Marissa Alexander Released From Prison

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This undated family photo provided by Lincoln B. Alexander shows, Marissa Alexander in her car in Tampa, Fla. Alexander had never been arrested before she fired a bullet at a wall one day in 2010 to scare off her husband when she felt he was threatening her. (AP Photo/Lincoln B. Alexander)

Supporters of Marissa Alexander in Jacksonville, across the US, and all around the world are overjoyed that Alexander has been released from jail after serving 3 years behind bars for defending her life.  In 2010, Alexander, a black mother of three from Jacksonville, Florida, was forced to defend her life from a life-threatening attack by her estranged husband by firing a single warning shot that caused no injuries.  State Prosecutor Angela Corey prosecuted Alexander, pursuing a 60 year mandatory minimum sentence.  On November 24, 2014, Alexander accepted a plea deal that included time served of nearly 3 years in prison, 65 additional days in the Duval County jail, and 2 years of probation while under home detention.  Today marks the end of her time behind bars.

“We are thrilled that Marissa will finally be reunited with her children, her family, and her community,” said Sumayya Coleman, co-lead of the Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign.  “Today’s hearing revealed that Marissa intends to attend school to become a paralegal and she is a wonderful mother to her children who urgently need her.  Amazingly, the State continued their campaign of punishment by trying to add two more years of probation on top of the two years of house detention included in the plea. Fortunately, they failed. Marissa and her family will need time to begin recovering from this arduous and traumatic experience. It’s been a long and painful journey and, though her release from jail is definitely a win — no 60 years — the journey of seeking ultimate freedom is not over.  Marissa will be forced to be on strict home detention while being under surveillance for two years.  This is by no means freedom in the sense we feel she deserves.  Our next agenda is to seek full restoration for Marissa and her family, including the expunging of her so-called criminal record, and a systemic transformation that prevents black women and all survivors of domestic violence from experiencing the hostile and brutal treatment from policing, prosecution, and prison systems that Marissa has endured. We will push for improved legislation and monitoring of systems that penalize victims of domestic violence who choose to save their lives by force. This is by no means a conclusion.”

Alexander will be forced to wear and pay for a surveillance ankle monitor, and forbidden from leaving her home with the exception of attending work, church, her children’s school, and appointments with doctors or the court.  This will effectively “prisonize” her home, as noted by journalist, Maya Schenwar.  This practice of extending a prison culture of surveillance, punishment, and confinement into people’s homes and communities has significantly increased in the U.S., creating what Prof. Beth Richie has described as a “prison nation,” especially for black women.  Coercing probationers to pay for surveillance monitors is also part of the increasing privatization of punishment in the U.S.

Since 2012, the Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign has organized to free Alexander from the punishing experience of being prosecuted for self-defense.  Supporters have organized in Jacksonville, across the United States in dozens of cities, and around the world to demand Alexander’s freedom.  Aleta Alston Toure’, co-lead of Free Marissa Now said, “For almost three years, this campaign has raised critical awareness about Alexander’s case, raised much needed donations for her legal defense fund, and raised a movement that takes a stand against mass incarceration and domestic violence.  If this targeting of Marissa had unfolded behind closed doors and without powerful pushback from people who believe in justice, we believe she would still be in prison today.  Organizing matters.”

Organizers are hosting a number of direct actions in support of Alexander’s freedom.  In Jacksonville, organizers will hold a press conference today at 12pm on the Duval County Courthouse steps.  They will also welcome a display of The Monument Quilt, 350 quilt squares containing stories from survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in solidarity with Marissa Alexander.  The quilt will blanket the Duval County Courthouse lawn on January 27th, 8 am – 2pm.

Local organizers will convene a televised People’s Movement Assembly to be held on January 28th, 1pm at WJCT/ PBS, 100 Festival Park Ave.  The assembly discussion will focus on state violence against women and will include Dr. Kimberle Crenshaw, Columbia University, UCLA, & the African American Policy Forum; Kerry McLean, National Lawyers Guild, Dr. Faye Williams, National Congress of Black Women; Dr. Rose Brewer, University of Minnesota; and Dr. Beth Richie, University of Illinois, Chicago and INCITE!.  The assembly will be hosted by local Free Marissa Now member, Denyce Gartrell.

The Chicago Alliance to Free Marissa Alexander led a recent major fundraising push that raised $11,000 to help Alexander cover the cost of her ankle monitor for the two year period of home detention.  They are organizing a January 27th discussion about how to talk to children with imprisoned family members about incarceration, which will occur at 6pm at 637 Dearborn St. in Chicago.

The Free Marissa Now Bay Area collective also organized a caravan that traveled from Oakland, CA to Jacksonville, FL, raising awareness about Alexander’s case in cities along the way.  Details about all of these events can be found at freemarissanow.org.

“It’s hard to summarize the incredible outpouring of rage, love, and commitment to freedom that has arrived from all around the world in solidarity with Marissa Alexander,” said Alisa Bierria, also from Free Marissa Now.  “Hundreds of people have donated, created art and media, and organized direct actions, letter writing sessions, and teach-ins in Jacksonville, Chicago, Berkeley, Los Angeles, New York, Pittsburgh, DC, New Orleans, St. Louis, Seattle, Denver, Miami, Canada, Australia, and many other locations.  The dozens of projects that Marissa’s supporters have organized have been creative, brilliant, and impactful.  Together, we have not only helped to ensure Marissa’s release from prison, we have hopefully shown why we must keep addressing the connections between domestic violence, reproductive violence, and state violence.  We warmly thank and honor every person who has contributed to this historic freedom movement.”

Free Marissa Now notes that Alexander has asked supporters to use her case to bring more attention to women in similar circumstances, such as Tondalo Hall and Charmaine Pfender.

Organizers will publish a report about the Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign on their website, freemarissanow.org, in the coming weeks.