Critique of the Criminal Justice System, by Bibi June, edited by Harry Josephine Giles is a poetic exploration of prison abolition and transformative justice, inspired by Giles’ work on Abolish the Police series of poems. Using a whole range of interesting techniques and coming at it from varying angles, it is too easy to come away from this pamphlet feeling like you’ve read obtuse academic work (in a sense).
Published by Stewed Rhubarb Press, and part of the Fellowship of the Stewed Rhubarb, Critique of the Criminal Justice System was written in the year following the incarceration of Bibi June’s brother. They explore their journey to understanding that abolition is just as much a dedication to how you treat the people around you as it is a political statement, and that is nailed with the final work, Footnotes, which leaves personally the most resonating effect in terms of how we interact with family.
Grappling with anger and confusion, June thinks back on the childhood they shared with their brother, and how society forced them into different narratives. Using a whole host of interesting techniques throughout this well-edited and compiled collection, June is evocative and unwavering on their approach. Concrete poetry, repetition techniques, and wordplay all weave their way into this collection and for that it is made more damning.
This pamphlet also considers memory and education, chosen families and homes, and the ways in which we police those around us. It questions if any justice can be found in the criminal justice system, and how we can make it ourselves. It throws plenty into the air for discussion and debate, and despite the obtuseness and experimental style, it’s clear the arguments they are making.
Tragically until systems are made less corrupt it’s significant to look to the works of thought-provoking poets on these issues, and June makes this not only informative, personal but also compelling. It’s almost impossible to walk away from this pamphlet without an imprint of their experience of prisons. It sticks.
Critique of the Criminal Justice System by Bibi June is available now, published by Stewed Rhubarb Press