By Lisa Guenther/From Truth Out
Last summer, thousands of prisoners in California launched a 60-day hunger strike to protest and transform oppressive policies in the California Department of Corrections. One member of the organizing team called their strike action a “multi-racial, multi–regional Human Rights Movement to challenge torture.”
This weekend, another prisoner-led human rights movement is gaining momentum in Alabama. The Free Alabama Movement (FAM) seeks to analyze, resist, and transform prison slavery from within the Prison Industrial Complex.
Both of these movements challenge us, as philosophers and as people, to interrogate the meaning of slavery, torture, human rights, and political action. What does it mean to struggle for one’s human rights as an “offender” in the world’s first prison society? What can philosophers and political theorists learn from the example of incarcerated intellectuals and political actors whose everyday lives are situated at the dangerous intersection of racism, economic exploitation, sexual violence, and civil death? What would it mean to respect the specificity of the Free Alabama Movement, and at the same time to recognize that even the freedom of non-incarcerated philosophers may be bound up with the freedom of Alabama? What is freedom, after all? What – and where – and who – is Alabama?
In what follows, I will share what I have learned about the Free Alabama Movement over the last couple of days. But don’t take my word for it! Check out the FAM website, which includes photos and videos of degrading prison conditions, as well as this brilliant spoken word analysis of prison slavery. Follow the movement on Facebook and Twitter. And read the 100-page manifesto written by prisoner-organizers about the situation in Alabama prisons and the movement to end prison slavery. (more…)