Aaron Persky at news conference
Dan Simon/CNN
Aaron Persky at news conference
Now playing
02:53
Judge in Brock Turner case faces recall
Fox News/Twitter
Now playing
01:33
ADL wants Fox News to fire Tucker Carlson over racist comments
CNN
Now playing
02:36
The truth behind Covid-19 vaccines for sale on the dark web
Now playing
04:22
Levi's CEO has message for Mitch McConnell
Now playing
01:54
'You think I'm racist': Former Fox News host storms off camera
Korie Robertson and Willie Robertson of the reality series "Duck Dynasty" attend the Capitol File 58th Presidential Inauguration Reception at Fiola Mare on January 19, 2017 in Washington, DC.
Paul Morigi/Getty Images
Korie Robertson and Willie Robertson of the reality series "Duck Dynasty" attend the Capitol File 58th Presidential Inauguration Reception at Fiola Mare on January 19, 2017 in Washington, DC.
Now playing
01:46
'Duck Dynasty' stars discuss raising biracial son on new show
FOX/"The Masked Singer"
Now playing
01:24
Nick Cannon makes big splash in 'Masked Singer' return
The Drew Barrymore Show/YouTube
Now playing
01:26
'Mom' star speaks out about not having kids in real life
Heinz ketchup packets are shown in New York on Monday, August 22, 2005. H.J. Heinz Co., the world's biggest ketchup maker, said first-quarter profit fell 19 percent on expenses to cut jobs and sell businesses.  (Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Heinz ketchup packets are shown in New York on Monday, August 22, 2005. H.J. Heinz Co., the world's biggest ketchup maker, said first-quarter profit fell 19 percent on expenses to cut jobs and sell businesses. (Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Now playing
01:53
Restaurants face a nationwide ketchup packet shortage
Camerota Berman both
CNN
Camerota Berman both
Now playing
02:33
CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota gets surprise tribute from co-anchor
Citigroup Chairman Richard Parsons delivers remarks on the US economy at the New York State Bar Association meetings in New York, January 28, 2009. Troubled US banking giant Citigroup last week named Parsons as its new chairman, the longtime top executive at media giant Time Warner, to steer it through its most challenging period.  AFP PHOTO / Emmanuel Dunand (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images)
EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/AFP via Getty Images
Citigroup Chairman Richard Parsons delivers remarks on the US economy at the New York State Bar Association meetings in New York, January 28, 2009. Troubled US banking giant Citigroup last week named Parsons as its new chairman, the longtime top executive at media giant Time Warner, to steer it through its most challenging period. AFP PHOTO / Emmanuel Dunand (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images)
Now playing
02:47
Dick Parsons: Georgia law is a bald-faced attempt to suppress Black vote
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Picture
Now playing
02:54
'Godzilla vs. Kong' is a pandemic box office hit
Now playing
01:30
5 ways to cut your plastic waste
CNN/Getty Images
Now playing
04:40
Stelter: After elevating Gaetz, Fox News barely covering scandal
NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona
Now playing
01:08
See NASA spacecraft successfully land on an asteroid
Now playing
06:51
Alisyn Camerota's kids wish her good luck in new role on CNN

Editor’s Note: Chandra Bozelko served more than six years at York Correctional Institution. She was the first inmate to write a regular newspaper column from behind bars and her blog “Prison Diaries” has received Webby Awards and recognition from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Since her release, her work has appeared in the New York Times, USA Today, the Washington Post, and elsewhere. The views expressed in this commentary are solely hers.

(CNN) —  

Harassment and assault of women is a serious problem and we need to correct our culture to eliminate it. But the recall in Santa Clara County, California, of Aaron Persky, the judge who sentenced Brock Turner, isn’t the way to change things.

Chandra Bozelko
c/o Chandra Bozelko
Chandra Bozelko

The Brock Turner debacle raised controversy in 2016 when the former Stanford student, convicted of three felony counts of sexual assault, was sentenced to six months in a county jail, followed by three years of probation. “Obviously, the prison sentence would have a severe impact on him,” Persky said when rejecting the state’s recommended sentence of six years in prison.

The backlash against Turner, and by extension, Persky, came mostly from women’s rights activists. It looked and sounded a lot like Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ renewed tough-on-crime agenda announced in 2017: calls for mandatory minimum sentences for sex-based crimes and a sustained effort to remove a judge for, of all things, showing leniency. As someone who was sentenced to 10 years of correctional control (both prison and probation) for nonviolent crimes, Turner’s was a sentence probably better suited for a defendant like me. Knowing that incarceration does little to rehabilitate people, I don’t think Turner or society would have benefited from his spending any more time behind bars other than what Persky ordered.

Removing a judge who’s known for independence and mercy – however misapplied you think that mercy was – only strengthens the prison industrial complex. In order to find easier ways of putting men in prison, including new judges who will sentence convicted sex offenders in prison for long terms, the campaign to stop rape – at least how it’s manifested with the Persky recall – is starting to side more with police and prosecutorial power than women’s rights. Thinking the police and punishment will guide people away from sexual violence is actually not new. Consider that the Violence Against Women Act was actually part of our country’s toughest crime bill in 1994. The concept even has a name; it’s called “carceral feminism” and the #metoo movement has resurrected discussion of it.

This strategy has so backfired that it has resulted in female victims’ being incarcerated during the prosecution of rape cases because the prosecution – and impending punishment – was more important than the victim.

Consider these examples. In 2016, a woman diagnosed with bipolar disorder broke down on the stand as she testified at the Houston trial of the man who raped her. She was the second rape victim the authorities incarcerated in Houston to assure that she appeared at trial.

Before the outrage at what happened in Houston, people accepted it in the state of Washington in 2014 when a rape victim was jailed to assure she would come to court and testify. A 17-year-old rape victim was held in juvenile detention pending her attacker’s trial in California in 2012. In 2003, an Ohio woman was actually sentenced for contempt for failing to appear at her attacker’s trial. The judge who ordered this hoped that “the justice system [was] better for what [he] did.”

For the most part, people familiar with the inner workings of the criminal justice system know recalling a judge for perceived leniency is problematic. Nearly one-third of graduating students at Stanford Law School signed an open letter opposing Persky’s recall in 2016. Public defender Sajid Khan, a San Jose public defender and co-host of the “Aider & Abettor” podcast, warned on his blog that the plan to take down Persky may have a “a chilling effect on judicial courage and compassion.”

Many feminists may have forgotten – or may have never known – that judicial mercy ultimately helps women, because it challenges a punitive system that’s rooted in patriarchy. Women face more than just gender oppression; all oppressive systems – racism, classism – impact women in compounding ways.

As feminist theorist bell hooks described it, the “hierarchical rule and coercive authority” that allows powerful people to dominate the disenfranchised is what allows men to abuse women, and judges and police to abuse poor people of color.

This isn’t to say that accountability isn’t necessary to protect both women’s rights and public safety. But there’s a balance to be found between accountability and retribution. With a reduced sentence, Persky was aiming to achieve that balance with a particularly unpopular defendant. Before recalling him, I would have wanted to give the judge another chance to do that for less affluent, darker-skinned defendants, and held him accountable if he didn’t.

Mass incarceration may be a waste of human potential and taxpayer money but it’s also rife with valuable lessons on behavior control. Locking up 2.3 million people (according to the Prison Policy Initiative) has not greatly reduced the number of acts that offend us and harm us. The idea that harsh punishment and long terms of incarceration imposed under unyielding sentencing laws deter crime has been debunked, yet these are the tactics many women rely on in their plan to address gendered violence. Not only will it not work in the long term, it will ultimately backfire on women.

Get our free weekly newsletter

Justice reform and efforts to prevent any crime – not just sexual ones – can’t operate at odds with each other. Nor can anti-rape activists side with systems that are inherently coercive, even if that means a judge who was lenient on a man convicted of rape remains to oversee other cases.