The workshop on Resisting the Prison Industrial Complex engages theoretical and practical work with several distinct yet related trajectories. One trajectory orients towards an unveiling of the abuse and violence perpetuated by and within the rapidly growing prison industry both globally and locally. As a manifestation of community-based activism, the Broome County Jail Project advocates humane treatment of prisoners and transparency of the prison system. The other trajectory focuses on rendering the prison industrial complex obsolete by creating autonomous communities. By autonomous communities we mean communities of the oppressed that do not rely on the criminal justice system for harms committed within the community, but rather, make the well-being of their community members a collective concern of self-determination. The aim of this trajectory is to transform communities as a means to thwarting, and ultimately ending, the aggressive disappearance of people of color into the prison industrial complex. We see these two trajectories as equally necessary in our shared goal of prison abolition.
Since the establishment of colonialism and slavery, and more recently since the second half of the 20th century, there has been a boom of prisons and the system of privatization of prisons. Prison privatization has become a growing global problem, which both in the USA and on the global scale disproportionately affects poor men and women, and communities of color. In most African American, Latino and Native American communities, a young person has a better chance of going to prison than getting a college education. There is something radically wrong with this state of affairs. Alternatives to prison need to be sought, introduced and implemented to create better and safe communities, and to provide education for our children.
Two out of nine million of the world's incarcerated people in prisons, jails, youth facilities and immigration detention centers are in the United States. There are twice as many people suffering from mental illness incarcerated in this country than in all world's psychiatric hospitals combined. There are ten times as many people incarcerated than there were thirty years ago. Mass incarceration has been one of the most thoroughly implemented government projects, yet, the majority of society seemingly accepts this without any type of resistance. Three decades ago the prison population was about one-eighth its current size and more than 70 per cent of the imprisoned population are people of color. The fastest growing groups of prisoners are black women and Native Americans.
The Prison Industrial Complex is a name given by activists and scholars to make sure society knows that there is not an increase in crime, rather an increase in people being used to work for free in the factories, fields, telemarketing and lingerie production behind the walls of the existing prison system. The privatization of prisons exposes rehabilitation inside the walls of prisons to be a myth. Such companies as TWA, Victoria's Secret and many others enjoy the benefits of free labor without the threat of unions, the need for heath care or employee benefits of any kind. Private prison companies are the most visible component of the increasing "corportization" (to use Angela Davis's term) of punishment; for example, government contracts and subsidies have bolstered the construction industry to build prisons.
Workshop Coordinator: Neil Christian Pages, Comparative Literature, German, Russian and East Asian Languages. María Lugones, PIC, Comparative Literature
Binghamton Graduate Students:
Caroline Tushabe, PIC
James Stanescu, PIC
Cheryl DeRosa-Parham, MASS
Anwar Radha, PIC
Erin Walsh, COLI
Sasha Shiver, PIC
Noelle Paley, PIC
Charles King, COLI
Chantal Rodais, COLI
Anne Jahn, COLI
The workshop will meet bi-weekly. Currently, the group is reading Julia Sudbury's Global Lockdown: Race, Gender and the Prison Industrial Complex. The first few meetings of the workshop will focus on discussion of this text. Using these reflections as our departure point, we will organize a series of readings, speakers, and forums.
Significant theorists for the workshop include: Angela Y. Davis, Julia Sudbury, Chela Sandoval, Michel Foucault, Beth Ritchie, Rozeann Greco, Kathy Boudin, Biko Agozino and others.