Let’s Get Free: The Women and Trans Prisoner Defense Committee is a group in Western PA that works to shine a light on gender-based violence that contributes to the incarceration of women and trans* people. We also seek to educate and organize around larger issues of mass incarceration, particularly life without parole (LWOP) sentencing, as well as envisioning new systems of transformative justice and healing.
Let’s Get Free was co-founded in 2013 by etta cetera, a long-time friend of Avis Lee, and Donna Hill, mother of Charmaine Pfender. We primarily do our work by fighting for the freedom of Avis and Charmaine, using their cases as springboards for broader changes. Both women are serving LWOP sentences, also known as death by incarceration, and both have stories that are representative of many women incarcerated throughout the country.
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 LWOP. We believe they both should be free.
Over the years, Let’s Get Free has engaged the public about LWOP 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.
We are a proud coalition member of the Coalition to Abolish Death by Incarceration.