Monday, June 23, 2008

Update about the New Jersey Four

I received a link to this update via e-mail a couple of days ago:
Terrain Dandridge, one of the New Jersey 4, released after 2 years of incarceration; first day free will be spent meeting with Angela Davis and the Queer Community in San Francisco

Appeal Update for the case of the New Jersey 4

Terrain Dandridge’s appeal has been successful and she should be released from Albion Correctional Facility as early as this Monday, June 23, 2008! Terrain Dandridge’s case was overturned, all her charges were dropped and her record has been cleared. Renata Hill is awaiting a new trial of the events concerning the night of August 18, 2006, where her and seven other young black lesbians from Newark, New Jersey faced a homophobic assault in New York’s East Village.

The lawyers, who agreed that there was no strategy for involving grassroots support in the appeals process, have called this, “a miracle”. Terrain’s lawyer has acknowledged that to be granted a new trial is rare; to have charged dropped is unprecedented. The Bay Area Solidarity Committee realizes that regardless of whether we were factored in by lawyers as part of the appeals process, this unprecedented turn of events had little to do with divisive legal strategy, an unjust system’s benevolence or retributive justice. Terrain’s freedom is directly related to an international campaign of radical queers of color and their allies.

While we celebrate this victory, we mourn the divisive legal strategy, which has attempted to pit these friends and lovers against one another and further complicate those whose appeals are yet to be heard. Despite our great news, we must ensure that no one is left– not Venice, not Renata, not Patreese– to endure the horror of the prison industrial complex.

As a result of sexist, homophobic, and racist stereotypes held by law enforcement agents and institutions, the women later known as the New Jersey 4 were deemed to be a “lesbian wolfpack gang”, who were organizing to terrorize straight men. Our stories are so often retold with a complete reversal of who is being harmed and who is doing the harming. The impacts of allowing Dwayne Buckle to be popularly depicted in the media and during the court proceedings as the “victim” fails to identify how his desire to dominate women (and their spaces) only leads to the violence that resulted. On a broader social level, such negligent media reporting, police investigation, and courtroom bias only promises to generate more of these same violent experiences which target women and queers. The New Jersey 4, like so many of us, are survivors of a system which incorrectly identifies the root causes of violence and crime, only to create conditions for mass incarceration and displacement of queers, especially those queers, like the 4, who are already vulnerable to criminalization because of their race or class identity.

While, Monday, June 23rd marks Terrain’s long awaited release date from Albion Correctional Facility, where she has been caged for six hundred seventy three days of her life because of a wrongful prsecution and conviction, we must remember Terrain still unjustly spent two years of her young life in prison, which cannot be returned to her. Chenese Loyal, Lania Daniels, and Khamysha Coates still have felony charges that prevent them from getting jobs, registering for housing and other unjust discrimination. Renata is still behind bars awaiting a new trial. Venice, sentenced to 5 years and Patreese, sentenced to 11 years, remain incarcerated, awaiting appeals to be heard in the fall. , The 3 women will continue to navigate the legal system until the day comes when their stories will finally be heard without the racist homophobic sexist bias that denied them a fair trial to begin with.

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