Tilted Scales Collective

We are a small collective of dedicated anarchist legal support workers who have spent years supporting and fighting for political prisoners, prisoner of war, and politicized prisoners in the so-called united states.

What we do

Our work has involved support during all stages of a persons case – from arrest through trial and into post-conviction appeals and long term support during a persons time in prison. In 2017 we published A Tilted Guide to Being a Defendant, which was the result of a years long effort to distill much of what we had learned over the past decade+ into book format. The guide aims to be a resource for people involved in social struggle and to assist them in navigating their criminal legal charges. It provides a framework for people who are figuring out how to balance their personal, political, and/or legal needs in the context of a politically charged prosecution. We recently finished writing Representing Radicals, a guide for lawyers representing radical clients.

We also offer workshops, webinars, and discussions about the criminal legal system and the ideas presented in our publications to people facing charges and to their supporters. Some of the kinds of things we can talk to you about include: how to approach your case in a way that addresses your politics, how to work with your lawyer, forming a support committee, working with the media, and more.

What we believe

We strongly believe that all prosecutions are political, and indeed that the criminal legal system and prison-industrial complex themselves are inherently repressive systems rather than being societal mechanisms for ensuring justice. In tangible terms, this is seen in the disproportionate rates of arrests, prosecutions, convictions, and incarceration of oppressed communities, particularly poor, Black, Brown, Indigenous, queer, transgender, and undocumented ones. Laws are written by those in power and are meant to protect their interests and values. For example, over half of the 2.3 million people incarcerated pretrial or postconviction in the United States are held for nonviolent offenses, whereas systemic violence such as evictions and gentrification, racially biased housing and education, stop-and-frisk policing, etc. are supported by myriad governmental institutions and economic policies. When people seek to challenge these oppressive systems, we can understand the criminal charges against them as “political” or “politically motivated.” However, we do not mean that these charges are “less criminal” than other charges, that charges against activists are “more political” than charges against other people, or that activists deserve better representation than other defendants. If you have been criminally charged and are wondering if our collective can be a resource for you, feel free to contact us.

our goal-setting framework

We use a 3-part goal-setting framework for helping people facing criminal charges clarify their goals. This framework takes into consideration the following goal areas:
 
  • Personal goals are those focused on helping the defendant care for themselves and their loved ones (e.g., avoiding prison time). These considerations include health status, children and other dependents, one’s role in organizations/political movements, financial situations, immigration status, etc. Our resources help defendants clarify these goals and consider them alongside political and legal goals. 
  • Political goals are created for and focused on the politics and ideas the person facing charges hopes to advance through the process of fighting their charges and/or bringing their case to trial.
  • Legal goals are what lawyers are trained to counsel their client about – for example: winning acquittals or dropped charges, negotiating plea agreements to lower-level charges to avoid felony convictions and prison time, or negotiating plea agreements that reduce collateral consequences.  These goals prioritize the legal components of a case (as opposed to personal or political aspects).

We recommend that people facing charges honestly assess their personal, political, and legal goals before pursuing a particular legal or political strategy. This can be done through conversations with codefendants, supporters, and loved ones. More information about this framework can be found in our book, A Tilted Guide to Being a Defendant.