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Paying for Freedom: Community Payment of Fines as Collective Resistance to Australia’s Criminalisation of Race and Class


Sarah Schwartz

Since colonisation, Australia’s criminal apparatus has targeted people on the basis of race and class through changing modes of legal control. This article explores two examples of collective resistance to this. In 2019, Sisters Inside’s FreeHer campaign enlisted community members to pay for the freedom of Aboriginal women imprisoned for non-payment of fines in Western Australia. Simultaneously, in the United States, bail funds enabled people to free those imprisoned due to inability to afford cash bail. In both examples, by paying for the freedom of strangers, the community inserts itself into otherwise opaque criminal processes, challenging the very reason for a person’s incarceration and disrupting the rhetorical divide between the community and the criminalised. Through the framework of demosprudence (ie, collective citizen mobilisations which are democracy-enhancing) and prison abolition, this article demonstrates the capacity for these forms of participatory resistance to contribute to transformative social and legal change.

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2024 47(1) UNSWLJ 38: