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9 Commitments for 2021
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9 Solidarity Commitments to/with Incarcerated People for 2021

I (@prisonculture) made this list for people who want to be part of supporting and working alongside incarcerated people this year and need some concrete ideas/steps. It is an incomplete list. But it is a good start. Please feel free to share this with others. If you have useful resources to add to this list, please email jjinjustice1@gmail.com.  

  1. Learn Some Basics about Incarceration and Criminalization

U.S. prison population trends: https://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/u-s-prison-population-trends-massive-buildup-and-modest-decline/ 

Incarcerated Women & Girls key facts & figures: https://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/incarcerated-women-and-girls/ 

Learn about incarceration rates/trends in your particular state: https://www.prisonpolicy.org/profiles/ 

PIC abolition 101 virtual workshop: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVh1Ff3eGfY 

Follow the Money

Prison Policy Institute report: https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/money.html 

Worth Rises report: bit.ly/howitharms 

  1. Write at least 6 letters to an incarcerated person in 2021.

Find people to write to here:

@survivepunish: https://survivedandpunished.org/letter-writing-action/ 

@BLACKandPINKorg: https://blackandpinkpenpals.org 

@nycabc: https://nycabc.wordpress.com/2020/11/27/guide_13-8/ 

@AbolitionChurch: https://www.abolitionapostles.com/become-a-penpal 

Beyond These Walls: http://www.beyondthesewallslgbt.org (has a pen pal program you can sign up for)

Death Row Support Project: https://www.brethren.org/drsp/ 

Lifelines to Solitary: https://solitarywatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Lifelines-Overview.pdf 

Sick of It! An Inside/Outside Project -- https://www.sickofit.space/pen-pals 

If you're looking for an incarcerated Massachusetts pen-pal check here: http://bit.ly/BPMA-list 

**This is a wonderful comprehensive guide to finding incarcerated pen pals put together by Heather Mytelka:

https://bit.ly/w-t-i-p 

  1. Make at least 4 donations (of any amount) to incarcerated peoples’ commissary accounts in 2021.

  1. Join at least 4 phone zaps for improved conditions inside or for individual prisoners in 2021.

The following organizations regularly organize phone zaps:

  1. Send 4 books to incarcerated people in 2021.

Connect with local books to prisoners programs & purchase books through their wishlists or donate funds so that they can purchase books: https://prisonbookprogram.org/prisonbooknetwork/ 

Or https://massivebookshop.com/collections/noname-book-club-hq 

  1. Donate to at least 1 bail fund in 2021: https://www.communityjusticeexchange.org/nbfn-directory or https://www.nationalbailout.org 

Or volunteer with a local bail fund to help bail people out of jail in 2021.

  1. Visit an incarcerated person at least once in 2021.

[In some facilities, you can apply to participate in video visitation. This can be a good option especially now as COVID is ravaging jails and prisons and facilities are suspending or canceling in person visitation. Look into this as an option.]

  1. Read 2 books about criminalization in 2021.

Here are a couple of reading lists: http://www.usprisonculture.com/blog/essential-pic-reading-list/ and https://www.aaihs.org/prison-abolition-syllabus-2-0/ 

Or

Join an anti-criminalization reading group or create your own

Here’s one example of a study group that starts on Feb 2: https://www.abolisheverything.org/political-education 

& here’s an example of a 6 week study guide that includes readings, videos, etc… that you can use to self-organize a study group: https://abolitionjournal.org/studyguide/ 

  1. Make a monthly call or send a monthly email to your Governor demanding mass release of incarcerated people through clemency.

Here’s a template: http://freethemny.com 

  1.  I didn’t include this as a commitment for 2021 since it involves more of a time and resource commitment and will involve connecting with others to make it happen. There are a number of models of organization that are based on mutual aid and solidarity. If there are a few of you interested, perhaps you can start a jail support collective like this abolitionist one in Pittsburgh as just one example: https://jailbreakpgh.org /@jailbreakpgh on Twitter.


Here’s another grassroots organization, the
Human Rights Coalition, operating without paid staff, working to support currently and formerly incarcerated people: https://www.hrcoalition.org/about.

What else can you do using your skills and resources?

House a recently released incarcerated person in a vacant room/apartment/house

Donate housing subsidies to a local group that works with formerly criminalized people

Call or e-mail prosecutors to demand the release of incarcerated survivors

Make advocacy calls or write letters to support the release of people from prisons

Participate in direct actions and protests

Legally represent people in prisons and jails pro bono

Provide free remote mental health care to recently released people

Volunteer to create newsletters, resource directories etc… for local groups who work with formerly incarcerated people and their families

Connect with family members of incarcerated people and offer support

Volunteer to do courtwatching and participatory defense support

Facilitate community-based restorative justice circles co-led by formerly criminalized people

Write Op-Eds in your local paper calling for mass release of incarcerated people

Check out the following toolkit of actions to address the COVID pandemic’s devastating impacts on incarcerated people: bit.ly/covidprisontoolkit 

**This is a version of the list published to the web: https://docs.google.com/document/d/e/2PACX-1vRR6IALSI7L16B0AdDwQ4EZ2W3cKhRh2jE_OFcli13S-G3mLy3DzTjRehXerTM7HP2rjcIR2SJpV5ML/pub