Revolution #262, March 11, 2012
RAISING THE FIGHT TO STOP MASS INCARCERATION TO A NEW LEVEL
April 19 National Day of Action
P.O. Box 941 Knickerbocker Station, New York, New York 10002 * 866-841-9139 x2670
The past months have seen important advances to develop resistance to mass incarceration. There has been further work done to expose the horrific injustice that mass incarceration inflicts on so many in society. Organizations fighting this battle have come into existence and some of those that already existed have grown and developed. It is important to note the activity that has developed among students around mass incarceration. And there have been important examples of determined mass resistance to this problem. Especially important have been the several hunger strikes by prisoners in California's Special Housing Units (and the statements of support for the strikers issued by prominent voices of conscience) and the civil disobedience campaign in New York aimed at stopping "stop & frisk."
But much more needs to be done. When it comes to mass incarceration, the reality in U.S. society remains horrific:
- More than 2.4 million people, most of them Black or Latino, remain warehoused in prisons across the country;
- Black and Latino youth are treated like criminals by the police and the criminal justice system, guilty until proven innocent, if they can survive their encounters with police to prove their innocence;
- Former prisoners wear badges of shame and dishonor even after they serve their sentences—discriminated against when applying for jobs, denied access to government assistance, not allowed in public housing, denied the right to vote.
On top of this is the plain fact that many people in the country still don't know about this ugly reality and most of those who do know about it feel it is the result of criminal activity by those in prison and that it helps to keep them safe from crime.
THIS IS NOT TRUE! MASS INCARCERATION RESULTS FROM THE SYSTEM HAVING CRIMINALIZED GENERATIONS OF YOUTH! WE HAVE THE FACTS TO MAKE THE CASE ON THIS. AND WE MUST STEP UP OUR EFFORTS TO DO THAT!
There is great urgency to do this. As the presidential election approaches and the terms of debate around what issues are to be discussed in determining the future direction of the country get set, mass incarceration isn't being mentioned as a problem by any of the major candidates—not by Obama and not by any of the Republicans vying to challenge him. On the contrary, we are getting the kind of ugly racism that goes with and reinforces the whole program of mass incarceration... and conciliation with that racism. This must be transformed. Mass incarceration, what leads to it and its consequences have to become something that people across the country are aware of and feel compelled to take a stand against. And many more of them need to join the resistance to it. Only our efforts can make that happen!
To advance our efforts to do just this, we propose:
- A day of national action in April. On this day, demonstrations, rallies, teach-ins, and other actions would be held focusing on bringing out the reality of mass incarceration and calling on people to join the resistance to it in cities across the U.S. These actions need to draw in many different institutions—especially schools and churches—and different sections of people in society. A special focus of this activity should be college campuses and high schools.
- A national conference drawing together the forces working to build resistance to mass incarceration. Such a conference could bring together organizations and individuals working on different fronts of this battle; discuss and debate the cause of and solution to this outrage; develop a comprehensive approach to this battle and a plan of action going into the fall. THIS CONFERENCE SHOULD AIM AT NOTHING LESS THAN RADICALLY CHANGING THE NATIONAL TERMS OF DISCUSSION ON THIS.
- A statement of conscience that sharply and concisely lays out the harsh and unjust reality that mass incarceration inflicts on millions. This statement would be circulated for signature among prominent voices of conscience, published in various significant publications and publicized nationwide.
- A major concert or other cultural event opposing mass incarceration, featuring a broad spectrum of artists.
We urge people to respond to this proposal, including with additional ideas for how to advance this fight in this critical time period.
Signees (in formation):
Gbenga Akinnagbe, Actor
Rafael Angulo, Professor of Social Work, USC
Nellie Bailey, Occupy Harlem
Kendra Castaneda, Prisoner Human Rights Activist with a family member in CA State Prison Segregation Unit
Solomon Comissiong, Executive Director, Your World News Media Collective (www.yourworldnews.org)
Carl Dix, Revolutionary Communist, co-initiator of Campaign to Stop "Stop and Frisk"
Kelley Lytle Hernandez, Professor of History, UCLA
Robin DG Kelley, Distinguished Professor of History, UCLA
Wayne Kramer, Jail Guitar Doors USA, Co-Founder
Sarah Kunstler, Esq., National Lawyers Guild NYC*
Rev. Janet Gollery McKeithen (United Methodist Clergy), President, Methodist Federation for Social Action, Cal-Pac
Mary Ratcliff, Editor, San Francisco BayView Black National Newspaper
Cornel West, author and educator, co-initiator of Campaign to Stop "Stop and Frisk"
Clyde Young, Revolutionary Communist, and former prisoner
March 12, 2012
*For Identification Purposes Only.
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