected by incarceration. Realizing that its initial focus solely on the bail system was too narrow, she founded Community Justice Exchange two years later to create a nationwide framework to organize and address the multifaceted issue of criminal justice reform.
“We started Community Justice Exchange in order to support grassroots groups that were working on combating detention in all its forms, including probation, parole, court fees and fines, pretrial detention, immigration detention, supervision, surveillance and, of course, bail,” Weiss tells me. With 10 core team members across the country and organizations in 35 states, the group has effectively spread its resources to the individuals and organizations that need them most.
What follows is an edited conversation between Weiss and I about the organization’s challenges, triumphs and vision for a more just society.
PLAYBOY: Can you break down why mass incarceration is unjust and why there’s a need to combat it?
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