Learning about the Prison Industrial Complex.

I’ve been spending a lot of my free time reading books over the past few weeks and the last couple ones have in some part been focused on the prison industrial complex (PIC) and police harassment and brutality. My own experience and knowledge about the prison abolition movement has been only cursory and thus, learning more about all of this has been incredibly eye opening. So I thought I’s start a list of books and films to learn more about both the prison industrial complex and related abolition movement.

Books

  • The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander – of course, any learning about the prison industrial complex should include this book. Alexander goes in depth to link our current prison system and mass incarceration back to slavery and the thirteenth amendment.
  • Captive Genders edited by Eric A. Stanley and Nat Smith – this is the book I’m currently reading and is a compilation of works that looks specifically at the PIC in relation to trans and queer people. The book is broken down into sections that look at the relationship between gay liberation/queer history to prison abolition, the criminalization of the everyday, the lives of imprisoned queer and trans people, and resistance and alternatives.
  • Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Davis – Davis has been and continues to be a huge voice in the prison abolition movement and this book provides arguments against the prison industrial complex.

Films

  • Visions of Abolition – I have not seen this documentary but it is a full length feature that can be used to learn more about the history of both the prison industrial complex and the related abolition movement.
  • Fee CeCe – this is a documentary produced by Laverne Cox of Orange is the New Black and about the incarceration of CeCe McDonald, who was arrested and incarcerated after an act of self defense ended with the death of her attacker.

Organizations

  • Empty Cages Collective is based in the United Kingdom and aims to build a prison abolition movement and support those who have been harmed by the prison industrial complex.
  • Critical Resistance is an organization seeking to build a movement to end the prison industrial complex and has chapters in Los Angeles, New York, Oakland, and Portland.
  • Against Equality has a section about prisons and includes a long list of resources.
  • Prisoner Correspondence Project is based in Montreal and coordinates direct correspondence between LGBTQ+ inmates in Canada and the United States and those not incarcerated.

Of course, this is in no way a final and complete list of everything being said or done. But at the very least, this is a start. Learning about the prison industrial complex and prison abolition should be important to any form of activism and should be done in an intersectional way.

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