The conference was many things to many people. Perhaps, its biggest fault was that it tried to be all things to all people. The opening plenary, attended by more than 800 participants, had some inspiring moments. Unfortunately, it trailed off sod bogged down after far too many speakers. The session actually extended into the time frame for the first scheduled panel discussions, and this affected us directly because we were presenters in the first panels.
Our panel was attended by a diverse group of very interested people, each of whom sought information that would help them in their own specific endeavors to make a difference. As panel participants, we enjoyed immensely the opportunity to share what we know via hard-fought experience with others who hold the same beliefs in the dignity and value of all people. Our panel was entitled, "Legal and Cultural Strategies for Challenging the Prison Industrial Complex."
The conference will never go down as "smooth" and "well oiled", but the organizers' hearts were in the right place and everyone was in agreement that a large problem exists, and that a solution must be found.
If the conference stumbled, it stumbled in the right direction. With dedication and tenacity, it will get better each time.
Donna Leone Hamm, Justice Court Judge (retired)
James J. Hamm, J.D. (FormerLife-Term Prisoner)
Middle Ground Prison Reform
In the future, prisoners will need strong outside support, and the Critical Resistance conference was a step in that direction. Prisoners need to establish a dialogue on a national level among ourselves and establish our positions on various issues. Those who attended the CR conference can be helpful in establishing the dialogue and presenting the issues to the news media. I am grateful and appreciative to all those who attended the conference.
Critical Resistance was good, so many people and so much stuff to take in was somewhat overwhelming. But I came away feeling like things are moving in a positive direction in terms of prison activism and organizing. I really hope some nationwide campaigns take off as a result. There was talk at least of a moratorium on prison building, campaign to repeal three strikes, and work around phone systems and phone companies.
The most impressive aspect of the conference for me was the number of articulate, committed, radicalized young people (16-20 year olds) who were in attendance and some of whom spoke on panels or at plenarys. I heard some very intelligent, constructive, angry, fierce, and spirited statements over the course of the weekend, and this added a strong sense of hope to the whole event important given the scope of the Prison Industrial Complex and the obstacles people (in and out) face in fighting it.
-- David Thorne,
"Resistant Strains" Poster Series
Wow! It took my breath away. I was in tears many times when the women from the federal prison at Dublin were on the amplified phone talking to a packed room at the conference when Rubin Ayala told me there were eleven Attica alums present, and they hadn't seen each other for years, but vowed over dinner to find the other 2,000 alums and get them all involved in helping the youth when I finally heard about Bo Brown's exploits as a younger revolutionary, and Ed Mead's, and Big Black's when I got a chance to hug Geronimo after not seeing him for practically 30 years when a young ex-prisoner who just maxed out of the SHU at Pelican Bay said his hope was renewed that something can be done to turn this horrible monster around when the youth just kept on meeting and meeting and planning their own demonstrations when people kept coming up to me and telling me how awesome the whole event was, and how they were re-invigorated to go on with the struggle.... I could go on and on. I'm proud to have been a part. We won't know for quite awhile how important this great effort will prove to be.
Terry A. Kupers, M.D.
Conference Organizer (one of many)
Like many other participants, I was energized by the experience. Through the magic of speaker-phone technology, I was transported to a roomful of people, many of whom I had corresponded with but had never met. I was stoked.
I regret only that before I hung up the phone I failed to thank each and every person in the room for "being there", not only for me, but for the other 1.8 million in America's Gulag.
I write this, however, four weeks later, and some of the energy has faded. I stand on the second tier gazing down over a sea of knuckleheads glued to their prison dayroom chairs, leaning forward to catch every depraved word of today's Jerry Springer Show I sigh, and think, "How many of the 1.8 million even heard of the Critical Resistance conference? How many of them have even a tenth of an ounce of 'resistance' in them?"
But then I catch myself: "Staring at the ocean," I say to myself, "Turn around and look at the lagoon."
Because an effort such as the Critical Resistance conference can be likened to forming a bucket brigade to empty the Pacific Ocean: If you focus your attention only on the ocean, the endeavor seems silly and pointless. But if you turn around and behold the growing lagoon where once there was just sand you get the idea that maybe... just maybe... every bucketful counts.
My first impression of the Critical Resistance Conference was that it was more than I anticipated. There were more people and events, and more caring and enthusiasm than I expected.
My second impression was that while it may not seem like it to those immersed in America's Gulag System, they aren't alone. There is an ever growing number of people on the outside who are having their rose colored glasses not so gently ripped off their face. And many of these people aren't content to just sit around and moan about the injustices perpetrated against a relative, friend, or co-worker they want to do something.
My third impression was that the cross-section of people at the conference reminded me of the people involved in the Vietnam era protest movements. There were young people with energy, daring and idealism, and there were older people with the experience and wisdom I necessary to provide them with direction and leadership. Seeing this in person, I realized that the dynamics exist to make a prison protest movement possible.
Will such a mass protest movement happen? I don't know. But I have a faint glimmer of hope that I didn't have before the conference.
Author of the yet to be published book:
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