Some anarchists out of Indiana have published a new book titled Down: Reflections on Prison Resistance in Indiana. It talks about the history of prison struggle in the state, prisoner solidarity, and the ways in which we can collectively work together to abolish prison.
You can get the 95 page book by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Priority is given to prisoners (especially in this first small print run) but they will get you a copy. You can also get it in PDF form to print out as a zine.
In the announcement about the book a small excerpt was published that offers some thoughts on prisoner support, political prisoners, and how we define these categories. It’s worth reading and contemplating:
“We are frustrated, for example, by the character of the famous political prisoner. Here we refer to instances of individual political prisoners, whatever that might mean, building (or having built on their behalf) campaigns that deal with their particular cases, their personalities, and the particular grievances they might have against prisons or the ‘justice’ system. This isn’t to say that these people don’t deserve support— they’re our family, and we love them dearly. What frustrates us about these sorts of campaigns is the necessary individualization or isolation of this one inmate from the rest of the prisoners, often, if not structurally, resulting in the lack of a strong critique of the institutions that control them. That is, mostly these campaigns deal with the illegality of one person’s incarceration, not with the plight of the many prisoners daily engaging in struggle against their conditions, or the concentrated evil of the prisons themselves. These people become celebrities or figureheads; anyone can sign a petition or hold a placard at a rally for them without believing in the furtherance of struggle on the inside or destruction of prisons in general. We often see these cases reach towards the lowest common denominator of leftism to reach their goals.
Similarly, we feel frustrated with the process of defining who is or who isn’t a political prisoner. This question, at its core, is trying to define who is or who isn’t deserving of support—in many situations, a relatively fucked up thing to ask. It puts some narrow definition of ‘anarchist’ or ‘radical’ above all other considerations. Does this person (or even worse, does this person’s “crime”) show a direct connection to the politics that we or our groups espouse? No? Well, this person isn’t worth our time then. (This is of course a cold simplification of the process, but it’s none the less real). This is problematic: when we decide who to support by deciding whether their original crime was committed out of a political ideology we think we share, then all prisoners who don’t meet our criteria, no matter what their politics or engagement with struggle within any given prison, are left without any level of material support or solidarity of action. This robs us of any relevance to prison struggle, and makes our passionate words about solidarity into a cruel joke.
On the other end from this individualization, this marking off of a certain individual or classes of prisoners for support, we find those groups and organizations that offer blanket support in the form of apolitical material resources, given freely to all that ask. This is obviously important in myriad ways: people gotta read, people gotta eat.
But these groups almost always demand, structurally as a group, a strict adherence to non-intervention–that is, non-engagement with the prisoners beyond the surface level of the fulfillment of a social service. It comes down to only filling packages and mailing resources. There’s not room for relationship building, there’s not room for discussion and certainly not for collaboration.”