Welcome to Issue #30 of The Abolitionist! In this latest issue, we explore the different methods that people use to challenge the prison industrial complex (PIC), from a variety of different positions within and around it. Our ultimate goal is to highlight the necessarily collective efforts of people working across prison walls, and to learn from this record of practical experience. Martyred prison activist George Jackson relentlessly sought to explain the importance of building a multifaceted movement of resistance against imprisonment and policing. When asked in 1971 if a movement of this sort could be achieved, he replied:
A good deal of this has to do with our ability to communicate to the people on the street. The nature of the function of the prison within the police state has to be continuously explained, elucidated to the people on the street because we can’t fight alone in here. Oh Yeah, [imprisoned people] can fight, but if we’re isolated, if the state is successful in accomplishing that, the results are usually not constructive in terms of proving our point. We fight and we die, but that’s not the point, although it may be admirable from some sort of purely moral point of view. The point is, however, in the face of what we confront, to fight and win. That’s the real objective: not just to make statements, no matter how noble, but to destroy the system that oppresses us. By any means available to us. And to do this, we must be connected, in contact and communication with those in the struggle on the outside. We must be mutually supporting because we’re all in this together. It’s one struggle at base.
Such is the mission of The Abolitionist newspaper, and in this issue we aim to revitalize Jackson’s specific challenge and charge. In the following pages, we bring forth the stories of numerous activists, organizations, intellectuals, and artists who are developing the type of networks that Jackson claims so necessary—a unification of isolated forces into a mass struggle to abolish oppression and transform society anew.
Members of the Transgender, Gender Variant, and Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP) and Calls From Home radio show highlight the importance of communication between imprisoned and non-imprisoned co-strugglers and how a higher degree of communication can be achieved. In a speech transcribed by members of our collective, jailhouse activist Bryant Arroyo asserts why imprisoned and non-imprisoned people have a vital interest in environmental issues, and how we can work together across different punitive barriers in the struggle for environmental justice. Two leaders of the education program Humanities Behind Bars demonstrate how group-based study and mutual aid can convert prison education programs into key sites of struggle in our work toward PIC abolition.
In an interview with the Empty Cages Collective, we learn about the powerful, collaborative inside/outside efforts to abolish the PIC in the United Kingdom. An article on the Joint Imprisoned Workers Union in Argentina gives us insight into what our comrades in South America experience, as the authors express the ways in which labor exploitation transcends prison walls and demonstrate the importance of workplace organizing inside and out. Also, within these pages, imprisoned writer Quinnell Avery Johnson suggests how class action lawsuits can be used as a strategy for seeking justice, and shares a few ways that imprisoned and free world people can engage in such efforts together.
By highlighting these examples of inside/outside collaboration to bring the prison industrial complex to an end, we hope to demonstrate how much of what we must do is in fact already being done. The next logical step is thus to build upon past lessons of victory and failure and grow the strength and numbers of our movement today. In this issue, we introduce a new recurring section called “Abolition in Action” which provides brief news-takes and highlights on contemporary actions that people are taking worldwide to push toward the goals of PIC abolition. We are also excited to introduce our first “Kites to the Editor” section, where our readers provide insight, criticism, and general responses to content in the previous issue(s) of The Abolitionist. We encourage our readers to submit content to these new sections.
Lastly, we present various poems and art pieces that that meditate on and aim to inspire collective work toward abolition through the mode of artistic expression. We hope that you enjoy and are inspired by this issue. All Power to the People!
Abolitionist Editorial Collective