You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Prison Non-Photography’ category.


I can’t go to this but everyone in the Bay Area should.

Fighting Mass Incarceration: Strategies for Transformation
277 Cory Hall (off Hearst Ave) UC Berkeley
April 12, 2016

Discussion led by James Kilgore


With the sudden trendiness of opposing mass incarceration, Dr. James Kilgore will critically examine the idea that bipartisan unity and legislative change hold the key to transforming the criminal justice system. Dr. Kilgore will outline how his book, Understanding Mass Incarceration: A People’s Guide to the Key Civil Rights Struggle of our Time, and what it aims to achieve as well as discuss the potentials/pitfalls of the present moment in the struggle to end mass incarceration.

Kilgore argues that the key to this issue is to build a large social movement led by those who have been critically impacted by mass incarceration. It is a movement that makes alliances with those fighting other key struggles of our time (climate justice, gender justice, economic justice, etc.) and creates a collective alternative.


Topics will range from building out from the New Jim Crow analysis in relation to race, class and gender, examining political processes like reparations and Truth and Reconciliation Commissions as processes for transforming the criminal legal system and how we collectively imagine alternatives while fighting for important reforms.


Dr. James Kilgore is an activist, educator, and writer based at the University of Illinois. His most recent book is Understanding Mass Incarceration: A People’s Guide to the Key Civil Rights Struggle of Our Time. He is also the author of three novels, all which he drafted during his six and a half years in federal and state prisons in California.


277 Cory Hall (off Hearst Ave) UC Berkeley

Tuesday, April 12, 2016. 3:30pm-5:00pm


There’s a massive prison labor protest in the offing.

If plans go according to plan, a coordinated and rolling series of shut downs will begin September in prisons across the United States.

Prisoners are staging the walk out to protest “wages” as low as 20cents/hour. Even well paid prison jobs rarely pay more than a dollar an hour, before deductions. (The top earners in the Federal Prison Industries and UNICOR earn $1.15/hour, before deductions).

Supporters of the strike are arguing that prison labor is modern day slavery. I can’t argue with that. The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which abolished slavery, also maintains a legal exception for continued slavery in prisons. It states “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.”

I don’t know how many hundreds of thousands of prisoners work in prison factories and the like. 21,000 alone work in the Federal system.

Prison labor is not an issue entirely ignored by artists. In the past, Sheila Pinkel shone a light on the issue. Currently, Cameron Rowland is doing the same.


There are many grievances prisoners have with their detention. If outside society humors any of them, it usually humors calls for safe and sanitary conditions. Rarely, do you find outsiders calling for fair and equitable pay for the 40 hour weeks (or more) that prisoners work for pennies on the dollar. We make calls for secure and clean conditions because we’d not want to suffer squalor. Why then can we not make calls for the abolishment of legal slavery in the form of prison labor? Perhaps because we can imagine the smell of a putrid cell tier, but we cannot picture what prison work looks like?

Well, prisoners do everything from stuff mattresses to refurbish wheelchairs; make school dinners to shape Wendy’s and McDonald’s beef patties; stitch Victoria’s Secret panties to manufacture US military uniforms. Prisoners work as outsourced and subcontracted labor for corporations such as Boeing, Whole Foods, Walmart, Starbucks and Verizon. Prisoners man call centers for any number of private companies.


Prisoners work as operators at a call center in Snake River Correctional Institution. Perry Johnson Inc., a south Michigan based consulting firm has employed SRCI prisoners for over a decade. Little has been published online about the SRCI call center in recent years. Here’s a 2004 article about it.

Prisoners organizing the strike are not making demands or requests in the usual sense. They are calling each other to action in the hope that coordinated refusal to work will cause the prison industrial complex to creak so significantly that the nation will notice.

If critical mass is achieved, creaks and cracks will occur. A significant portion of America’s prison systems are built upon the cost savings, management philosophies and bottom line economics permitted by prison labor.

The planned action is essentially a good old strike, but of course, the repercussions for prisoners could be much more severe than the average worker: lockdown, solitary confinement and/or infraction charges that might jeopardize future parole.


On Sept. 9th, 1971, prisoners shut down and took over Attica, New York’s most notorious prison. A total of 43 people were killed in the Attica prison riots—one of the darkest chapters in American penal history.


Prisoners and their supporters can take heart and inspiration from prison strikes in recent years. The most well known would be the Prisoners Hunger Strike in California (2011-2013). The Free Alabama Movement in 2014 work stoppage garnered much attention. As did the 2010 Georgia Prison Strike. Hunger strikes at Ohio State Penitentiary, Menard Correctional in Illinois and at Red Onion Prison in Virginia flew under the radar of mainstream press. In December, women prisoners at Yuba County Jail in California joined a hunger strike in solidarity with women held in immigrant detention centers in California, Colorado and Texas.

Some actions have already kicked off in Texas.

There are many threads to the argument against prison labor, but none is better than outsiders making the leap to demand an end to exploitation that they would not tolerate for themselves or their loved ones. Remember, work programs and industries often operate in replacement of legitimate education and rehabilitation services.

Learn more at the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee.

Download the 2016 National Prison Strike pamphlet here.


UPDATE: You can get stickers these ways


The ability to ignore the human rights abuse that is mass incarceration is built upon millions of small omissions, denials, and blind eyes turned. A group of students and faculty from Parsons The New School are pointing out to fellow New Yorkers one such omission.

Rikers Island, New York city’s main lock-up, is an institution beset by problems–including but not limited to environmental hazards, beatings by guards, juvenile solitary, predation, inadequate healthcare, suicide, abominable pre-trial conditions and more. On any given day it holds. Consensus is building that it is a jail that cannot be reformed and must be closed.

Ignominiously, Rikers Island jail is iconic. In a strange and depressing way, it represents NYC. Other icons for the Big Apple invariably include other structures: Empire State Building, The New York Public Library, Rockefeller Building, Statue of Liberty, The Metropolitan Museum.

The system and graphics that connect NYC’s important sites and buildings is the MTA subway map. Again, no less iconic. The subway map is ubiquitous; it is a powerful dictate of information. The subway map shapes knowledge.

Estefanía Acosta de la Peña, Laura Sánchez, and Misha Volf, graduate students at The New School, and creators of #SeeRikerswrite:

The MTA and Rikers Island have a complicated relationship. Over the years the massive jailing complex has fallen on and off the subway map. An erratic absence, today Rikers Island is labeled on station maps but not inside trains, on digital versions but not in digital kiosks. #SeeRikers stickers are a simple way to acknowledge this erasure.

Whether an accidental oversight or an intentional omission – we believe it’s important to recognize a place that confines nearly 10,000 people each day and effects the lives of many more New Yorkers. So as you make your way across the city – on your morning commute or evening transfer – please help us put Rikers back on the map.


You, me, anyone can be part of a rapid, insurgent and widespread correction. Acosta de la Peña, Sánchez and Volf have developed a sticker that riffs on the MTA “You Are Here” arrow. The sticker de-centers the map.

“Whereas the MTA’s label serves as an individual way-finding tool, ours signals a collective void,” say Acosta de la Peña, Sánchez and Volf.



Stickers will be passed out during the Bernie Sanders Rally at Washington Square Park on Wednesday, April 13th

Stickers will be handed out at the #CLOSErikers rally at City Hall.


1. If you are a New York organization working on criminal justice reform email  info[at]itsamademademademadeworld[dot]com and stickers can be delivered.

2. If you are an individual, visit the States of Incarceration Exhibition at the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center (66 Fifth Avenue at 13th Street, New York, NY) now through April 24th.

3. DIY. Use the #SeeRikers Print Files and print on clear sticker paper.

Follow #SeeRikers on Twitter.



Earlier this month, in Portland, Oregon, a coalition led by immigrants and refugees, successfully campaigned to see the city cut its ties with prison profiteer Wells Fargo. At the same time, in Los Angeles, Black students moved California State University Los Angeles (CSULA) to divest from private prisons and reinvest in services for Black students.

These victories follow on the heels of the divestment by a $25M endowment fund from the University of California and Columbia University’s decision to divest fully from prisons.

These victories demonstrate the sweeping effect that committed and targeted activism can have. Dismantling the prison industrial complex requires paradigmatic shifts, brave thinking, millions of small + incremental fixes as well as massive, infrastructural disassemblage. These divestment victories are such disassemblage, and they show that committed individuals can pressure institutions and civic authorities to enact transparency and moral judgement when it comes to invested monies, endowments and assets.

These victories feel like, if you will, a bright spot on the yard. Moments of illumination.

I’ve watched with great admiration as the divestment movement has grown in the past few years. A lion’s share of the good work has been done by Enlace, an alliance of low-wage workers, unions, and community organizations in Mexico and the U.S. Enlace’s interest began with the growth of privatized immigrant detention facilities (Under the rubric of homeland security, Federal laws have changed, and the detention of people without papers has grown exponentially.)

But of course, the capitalism and social fear that gives rise to ICE prisons, has the same roots as that which gave rise to the tumorous growth of state and federal prisons over the past four decades. Of all the factors that drive the growth of the prison industrial complex, money is the most pernicious and, perhaps, the most invisible. Enlace targets the cycle, intends to interrupt the flow of finance and influence.


Photo: Pete Shaw


Currently Enlace has offices in Portland, OR; New York, NY; and Los Angeles, CA. The organization has identified key targets within the cycle of exchanged goods, ideas and policy. From the Enlace website:

Private Prisons

Two publicly-traded companies dominate the private prison market in the U.S.: Corrections Corp of America (CCA) and GEO Group (GEO). CCA and GEO are notorious for abusing inmates, understaffing, and committing fraud at their for-profit prisons and detention centers. Both lobby the government for contracts and for policies that promote mass incarceration and immigration enforcement. In 2012 alone, they netted $3 billion of our taxes and spent over $1.8 million on lobbying and campaign contributions.

Million Shares Club

33 major investors own nearly all CCA and GEO stock. Each of these 33 investors owns over 1 million shares of private prison stock, so they have a huge stake in the growth and success of the prison industrial complex. With the financial and political support of the Million Shares Club, CCA and GEO are able to successfully lobby for policies that increase government demand for private prison, like “tough on crime” laws and criminalizing immigrants. We must sever the financial ties that allow shareholders to cash in on the incarceration of immigrants and people of color.

Local Institutions

Most of us are invested in private prisons–our universities, cities and faith institutions are invested with the Million Shares Club, which has no portfolio screen preventing the investment of our money in for-profit prisons. Some states, universities, cities and pension funds are even directly invested in CCA and GEO. It is unconscionable that our local institutions are using their investments–our money–to profit from and promote mass incarceration and immigration enforcement. We call on our local institutions to divest!


Federal politicians have the power to stop private prisons. Members of the Budget and Appropriations committees have the most power to cut off funding for wasteful contracts with CCA and GEO, and for inhumane immigration enforcement policies. 
Unfortunately, many politicians take lobbying and campaign contributions from GEO and CCA. Others have assets in the Million Shares Club. Many politicians have both. We’re working to make private prisons a toxic liability, financially and politically.

Activism to stymie the ease with which corporations and politicians can exploit economically and socially disadvantaged communities is thrilling.

And it’s free! You can investigate private prison investments in your community and launch your own campaign. Map it here. More resources here.


There are many stories of prisoners’ resourcefulness and creative spirit. There’s lots of tales of redemption through art, or something akin to it. The grandly titled Prison Da Vinci is one of the better produced tellings of this type of story arc.

Filmmaker Zach Sebastian relies heavily on the subject Chris Wilson’s words and phrasing. The viewer is quickly told why a British guy was locked up in San Quentin so that we’re accelerated to the important details of how and why he made paintings made of candy.

I was surprised–but happily relieved–that Wilson was able to exist in San Quentin outside of the gang culture. He encounters philosophy for the first time and met a lot of good people, he says. And he made art.

(The Prison Da Vinci film recalls to mind the work of Donny Johnson, a man convicted of second degree murder who paints postcards with colours leached from M&Ms in his Pelican Bay State Prison solitary confinement cell for the past decade-or-more. In 2006, Johnson had a show in Mexico.)

Whilst Wilson–the artist–prevails, his existences is not far from hell. What’s missing from Prison Da Vinci is a fuller picture of the depravity Wilson experienced inside the California prison system … but that’s too big for a 4-minute short and would take us off the topic of art. We know from his book Horse Latitudes that Wilson had a torrid time of it.

Horse Latitudes first landed on my radar last year when Aaron Guy (and here) sent me a copy (Thanks, Aaron!)


Spread from Horse Latitudes (Sorika) by Chris Wilson.

Here’s the lowdown on Horse Latitudes on Self Publish Be Happy.

What’s fascinating to me about the book is that it uses descriptions of “photographs” to anchor several scenes. Wilson describes regularly things he witnessed to put us in the picture–both when he was out on the streets living life as a junkie and later when he’s inside the nick. For example:


Time Unknown

Foreground, a young man shirtless, tattooed, faces a mirror with his teeth bared, metal wires are entwined through his teeth to clamp his jaws together, in his right hand, which is raised to his mouth, he holds a red-handled pair of wire-cutters.

It’s dark, foreboding and inescapbaly bleak. Wilson has been called ‘The Nietzsche of Narcotics‘.

I was left to wonder how Wilson has even survived. Horse Latitudes is a short, violent and unapologetic read. Get it if you can.

The book differs massively in tone from Prison Da Vinci and that’s okay. Wilson has established himself as a successful artist and is not cagey about his tortured past. We know people change and we know identity isn’t fixed. We know people are more than their worst behaviours. Prison Da Vinci does its bit to celebrate Wilson’s post-prison and drug-free life. It’s one story of his storied life. Wilson got beyond incarceration’s grip. Art played its part. But painting with Skittles wasn’t even the half of it.


Cameron Rowland, “New York State Unified Court System” (2016), oak wood, distributed by Corcraft, 165 x 57.5 x  36 inches, rental at cost. Courtrooms throughout New York State use benches built by prisoners in Green Haven Correctional Facility. The court reproduces itself materially through the labor of those it sentences. (photo by Adam Reich, courtesy the artist and ESSEX STREET, New York)

You may have sat in the chairs, or slept on the pillows, or worn the smocks. What am I talking about? You may have used goods made by prison labour. You or your kids, depending what state you’re in, may have eaten school meals made by prisoners.

Wellington boots, uniforms, mattresses, furniture, binders, paper-goods, forms, flagpoles, hardware, utensils, even cookies … the list of goods made by prison industries is long. CALPIA (California Prison Industries Authority) in California and Corcraft in New York State are just two government agencies making high-quality goods while paying low-quality wages.

Prisoners working for CALPIA earn between 30 and 90 cents per hour (the higher end is rare) and then about 50% is taken out for taxes, charges and restitution. Supporters of these multimillion dollar agencies say it they provide valuable jobs training for prisoners. Opponents say it’s slave labor. Of course, you’re opinion will be swayed by whether you think prisons and jails are a net benefit or a net cost for society.

For prison abolitionists these state-insider agencies are second only in evil to the private prison companies. Why? Because they execute the quieter but some of the more pernicious maneuvering within capitalism. They devalue labor and devalue human beings. In California, those that defend CALPIA point out CALPIA only sells to other state bodies, but a market is a market and who the buyer is doesn’t change the work, wages or conditions for prisoners. In fact, most state-run prison industries don’t sell beyond state agencies is because they’d destroy many “free” markets simply by undercutting them on price–so great is the savings on wages. Look at those benches above; the joinery on those is out of this world. A steal at $654.50 (see below).


Artist Cameron Rowland is dismayed. And energised. The benches and the jackets and desk in the images here are from Rowland’s latest show 91020000 at Artists Space in New York. Continuing his minimalist installation approach, Rowland has put a few (of the bigger) Corcraft goods in the gallery space. The project is as much an extended and deeply researched essay as it is this gallery installation.

“Property is preserved through inheritance,” writes Rowland. “Legal and economic adaptations have maintained and reconfigured the property interests established by the economy of slavery in the United States. The 13th constitutional amendment outlawed private chattel slavery; however, its exception clause legalized slavery and involuntary servitude when administered “as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.”

To prison activists this is not new language. Even to Oprah’s List devotees this is not new. Michelle Alexander put into plain and passionate terms how the legal inequities of first, convict leasing, then Jim Crow laws and, now, expanded disenfranchisement laws in the era of mass incarceration, have maintained a “sub-class” made up disproportionately of people of colour.

Crucially, when Rowland talks of inheritance, he’s not talking about the bank accounts and assets of our parents. No, he’s talking about our shared inheritance as a nation that enjoys civic infrastructure and communities who benefit from, or not, the provision of nurturing institutions and spaces. Capitalism depends upon the movement and trade of raw materials. Roads, ports, markets, factories and comms all built upon a dependent system of inequality.

Rowland describes how convict leasing replaced a “largely ineffective” statute labor provision. And the roads in southern states got built. From there, Rowland rolls with the examples into modern day, not letting up to allow us an escape route argument of ‘This is now, That was then.’ It all connects. Read it.


Cameron Rowland, “1st Defense NFPA 1977, 2011” (2016), Nomex fire suit, distributed by CALPIA, 50 x 13 x 8 inches. Rental at cost “The Department of Corrections shall require of every able-bodied prisoner imprisoned in any state prison as many hours of faithful labor in each day and every day during his or her term of imprisonment as shall be prescribed by the rules and regulations of the Director of Corrections.” – California Penal Code § 2700. CC35933 is the customer number assigned to the nonprofit organization California College of the Arts upon registering with the CALPIA, the market name for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Prison Industry Authority. Inmates working for CALPIA produce orange Nomex fire suits for the state’s 4300 inmate wildland firefighters. (photo by Adam Reich, courtesy the artist and ESSEX STREET, New York)

Alternatively, and also, read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Case For Reparations. It looks at generations of African Americans robbed of earnings, assets and net-worth, with a focus on agriculture in the south and red-lining of properties in Chicago. Coates’ piece is not a tour de force only because of its impeccable research but because he puts figures on it.

Scholars have long discussed methods by which America might make reparations to those on whose labor and exclusion the country was built. In the 1970s, the Yale Law professor Boris Bittker argued in The Case for Black Reparations that a rough price tag for reparations could be determined by multiplying the number of African Americans in the population by the difference in white and black per capita income. That number—$34 billion in 1973, when Bittker wrote his book—could be added to a reparations program each year for a decade or two. Today Charles Ogletree, the Harvard Law School professor, argues for something broader: a program of job training and public works that takes racial justice as its mission but includes the poor of all races.

To celebrate freedom and democracy while forgetting America’s origins in a slavery economy is patriotism à la carte. Perhaps no statistic better illustrates the enduring legacy of our country’s shameful history of treating black people as sub-citizens, sub-Americans, and sub-humans than the wealth gap. Reparations would seek to close this chasm. But as surely as the creation of the wealth gap required the cooperation of every aspect of the society, bridging it will require the same.

Which brings us to the modern day. And to the darker corners of American commerce.

Let’s be clear, Rowland isn’t arguing about the merits, or lack thereof, of the existing judicial system and the rightness or wrongness of the control of prisoners. No, he’s more interested in the economic uses of the prisoners, of those bodies.

I’ll argue, in Rowland’s absence, that prisons in the U.S. are morally repugnant and a violence on poor Americans to a unconscionable degree. I’ll double back round and point to Rowland’s beautifully constructed text and visual arguments as one piece of evidence for the assertion.

I’m sure Rowland and I would agree that the over-arching forces of commerce (from which all hands are a few steps removed from the control panel and therefore responsibility) are the problem.

Now read Seph Rodney‘s review The Products of Forced Labor in U.S. Prisons on Hyperallergic.

This excerpt particularly:

But how do we conceal the theft? The question that has to be posed when people are systematically disappeared is: Where do we hide the bodies? “In prison” is only part of the answer. The deeper, more sinister response is also the most seemingly benign: we abstract them so they become only sources of labor and wealth. We reduce them to lines in an actuarial table, an oblique reference in a statute, a number in a log book. We dissolve people into fungible assets.

A lot of the time quiet gallery spaces don’t do a lot for me. They just seem sad. But when an artist can fill the space with poignancy … and especially when they are dealing with a grave matter that is–like in the case of prison labor–desperately sad, then I think it works.

Cameron Rowland: 91020000 continues at Artists Space (3rd Floor, 38 Greene St, Soho, Manhattan) through March 13. Get there if you can.


Cameron Rowland, “Attica Series Desk” (2016), steel, powder coating, laminated particleboard, distributed by Corcraft, 60 x 71.5 x 28.75 inches. Rental at cost: The Attica Series Desk is manufactured by prisoners in Attica Correctional Facility. Prisoners seized control of the D-Yard in Attica from September 9th to 13th 1971. Following the inmates’ immediate demands for amnesty, the first in their list of practical proposals was to extend the enforcement of “the New York State minimum wage law to prison industries.” Inmates working in New York State prisons are currently paid $0.10 to $1.14 an hour. Inmates in Attica produce furniture for government offices throughout the state. This component of government administration depends on inmate labor. (photo by Adam Reich, courtesy the artist and ESSEX STREET, New York)



Installation view of ‘Cameron Rowland: 91020000’ at Artists Space, New York (photo by Adam Reich)

On November 11th, five imprisoned people at Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) endured extreme violence at the hands of prison guards. They immediately filed grievances against the officers and called for an independent investigation, but so far none of their requests have been met. They have now developed a more comprehensive set of demands listed in the letter below.

Family members alongside California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Justice Now, Family Unity Network and TGI Justice Project have prepared a petition and are asking the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the Senate Public Safety Committee for recognition of, and response to, a set of demands penned by the incarcerated women.

My letter below. You can send your own HERE.


Warden Deborah K. Johnson, Scott Kernan and Senator Loni Hancock,

I recently learned about a serious incident of physical assault and sexual harassment at CCWF.

Stacy Rojas, Sandra Rocha, Yvette Ayestas, Melissa Blanchard, Sara Lara and others were subject to degrading treatment during a November 11th incident.

I join the people in prison, their family members and advocacy groups in calling for an independent investigation into the incident and the suspension, pending investigation, of the officers specified in the administrative appeals filed.

Many women and transgender or gender non-conforming people incarcerated at your facility have long histories of sexual and domestic violence and an incident such as this can trigger trauma and PTSD. Yet the officers involved in the incident are still working in close proximity to those impacted by the assault.

I strongly support the demands of the imprisoned people:

• We demand the right to document, expose, and protect ourselves to stop abuses and violations of our human rights without retaliation or punishment.
• We demand safety from retaliation and from being coerced, threatened and blackmailed to betray our imprisoned peers.
• We demand immediate and ongoing medical attention and access to mental health support services. Additionally, we demand access to mental health support if requested, due to the extreme mental stress this assault has caused as a result of the histories of trauma that this incident triggered.
• We demand an independent investigation by the Inspector General’s office.
• We demand that any internal investigation coordinated by the CDCR and through the Investigative Services Unit (ISU) be transparent both during the process and in the sharing of results and that the investigation be conducted in collaboration with legal advocates. Additionally, when ISU is requested by people in the care and custody of CDCR, and most specifically at CCWF where staff misconduct and violence at the hands of CDCR staff was reported, those requests are immediately addressed and responsibly handled.
• We demand immediate suspension of all officers specified in the appeals filed after the incident pending independent investigation. Suspension should include those higher up the chain of command, namely the Captain and Sergeant who were involved in this incident.
• We demand an immediate end to violence and brutality at the hands of prison staff and officials. We demand an end to gender-based violence in all California prisons. We connect this violence and brutality to the state violence people experience in communities of color throughout the country and demand an end to police brutality both inside and outside of prison.

I look forward to hearing your responses.

Pete Brook, San Francisco, Calif.

Send your own letter supporting the petition HERE.


Securing help, even for the most simplest things, isn’t guaranteed for lots of returning citizens. I once listened to a talk by Troy Williams, who served 18 years in the California prison system, and he ended by pointing out that the state spent (conservatively) $900,000 keeping him locked up and then one the day of release handed him $200 and waved him off at the prison gate. Anyone can see that there is a sick disproportionate allocation of funds, especially if we’re to believe any argument that prison can improve those subject to it.

Across the United States, picking up the responsibility for care during the crucial post-release days, weeks and months, are volunteer groups. 2,100 miles from San Quentin in Champaign, Illinois one such group FirstFollowers are doing amazing work. Orchestrated by all-volunteer workforce, FirstFollowers is made up of activists and the formerly incarcerated who provide support and guidance to the people getting out of prison, to their loved ones, and the community as a whole.

FirstFollowers is currently seeking $10,000 to continue its invaluable work.


FirstFollowers are committed to peace-bulding process in the community. Crucially they involve all voices in that. Experienced voices.

“In light of the recent spate of gun violence in Champaign, formerly incarcerated people can play an important role in creating a safe environment in our communities,” says FirstFollowers which opened its doors in March of 2015.

Our program grew out of the struggle to stop a 2012 proposal by our county authorities to spend $30 million on jail construction.

“We argued that the county needed more programs and services for the community, not more incarceration,” say FirstFollowers. “Our efforts paid special attention to the fact that our county was targeting Black people for imprisonment. While only 13% of the population of our county is Black, in September 2015, 71% of the jail population and more than 60% of the parole population was African American. We realized that we needed to stop jail construction but we also needed to provide community-based alternatives. We aimed to make FirstFollowers one of those genuine alternatives.”


There are many reasons to donate money. Here’s a few. Here’s what FirstFollowers provides–a safe stigma free environment; peer mentoring; assistance with employment searches; job readiness training; advocacy for individuals with felony convictions; family reunification; and service referrals

“We don’t seek financial assistance for salaries but for our activities, equipment, and direct support for our participants when they need IDs, birth certificates, court transcripts, even clothes for a job interview. We also want to provide short-term stipends for formerly incarcerated folks to engage in community work.


Contribution will fund:

  • Training to formerly incarcerated people and their loved ones in advocacy-we need those impacted by incarceration to speak for themselves.
  • Support groups for people with issues of substance abuse, mental health and family reconnection.
  • Training in research skills to our participants so that they can carry out a participatory needs assessment among the formerly incarcerated and their loved ones in our communities.
  • Transportation for family members to visit loved ones, especially those who are incarcerated but are close to their release date.


For more information, visit the FirstFollowers website. Or contact them via email at firstfollowerscu at


prisonphotography [at] gmail [dot] com


Prison Photography Archives

Post Categories