Prison abolition

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The Enduring Myth of Black Criminality

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQo-yYhExw0 In his October cover story, Ta-Nehisi Coates explores how mass incarceration has affected African American families. “There’s a long history in this country of dealing with problems in the African American community through the criminal justice system,” he says in this animated interview. “The enduring view of African Americans in this country is as a race of people who are prone to criminality.”

Anticipating a Crush: In Prison, Tactical Teams Declare Uneven War

By Phil Hartsfield | co-published by Praxis Center and Truthout

About 7:45 am on Tuesday, January 17, 2017, I muster the energy to get out of bed and walk the step to the sink from the bottom bunk and I hear it. Clunk, clunk, clunk, clunk, clunk. “Shit!” I say to myself as my cellmate and I look at each other wide-eyed. We know that sound anywhere. That’s three-foot-long, two-inch diameter solid wood batons hitting the steel bars as “Orange Crush” runs down the gallery clunking every bar along the way as they yell. Though it’s not our cell house, it’s E House right behind us. We’re able to hear them through the utility alley that the cell houses share behind the cells. They’re making their rounds due to an unauthorized pair of headphones found during a cell search in another cell house.

Freedom Dreams Syllabus

By Alice Kim Prison + Neighborhood Arts Project, Stateville Prison This course explores the freedom dreams of political thinkers, artists, writers, activists and ordinary people in the US and beyond. We will engage with multiple genres (personal narrative, graphic memoir, poetry, speeches) to explore the meaning of freedom. Using an intersectional lens, we will consider the ways in which race, class, gender, and historical/social/cultural context impact our understanding and dreams of freedom. We will also explore the power of imagination to transform individuals, communities, and society.

The Tea Project Fasts, Reflects and Imagines

By Amber Ginsburg and Aaron Hughes

Course One: Sweet Hot Tea

In a recent conversation with one of his lawyers, Mohamedou said that he holds no grudges against any of the people he mentions in this book, that he appeals to them to read it and correct it if they think it contains any errors, and that he dreams to one day sit with all of them around a cup of tea, after having learned so much from one another.—Author’s Note from Guantanamo Diary by Mohamedou Ould Slahi[1] 

Making Visible the Lives and Deaths of People in Custody

Illinois Deaths in Custody Project

“Those who commit the murders write the reports.”  — Ida B. Wells, Lynch Law In All Its Phases, 1893

In 2017, at least twenty-two people died at Chicago’s Cook County Jail (CCJ). This news is not readily available. Rather, multiple Freedom of Information (FOI) Requests filed by the Illinois Deaths in Custody Project (IDCP) with Cook County entities to confirm names and glean a few more institutionally produced “facts” produced the following: Clifford V. Nelson, 49, died while being transferred; Lopez House, 47, collapsed and died at the jail; Lindbert McIntosh, 57, died in his sleep; Jerome Monroe, 56, also died in his sleep at CCJ. By November of 2017, a few of these deaths, somewhat surprisingly, began to make local news.

Yet, the deaths are not actually that surprising. Death is business as usual in our nation’s prisons and jails.

Feminism and The State: Carceral Feminisms and Transformative Alternatives

Melanie Brazzell Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin Summer Semester 2016 After the public reactions to the sexual violence in Köln on New Years, we have to ask ourselves a few hard questions: How can ‘good ideas’ like protecting survivors of violence go so very wrong by supporting racist policing and security regimes? What happens when feminism goes ‘mainstream’ and works together with the State? How do feminist politics come to collaborate in State violence against people of color, particularly trans and cis women? This course will look at the question of feminism’s relationship to the State through current discussions in the U.S. about feminist and anti-violence collaboration in the prison industrial complex, with comparisons to the German context. We’ll use sociological, philosophical, and activist approaches to explore this ‘carceral feminism’, as well as what might lie beyond it, answers we will seek in the prison abolition, community accountability, & transformative justice movements.…

Mumia Abu-Jamal: “The United States is Fast Becoming One of the Biggest Open-Air Prisons on Earth”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4TRiagyOYiw DemocracyNow.org – In a rare live interview, Mumia Abu-Jamal called into Democracy Now! as the new film, “Long Distance Revolutionary,” about his life premiered in New York City. After 29 years on death row, he is now being held in general population at the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution — Mahanoy. “How free are we today, for those who claim to be non-prisoners? Your computers are being read by others in government. Your letters and phone calls are being intercepted,” says Mumia Abu-Jamal. “We live now in a national security state, where the United States is fast becoming one of the biggest open-air prisons on Earth. We can speak about freedom, and the United States has a long and distinguished history of talking about freedom, but have we sampled freedom? I think the answer should be very clear: We have not.” In 1982, Mumia was sentenced to die for killing…

Free All the Political Prisoners

By Zolo Agono Azania

I was introduced to Zolo Azania some twenty years ago through his artwork – striking portraits of Harriet Tubman, Malcom X and Emmet Till, artwork that reflected Zolo’s deep commitment to the Black freedom struggle – exhibited at the Autonomous Zone, a storefront operated by a small group of socially conscious anarchists in Chicago. I met Zolo shortly thereafter when a friend of mine, Elizabeth (Betty) Benson, a longtime activist then in her 80’s, asked me if I’d like to accompany her on a visit to death row at the Indiana state prison in Michigan City. Betty had already been visiting Zolo for several years, taking the South Shore Line from Chicago to Michigan City and then completing the mile or so journey to the prison on foot. On that first visit, I was struck by Zolo’s extraordinary resilience. Sitting across from me was a man with a quick smile and undying optimism, unbroken after fifteen years on death row. How did he manage that?

Indicting the State and Defying Its Narrative: Heather Ann Thompson’s Blood in the Water, the Truth about The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy

By Jennifer Ash

On September 9, 1971, nearly 1300 prisoners took over the prison yard at Attica prison in upstate New York demanding changes to their ghastly living conditions. For five days, prisoners created a society for themselves as they elected leaders, held political discussions, listened to speeches, cooked, ate, invited observers in to the yard and negotiated with authorities. On the fifth day, state authorities defeated the rebellion with brutal force, which was later described by an investigatory commission as the “bloodiest encounter between Americans since the Civil War.” On the 46th anniversary of the rebellion, Jennifer Ash discusses Heather Ann Thompson’s Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy as an indictment against an entire system of oppression that continues today. 

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