“Dream big about how fierce and beautiful we want the world to be.”
I’ve only been interning with TJLP* (the Transformative Justice Law Project, about which I’ve blogged previously) for a matter of months, but it has already been one of the most outstanding experiences of my life. There is something really magical about TJLP — a combination of the people, the clients, the values upon which TJLP was founded, and maybe some kind of special TJLP essence.
To quote TJLP’s website, TJLP is “a collective of radical lawyers, social workers, activists, and community organizers who are deeply committed to prison abolition, transformative justice, and gender self-determination.” It continues, “We use our legal access and our privilege as people on the outside to further the prison abolition movement and support people on the inside” in three project areas: legal services, educational materials and trainings, and support of community survival and organizing on the inside. TJLP provides “free, zealous, life-affirming, and gender-affirming holistic criminal legal services to low-income and street based transgender and gender non-conforming people targeted by the criminal legal system” in Illinois.
The people at TJLP are fantastic. Fierce, fabulous — I love them. TJLP’s clients are amazing; to quote Owen, “They’re the fiercest, most resilient activists I’ve ever known in my life.” And, of course, TJLP’s core principles: prison abolition, gender self-determination, and transformative justice. Due to the combination of those principles, as well as for a number of other reasons, there is literally no other organization in the nation like TJLP. It combines criminal defense and civil legal services; in the Place for People interview, Owen said, “We also support people in ways that are extralegal. . . . We’ll actually build relationships with folks’ families, talk to social workers and case managers, and do other advocacy (for) their general legal welfare.”
TJLP is called the Transformative Justice Law Project for good reason; it influences everything about TJLP. On the TJLP website is the line, “Dream big about how fierce and beautiful we want the world to be.” That really is TJLP. From TJLP’s attorneys’ attitudes towards their clients (full of respect, affection, and an utter lack of “I’m a lawyer, and I know better than you” condescension); to the transparency about TJLP, its history, and how it currently functions; to the way TJLP’s interns are valued as members of TJLP; to the way TJLP changes the legal name change process at the Daley Center from a threatening, confusing mess into a supportive form of empowerment to be celebrated through the Name Change Mobilizations (about which I’ve written previously) — TJLP does its best to transform the world we currently have into the world about which TJLP dreams.
I generally try not to push donations, but TJLP is really exceptional. If you feel moved to donate, TJLP accepts in-kind donations, and you can contact TJLP directly by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or 773.272.1822, or you can send a check to:
Transformative Justice Law Project of Illinois
2040 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Chicago, IL 60647
Although TJLP provides its legal services for free, and it is an entirely volunteer-run law project, TJLP is intentionally not a 501(c)(3) — a nonprofit organization. To quote Owen from the PlaceForPeople interview:
(If you become a nonprofit), your paycheck requires the problems to continue. . . . We like having autonomy as a collective. We don’t like how the federal government has set up structures for nonprofit organizations. We like functioning non-hierarchically and being very political. We like the challenge of trying to work outside the grid, even though [it] means we’re broke and tired.
TJLP is truly wonderful. It makes me feel part of something larger. What they’re doing is revolutionary. Being a part of TJLP is like nothing else I’ve ever done before — I feel as though I’m actually making a difference. The stakes at TJLP are so high — it’s more than just trying to put on a good performance (as it was with dance, theatre, and a cappella); the work that TJLP does directly affects people’s lives in very serious ways. Beside that, I’ve found community in the people at TJLP. They acknowledge me for who I am, and they inspire me to be a better person. And most of all, I believe in what TJLP does. I love TJLP.
*I would like to state that, although I adore TJLP and have quoted from the TJLP website, I do not speak for TJLP as an organization or for anyone else at TJLP. My posts are my own and are not necessarily reflective of TJLP or anyone else (as in, other than me) at TJLP (e.g. There’s no connection between, for example, Doctor Who and TJLP, despite the fact that I enjoy blogging about both rather frequently).