Let’s Get Free: The Women and Trans Prisoner Defense Committee is a group who educates and organizes around issues of prison injustice, addressing policies, contributing factors and collateral consequences of mass incarceration, as well as envisioning new systems of transformative justice and healing.
We prioritize the experiences of women and trans prisoners.
Let’s Get Free was co-founded in 2013 when etta cetera, Avis Lee, Donna Hill and Charmaine Pfender particpated in 1 Billion Rising a global day of action to end violence against women. Both Avis and Char are serving LWOP sentences, also known as Death By Incarceration (DBI), and both have stories that are representative of many women incarcerated throughout the country. Donna, Charmaine’s mom, spoke about her case on Valentine’s Day at 1BillionRising in Pittsburgh. etta, with participation from Avis, set up a life size prison cell acknowledging 5 women who were in prison for self defense. There was such a strong positive reaction to this we called a meeting to support women in prison and about 15 Pittsburgher’s showed up that first night.
Char and Avis have each spent over 30 years incarcerated for situations that occurred when they were in their late teens. Avis was the lookout for a robbery that resulted in a death and was sentenced to LWOP under the Felony Murder Rule. Charmaine defended herself against a man who was attempting to rape her, resulting in his death, and as a consequence of ineffective counsel and a sexist, homophobic media smearing, was convicted of murder instead of self defense, and was sentenced to DBI. We believe they both should be free.
Over the years, Let’s Get Free has engaged the public about DBI and issues of gender and imprisonment through Avis and Charmaine’s cases, by way of street outreach teams, workshops, film screenings, speaking events, and two postcard campaigns. We co-organized a 150-person march and rally as a part of One Billion Been Rising 2014 in support of Charmaine, and mobilized two lobbying trips to Harrisburg for change in the commutation process and broader lifer reform. We hosted a commemorative dinner honoring Charmaine’s 30th year of unjust incarceration, and raised awareness about her legal case. Together with Avis and local artists we produced Chin to the Sky: The Life Sentence of Avis Lee, a multimedia play about Avis’s experience in prison.
We are currently pouring all of our energy in the Campaign to Restore Meaningful Commutation, current legislation to expand parole eligibility for lifers and building up our local and statewide network. And because our network is Getting Free (YAY!!) we are focusing more and more on returning citizens, both leadership development, advocacy and issues impacting their quality of life related to imprisonment.
We are a proud coalition member of the Coalition to Abolish Death by Incarceration.