What We Do

Subverting Structural Racism

Structural racism is the systematic distribution of resources, power, and opportunity in our society to the benefit of people who are white and the exclusion of people of color. It is not the same as individual bigotry or racial bias. The legacy of slavery and Jim Crow persist. American history continues to privilege “whiteness” in terms of access to quality education, decent jobs, liveable wages, homeownership, retirement benefits, and wealth. Black youth are criminalized and dehumanized through over-policing and zero tolerance school policies. Capital punishment and solitary confinement are disproportionately conferred on Black bodies. Cash bail means that poor people—usually people of color—can’t buy their freedom, even when white people get out of jail. Through community education, we work to subvert structural racism, especially as it relates to the criminal legal system.

Ending Youth Confinement

Hundreds of children are confined in youth jails and prisons in North Carolina — even despite the evidence that these practices are harmful, unproductive, and inhumane. The majority of these kids are Black and Brown. They bear the brunt of systemic racism in the criminal legal and school discipline systems. We are committed to abolishing youth confinement, and establishing alternatives that respect the dignity of children.

End Reliance on Incarceration

When a judge sets bail for an arrested person, she is putting a price on freedom. For Black, Brown, and working-class people, this price may be too high to pay. They will stay locked up pre-trial – perhaps for months or years – while wealthier individuals stay free. Jailed defendants are more likely to lose their jobs and their home. Their children may be displaced from school settings. They are more likely to plead guilty just to secure freedom, regardless of the evidence against them. In North Carolina, rural counties are driving mass incarceration in their jails. Emancipate NC is working on concrete bail reform and arrest reform policies to curb pre-trial detention.

Authentic Community Safety

In our community education work, we collaborate with Black communities that are suffering from criminalization, incarceration, and structural racism. Their neighborhoods are over-policed and their members are over-arrested. Magistrates set high cash bail for the simplest crimes. Then they are coerced into pleading guilty so they can secure freedom from jail. They are also disproportionately punished to harsh sentences, and they are displaced from their friends, families, children, jobs, and homes. They are traumatized in body and in mind. Prison is state violence and it magnifies pain for all parties. Through restorative justice education, we are committed to replacing criminalization and incarceration with alternative approaches that address violence and repair harm.

Defending Families

Our foster care system is broken. Research demonstrates that forced family separation of any length imposes life-long trauma on a child. And yet, in the current “child welfare system,” reunification of children with their biological families often remains a distant hope. The maze of bureaucracy, shifting requirements, and underfunded support systems that characterize foster care have a disproportionate impact on Black children from families experiencing poverty. We envision and are fighting for a new system that prioritizes rehabilitation and reunification. Whenever possible, we need to give families the support they need to keep children safe with their parents, rather than rupturing family bonds and imposing increased attachment wounds.

A painting of a Black mother smiling down at her young daughter