By Zoe Luba A largely residential suburb in southeast England, located an hour-and-a-half train ride from London, houses three different prisons for children and youth from across the United Kingdom: HMP Cookham Wood, HMP Rochester, and Medway Secure Training Centre. Barbed wire fences enclose …
The Global Prison Abolitionist Coalition emerged from dialogues between organizations such as the Alliance of Middle Eastern and North African Socialists, Lausan Hong Kong, the Emergency Committee for Rojava, various Brazilian socialist and anti-racist organizations, Socialist Workers Alliance of Guyana Abolitionist Collective of Canada/U.S., Black and Pink, along with various Egyptian, Indian, Kashmiri, Kurdish, Turkish, Palestinian, and U.S. socialist activist-scholars, and prominent abolitionist scholar/activists among them are Dr. Romarilyn Ralston and Dr. Joy James. The formation of this coalition was compelled by the need to connect the struggles of political and social prisoners around the world. Here the coalition provides its statement of purpose.
Curated by the California Coalition for Women Prisoners (CCWP)
This political education resource was first circulated online on March 20, 2020. It was last updated on April 19, 2020.
CCWP is a grassroots social justice organization, with members inside and outside prison, that challenges the institutional violence imposed on women, transgender people, and communities of color by the prison industrial complex (PIC). We see the struggle for racial and gender justice as central to dismantling the PIC and we prioritize the leadership of the people, families, and communities most impacted in building this movement.
Founded in 1995, CCWP grew out of the fight for the health of incarcerated people in California’s women’s prisons. A documentary about CCWP co-founder, Charisse Shumate, is available to watch free online. Charisse was a life term prisoner incarcerated for 16 years at the Central California Women’s Facility. She became a lead plaintiff and spokesperson in a class action lawsuit challenging the medical neglect and abuse of women prisoners (Shumate v. Wilson). She died of complications from sickle cell anemia, cancer, and hepatitis C.
All of the following recommended readings are available online and free to access. In addition, you can find more than twenty years of writing across prison walls on issues of medical neglect, abuse, and violence in the online archive of CCWP’s inside/outside newsletter, The Fire Inside.
by Dylan Rodríguez
The recent and unfortunate statement by Ford Foundation president Darren Walker, “In Defense of Nuance,” defends and affirms the condition of domestic warfare popularly known (though misnamed) as “mass incarceration.” (The “mass” of “mass incarceration” is not an undifferentiated cross-section of the US demography, but is in fact a targeted, profiled, carcerally segregated population that reflects the nation’s racial chattel and racial-colonial foundations and their present tense continuities.) We should be clear that Walker’s missive ignores, dismisses, or otherwise trivializes and caricatures a thriving and growing body of abolitionist scholarship and collective praxis that is rigorously challenging the cultural and political premises of policing, criminalization, and incarceration as normalized protocols of gendered racist state violence in the United States and elsewhere.
Zhandarka Kurti is a postdoctoral fellow in NYU’s Prison Education Program. She recently spoke with Alexandra Cox about her new book, Trapped in a Vice: The Consequences of Confinement for Young People, young people’s experiences with incarceration in upstate New York, and the lessons that understanding the historical context of the juvenile justice system can offer activists today.
by The Bucharest Anti-Racist Collective, Bucharest, Romania
Why is the US national prison strike important not for just for the Americas but also for global attempts to fight racialized capitalism?
This time of year, dubbed Black August, is the time when a prisoner-led movement should be at the forefront of our attention. This is probably the biggest prison strike in US history. Although not always visible, comrades in prison are “boycotting commissaries,” “engaging in hunger strikes which can take days for the state to acknowledge,” and “will be engaging in sit-ins and work strikes which are not always reported to the outside.” Yet, other frames which count as political protest and contestation fight for visibility in the global media. Tropes such as “the corruption of politicians” and “the urban carnival of political protest” work to highlight these politics branded as “resistance to power.”
by Alejo Stark
The 2016 prison strike was the most widespread coordinated action undertaken by prison rebels in the history of the United States. Today, we are in the midst of a second wave of such extraordinary actions. But what is the prison strike, the specter that haunts the racial capitalist state in an “age of riots”? To begin to answer this question, this essay thinks the relation between the prison strike and the recurrent crises of state and capital, showing that the terrain of struggle of the recent waves of prison strikes is partially produced by state budget cuts in the wake of the 2008-10 “financial” crisis. I then proceed to defend an abolitionist strategy of “disruption” of the reproduction of the carceral state apparatus. Lastly, I provide one possible framework that might help us think the relation between the prison strike and other contemporary flashpoints of Black struggle, such as the 2014 Ferguson rebellion.
This essay is adapted from Dan Berger and Toussaint Losier’s 2017 Rethinking the American Prison Movement (Routledge Press), a book that examines how incarcerated people have challenged prison conditions and other forms of inequality through strikes, uprisings, and other creative tactics, and in doing so have waged transformational struggles against America’s prison system. We republish it here on occasion of the nationwide prison strike, in the hopes that it will provide useful perspective on the ongoing struggles of our incarcerated comrades. To the end of prisons.