Let’s Get Free: The Women and Trans Prisoner Defense Committee is a group working to end Death by Incarceration (also known as life without parole sentencing), build a pathway out of the prisons back to our communities through commutation reform, support successful possibilities for people formerly and currently incarcerated, and shift to a culture of transformative justice.
We prioritize working with women and trans prisoners, whose experiences are often left out in conversations about mass incarceration; we work to build relationships and community across prison walls; we are guided by people in prison; we use art as an organizing tool; we educate to shift cultural understandings around harm, healing, and justice.
We are motivated by an ethos of reducing harm and violence, and we are committed to bringing people home. Let’s Get Free!
Our Back Story
Let’s Get Free was co-founded in 2013 when etta cetera, Avis Lee, Donna Hill and Charmaine Pfender participated 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.
Since then we have expanded our community on both sides of the walls through our prison visiting program, Operation Break Bread, regular newsletters, our annual art show, community events, continued participation in the statewide coalition to abolish death by incarceration, CADBI, and persistent pressure challenging the outdated and dysfunctional commutation process in PA.
Founding Prayer -written by etta in 2017 when we became a non profit
This is a founding prayer, an earnest request to protect Let’s Get Free from the structure of what is the non profit industrial complex.
We ask of you great and complex universe:
We ask for your protection from the inherent oppression built into the structure of non profits. May we be in it and not of it. May we go deeper not wider. May we never expand for the sake of growth or before we are ready. May we understand we may not be the best ones for any given job.
We ask for protection from Founders Syndrome. May we not confuse ourselves with the organization. May we let go when it is time.
We ask for protection from Funders Syndrome. May the granters and foundations never lead our work but rather support our vision.
Our vision is to promote and practice in all the imperfectness of our humanity a new paradigm of healing justice.
May we continue to be led by the people most impacted by mass incarceration. May we understand that we are our own constituents.
May we never forget that non profits do profit – financially and socially. May we be aware of the smoke and mirrors of language.
May we never forget that our liberation is bound together.
Let’s get free.
Let’s get free
Let us all get free.