[The movement and struggles of prison activists has played a major, even central, role in the social movements in the US. But it has not often been recognized or embraced by many other activists and movements which, led by liberal reformists and organizations, avoid the injustices and enslavements of the “criminal justice” system. Prison organizers, political prisoners, and prisoners as a whole have played a huge role in social movements in the US (and in most countries throughout the world, as seen from Ireland to Palestine, South Africa to India, Peru to China). But in the US, the role has been magnified by the mass incarceration of millions, whose pathways and influences in an out of prison have multiplied as a result. This book review traces recent writing on the roots and links of the prison movement. — Frontlines ed].
A Hidden Legacy of the Civil Rights Era
by JAMES KILGORE, Counterpunch
Dan Berger’s latest volume, Captive Nation, is perfectly timed. In a moment where interest in mass incarceration across the political spectrum is on the rise, sanitized versions of carceral history will doubtless emerge. Berger’s account offers an instant antidote to any such efforts. He warns us we will be negating a long history of righteous rebellions of the oppressed if we opt for quick fix policy packages that do not address the inequalities underlying the rapid growth of incarceration.
Berger’s personal profile as an historian casts him in a unique position to tell his tale. He represents a bridge between the praxis of the 60s and 70s and today’s decarceration campaigners. Back in the day, activists connected to those in prison by striking up extensive correspondence via snail mail and making in person visits. In this age of digital communication, Berger has stepped back in time and used those old “analog” methods to establish relationships with a number of those still incarcerated for their activities in that era, people such as Veronza Bower, Sundiata Acoli, Jalil Muntaqim (also known as Anthony Bottom) and David Gilbert. These relationships were key to Berger’s framing of the stories he tells as well as his analysis.
Prison Intellectual Culture: The Case of George Jackson
Two things particularly struck me as I read Captive Nation. The first was the amazing radical intellectual culture that emerged in prisons during this period, a culture, I should add, that appeared almost totally absent in the federal and state prisons where I resided from 2002-09. Berger’s depictions of the richness of political debate and the eagerness of people inside to connect prison resistance to the Black liberation struggle and other movements of the era, were staggering. The politics of the rebels/revolutionaries Berger describes were not mere legal maneuverings aimed at overturning individual cases or re-doing legislation. Rather, they aimed to depict and contest the political economy and ideological foundations of a “system.”
School Board Member Claims Hispanic Kids Don’t Need Air Conditioning
by William Bigelow, 8 Apr 2015
A recording of a school board meeting has gone viral after a Martinez school district school board member was recorded suggesting that a school largely comprised of low-income and Hispanic students could do without air conditioning while another school with mostly white, wealthier students should receive air conditioning.
Elsken was asked: “So, you don’t want to do anything …” She responded, “No, Plant a couple more trees. That’s all I really want to do. Maybe bigger trees.”
[The massive detention and deportation of migrant workers and their families is still at record levels (in the many hundreds of thousands), and the detention industry (part of the larger prison industry) is a very profitable capitalist industry, with GEO and CCA the largest exploiters–and maintainers of large prison and detention populations, but in notorious abusive and overcrowded conditions. Even more abusive are the family detention centers, which are the new growth industry for GEO and CCA. In Texas, Karnes Immigrant Detention Center is among the worst. Many supporters, organized by Detention abolitionists, have protested repeatedly. And from inside, the mothers have faced abusive repression but have gone on hunger strikes, to protest the detention/imprisonment conditions. — Frontlines ed.]
Huffington Post, 04/02/2015
The group of detained mothers announced Tuesday that they had launched a hunger strike, and demanded that they be released along with their children while they pursued asylum claims outside of detention. The Karnes facility houses hundreds of Central American women who crossed the border illegally with their children during a surge of migration from the violence-plagued countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras last year.