Students Rally To Support Prison Moratorium

Massachusetts – Smith College students marched through the streets of downtown Northampton backed by a chorus of honking cars as they chanted, “We don’t want a prison nation, stop mass incarceration!” on Saturday, Dec. 4.

This march was in support of a moratorium on prison and jail construction within Massachusetts that was introduced in the Massachusetts state legislature. The bill was written by Families for Justice and Healing and the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, who, along with Massachusetts Peace Action, sponsored the walk. Smith students and volunteers from other prison abolition organizations in the area met at the Smith Campus Center and walked through downtown Northampton to the post office and then back to the Campus Center.

Continue reading

The ‘Forgotten Fight’ For Prison Abolition In France

When I saw that Jaccques Lesage de La Haye had a new book called The Abolition of Prison, published by the French radical press, Éditions Libertalia, I reached out through my anarchist radio networks to find contact information for him. Jacques is a longtime anarchist and abolitionist in France, who for many years hosted the anti-prison radio show Ras les murs. His book promised to be a culmination of all of his experience writing and struggling against prisons and working to support people both inside and outside.

As a translator and an anarchist, I am always keeping an eye out for new texts to try to bring into English in order to connect movements around the world and especially to help connect the abolitionist struggles across national divides.

Continue reading

Prison Abolitionists Target Architectural Firm

St. Louis Park, MN – Red paint and posters reading “No new jails” were plastered on the door of architectural firm Klein McCarthy at the beginning of the work day on September 9. Responding to a nationwide call-out for #ShutEmDown2021 actions on the anniversary of the Attica Prison Rebellion, autonomous prison abolitionist groups took part in the action which also featured graffiti and a banner drop over Highway 100.

Unicorn Riot received a statement from anonymous participants in the action who said they targeted Klein McCarthy Architects because their contract “to design a new $28-million jail” in Winona. Headquartered in St. Louis Park, Klein McCarthy is one of the top “justice architecture and public facility design” firms in the Midwest.

Continue reading

National Shut’Em Down Demonstrations Kick Off August 21

The purpose of the call is to center the 10 demands that Jailhouse Lawyers Speak and other inside formations have been pushing since the historic 2016 prison strike, encourage people to get involved in local abolitionist organizing, and also gain steam, while building towards the 2022 prison strike that JLS has just announced. So far, people have responded to the call by organizing everything from marches to free political prisoners, film showings, block parties, and noise demonstrations outside of ICE detention facilities, jails, and prisons.

Continue reading

Midwest Connections: A Regional Fight For Abolition

A wave of prison abolition actions and demands have swept the United States every August since 1979 from inside the walls to outside. New groups in the Midwest such as Abolition Is a Practice and Community Not Cages (CNC) are carrying on the Black August traditions. With a proposed new county jail in Winona, Minnesota, slated to cost taxpayers at least $28 million, we heard from abolitionists opposed to the project about their efforts.

With a population of ~27,000 in southeastern Minnesota, Winona is the seat of Winona County and a town that sits on the western edge of the Mississippi River across from Wisconsin. The Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) inspected the Winona County Jail in 2018 and after finding the building wasn’t up to standards, the DOC gave the jail a closing date of September 30, 2021, unless a plan is in place for a new facility.

Continue reading

Black Power And Anti-Carceral State Infrastructure

It should not be surprising that last year, mutual aid groups in the United States had to step in where the government has historically failed. Groups like Black Lives Matter Nashville distributed dozens of micro-grants—even as, at the height of the pandemic, federal and state governments drug their feet to help everyday people. As we reel from the pandemic, instead of providing more resources, the Biden administration has pledged to devote more federal spending to police.

Continue reading

Abolition Made Practical

How does a society go from 7,147 jails, prisons, and detention facilities nationwide down to zero? Well, it’s not by scrolling and wishing.

The fight for prison abolition is being won by local people and organizations who are weaving together the frayed fibers of community care. We’re taking abolitionist cues from platforms that emphasize affordable housing, better access to food, and empowerment programs that equip people with practical skills instead of punitive measures that harm the most vulnerable among us.

Here are three Southern organizations making their communities safer and more sustainable—without prisons.

Continue reading

In The Spirit Of Abolition, Let’s Shut’em Down!

A call to action. National “Shut’em Down” demonstrations August 21st and September 9th. Originally published on the Jailhouse Lawyers Speak blog.

Over the last year prisoners across the country have been holding the longest and largest spontaneous demonstrations in response to covid. With approximately 300,000 (the number is possibly as high as 800,000) people in prison having been infected by covid prisoners have continued to demand basic human rights protections. These demonstrations have been sporadic and largely ignored by the public as prisoners and supporters demanded covid safety and precautions be enacted in prisons. In a number of states, these covid demonstrations have turned into widespread and hard fought successful court battles for releasing prisoners.

Continue reading

Mutual Aid, Abolition And Movements

When I first got involved in organizing, in the mid-1990’s in New York City, I wasn’t aware of the term “mutual aid” but mutual aid was a core part of what I saw around me in all the groups I was in.

Rudy Giuliani (or as we called him, Ghoul-iani) was mayor and his administration was attacking and targeting people on many fronts. He was going after taxi drivers, street vendors, unhoused people, queer bars and public meeting spaces, the sex work industry, people on welfare, and more. His administration’s brutality really “remade” the city in ways that are so visible today, increasing displacement and criminalization of poor people, pushing people off benefits, “cleaning up” Times Square and other areas to be family-friendly tourist attractions by sweeping street people into jails and prisons. It’s hard to estimate how many people’s deaths his policies hastened.

Continue reading

Lessons From Mariame Kaba’s “We Do This ‘Til We Free Us”

We can and must collectively build a world without policing, prisons, surveillance, punishment, and capitalism––a world in which all are equipped with the tools to prevent and transform harm, one in which everyone has what they need to thrive in community with others.

This is the through line of Mariame Kaba’s powerful new book, an expansive and instructive collection of essays and interviews drawn from Kaba’s decades of work building toward abolition — work that has focused particularly on the experiences of Black women and girls and criminalized survivors of sexual violence.

We Do This ‘Til We Free Us: Abolitionist Organizing and Transforming Justice is seamlessly accessible yet deeply demanding.

Continue reading

Poultry And Prisons: Toward A General Strike For Abolition

On April 28, 2020, Donald Trump utilized the Defense Production Act to keep meat-processing plants open. As of this writing, twenty-two plants have closed, if only temporarily, after large numbers of workers tested positive for COVID-19.1 Yet, the number of worker deaths across the industry, including four workers at a Tyson chicken-processing plant in Camilla, Georgia, continues to rise.2 Black workers, who make up a majority of the Tyson plant’s workforce, live in neighboring Dougherty county. This county was once central to the cotton-producing region of the Black Belt, constructed through the violence of plantation slavery entwined with the productivity of the soil.

Continue reading

Prisoners Fight For Their Lives During COVID-19 Pandemic

First and foremost, Take ‘Em Down NOLA was established about five years ago this summer, and our mission is basically the removal of all symbols of white supremacy in the city of New Orleans, as they reflect the systems of racial and economic injustice and oppression of a more than 60 percent Black city. And so, in the city of New Orleans, you’ve had at least 17 monuments to white supremacy. Now 13, thanks to some of our organizing, we were able to successfully get four of them removed back in 2017.

But all of that was really just a wake-up call, a rally to the people in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement to highlight the fact that, you know, state-sanctioned violence has an entire system behind it, an entire apparatus behind it. A Black person is killed in this country every day, extrajudicially, like unarmed Black people being killed by police, and quite often there’s no justice for it.

Continue reading

New Legal Filing Against Guantanamo Prison

January 11 marks the 16th anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantánamo, and the first anniversary under this president. If you’re in the D.C. area, please join us at 11:30 a.m. to gather  with human rights activists, torture survivors, Guantánamo attorneys, 9/11 family members, and members of diverse faith communities at Lafayette Square, at the north side of the White House. Together, we will rally to end indefinite detention, close the prison, and stop torture. We’re also excited to announce the book launch of There is a Man Under that Hood, which sets the words of Luke Nephew’s (Peace Poets) remarkable poem to photographs of anti-torture demonstrations taken or curated by Justin Norman (Witness Against Torture). The afterword is written by CCR Senior Staff Attorney Omar Farah.

Continue reading

Abolitionists From Around The World Gather To End Prisons

By Jean Trounstine for Truthout. In July 2017 more than 200 people from across the globe met for four days in New Bedford, Massachusetts, which was once home to abolitionist Frederick Douglass and a major stop on the Underground Railroad. Meeting intentionally in a place with such historical significance to the abolition movement, conferees came together to learn more about the relationship between the carceral state and struggles against colonialism and slavery. Since 2000, “The increased use of incarceration accounted for nearly zero percent of the overall reduction in crime,” according to a recent report by the Vera Institute, entitled “The Prison Paradox: More Incarceration Will Not Make Us Safer.” The report also underscores the structural racism in which incarceration is grounded, adding, “Incarceration will increase crime in states and communities with already high incarceration rates.”

Recognizing that prison does not reduce violence, many organizations and abolitionists advocate community accountability practices as an alternative to the punishment system, utilizing networks of friends, families, church groups, neighborhoods or workplace associates to provide safety to the community and ways of healing harm.

Continue reading

Freedom From Violence: Lessons From Black Prisoner Organizing

By Dan Berger for The University of North Carolina Press – Collective rebellions are episodic. Expanded technologies of control and limited leftist movements on the outside have made such rebellions even rarer in prisons. But the long-standing black critique of the American criminal justice as a system of racial dominance continues, aided and abetted by the existence of resurgent opposition to prisons beginning in the late 1990s and with added ferocity since the economic collapse of 2008. In 1998, two organizations formed with direct connections to the previous generation of prison protest.

Continue reading