Written by The Team at The View Magazine
The View Magazine, Reframing Justice
They say a picture paints a thousand words. We believe Someone’s Daughter, our new campaign with portraits of former prisoners, activists and leading women and the accompanying monograph, The Book have the power to change the way you see justice.
How The View Began
The View Magazine CiC started as a prison magazine by three women in prison as a protest for women and by women to express their anger and pain about the treatment and the injustices they faced. When they were released, they published the first edition in April 2020.
We just published our fourth edition, with the theme Someone’s Daughter, which showcases some of the 53 portraits of well known women including Baroness Kennedy, Gina Miller, Baroness Hale, Jen Reid and others, by famous photographers, who have also taken photographs of women who are former prisoners or activists.
The idea is to bring into focus the humanity that binds all these women, to represent each woman with the dignity, compassion and grace she deserves, because they are all – Someone’s Daughter.
The View calls for a better and fairer justice system, one that takes the sex based needs of women into account, deals with women fairly. One that doesn’t incarcerate women who are no risk to society, who are suffering from trauma and violence in their own lives, so they can be subjected to more trauma and abuse in custody.
We are asking for better funding of mental health centres and treatments. Justice Reinvestment is the economic model whereby money currently used to fund the police, courts, prisons are diverted to fund social services and more upstream interventions such as parenting courses, drug rehabilitation treatments, women’s centres that are not coercive.
How The View Is Run
We never sought to hide the inception of the magazine or the involvement of women with convictions, or to deplatform them in any way. They are still largely responsible for commissioning, editing and designing the publication. The governance and finances of the limited company are run by 2 directors with no direct experience of the criminal justice system. Like any other limited company and social enterprise, the organisation is bound by the compliance of rules and regulations laid down by The Companies’ Act and also the CiC regulator, which is a regulatory body that operates within Companies’ House.
Accounting rules are as stringent as those for a limited company, and the organisation also has to account for its social impact, in other words how the existence of the social enterprise has made a difference by demonstrating its human, financial and social impact. Stakeholder involvement is a crucial part of that reporting.
We have to observe strict rules and governance, and have implemented a suite of policies around financial controls and risk management, as any responsible organisation would. No woman with convictions manages any aspect of the organisation’s finances.
The Book And The Magazine
Two weeks ago, we started a crowdfunding campaign to fund The Book, a monograph of photographs and essays by leading women,former prisoners and activists, so we could get a copy to every MP and into every prison library. We already send 2,000 copies of the magazine into every women’s prison and that feedback, alone, makes this enterprise worthwhile. We have an impressive subscribers’ list including sitting and former judges, legal professionals, academics, NGOs and parliamentarians, policy makers and the families of prisoners. Women in prison or on license in the community can request a copy free of charge.
The magazine is sold at 130 outlets worldwide and available from our website. It is a useful tool, a guide around the labyrinthine justice system, with signposting to worthwhile organisations in the sector, interviews and articles by leading jurists and human rights campaigners, and at the heart of the publication, the case studies, experiences and stories of women with lived experience. This is what makes the publication authentic and powerful.
The View’s social media handle is @rebell_justice across all platforms. Its existence is an act of rebellion, the very reason the magazine was conceived was because three women were taking back their power, through their creativity. Writing and art have always been a means to amplify the experiences of the unheard and the unseen, the voices and women society would rather never hear from again. The ones we throw away into a system that causes harm, abuse and trauma.
Prison is the most significant and powerful form of social death. Information doesn’t get in and just think about how much you know about the prison system – information doesn’t get out. What you have probably seen on TV dramas, when a woman is sentenced and the judges’ resounding words “take her down” and then a few months later when we see her leaving the prison gates, trying to rebuild her life with a bin bag full of possessions that comprise her life now – that is not real. What happens to the woman during her sentence and should we not care , if we’re being told that these women are being incarcerated for our protection and in our names?
Think about who this serves? Prison is obviously not working. Over 67% of women reoffend in the first year and are back inside. Over 80% have mental health issues that are not treated while in prison, More than 57% have been victims of violence and abuse. What about the societal impact on the overuse of incarceration of women? What about the 17 500 children that are left behind each year when a mother is incarcerated? No one knows or cares about what happens to these children. Their life outcomes are considerably lessened, and the pathway to prison for the children of women in prison is well trodden and well researched.
A Broken System
What we are doing and funding as citizens and as a society, in justice and rehabilitation is not working. The system is broken and needs to be brought to its knees and rebuilt. What The View is advocating is powerful and necessary. We need to take a hard look at who benefits from the lucrative private contracts for public services around the criminal justice system. The £3 500 forensic reports, funded by legal aid, that a judge will barely glance at, the massive judicial pensions and the £10, 000 a day cost to run a case in a Crown Court.
Who is benefitting? Powerful people. People with wealth, money and connections.
We need to decide who justice serves, what it is for, and whether it is applied equally and fairly. What do you want? Punishment and retribution or rehabilitation and redemption? Every single one of the women in prison today, except for 5 who have whole of life sentences is going to be released into a community near you one day. How do we want them to be, when they are released?
A lot depends on how they are treated and what we do to them, in prison and upon release. If we call them names, ostracise and vilify them at every opportunity, how do we think they will behave? What stake does any woman have in a society that condemns her, after she has been released from prison and ostensibly served her sentence? A child that doesn’t feel the warmth of the village will burn the village down.
The crowdfunder started well, with 2 high profile feminist artist and friends of the organization putting it across their social media platforms. We had to take it down because of the direct, targeted attacks upon members of The View and our supporters, whose names were clearly visible on the crowdfunder site. That is all we can say at present, as the matter is now with the Bar Council and our solicitors.
Unfounded and harmful allegations were being tweeted about the governance of the company and linking them to a woman’s spent convictions from 2010. She was monstered in hundreds of tweets, amplifying media reports that are untrue and vilifying. Allegations have been made that encroach on her safety and dignity, about her mental health, about her current situation, that are untrue. She is currently protected by the High Court in a different jurisdiction because of the injustices she has suffered within the English justice system. The rest is private.
People started to question the integrity of a company, with no foundations. There appeared no way to rectify the lies being pushed out and amplified, so we sought legal advice. Making a complaint, which is what aggrieved people do in a situation like this, was denounced as silencing of gender critical feminists. We were supposed to just let the lies and the targeted abuse and harassment continue, unchecked. We didn’t.
For Women With Convictions
Our first obligation is to women with convictions. We were told by people we consider friends and allies, not to tweet about the situation, to censure these “damaged women,” to take them off our Twitter account. To deplatform them. We don’t believe silencing women who are already ostracised and vilified by society is productive. We believe in the power of using these women’s stories and experiences to create sustainable change, to rehabilitate.
We don’t believe in the language of empowerment, we don’t empower or disempower anybody, The View is a broad church , a coalition of voices and opinions of women with lived experience that can teach you much more about the criminal justice and prison system than someone with no direct experience of it, or someone who is profiting from it.
We have now set up the Crowdfunder again, so that donors remain private and cannot be targeted. We ask you to support us, to show your solidarity against the woke liberal establishment that initially embraced and welcomed The View as “a fresh voice,” who now want to cancel The Book, prevent its publication and censor the organisation.
We believe MPs who see the portraits and read the experiences of powerful women like Gina Miller, Bianca Jagger, Jess de Wahls and others alongside the stories of former prisoners will not be able to ignore the urgent cry for reform. Millions of words have been written about women in prison, from Baroness Corston’s report to the Female Offender Strategy. Nothing changes. What we are asking you to do, to hold these women’s trauma and to acknowledge the harm being done to them is difficult. It is easier to accept the narrative that women who commit crime are inherently bad and deserve no more chances.
Please come to Photo London at Somerset House from 8 to 12 September 2021 and see the exhibition to learn more about our campaign, or catch it at FiLiA’s annual conference and other venues, later this year and into 2022.
Find The View:
Subscribe to The View here and support our crowdfunder here where your name will not be published. We want to fund the publication of 650 books for MPs and a further 117 books for prison libraries. A full accounting of how money raised will be spent is here.