Black August Resistance poster, by Kevin 'Rashid' Johnson, via Black Opinion, August 26, 2016

Black August and Its Global Importance

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.”

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Like a Game of Chess: The Prison Strike and Abolitionist Strategy

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.

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Rethinking American Prisons

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.

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Every Crook Can Govern

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 […]

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‘I’m for Disruption’: Interview with Prison Strike Organizer from Jailhouse Lawyers Speak

[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 violence of prison violence in […]

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All our Community’s Voices: Unteaching the Prison Literacy Complex

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.

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Photo credit: Thomas Hawk via Foter.com / CC BY-NC.

“Prison Treated Me Way Better Than You”: Reentry, Perplexity, and the Naturalization of Mass Imprisonment

Renée M. Byrd

In the absence of a critique of the logics at the heart of the prison industrial complex, seemingly progressive trends such as prisoner reentry initiatives will simply bolster racialized state violence. This essay grapples with questions of representation and power, and details how the disposability of imprisoned people is reproduced and renaturalized through carceral practices. Academic accounts continue to be complicit in this process, without a complex theorizing of subjectivity, representation, and state violence. This essay uses interviews with formerly imprisoned people in the Twin Cities to disrupt the way that formerly imprisoned people’s narratives are “mined as rich sources” in pathologizing and voyeuristic ways. Prisoner reentry programs appear progressive on the surface; however, they expand the prison industrial complex through perplexing logics that make it harder for women to navigate toward freedom. I use the notion of perplexity as a rubric for understanding penal logics and subjectivities as they emerged in my interviews with people recently released from Minnesota’s only women’s prison and analyze how they reproduce the vulnerability of people leaving prison. The gender-responsive façade of this unique prison and the surveillance orientation of reentry programs naturalized imprisonment as a solution to social problems in deeply problematic ways.

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