Organising in jail
The prison system controls us, among other ways, by controlling the space we inhabit, the way our time is structured, and the information we can send and receive. We can take by organising, as much as possible, our own space, time and information.
Information and Communications
- Find out who has been arrested, which affinity groups are in jail, who if anyone is missing or has been isolated. Consolidate the information so that in one or two phone calls it can be communicated to our legal team and support people.
- Organise our own system of lines or lists to use telephones. Transmit messages for others.
- Use legal team to communicate with others of our groups held in other locations.
- Liaison people can find out jail schedule and post it.
- Remember, information from the guards, however nice they may seem, is not necessarily accurate. DON’T SPREAD RUMOURS! Verify information.
- Share information and stories about the action among ourselves.
When possible, organise your own, or utilise an existing, space in jail: a meeting corner, a quiet corner, a healing space, a workshop space etc.
Use the time
The time activists spend together in jail can be enriching and important for mental strength and overall wellbeing.
We can organise workshops, classes, nonviolence trainings, political discussions, strategy and theory sessions, games, rituals, exercise sessions, music, talent shows, quiet times and of course, meetings. Remember not to become obsessed by meetings.
Don’t become panicked by the strict prison timetable. We can take the time we need to do what we have to do.
Suggested jail orientation
- Collect information on who has been arrested, who is isolated, everyone’s medical needs, etc
- Develop strategy for getting that info out to supporters
- Update on information on the action, legal issues, and negotiations
- Roles and responsibilities in the group – caretakers, liaisons, etc
- Clustering – make sure everyone has an affinity group or buddy
- Feeling sharing – perhaps a round on how we each deal with powerlessness
- Who are the guards?
- The other prisoners?
- General population – an opportunity to learn and organise, not a fate worse than death!
- Intimidation – fear and pain
- Divide and conquer
- Singling out leaders, instigators
- Good cop/bad cop
- Lies and disinformation
- Veneer – looking good in public, stacked negotiations
- Process review: consensus, etc.
- Jail tales: share previous experiences (with great caution, remembering conversations are probably monitored)
- Questions, feeling, fears.
20 Years on the Inside with Vickie Roach, 3CR recording
How to use Jail/Court Solidarity, by Just Cause Law Collective
Legal Solidarity Needed in the Streets, Jails and Courts, by Marina Sitrin
Jail Support & Solidarity, by Midnight Special and Katya Komisaruk
Jail Solidarity, by BASTA: A Pledge of Resistance Handbook
Collective Action Behind Bars, by Kris Hermes
More resources on jail solidarity and supporting people in prison are available on The Commons: Social Change Library.
Parts of this page have been adapted to the Australian context. The original version is The rights belonging to the owner or licensee of literary, artistic and dramatic works, films and sound recordings, to reproduce, perform or otherwise deal with these works. More 2002 Starhawk