When harm is done, the Quaker way is to seek healing and reconciliation, not retribution. This approach has guided AFSC’s “healing justice” work since its inception. In the 1960s we began urging Friends Meetings nationwide to visit and assist people in local prisons. In halfway houses and pre-trial programs, our staff saw firsthand how the justice system mistreated communities of color and those at the margins of society.

When the police killed dozens of people during urban uprisings in 1967, AFSC took a stand against police brutality. Our publication “Struggle for Justice” exposed racial bias in sentencing and recommended reforms. As “tough-on-crime” laws of the 1980s swelled prison populations, AFSC worked to support those affected—both in prison and in the community. We rallied faith groups to resist the death penalty and to oppose solitary confinement. Today, ending mass incarceration and for-profit prisons are at the center of our agenda.

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  • Man sits on a bed in a small room.
    In the 1960s and 70s, AFSC established numerous halfway houses in California to support people transitioning out of prison.
  • Two women walk together through a gate held open by a guard.
    AFSC has a longstanding interest in the wellbeing of incarcerated women. In 1976, we contracted with the Iowa state government to transport children to visit their mothers in prison.
  • Photo through bars in a prison into a cell with a bed.
    In 1977, AFSC’s executive secretary wrote to President Carter urging him not to expanded prison construction.
  • Man and woman talking to one another in a small room.
    AFSC has long encouraged volunteers to visit incarcerated people, including those on death row (as in this photo from 1980).
  • Demonstrators holding stop signs and other signs about ending the death penalty.
    In 2005, we brought together a powerful coalition of faith-based activists in a project called “Religious Organizing Against the Death Penalty.”
  • Cover of a report called "Survivors manual: A manual written by and for people living in control units."
    Since 1998, AFSC’s Newark office has issued five editions of a manual with letters, stories, poetry, and practical advice for surviving solitary confinement.
  • Group of protesters walk together, some drumming, some raising their fists.
    From 2011-13, a series of massive hunger strikes in California prisons brought national attention to widespread, long-term use of solitary confinement.
  • Woman reads talking points at a California State Assembly hearing.
    AFSC’s Laura Magnani, a nationally renowned expert on solitary confinement, helped negotiate an end to the California prison hunger strikes. The strikes led to a landmark legal settlement in 2015, dramatically limiting the use of solitary confinement in California.
  • Man sits at a desk next to a computer.
    Lewis Webb, Jr., director of AFSC’s New York office, challenges society’s definition of violence, saying: “It is violent to take parents from children. It is violent to put people in prison for 20-30 years.”
  • Surrounded by others, a woman is taped as she speaks into a microphone with a wheelchair in front of her.
    In 2013, AFSC and the ACLU sued the Arizona Department of Corrections over grossly inadequate medical care in private prisons. Here, AFSC’s Caroline Isaacs releases a report on needless deaths and injuries.
  • Young woman writes in a notebook.
    AFSC's Criminal Justice Program in Michigan works to improve prison conditions and help people prepare for parole hearings. Interns respond to thousands of letters annually from incarcerated people.