The short story: I’m involved with a group in Bloomington that is opposing the construction of a new jail in our community. As part of this work we’re traveling to the Critical Resistance 10 Conference next month in Oakland to present what we’ve learned and struggled with in our jail resistance and to learn from and meet others involved in similar struggles. I’m trying to appeal to the DIY punk community to help support people from my community and others to be able to attend this conference, regardless of their economic situation. If you would like to support this, please click on the donation button below. This will take you to a form where you can specify the amount you want to donate and your payment method. When filling out the donation form please answer the question “I would like my donation to go to: “ by specifying “The CR10 Travel Fund” and the question “Gift Information: ” with “on behalf of Bloomington, IN“.
The Long Story: I’ve been involved with Prison issues for the last few years working with The Midwest Pages to Prisoners Project, a project that sends books donated from the Bloomington community to incarcerated people in prisons, jails, and juvenile detention facilities across the Midwest, Florida, and Arizona. This project makes sense because incarcerated people want access to reading materials and this access can be limited. In a college town such as Bloomington, books are a common resource and often discarded or left unused, so Pages tries to connect the books that are so available in our community with people who want and need them behind bars. There is definitely a need for this work, but it can feel like putting a band aid on a gaping wound.
In the last year, there has been a proposal to build a new, larger jail and juvenile detention facility in Bloomington. This brought many of the issues that I saw affecting the people I sent books to home to my community, but why did this matter to me? I have never been to jail there and don’t have any close friends or family members incarcerated at the county jail. In many ways, this separation is why I care. There are so many resources available in a community like Bloomington that are available to college students or post-collegiate creative class folks, people like me. Projects like Boxcar Books, Sweet Hickory, and the Pages to Prisoners Project are seen as assets to the community and receive support from the community and in some cases the city government. On the other hand, I feel like incarceration is one of the tools that is used to make space for college students and creative class people and to give the impression of a clean, safe city. People struggling with mental illness, homelessness, unemployment, drug addiction, conflict within families and relationships do not receive the same support as businesses, projects, and people connected to the university or the creative class. In speaking with one friend who has talked with women in the jail in Bloomington, many of those women felt like law enforcement in Bloomington was more strict than in other communities because of a desire to present Bloomington as a clean, safe community for college students and their families. In any case, people from different economic situations have a different experience with the criminal justice system in Monroe County. Ultimately, I don’t want the price of Bloomington being a supportive and comfortable community for me to live in to be a lack of support for and eventual incarceration of other people.
Because of this, I and some other people formed a coalition to oppose the construction of the new justice campus in Bloomington, urging the county to instead apply those resources to address some of the community needs that can be linked to arrest and incarceration. We’re in the process of talking with incarcerated people, their family and friends about the reasons why people are getting incarcerated to get an idea of how Bloomington can alleviate overcrowding in the jail and having to ship youth to other counties by incarcerating fewer people in the first place. As part of this work, we are participating in a roundtable discussion at the Critical Resistance 10 Conference with other groups that have resisted jail expansion in their communities.
Critical Resistance is a national organization that works to abolish the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC). If you want to learn more about the Prison Industrial Complex, check out this awesome map/diagram that shows many of the dynamics, institutions, and other forces that come together to make up the PIC. The conference will bring together people affected by the prison industrial complex and working to deconstruct the many forces that comprise the Prison Industrial Complex. There will be people interested in and talking about the rights of immigrants, finding effective responses to gender violence, building alternatives to incarceration, families of incarcerated people, employment discrimination and so much more.
We want people from our community and other less affluent communities to be able to attend, contribute to, and learn from the conference independent of anyone’s economic situation. We’re trying to raise enough money to partially pay for the travel expenses of 11 folks involed in PIC activism in Bloomington and raise money to pay for 2 more people from less affluent communities to travel to the conference.
If you would like to support this, please click on the donation button below. This will take you to a form where you can specify the amount you want to donate and your payment method. When filling out the donation form please answer the question “I would like my donation to go to: “ by specifying “The CR10 Travel Fund” and the question “Gift Information:” with “on behalf of Bloomington, IN“.
Thanks for reading and thinking about this,