In a candid conversation, attorney and advocate Olayemi Olurin discusses the deep-seated issues within the American prison industrial complex.
Olurin recently joined host Amanda Seales on an episode of “Small Doses: Side Effects of the Pipeline to Prison” to dispel the misconceptions surrounding the criminal justice system.
As a dedicated advocate for justice and a public defender, Olurin’s primary focus is on challenging the prison industrial complex and the systemic racism intertwined with it.
She expresses her strong stance, stating, “I am vehemently against the system. I’m not someone who reveres the law.
It disproportionately and deliberately impacts Black individuals. So, I engage in this work for the service of the Black community, not out of respect for this institution.”
One of the critical aspects of Olurin’s work is to educate people about the concept of prison abolition, which she was introduced to during her college years through Angela Davis’ book, “Are Prisons Obsolete?”
She acknowledges that this concept might seem radical, but she believes that part of systemic reform involves providing access to information and diverse perspectives.
Olurin further elaborates on the ineffectiveness of the current criminal justice system’s approach to crime, emphasizing that it often perpetuates the behaviors it seeks to address.
She advocates redirecting funding away from prisons and law enforcement towards investments in education, housing, and healthcare for communities.
This shift in focus, she believes, will ultimately reduce the need for a massive criminal justice system in the future.
Olurin introduces what she calls “the politics of selfishness.” This perspective emphasizes that people are more likely to support their neighbors when their needs are met.
She believes that when individuals have access to essential resources and support, they are less inclined to bring others down.
The conversation also delves into Olurin’s involvement in the campaign to close Rikers Island, the notorious jail complex in New York City.
She highlights the disproportionate impact on Black and Brown communities, noting that a significant portion of Rikers inmates are awaiting trial and have not been convicted of a crime.
Rikers Island, often misconceived as a place for hardened criminals, is, in reality, a pre-trial detention center where many individuals are detained simply because they cannot afford bail.
Olurin stresses that Rikers Island represents just one facet of the broader failures of the prison industrial complex.
She emphasizes that the same communities labeled as “criminal” are also the ones suffering the most from systemic flaws and trauma.