Victoria Law is a freelance writer and editor. After a brief stint as a teenage armed robber, she became involved in prisoner support. In 1996, she helped start Books Through Bars-New York City, a group that sends free books to prisoners nationwide. In 2000, she began concentrating on the needs and actions of women in prison, drawing attention to their issues by writing articles and giving public presentations. Since 2002, she has worked with women incarcerated nationwide to produce Tenacious: Art and Writings by Women in Prison. She has also facilitated having incarcerated women's writings published elsewhere. Victoria's writings have appeared in Truthout, Bitchmedia, The Nation and Solitary Watch. The first edition of her book Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women won the 2009 PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award. She has appeared on Melissa Harris-Perry, Jansing and Co., and Viewpoint to speak about conditions inside women's prisons.
In 2003, she began collaborating with China Martens to create Don't Leave Your Friends Behind to address the specific (and often unacknowledged) needs of parents and children in radical movements; and has co-facilitated discussions in Baltimore, New York City, Providence, Montreal, Minneapolis, Detroit, and Boston. In 2012, she and Martens published Don't Leave Your Friends Behind as an anthology with 52 contributors from across the globe. .
Since her high school days, Victoria has been involved with ABC No Rio, a collectively run arts center on New York's Lower East Side. In 1997, she organized a group of activist photographers to transform one of No Rio's upstairs tenement apartments into a black-and-white photo darkroom for community use. In addition, Victoria is part of ABC No Rio's visual arts collective, which decides and facilitates visual arts exhibitions, many around themes of social justice such as housing, incarceration and organizing.
Alexis Pauline Gumbs guest-hosts The Laura Flanders Show and talks Revolutionary Motheringwith China Martens, Mai’a Williams, Victoria Law and Cynthia Dewi Oka
Don't Leave Your Friends Behind: Concrete Ways to Support Families in Social Justice Movements and Communities by Victoria Law & China Martens Published: September 2012 ISBN: 978-1-60486-396-3 Format: Paperback Page Count: 256 Dimensions: 6 by 9 Subjects: Politics-Activism, Family-Relationships $17.95
Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind is a collection of concrete tips, suggestions, and narratives on ways that non-parents can support parents, children, and caregivers in their communities, social movements, and collective processes. Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind focuses on issues affecting children and caregivers within the larger framework of social justice, mutual aid, and collective liberation.
How do we create new, nonhierarchical structures of support and mutual aid, and include all ages in the struggle for social justice? There are many books on parenting, but few on being a good community member and a good ally to parents, caregivers, and children as we collectively build a strong all-ages culture of resistance. Any group of parents will tell you how hard their struggles are and how they are left out, but no book focuses on how allies can address issues of caretakers’ and children’s oppression. Many well-intentioned childless activists don’t interact with young people on a regular basis and don’t know how. Don't Leave Your Friends Behind provides them with the resources and support to get started.
Contributors include: The Bay Area Childcare Collective, Ramsey Beyer, Rozalinda Borcilă, Mariah Boone, Marianne Bullock, Lindsey Campbell, Briana Cavanaugh, CRAP! Collective, a de la maza pérez tamayo, Ingrid DeLeon, Clayton Dewey, David Gilbert, A.S. Givens, Jason Gonzales, Tiny (aka Lisa Gray-Garcia), Jessica Hoffman, Heather Jackson, Rahula Janowski, Sine Hwang Jensen, Agnes Johnson, Simon Knaphus, Victoria Law, London Pro-Feminist Men's Group, Amariah Love, Oluko Lumumba, mama raccoon, Mamas of Color Rising/Young Women United, China Martens, Noemi Martinez, Kathleen McIntyre, Stacey Milbern, Jessica Mills, Tomas Moniz, Coleen Murphy, Maegan 'la Mamita Mala' Ortiz, Traci Picard, Amanda Rich, Fabiola Sandoval, Cynthia Ann Schemmer, Mikaela Shafer, Mustafa Shakur, Kate Shapiro, Jennifer Silverman, Harriet Moon Smith, Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie, Darran White Tilghman, Jessica Trimbath, Max Ventura, and Mari Villaluna.
"This book is mind-blowing, brilliant, and urgently needed! It is full of useful models and strategies for creating resistance that breaks down barriers to participation for children and people caring for children, and integrates deeply transformative commitments to building radically different activist culture and practice. This is a must-read for anyone trying to build projects based in collective action." —Dean Spade, author of Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics and the Limits of Law
"Don't Leave Your Friends Behind is an essential resource for the interdependence revolution in progress. As a queer, chronically ill woman of color who loves and needs the parents and kids in my communities, I am hungry for these on the ground stories of how parents, allies, comrades, fam, and friends are rewriting the world by refusing to hold mamas, papis and kids anywhere but at the center of our movements and communities, where we're supposed to be." —Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, coeditor, The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence in Activist Communities
"Activist mothers Law and Martens propose that radical movements interested in winning must welcome parents and their children—the youngest rabble rousers. They have created a practical guide for us all to do just that, but with zero guilt trips and moralizing. Don't Leave Your Friends Behind puts teeth into the slogan Another World is Possible by showing us what a healthy left might look like." —James Tracy, coauthor of Hillbilly Nationalists, Urban Race Rebels, and Black Power: Community Organizing in Radical Times
"A powerful mixture of self-help and literature, putting ‘family values’ in a new light and on the agenda of social justice movements. And it's not just self-help for radicals who are parents, but food for everyone who seeks to become their better, more compassionate selves." —Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz, activist, teacher, author of Outlaw Woman: A Memoir of the War Years: 1960-1975
Winner of the 2009 PASS Award (Prevention for a Safer Society) from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.
In 1974, women imprisoned at New York's maximum-security prison at Bedford Hills staged what is known as the August Rebellion. Protesting the brutal beating of a fellow prisoner, the women fought off guards, holding seven of them hostage, and took over sections of the prison.
While many have heard of the 1971 Attica prison uprising, the August Rebellion remains relatively unknown even in activist circles. Resistance Behind Bars is determined to challenge and change such oversights. As it examines daily struggles against appalling prison conditions and injustices, Resistance documents both collective organizing and individual resistance among women incarcerated in the U.S. Emphasizing women's agency in resisting the conditions of their confinement through forming peer education groups, clandestinely arranging ways for children to visit mothers in distant prisons and raising public awareness about their lives, Resistance seeks to spark further discussion and research into the lives of incarcerated women and galvanize much-needed outside support for their struggles.
"Victoria Law's eight years of research and writing, inspired by her unflinching commitment to listen to and support women prisoners, has resulted in an illuminating effort to document the dynamic resistance of incarcerated women in the United States." --Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
"Written in regular English, rather than academese, this is an impressive work of research and reportage." --Mumia Abu-Jamal, death row political prisoner and author of Live From Death Row
"Finally! A passionately and extensively researched book that recognizes the myriad ways in which women resist in prison, and the many particular obstacles that, at many points, hinder them from rebelling. Even after my own years inside, I learned from this book." --Laura Whitehorn, former political prisoner
“Excellently researched and well documented, Resistance Behind Bars is a long needed and much awaited look at the struggles, protests, and resistance waged by women prisoners. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the modern American gulag.” --Paul Wright, former prisoner, founder/publisher of Prison Legal News, and editor of Prison Nation: The Warehousing of America’s Poor and Prison Profiteers: Who Makes Money from Mass Incarceration
After Wakanda- 5 Black Sci-Fi Writers You Should Know Originally posted on BitchFebruary 26th, 2018 This story was originally published on October 30, 2014. It’s time to stock up your bedside table with titles by Black women authors who you can spend the next 11 months reading. Here’s m...
"In her latest edition of Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggle of Incarcerated Women (PM Press 2012), Victoria Law offers us a whole-hearted chronicle of despair and resistance in the modern prison industry. It is worth a good read by anyone interested in the sociology of American life, as well as any radical with friends or comrades behind bars. Law’s accounts of women prisoners taking action are so inspirational that you will never be the same after reading them.
With an approach resembling the old underground chronicles of the Soviet samizdat press, Resistance Behind Bars carries no piece of frivolity in its tight, hard-hitting prose."
Law, cofounder of Books-Through-Bars-NYC, documents life for female prisoners, highlighting their refusal to "passively accept their conditions of confinement." Editor of a 'zine for female inmates, Law's empathy for the women she documents and her distrust of the penal system bursts from every page. Her focus here is not on individual crimes, but the system itself: its history, structure, and the prisoners' struggle to serve their time in safe, humane conditions. Drawing from academic writing, personal correspondence, and interviews with incarcerated women, Law argues that although "[w]omen's resistance often lacks the glamour and excitement of the prison riots and work strikes for which male prisoners are known", it does exist. Inmates share their knowledge and miniscule wages with needy prisoners, petition for better medical care, file reports on sexual abuse by guards and create their own newsletters in spite of disenfranchisement. They face reprisals at every turn, including harassment by staff, unexpected prison transfers, placement in segregation, and delays in parole. This second edition adds more recent documentation of resistance at women's prisons, as well as a section focusing on transgender and gender variant prisoners. Law's documentation of prison conditions is distressing, but the stories of resistance are hopeful.
Don't Leave Your Friends Behind: Concrete Ways to Support Families in Social Justice Movements and Communities by Kjerstin Johnson Bitch Magazine December 2012
What do nonparents overlook when it comes to family-inclusive organizing? China Martens: There isn’t any one-size-fits-all answer. That said, here are some points to remember: All issues are also parents’ and children’s issues. If you do not see parents and children around you, ask why. Planning for family inclusion needs to start at the beginning, not at the last minute. Remember to discuss childcare issues and possible solutions collectively.What are some basic steps to make organizing family-inclusive? VL: Talk with families—both caregivers and kids. Find out what they need to participate! Some need childcare, others need people to help with their children in the same room. Remember that not everyone’s needs are the same.
Don't Leave Your Friends Behind: Concrete Ways to Support Families in Social Justice Movements and Communities By Eleanor J Bader Truthout November 16th, 2012
All told, the collection is stimulating, and whether we are parents, eldercare providers, or simply concerned human beings, inclusivity - not leaving anyone behind - is key to making the changes we wish to see. After all, if another world is possible, doesn't it have to include the young, the old and the in between - whether able-bodied or not?
Don't Leave Your Friends Behind: Concrete Ways to Support Families in Social Justice Movements and Communities HipMama Magazine June 2012
There are many books on parenting, but few on being a good community member and a good ally to parents, care- givers, and children as we collectively build a strong all-ages culture of resistance. Any group of parents will tell you how hard their struggles are and how they are left out, but no book focuses on how allies can address issues of caretakers’ and children’s oppression. Isolated by age within an individualistic society, many well-intentioned childless activists don’t interact with young people on a regular basis and don’t know how. Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind provides them with the resources and support to get started.
Resisting Gender Violence Without Cops or Prisons: An Interview with Victoria Law by Angola 3 News Staff Truthout December 8th, 2011
Our interview is being released in conjunction with the Unite to End Violence Against Women campaign first initiated in 1991 by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. This campaign began 16 days of action on November 25, the International Day Against Violence Against Women, and will conclude on December 10, International Human Rights Day. We will be releasing two more segments of our video interview with Law during the 16 days of action.
“These analyses [of the prison system] – coupled with what I had seen firsthand – made sense, steering me to work towards the dismantling, rather than the reform, of the prison system. Resistance Behind Bars should not be mistaken for a call for more humane or ‘gender responsive’ prisons.”
Beyond the Medical-Industrial Complex: Health and Healing in Community By Alexis Pauline Gumbs make/shift magazine
The statistics are scandalous. “Crime” is down, yet more and more people are locked in cages. Welfare has been dismantled, and—not at all coincidentally—the fastest-growing prison population is made up of women living in poverty who have committed nonviolent offenses. And the majority of the women living in women’s prisons are mothers. The majority of women living in women’s prisons are mothers, and the majority of prisoners, period, are parents.
What is the cost of a generation of children growing into steel around their hearts?
What is the cost of the giving up, the quieting down, marked on our screaming bodies with the blunt instrument of the state?
What is the ongoing cost of slavery when even our minds conform to the cruel structure of the shackle?
No Holds Barred: An interview with prison-reform activist Victoria Law By Kari Lyderson Bitch Spring 2009
The 1971 Attica prison uprising is well known, but many people—even those in ativist scenes—haven’t heard of 1974’s August Rebellion or other uprisings by women in prison. New York photographer, writer, activist, and mother Victoria Law has been deeply involved with supporting and documenting the struggles of women in prison since her teenage years, when friends were incarcerated and she did a 36-hour stint in “the Tombs” in New York City for armed robbery. In her new book Resistance Behind Bars, Law uses comprehensive legal and social analysis, as well as the voices of incarcerated women themselves, to lay bare the racism and sexism that characterize the criminal justice system in general and women’s incarceration specifically. In documenting the strength and resistance of these women, Law offers a challenge to those on the outside to better understand and support their struggles.
Lately I am so influenced by read my Don't Leave Your Freinds Behind collaborator and pen pal--mama, zinester, photographer, activist, and now author--Victoria Law's book. It's funny to find how much I think about it, and the ideas it has generated in me. That, for once, life not behind bars in not that different, in some ways, from life behind bars--although pirson is a hella ALOT more extreme...
Tearing Down the Walls: Resistance Behind Bars By Cassandra Shaylor Left Turn Magazine
The acts of rebellion highlight in Resistance Behind Bars push those of us who are abolitionist and anti-prison activists to challenge our collective understanding of the roles incarcerated women play in movement-building against the violence inherent to the prison system, and towards next steps for building solidarity across prison walls to abolish the system altogether.
Beyond Attica: The Untold Story of Women's Resistance Behind Bars By Hans Bennett Alternet July 21, 2009
As the incarceration rate of U.S. women skyrockets, an important book shines new light on the struggles of women prisoners.
"When I was 15, my friends started going to jail," says Victoria Law, a native New Yorker. "Chinatown's gangs were recruiting in the high schools in Queens and, faced with the choice of stultifying days learning nothing in overcrowded classrooms or easy money, many of my friends had dropped out to join a gang."
"One by one," Law recalls, "they landed in Rikers Island, an entire island in New York City devoted to pretrial detainment for those who can not afford bail."
The Struggle of Incarcerated Women By Heather Brown Feminist Review July 5th, 2009
Of the many staggering statistics in Victoria Law’s eight-year study, Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles Of Incarcerated Women, the following fact will make your jaw drop: the number of incarcerated women in United States prisons has almost doubled from 68,468 to 104,848 between 1995 and 2004.
Author sheds light on female prisoners fighting back.
Inspired by the appalling conditions many American women face in correctional facilities, including one HIV-positive inmate being kept from seeing an HIV specialist for several months, writer Victoria Law penned Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women (PM Press, $20). Law found that instead of waiting for the prison administration to make changes, these inmates took matters in their own hands. “They rebelled against the oppressive top-down prison model,” Law says.
In addition to discussing sexual assault, hazardous work conditions and a lack of prenatal care, Law gives HIV a crucial role in her book. She explains: “[Incarcerated women] created peer education groups to inform one another about the epidemic, provide information on how the disease is contracted and what steps to take if they test positive.”
Currently, 2.4 percent of women in state and federal prisons are living with HIV, and many are receiving inadequate treatment. Law emphasizes that prisoners must organize themselves as a means of survival and hope. “If they can mobilize under their conditions and not have their spirits broken,” she says, “it makes me wonder what we on the outside can do.”
Resistance Behind Bars By Kate Wadkins Maximum Rocknroll July, 2009
Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incracerated Women is a premier effort to increase the visibility of women's prison resistance in the United States. Victoria Law has dedicated much of her life to prisoners' resistance, honing in on the lack of discussion about the specific plight that women face in prison, and their efforts to challenge the prison system. Law started off self-pubishing prisoners' stories in ziens and circulating them in publications like Clamor, Punk Planet, and off our backs. A lot of this work is represented and revisited here, in Law's first book, Resistance Behind Bars...
For anyone on the outside who has looked at the state of our justice system or the overwhelming issues of violence, exploitation, and isolation within the prison system, it is hard not to react with despair. Victoria Law’s Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women manages to both convey the difficulties of life for women prisoners and provide a sense of hope based on these women's own voices and actions. She shatters some of the myths of feminine passivity by providing examples of both active and subtle resistance on the part of incarcerated women, from bringing charges against abusive guards in spite of the threat of reprisals to fighting for transportation for visits from prisoners’ family members...
Resistance Behind Bars examines daily struggles against appalling prison conditions and injustices. It documents both collective organizing and individual resistance among women incarcerated in the U.S. Emphasizing women's agency in resisting the conditions of their confinement through forming peer education groups, clandestinely arranging ways for children to visit mothers in distant prisons and raising public awareness about their lives, Resistance seeks to spark further discussion and research into the lives of incarcerated women and galvanize much-needed outside support for their struggles.
"Written in regular English, rather than academese, this is an impressive work of research and reportage." --Mumia Abu-Jamal, death row political prisoner and author of Live From Death Row
Victoria Law is a writer, photographer and mother. After a brief stint as a teenage armed robber, she became involved in prisoner support. In 1996, she helped start Books Through Bars-New York City, a group that sends free books to prisoners nationwide. In 2000, she began concentrating on the needs and actions of women in prison, drawing attention to their issues by writing articles and giving public presentations. Since 2002, she has worked with women incarcerated nationwide to produce the zine Tenacious: Art and Writings from Women in Prison and has facilitated having incarcerated women's writings published in Clamor magazine, the website "Women and Prison: A Site for Resistance" and the upcoming anthology Interrupted Lives.
"I ♥ my radical reference librarian(s)!" said Vikki when she gave me permission to write this post.
I just finished reading "Resistance Behind Bars" written by Vikki Law. In case you don't know about it or haven't had the chance to I recommend you buy a copy and read it.
I will quote a little from the introduction in which Vikki writes about her response to the comment: "Women (in prison) don't organize."
"I began to search for stories---and women--who would disprove this assertion. I found mentions of lawsuits, and using various state department of corrections' websites looked up their address addresses and wrote them letters asking if they would share their experiences with me." And "To ensure that I was representing their struggles accurately and to give them the opportunity to add, update or delete any of the tales they do not want to share with the public, I sent each woman draft after draft of the chapters her voice and experience(s) appeared in. "
The voices of women form form the majority of the book which took 8 years to complete. The chapters reflect the concerns of the women with whom Vikki corresponded and include Barriers to Basic Care, Mothers and Children, Sexual Abuse,Education, Women's Work, Grievances, lawsuits and the Power of the Media. Other chapters focus on Breaking the Silence, Resistance Among Women in Immigrant Detention and an Historical Background.
The book is written in plain English. It frames resistance by women very differently than the kinds of resistance by men prisoners which has come to define "resistance."
The book is published by PM Press and you can order a copy on-line or I am sure your local bookstore can order it for you.