Behind the Walls is DARE’s prison reform committee, which unites people inside the prison with their friends, families, community members, and former inmates on the outside. Together, we fight for systemic changes in the criminal justice system, by advocating for progressive legislation at the state level and organizing our community to build strength and solidarity among people affected by the Prison Industrial Complex.
The Behind the Walls Committee was founded in 1998 at the request of DARE members and people inside the Adult Correctional Institute (ACI), the Rhode Island state prison. Attracted by DARE’s advocacy work against police brutality, people inside the ACI recognized the continuity between police brutality and injustices in other aspects of the criminal justice system and urged DARE to broaden its work. Many of these people continue to be involved in Behind the Walls, serving on our Inside Advisory Committee or joining DARE upon their release from prison.
DARE Members Lead the Fight
DARE is the only advocacy organization in Rhode Island with formerly incarcerated people and their families in its decision-making structure. At DARE, directly affected individuals lead the fight, allowing the Behind the Walls Committee to identify and address systemic problems in the criminal justice system with integrity, accountability, and honest, firsthand experience. We have provided key reports, analyses, strategies and testimony in the struggle to reform our prisons, sharing details and information only possible because of the direct experience of our members and leaders.
DARE members play a critical and decisive role in the work of the organization. For instance, the passage of Probation Violation sentencing reform, which stops probationers from having to do time when new charges are brought to trial and dismissed, began with a DARE member who was paroled from prison. While in prison, this member researched possibilities for reform, including legal arguments. A coalition was formed upon his release, with DARE members educating other coalition partners about the need for change and informing the drafting of a reform bill with their direct experiences of the injustice of being sent to prison on a 32f probation violation. Through firsthand testimony, community organizing, and direct action, an injustice that had affected peoples’ lives for decades was righted, and it all began when a prisoner was released and joined DARE.