by Brigette Sarabi
Western Prison Project (WPP) was founded in 1999 to support and build an organized, grassroots movement for prison and criminal justice reform led by people directly affected by the criminal justice system: prisoners, former prisoners, family and friends of prisoners and communities disproportionately impacted by the prison industrial complex. For its first six years, WPP supported grassroots organizing and advocacy in six western states: Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Utah and Nevada.
WPP viewed racial and economic justice as critical to prison and criminal justice system reform. WPP mailed out thousands of copies of the quarterly newsletter Justice Matters and prisoner support packets to link prisoners to resources that could offer support. A committee of prisoner activists advised the organization on its work. WPP also organized with grassroots groups led by former prisoners or family members of prisoners, and offered resources and assistance to build the strength of these groups. WPP had three primary program areas: public education; organizing and mobilization; and capacity building for the grassroots groups it worked with.
In 2004 WPP merged with one of its partner groups, Survivors Advocating for an Effective System, which organized crime survivors. This was the first time a single group brought together all those directly affected by the criminal justice system, including crime survivors, in the knowledge that communities most affected by crime were also the communities most targeted by the prison industrial complex. In 2006, WPP became the Partnership for Safety and Justice and decided to focus its work in Oregon, where it continues to work for criminal justice reform today.
Brigette Sarabi was a founder and former director of the Western Prison Project.
Check out past issues of Justice Matters in the WPHP archive.