National Proposal To Raise The Fight Against Mass Incarceration To A Higher Level

April 19th National Day of Action

P.O. Box 941 Knickerbocker Station, New York, New York 10002 * 866-841-9139 x2670

Friends,

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 conscious) 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 US society is 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 candidate—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, I propose:

1)               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 would beheld in cities across the US.  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.

2)              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.

3)               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.

4)              A major concert or other cultural event opposing mass incarceration, featuring a broad spectrum of artists.

I 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):

All-African Peoples Revolutionary Party (GC); Gbenga Akinnagbe, Actor; Rafael Angulo, Professor of Social Work, USC; Edward Asner, Actor; Lawrence Aubry, Convenor, Advocates for Black Strategic Alternatives; Lucy Bailey, Independent, LA Ca; Nellie Bailey, Occupy Harlem; Carissa Baldwin-McGinnis, Director of Peace and Justice, All Saints Church. Pasadena, Ca.; Jared Ball, VOXUNION Media, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement; Social Justice Committee, Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists; Rev. Dr. Dorsey O. Blake, Presiding Minister, The Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples; Blase Bonpane, Ph.D., Director, OFFICE OF THE AMERICAS; Herb Boyd, Harlem-based author, educator, journalist and activist; Bob Brown, co-director, Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) Institute; John L. Burris, Civil Rights Attorney; Rev. Richard “Meri Ka Ra” Byrd, Senior Pastor, KRST Unity Center of Afrakan Spiritual Science; California Coalition for Women Prisoners; Kendra Castaneda, Prisoner Human Rights Activist with a family member in CA State Prison Segregation Unit; Denika Chapman, mother, and Marco Scott, uncle, of Kenneth Harding, Kenneth Harding Foundation; Solomon Comissiong, Executive Director, Your World News Media Collective (http://www.yourworldnews.org); Community Futures Collective, Vallejo CA; Drucilla Cornell, Professor, Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, Rutgers University; Colin Dayan, Robert Penn Warren Professor in the Humanities, Vanderbilt University; Oscar De La Torre, Founder/Executive Director, Pico Youth and Family Center, Santa Monica, CA; Carl Dix, Revolutionary Communist, co-initiator of Campaign to Stop “Stop and Frisk”; Kevin Epps, Independent Filmmaker/Activist; Glen Ford, executive editor, Black Agenda Report; Dr. Henry Giroux, Department of English and Cultural Studies, McMaster University, Ontario, Canada; Rebeca Guerrero, Los Angeles, CA; Jeff Haas, Civil Rights Attorney, Activist and Author of The Assasination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther; Kelley Lytle Hernandez, Professor of History, UCLA; Jeremy Hiller, Education Not Incarceration; Mike Holman, Executive Director, Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund*; Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace (ICUJP) members Mary C. Singaus, Douglas MacMillan, Margaret Hutchinson, Stephen L. Fiske, Susan Anderson, Ed Fisher, Anthony Manouses, and Andy Griggs, Los Angeles CA; The International Coalition to Free the Angola 3; Melvin Ishmael Johnson, Director of Dramastage-Qumran Workshop; Mesha Irizarry, Idris Stelly Foundation; Cephus ‘Uncle Bobby’ Johnson, Oscar Grant Foundation; Robin DG Kelley, Distinguished Professor of History, UCLA; Wayne Kramer, Jail Guitar Doors USA, Co-Founder; Patricia Krommer CSJ, Pax Christi So. California; Sarah Kuntsler, Esq., National Lawyers Guild NYC*; Joe Maizlish, Los Angeles, CA; BM Marcus, community activist and organizer, Brooklyn NY; Carlos Meza, Occupy Whittier; Rev. Janet Gollery McKeithen (Unity Methodist Clergy), President, Methodist Federation for Social Action, Cal-Pac; Peter McLaren, School of Critical Studies, Faculty of Education, University of Auckland, New Zealand; Rev. Darrel Meyers, Presbyterian Church USA; Nancy Michaels, Associate Director of the Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation; Gregg Morris, Assistant Professor, Journalism, Department of Film and Media Studies, Hunter College; Khalil Gibran Muhammad, author of “The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime and the Making of Modern Urban America; Oakland Education Association Representative Assembly; October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation (New York Committee); Laura Pulido, Visiting Professor, Department of Black Studies, UCSB; Professor, Department of American Studies and Ethnicity, USC; Willie and Mary Ratcliff, Editor, San Francisco Bay View Black National Newspaper; Anthony Rayson, curator of South Chicago Anarchist Black Cross Zine Distro; Rev. Dr. George F. Regas, Rector Emeritus, All Saints Church, Pasadena, CA; Joyce Robbins, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Touro College; Dylan Rodriguez, Professor and Chair, Dept. of Ethnic Studies, University of California, Riverside, and founding member of Critical Resistance: Beyond the Prison Industrial Complex; Stephen Rohde, Chair, Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace; Lila Salas, Occupy Whittier; Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou, Freedom Church; Dan Siegel, Civil Rights attorney; Ellen Snortland, author, activist, performer; Jahan Stanizui, Culver City Interfaith; Heather Thompson, Departments of African American Studies and History, Temple University; Paul Von Blum, African American Studies, UCLA; Jim Vrettos, Professor of Sociology, John Jay College of Criminal Justice; Anne Weills, National Lawyers Guild; Cornel West, author and educator, co-initiator of Campaign to Stop “Stop and Frisk”; Clyde Young, Revolutionary Communist, and former prisoner; Khalil Gibran Muhammad, author of “The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime and the Making of Modern Urban America;

Heather Thompson, Departments of African American Studies and History, Temple University;

*For Identification Purposes Only.  Update:  April 5, 2012

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