Non-disposability is the idea that just because someone does something illegal or harmful, whether intentionally, mistakenly, or because they were coerced into it, they do not deserve to be ‘disposed of,’ they are not only ‘bad,’ and they are not incapable of doing ‘good.’ Non-disposability is critical of using carceral punishment as a solution to societal challenges. Carceral punishment and the prison system is not only rooted in the maintenance of slavery, displacement, and oppression, but continues to expose those who are incarcerated to human rights abuses. Moreover, the needs of the person who experiences harm are not centered in carceral systems, the state decides what harms have occurred and what should happen in response.

The criminal justice system often fails people who experience harm, causing further harm. This is evident in many cases of race- and gender-based violence, as well as the 2020 decision by the Ontario court to allow self-induced intoxication to be used as a defense in sexual assault cases. Neither prisons nor legal decisions that allow people to refuse responsibility for their actions can solve systemic gender-based violence. There are better and safer ways to hold people accountable for the harm that they may cause, get them the support and healing they need to change, and ensure those who experience harm get the healing and support they need.

“Prisons do not disappear social problems, they disappear human beings. Homelessness, unemployment, drug addiction, mental illness, and illiteracy are only a few of the problems that disappear from public view when the human beings contending with them are relegated to cages.”

Angela Davis, Masked Racism: Reflections on the Prison Industrial Complex

Non-disposability believes that we all make bad decisions, we all make mistakes, we all cause harm, and we can all do better, we can all grow, heal, learn, and care for others. The following activity invites you to consider your own mistakes and non-disposability, and alternative forms of justice that center healing, transformation, and restoration instead of punishment.

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