Sex offender registries and community notification laws, like prisons, often mask origins or forms of violence. Yet the persistent response: What will be built to replace prisons? obscures the harm and ineffectiveness of our carceral regime. This question also demands from those who engage in critique a response or a “solution.” If not registries, then what? I can’t count the times I have been asked this question. Even engaging with this “alternatives” question (I am beginning to hate that word) strengthens the dismissal of critique, subsequently erases the harm done by the police and prisons, and masks the ineptitude of, for example, the registry to meaningfully address child sexual violence and our white supremacist heteropatriarchy that defines who even counts as a child or sentient.
I generally offer the both/and response, perhaps contradictory to some. It seems vital to name how our current regime exacerbates and reproduces forms of state or structural violence, and makes many, even those who count as children, profoundly unsafe. I also highlight that critique does not require knowing “the response.” I try, in a range of ways, to think through and practice this form of engagement. It is tricky because people want to feel and to be safe. The affective dimensions of our anti-prison movements are under specified. If not registries, then what? is often tied to bodily engagements, feelings.
And yet. Despite my desire to not respond to this question, I also feel strongly about naming how everyday people continue to imagine and build–sometimes inconceivable, temporal–alternatives. People have, and continue to, address harm without involving the state. Ad hoc and formal groups are building and practicing responses to (child) sexual violence “outside” law enforcement. Is this perfect? No. Do these engagements provide “the solution?” No. Messy, flawed, and partial these engagements create new networks, circuits of relations, lines of accountability, ways of building communities.
– Erica Meiners