It's not difficult to identify the components of the Prison-Industrial Complex (P-I Complex). Just think about who is happy when more people are behind bars. That's right, the prime suspects are corporations that construct and supply prisons, politicians who propel their careers by advocating harsher "lock 'em up" laws, bureaucrats and guards' unions that increase their power base by brutalizing prisoners and setting them up to fail at going straight, corporations that operate private prisons, industries that rack up huge profits by exploiting prison labor, telephone companies that gouge prisoners' families with grossly inflated collect call charges, (the list goes on).
The P-I Complex runs its cynical game by achieving two critical disconnections: 1. isolating prisoners from each other (no letters between prisoners, no unions, no contact between parolees and ex-felons) and the outside world (no press interviews with prisoners, visits deterred by building high-security prisons far from prisoners' homes and conducting de- humanizing searches on prisoners and visitors alike), and 2. snuffing out prisoner organizing by outlawing prisoner unions and sending potential organizers to punitive segregation as "troublemakers (a.k.a. "the worst of the worst").
These disconnections minimize the possibilities for advocacy and resistance. Everything possible is done to make certain that prisoners and their advocates have no resources to sustain the kind of long-term struggle it will take to reverse the imprisonment binge and all its horrific abuses.
Critical Resistance is different from other conferences because it exposes the Prison-Industrial Complex rather than merely speaking of prison reform; it involves participation by prisoners as well as those who are hollering "foul" from outside the walls; and it is not designed to be a one-time event where activists beat their breasts and then return to business-as-usual. Rather, the September conference is being viewed as a first step in establishing networks to support ongoing actions and nationwide organizing.
Times will be set up when prisoners can call in, collect, and talk through a speaker phone to a panel or workshop. One such time will be Saturday, September 26, between 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. (Pacific Time), during the Prison Legal News Panel, where there will be a group of conference-goers assembled and PLN co-editor Dan Pens will be on another phone line. The agenda will be open, but ideas about issues raised in PLN and about the future of the struggle to overcome the Prison-Industrial Complex will be emphasized.
As this issue of PLN goes to press, the days and times of other panels are still in flux. Prisoners who wish to call in to the conference should write to Critical Resistance (before September 10th) and mention the subject you would like to talk about and the times of day you have access to a phone. The conference organizers will write back to you with a specific time and phone number to call. For more information write: Critical Resistance, PO Box 339, Berkeley, CA 94701.
Outside people can obtain registration information on the web. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or point your browser to: www.igc.org/ justice/critical
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