CPEP Fundraising on Propagations for Abolition

Lauren Roulston Aug 1, 2023

CPEP’s Propagations for Abolition fundraiser on the Arlington Five Café patio. (Photo by Lauren Roulston/CHUO).

The Criminalization and Punishment Education Project, (CPEP) is raising funds to support people recently released from prison.

The supportive action is one of their ongoing initiatives leading to Prisoners’ Justice Day on Aug. 10, where they will host a vigil at the Human Rights Monument on Elgin St.

CPEP held its second annual “Propagations for Abolition” event on Saturday. The fundraising event entwines social justice advocacy and cultivating plants.

Emilie Waters, the event’s organizer, says she’s noticed an overlap in the communities of plant lovers and activists.

“You have to be a person that respects and cares about taking care of other things and other people,” she says.

Waters adds that plants are a great way to bring the community together, as many of the propagations for the event were donated by residents.

The group set up a table to sell the various plant trimmings, CPEP merch, and Journals of Prisoners on Prisons on the back patio of Arlington Five Café on an overcast day.

A raffle offered prizes of local goods including art prints, a tattoo gift card, soap, coffee, and tarot cards.

Waters says engaging in conversations about abolition within community spaces has contributed to its normalization.

“It’s about educating and making active change towards the ultimate goal of abolition,” she says. “Working with folks who have been criminalized and making sure we amplify their voices, really advocating and supporting those who have been criminalized.”

CPEP initiatives aim to open up spaces for the conversation on the consequences of expanding the state’s capacity for confining people to prisons, emphasizing the potential to shape patterns of marginalization, criminalization, and punishment.

They promote strategies that reduce reliance on incarceration. Such as decriminalizing certain prohibited drugs, measures for transitioning prisoners back into communities, and addressing the social inequalities that foster crime.

One of their current campaigns is to stop a 235-bed prison from being built on farmland in Kemptville.

“An entirely new prison that’s going to take millions of dollars away from like, investing in actual community safety and healthcare education,” says Waters.

CPEP writes on its site that expanding jails will deepen inequality and criminalize those suffering from addiction and mental health issues.

For instance, Indigenous adults accounted for about a third of all adult admissions to provincial and federal custody while representing just around five per cent of the Canadian adult population in 2020, according to Statistics Canada.

The Government of Canada also reports that correctional systems have seen a dramatic rise in the number of disordered offenders with 38 per cent of new admissions reporting a history and current high levels of psychological dysfunction.

CPEP writes that jails and prisons have historically proven to be costly and unsuccessful at meeting their objectives. “Imprisonment damages prisoners, along with their loves ones and communities,” their site says.

Waters says the group’s activism is to inform folks and disrupt the process of carceral system expansion.

She first learned about CPEP and abolition as a criminology undergrad at Carleton University. COVID was just beginning and the murder of George Floyd had sparked the conversation that interested her.

“Prison and policing issues around that were being more discussed and it was more prominent so I was taking an interest and that’s kind of where I first learned about abolition and exactly what that meant,” Waters says.

The Propagations for Abolition event saw positivity, support, and solidarity, which led Waters to bring it back this year.

Waters also works at Plant & Curio in Ottawa. She notes how the community comes together for plants whether it’s in person or on Facebook groups. “It’s like a love language,” she says.

“I just like to feel like I can do something, it’s hard to feel like you as a singular person can make effective change or support others or do something for your community, and I just found that this is the way that I can do that,” says Waters. “And even that, hopefully that makes a small impact somewhere.”

Listen to Emilie Waters’ Zoom conversation with CHUO:

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