Authored collectively by: firstname.lastname@example.org
Why Support Prisoners?
It is hard to run a large campaign against a powerful adversary. In
struggle, our resources are few. We have to prioritize and sometimes
things fall through the cracks. However, legal and prisoner support are
absolutely essential for a worthwhile campaign and a vibrant movement. If
individuals don’t believe they will be supported by those around them if
they are singled out by the state, they may be dissuaded from taking on
personal risk or acting boldly for the benefit of a campaign. We should
not be in the business of making martyrs and no one should feel isolated
and left behind. Isolation is a tool of the state and capital to silence
resistance. We can fight back through mutual support and cooperation.
Why would the State come down on someone if they hadn’t done something wrong?
The States tools are rooted in coercion through violence or the threat
thereof (including taking money or freedom). Often the state will work to
wedge apart folks involved in campaigns based on who they think they can
get away with locking up without losing “legitimacy” (that person broke
such and such a law and has to face the consequences) versus who they can
co-opt or render ineffective through intimidation or “bargaining” –
always with the threat of violence behind it (They say we can hold our
signs as long as we don’t show them to anyone, say anything, or get in
anyone’s way. hooray, we won’t get arrested!). This renders campaigns
ineffective. By standing with those most targeted, even if we don’t agree
on everything, we can hold real change making power.
What’s more, this pattern of wedging and cleaving off folks whom the state
believes to be on the fringe tactically or ideologically, or whom they
believe they can most get away with targeting, is a process that never
stops. State repression is always an ongoing reality. That means, if you
allow those on the outside to be targeted, the State will work it’s way in
until you are next. This has been seen to be true time and time again. In
recent history the FBI named the ELF the most dangerous home grown terror
threat. As sabotage became a less common tactic the State worked its way
in, targeting activists for their above ground organizing work. Last year
in Texas a group of activists were led to make lock boxes by a police
infiltrator that they met at their local Occupy. They used them in a
lockdown and faced two years for felony “Unlawful use of a criminal
instrument”. We are not safe in retreat. Comrades under attack must be
defended and we must be bold in our efforts to make advances and support
that boldness in others.
Why should I support someone I disagree with or who has made mistakes?
The state is a powerful institution that can take away people’s freedom
and separate loved ones and families. Once it pulls someone in they can’t
just walk away. They may have to face police, courts, and jails and
prisons with harsh regulations and inadequate medical care. If we want to
create movements that can withstand mistakes and differences, we can’t
simply allow each other to be thrown into the belly of the beast alone. We
can have our disagreements, and learn and grow from mistakes, but not if
it is that easy for the state to use those things to isolate us from our
movements. Supporting folks dealing with legal issues and jail time
related to our movements and campaigns is a way to confront the states
attempt to destroy our relationships and struggles. At the end of the day,
the power of the state and capital are backing that which we are
campaigning against. Abandoning a comrade to be taken by the State only
gives more power to the forces we are fighting. We must find ways to
survive disagreements and mistakes without allowing further wrongs to be
perpetrated by the legal/prison systems.
What if there are folks supporting our campaign that will be put off by
our standing by a prisoner?
Talking to the public and supporters about why prisoners should be
supported allows you to broaden the issues and include more systemic
radical analysis. This may help build deeper systemic understanding within
your base of support or at least gain sympathy and understanding. It’s
good practice for us to have to articulate how the Prison Industrial
Complex affects our society and intersects with other issues like
increased environmental destruction, poverty, and powerlessness. Don’t be
afraid or ashamed of your analysis. Work to express what you really
believe clearly and respectfully and let people know that you want to work
with them to make a better world even if they don’t share all your views.
At the end of the day if your “base” won’t allow you to support those
facing repression due to efforts to reach your shared goals, you may need
to rethink how your campaign is structured and the broader effects of
pandering to fickle bedfellows.
Sometimes our campaigns are really stressful and time consuming. How can
we make sure folks facing state repression don’t fall through the cracks?
The best medicine is preventative. It is important to develop a
consciousness about state repression and how it may influence your
community and your work. However, sometimes we get neck deep in a
stressful campaign and it can be hard to keep track of all that needs to
be taken care of. Try making it protocol to check in about the status of
legal issues at every meeting. Sometimes having a sub-group of folks
focused on legal happenings can help keep everyone aware of what support
is needed. If there are situations that come up that you haven’t had any
collective experience with, you can always call on the help of other folks
outside your area that are willing to share their experiences and some
resources. (Find some great places to start here:
I totally agree! What should I do?
The most important thing you can do is make sure your comrade knows they
are not alone or forgotten. Write letters, visit, and send books if you
can. Talk about their case and encourage others to write and visit as
well. A little money for commissary can help and if you can write a
prisoner and tell them about an event you had in their honor all the
better! If the prisoner is pre-sentencing go to their court dates and
strategize to figure out if there are ways you can help get a better
It is scary going up against forces that often seem invincible. Be proud
of yourselves and your comrades for your willingness to engage in struggle
for a better world. Our greatest strength is our solidarity. We may
sometimes falter and we will surely make mistakes, but as long as we move
together we will build and advance until every cage is empty and every
ecosystem allowed to thrive.