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.
George Ciccariello-Maher and Jeff St. Andrews (Re-published on occasion of the prison strike, August 21st to September 9th, 2018. Originally published in Counterpunch. Download the pamphlet version here.) Note: We wrote this piece seven years ago, but for white supremacy, the past is never truly past, and nor is resistance to it. We […]
[This interview by Jared Ware with an organizer from Jailhouse Lawyers Speak is re-posted from Shadowproof. The Abolition collective aims to amplify the voices of incarcerated folks who are organizing the prison strike from August 21st to September 9th.] A little over one week after the deadliest incidence of recorded prison violence in the United […]
The collective of Abolition: Journal of Insurgent Politics stands in solidarity with ongoing organizing with the planned August 21st, 2018 nationwide prison strike. Importantly, this movement is diffuse – a critical and primary tactic for organizing across and inside carceral lines, however demarcated.
by Michael Sutcliffe
Education, and particularly literacy, is often held up as a panacea for criminality and the key to prisoners’ reinvented social mobility. Reformers, educators, administrators, and government-funded corporate surveys tell us that if prisoners are educated, their behaviors will change as they learn to “solve their problems” in constructive rather than destructive ways. While much is to be said for the value of education, learning to read and write according to institutionally authorized conventional modes of discourse does little to counter the systems of state-sponsored violence, near-permanent poverty, racism, and devastating economic inequity that propagate the prison industrial complex.
This essay will demonstrate how current applications of prisoner education contribute to a “Prison Literacy Complex” by assuming deficits in the prisoner and positing education as remediation or as therapy. Traditional top-down models of literacy and their “voices-in” pedagogies mask systemic privilege and stratification. Instead, I argue for a “voices-out” pedagogical reframing for community programs in prisons and jails that can further substantive, redistributive social change. By bringing silenced voices and counterhegemonic memories out from behind bars, community efforts can reveal inconsistencies in popular “truths” and inspire the historicized criticism necessary for sustained projects of abolition. While primarily addressed to educators and community organizers working inside, the theoretical reorientation is a broader call for rethinking and reteaching ideological inheritance and community participation.