Family Unity Network is an organization that advocates for loved ones of the incarcerated. Presently, California imprisons more people than any other state with over 230,000 people serving time in its prisons and county jails. Often those incarcerated are connected to family members that are left behind to suffer and work thru the loss and absence of their parent/child or loved one from the household. Family members of prisoners are the invisible victims of mass incarceration. The legal system gives no consideration to how incarceration tears families apart and leaves gaps and holes in community formations.
The Family Unity Network strives to build leadership of family members in the communities most affected by incarceration. We also offer a space of encouragement that strives to foster family restoration and healing. Our goal is to reduce the use of incarceration and solitary confinement by way of grassroots organizing, policy changes, public education, advocacy efforts and sentencing reform. Based on our experience organizing as families against solitary confinement, we strongly believe that families can have a huge impact on transforming criminal justice policy in California.
We came together in 2011 to form California Families Against Solitary Confinement in response to our loved ones in prison who organized a hunger strike to demand an end to solitary confinement. With them we organized and gained the release of several of our family members from solitary, participated in positive reforms in public policy and secured greater rights for our loved ones in prison. We are now going beyond solitary to advocate for programs that provide greater access to health and education for our loved ones in prison, support them in advocating for their rights, organize toward early release and transition programs and for community programs and policy changes that prevent our loved ones from going to prison.
If we know there are over 200,000 people incarcerated in California, then we can conclude that families make up a significant percentage of California’s population. Just like there is immense amount of suffering in these numbers, there is also power. We reject the shame imposed on us for having a loved one in prison. By working together as families and communities, we reclaim our power to lift our voices and actions in order to create positive change for our loved ones in prison, our families and our communities. As such, we call for California to invest in our families, communities and programs that restore and heal both.