Current Affairs

Inside the Dangerous World of Prison Organizing

Incarcerated activists are risking their lives to send a wake-up call to those outside.

Robert Earl Council is not new to the brutality of the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC), nor to the dangers faced by those who resist it. Council, better known as Kinetik Justice, is one of the country’s most respected organizers behind prison walls. As co-founder of the Free Alabama Movement (FAM), a collective of incarcerated organizers, he helped start the largest prison work strike in U.S. history in 2016. During the strike, incarcerated workers across the country refused to report to their jobs, whether within prison or for private companies on the outside, drawing attention to the widespread practice of forced prison labor—what many prison abolitionists call modern day slavery. In response to their organizing, ADOC officials have subjected Kinetik and other FAM leaders to years in solitary confinement. 

For the past year, Kinetik has been out of solitary and working with others to revitalize the movement inside Alabama’s prisons. He’s founded the Alabama Resistance Movement at Donaldson Correctional Facility, served as national incarcerated coordinator for The Ordinary People’s Society (T.O.P.S.), and helped organize a month-long work strike and economic boycott throughout the state in January as a way to build momentum for further actions against Alabama’s deadly prison system. Organizers encouraged people in prison and their family members to boycott the private companies, like Securus Technologies, that provide phone and commissary services in ADOC to draw attention to the economic exploitation embedded in  incarceration in the state. Looming in the background of all of this is Governor Kay Ivey’s plan to build three new mega-prisons by contracting with private prison companies.

There’s little dispute that Alabama’s prisons justify this level of protest. Just before he left office, President Trump’s Attorney General William Barr signed off on a massive Department of Justice lawsuit against the entire prison system for its inhumane conditions. The DOJ investigation only highlighted what people enduring life in Alabama prisons have been saying for years about rampant overcrowding, unsafe conditions, and officer brutality. It not only confirmed that Alabama’s prisons are among the most violent in the country, but found that ADOC routinely fails to investigate officer brutality, under-reports deaths (sometimes by classifying overdose fatalities as due to “natural causes”), and does little to prevent rampant sexual abuse and extortion. 

The DOJ lawsuit joined a class-action lawsuit brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center— where I worked on the case for three years—alleging unconstitutional mental health and medical care in the prison system, which regularly records the highest suicide rates in the nation. And yet, despite legal and media attention, the incarcerated organizers who have persisted in raising these issues have been consistently met with violence, from placement in solitary confinement to outright assault by correctional officers. 

Throughout January, prison officials repressed the statewide strike. At least one striker was beaten; another organizer was sent to solitary confinement. And on its second to last day, officers at Donaldson Correctional Facility put Kinetik in the hospital. 

The videos* don’t show the attack but its aftermath. Blood pooling in a dark cell, smeared where officers dragged its unconscious occupant out. Furtive filmers coughing as they work to document the damage, choking on the cloud of pepper spray still heavy in the air. A tooth, held up for the camera, disembodied and grotesque. In short, the carnage left behind when the state attempts to kill its dissidents.

The images show what is seldom seen—the violence doled out by correctional officers behind the cover of prison walls. In this case, they show evidence of a brutal melee where, in the predawn hours of January 30, correctional officers at Donaldson Correctional Facility in Bessemer, Alabama beat Kinetik and Ephan Moore nearly to death, leaving them with broken ribs, fractured faces, missing teeth. In the aftermath of the assault, which also left two officers injured, the prison was locked down, a riot squad reportedly pepper spraying and beating at least two more men. The full details are still emerging and may never be known. The United States’ prisons, like its warzones, are characterized by a veil of secrecy and a steady flow of state-sponsored misinformation. 

What is clear is that this dynamic—of organizers being met with state violence—is a constant in the history of the prison movement and the Black freedom movement. The brutal attack on the Donaldson 4, as the incarcerated victims have come to be known, is both an instance of repression against a new wave of prison activism and a wrenching example of everything incarcerated organizers have struggled against for decades. 

But in order to understand the promise and precarity of the anti-prison movement today, it is crucial to go beyond these sensational instances of violence. Bound up in the story of Alabama’s prisons are echoes of the long history of resistance to racial violence in the South, lessons about the limits of mainstream prison reform, and an urgent call to solidarity for those of us in the “free world” who may be inclined to hear it. 

Letting the Crops Rot in the Fields

Leftists and labor organizers will feel a flash of recognition at the name of Bessemer. An industrial, majority Black suburb of Birmingham, the town has been in the news of late as the site of a groundbreaking union drive at its recently opened Amazon warehouse, BHM1. The vote is the largest National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election in three decades. Despite an all-out anti-union campaign by Amazon, an authorization vote has just concluded, and if successful, the Bessemer warehouse would be the first unionized Amazon shop in the country. 

While some commentators have expressed surprise at the location of the historic vote—see the Guardian, where an op-ed calls the town “an unlikely foe” for the company—it could hardly be more fitting. As historian Robin D.G. Kelley documents in Hammer and Hoe, his history of Black Communists in Alabama during the Great Depression, Bessemer has long been a hotbed for radical Black organizing and reactionary violence from white power structures. Kelley links the prominence of Communist organizing and pro-union sentiment in the 1920s and ‘30s with the rise of repressive state and KKK tactics alike, detailing countless examples of violence against Black organizers. This includes Saul Davis, a Bessemer Communist who was kidnapped from his home and beaten by vigilantes in response to his organizing. Taken together, the developments at BHM1 and Donaldson, a mere 20 miles apart, point to the deep and intertwined histories of labor and prison organizing in the state.

In Alabama as throughout the South, the Civil War and the formal abolition of chattel slavery were quickly followed by new systems for forcing Black people to labor without pay. Advocates have pointed to the ways these strategies exploited a loophole in the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery “except as punishment for crime.” In particular, Black Codes and other racist forms of criminalization turned incarceration into a pretext for the provision of “free labor” to white landowners and industrialists. Through a practice called convict leasing, incarcerated workers were contracted to companies to work without pay in the fields, factories, and mines. Advocacy groups such as Decarcerate Louisiana note that, like the system of chattel slavery that preceded it and of mass incarceration which would follow, convict leasing functioned as a form of racial and social control. 

While enduring conditions that some scholars like David Oshinsky and Douglas Blackmon contend rival or exceed the hardships of forced labor under chattel slavery, these incarcerated workers built much of the infrastructure of the post-Civil War South. In the burgeoning iron industry surrounding Birmingham, the convict lease system forced incarcerated workers—who were overwhelmingly Black—into the most dangerous jobs in unsafe coal mines (this history may be familiar to readers of Alabama-raised Yaa Gyasi’s award-winning novel Homegoing, which features a vivid chapter about one such worker). 

Then, as now, this combination of labor exploitation and institutional neglect had deadly consequences for incarcerated workers. In a devastating 1911 explosion at Banner mine in Pratt, Alabama, 128 workers were killed, 125 of whom were there involuntarily through the convict lease system. Yet it wouldn’t be until 1928 that Alabama became the last state to formally abolish the practice. 

Around the same time, non-incarcerated Black workers in those industries were developing the strategies of resistance and collective action that Kelley documents in Hammer and Hoe. Kelley tells the story of the organizing of the International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers, or “Mine Mill,” by a Bessemer lawyer and former miner in the early 1930s. In contrast to many mainstream, segregated trade unions at the time, Mine Mill was a predominantly Black, radically egalitarian union with a significant Communist membership. When the union called a strike of mine workers in 1936, violence broke out as mine operators evicted strikers from their homes and enlisted police to escort replacement workers from the white company union to the mines. Along with the simultaneous rise in KKK vigilantism, this repressive climate led organizers to employ diverse modes of resistance, from covert deception to outright armed self-defense.

From its inception, then, policing and incarceration in Alabama have served not only as a response to criminal behavior but as a way of regulating and controlling labor, specifically Black labor. Long after the end of convict leasing and the deindustrialization of Birmingham and its surrounding areas, these deep connections between forms of state violence and sources of public and private revenue continue to give shape to the landscape of imprisonment in the state. 

Alabama’s modern-day prison organizers are consistently attentive to this history, in word and deed. Leading up to the 2016 nationwide work strikes, Free Alabama Movement founder Bennu Hannibal Ra-Sun published “Let the Crops Rot in the Fields,” a strategic document outlining the group’s analysis and elaborating on their six point plan of action for organizing against the prison-industrial complex. The document is meticulous in framing incarceration as a system of racialized economic exploitation, from the forced, unpaid labor in prisons to the privatization of probation companies and the extractive nature of drug and traffic enforcement. Summing up these wide-ranging strands, the document states: 

Just like the Institution of Chattel Slavery, Mass Incarceration is in essence an Economic System which uses human beings as its nuts and bolts. Therefore, our new approach must be Economically based, and must be focused on the factors of production – the people being forced into this slave labor.

This analysis flows directly into FAM’s core organizing strategies of work strikes and boycotts. Notably, these are tactics drawn not only from the labor movement but also—as the document’s title implies—from subversive modes of resistance employed by Black laborers since the era of chattel slavery. 

Like earlier generations of workers who were prohibited from formal modes of politics, today’s prison organizers have developed their own scripts and strategies for resisting a regime that affords them few forums for collective action. This includes everything from coordinating over contraband cell phones to hosting their own print journals and radio shows. Elsewhere in his writing, Robin Kelley describes this type of action as infrapolitics, or the often invisible everyday acts of resistance and subversion that illuminate power relations and inform more visible political processes. And in 2016, FAM’s infrapolitical organizing burst onto the national stage. 

“Etched in Stone”

It’s worth pausing to appreciate the sheer improbability of the 2016 nationwide strikes. On September 9, a group of men locked up in one of the worst prisons in one of the worst prison systems in the country started a nationwide strike that involved tens of thousands of incarcerated workers spread across dozens of facilities across the country. At Holman prison in Atmore, Alabama, where the strike was planned, even some correctional officers went on strike. The demands of organizers in different places varied, but collectively they put the issue of forced prison labor back in the national discourse in ways that had a profound effect on organizing in and around prisons. 

Of course, this was only possible as a result of years (really decades) of organizing. As Bennu, the FAM co-founder, recounted to me in a recent phone call, the group built on prior organizing and political education efforts in the prisons, where strikes and more militant uprisings had been regular occurrences dating back to the ‘50s and ‘60s led by groups like Inmates For Action (IFA). Recognizing that prisons had been redesigned to stifle this type of mass action—particularly through the expansion of single-celled housing and solitary confinement—the Free Alabama Movement used cell phones to connect across facilities and to directly share the deplorable conditions they were enduring by posting videos and pictures on social media. 

In 2014, FAM leaders set the stage with their first concerted action, launching strikes and shutdowns at two major facilities. These early actions helped establish the group in the state and politicized other people in prison who saw their efficacy. “Our actions opened their eyes to what we were doing,” Bennu recalls, adding, “the name Free Alabama Movement was etched in stone in Alabama from that moment forward.” Publicity from the San Francisco Bay View, a movement-oriented Black newspaper with a large readership in prisons, and partnership with the International Workers of the World through the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) helped FAM lay the foundation for the nationwide strikes in 2016. 

This phenomenon of organizing spreading from one prison system to others across the country echoes dynamics from the heyday of prison organizing in the late 1960s and early ‘70s. Dan Berger and Touissant Losier elaborate on the significance of this period in their book, Rethinking the American Prison Movement. During this often misunderstood era of revolutionary politics and widespread civil revolts, prison walls were permeable barriers for radical ideas, organizations, and people. 

The Black Panthers in particular had extensive influence behind bars, with Eldridge Cleaver becoming Minister of Information following his lengthy incarceration and George Jackson holding the rank of Field Marshal for the Party while in prison in California. By the end of the ‘60s, the urban rebellions that sprung up across the country had migrated to prisons as well. Though none is better known than the Attica uprising (and its violent suppression) in 1971, Berger and Losier note that there were 36 other prison revolts that year, and dozens more in the period from 1968-1972.  

It is in this moment, before incarceration had become “mass” in the modern sense but when it was already being deployed by the state to criminalize Black communities and political leaders, that the prison abolitionist movement was born. No figure is more central to this history than Angela Davis, an Alabama native who grew up amid the racist violence of 1940s and ‘50s Birmingham before eventually moving to the West Coast. Persecuted by then-Governor Ronald Reagan for her Communist politics and prosecuted for her connections to the Marin County Courthouse shootout, Davis would be jailed for over a year before her acquittal following an international solidarity campaign. 

In 1971 while still in jail, Davis had already formulated an abolitionist perspective, editing a seminal collection of radical writing around prisons at the time, If They Come in the Morning, which took its name from a stirring letter of support James Baldwin wrote her at the time. The collection includes a letter from Davis to fellow political prisoner and Panther Ericka Huggins, where she plainly states, “so much work remains to be done around prisons in general — pending revolutionary change, we have to raise the demand that prisons in their present form be abolished.” 

While Davis would continue to develop these and other critical ideas over the course of her lengthy (and ongoing) career, in particular by co-founding the organizing collective Critical Resistance and publishing the foundational abolitionist text Are Prisons Obsolete in 2003, it is telling that they emerged in this period of proliferating Black radical thought (particularly Black feminist thought) and grassroots resistance to policing and incarceration. 

As Berger and Losier argue, the late 1960s and early 1970s saw liberals, conservatives, and radicals contesting the future of prisons. Thinkers like Davis and Jackson, radical organizations like the Panthers, and people in prison themselves powerfully argued for a future of society that did not rely upon violence and deprivation as means of dealing with social problems like poverty, addiction, and homelessness. They wrote, studied, and struggled for that future. While the backlash to this moment would eventually result in the birth of mass incarceration and the development of new techniques of penal control, those freedom dreams persisted. In the abolitionist movement today, they persist still. 

On the 45th anniversary of the Attica uprising, the Free Alabama Movement and their allies launched the 2016 nationwide work strikes. The timing was intentional. “Here comes this anniversary of this great human sacrifice that had taken place, and we were in the midst of a prison system that was just spiraling out of control with violence,” Bennu told me. “So we were coming head on with history.” The strike, which involved at least 24,000 incarcerated workers, is now a chapter in that history. Covered in national media as the largest ever U.S. prison strike, it helped inspire further collective action, including a subsequent wave of prison strikes in 2018. 

Even despite the backlash from prison officials that followed, Bennu considers the strike a resounding success, both in these tangible terms and in its consciousness-raising effects. “The most important thing is that we became closer to being people in America,” he said. “We became closer to being citizens. We got closer to our human rights. And so that’s the measurement: did we move the movement forward, or did we set it back?”  

No New Death Camps 

In Alabama as across the country, the movement is again at a crossroads. The past five years have witnessed an explosion of nonprofit and media attention around the horrendous conditions of the state’s prisons even as its political leadership has pursued an anti-democratic plan to build more of them. 

Two days after the assault on the Donaldson 4, Republican Governor Kay Ivey signed lease agreements on two new prisons. The contracts were part of a 30 year, $3 billion deal for the state to contract with private prison companies to construct three more facilities which would cage as many as 4,000 people each. The deal was not approved—or even fully reviewed—by the state legislature, which had shot down two prior attempts to authorize the massive spending project in previous years. 

Prison construction has consistently been the state response to radical and reformist critiques of incarceration alike. In Alabama in the 1970s, a nearly identical trajectory played out. Uprisings, including at the Atmore prison now known as Fountain, were followed by class-action lawsuits against the prison system. Federal Judge Frank Johnson, who is most famous for his role in the civil rights movement, declared the prison system unconstitutional, leading to a federal takeover and some limited releases. The state built new prisons, the federal government’s oversight ended, and the cycle began again. 

Today, almost everyone acknowledges that the system is in crisis. The statewide lawsuits by the SPLC, the DOJ, and the Equal Justice Initiative have shone a floodlight on the barbaric reality of the system. Over 17,000 people are incarcerated in facilities designed to house 12,000, crammed into a correctional system whose homicide rate is more than nine times the national average in prisons. People also die by suicide at unprecedented rates, often in solitary confinement units that disproportionately house Black people in conditions defined by the United Nations (and federal courts) as torture. Last year, as COVID ravaged the country and some correctional systems took steps to let people out of their involuntarily congested settings, Alabama instead suspended all parole hearings for over a month. Since then, the parole grant rate has been below 20 percent, with twice as many white people as Black people granted parole. As in other systems throughout the country, people in prison have contracted and died of COVID-19 at disproportionately high rates. 

At Donaldson alone, staff have caused the deaths of at least three other people in the last year and a half: Steven Davis, who was beaten beyond recognition by guards in November 2019; Darnell McMillian, who died in July in a suicide watch cell after having been pepper sprayed by officers; and Tommy Rutledge, who died in an overheated mental health cell last December with a recorded body temperature of 109 degrees. Since January’s assault, four more men have died at Donaldson, two of apparent overdoses. And that’s just at one prison. The Free Alabama Movement has pointed out that overdose deaths in Alabama prisons are so common that ADOC often labels them as death by natural causes, a reality also documented in the DOJ’s investigation

Alabama’s one major female-designated prison, Tutwiler, has also drawn attention for officer abuse and execrable conditions. In 2014, the DOJ initiated a separate investigation into Tutwiler, finding a “pattern and practice of sexual abuse” by correctional officers, and resulting in a consent decree between the state and the federal government. While the forms of violence experienced and the modes of resistance employed in female-desigated prisons are in some ways distinct from other groups discussed here, advocates noted that the investigation followed years of self-advocacy and organizing by women (and transgender men) incarcerated there. 

There is a growing awareness—in Alabama and elsewhere—that indignities of this scale demand a response, that they demand resistance. But too often, the conventional liberal approaches to reform fail in that they do not transform the power relations that give rise to these abuses. Lawsuits like the SPLC’s, the DOJ’s, and others can be effective at piercing the secrecy of correctional systems and publicizing some of their worst excesses. But the federal judiciary is neither inclined nor empowered to make sweeping, transformational changes. 

Counter-intuitively, class-action lawsuits can end up channeling money back into correctional systems. Sometimes this happens directly, through requiring the hiring of new officers, the creation of new regimes of prison management, or modifications to the buildings themselves. It can also happen indirectly, by inducing the state to pursue new construction as a way of rendering years-long legal challenges moot. Lawyers (even well-intentioned ones who defend civil rights) can also undermine movement work in numerous ways, from taking up funds and attention that could otherwise be used by grassroots organizations to excluding clients from decision making processes surrounding litigation. 

Similarly, conventional legislative efforts to address overcrowding or excessive sentences can too often focus on what scholar Marie Gottschalk calls the non, non, nons—non-violent, non-serious, and non-sexual crimes. Abolitionist thinkers like Ruth Wilson Gilmore and Mariame Kaba urge advocates to resist this type of thinking, arguing that such reforms benefit a small number of people while re-entrenching the state punishment apparatus and the logic that sustains it. As Gilmore points out, fewer than 1 in 5 people are in prison for drug offenses alone, meaning that even if they were all released, mass incarceration would persist. 

The much touted First Step Act, a set of federal sentencing and prison policy reforms passed under President Trump, is a prime example of this. While the legislation included a suite of changes, the most significant sentencing reforms focused on “nonviolent” drug offenses, and are unlikely to result in any meaningful reduction in incarceration nationwide. Likewise in Alabama, legislators have consistently avoided dealing with the state’s draconian “three strikes” law in favor of passing piecemeal changes that will leave the system as a whole intact, in all of its manifest violence. 

Not only does this politically-expedient focus on the non, non, nons implicitly legitimize incarceration for people who have been convicted of serious, “violent,” or sexual crimes, it is also incapable of addressing mass incarceration with the urgency or at the scale required. That is why abolitionists like Gilmore push advocates to enact “non-reformist reforms,” measures designed to shrink the size, scope, and scale of policing and prisons without creating new structures that organizers will later have to dismantle, like additional prisons, officer body cameras, or e-carceration

In this moment, during the already uninspiring presidency of a man who did more than almost any other in the Democratic party to drive mass incarceration, a more capacious vision for anti-prison politics is needed. The abolitionist movement—with its historical analysis of racialized state violence, its emphasis on centering the leadership of those most impacted by incarceration, its roots in Black feminist theory, and its consistent focus on displacing punishment systems as whole—provides that vision. 

Keeping the Fire Alive

On the morning of January 30, as details of the assault on the Donaldson 4 were still coming to light, a network of support was activated. Not within the Alabama Department of Corrections, which was too busy locking down prisons and deploying riot teams to notify the families of the victims about what had happened. Instead, a grassroots group of incarcerated activists, students, and grassroots organizers sprang into action. 

The very same networks that Kinetik had devoted his life to developing rushed to the defense of the four men. In Birmingham, The Ordinary People’s Society, Alabama Justice Initiative, and Alabama Students Against Prisons organized a same-day rally outside the hospital where Kinetik was being treated, urging staff to let his family see him (they were not allowed to). The San Francisco Bay View published an early story publicizing details of the incident. The Free Alabama Movement released a press release and petition to the DOJ to investigate the attack; the FBI subsequently announced it was investigating the incident. At a rally for the Amazon union in Bessemer the following week, a socialist organizer distributed information about the assault. And on movement podcasts Abolition Today and Live From the Plantation, free world and incarcerated abolitionists alike worked to spread word of what had happened. 

In the weeks since, these networks and groups have continued to raise awareness about the incident while also pushing back against Governor Ivey’s megaprison plan. Pressure from activists has already forced Birmingham-based Regions Bank to cut ties with private prison company CoreCivic. 

The response exemplified the mutual aid motto “we keep us safe” while pointing to the significance of these local and national formations. Abolition Today is a product of the Abolish Slavery National Network, a coalition of groups working to eradicate the 13th Amendment’s exception clause, as well as similar exceptions in state constitutions. In Louisiana, this work is carried on by Decarcerate Louisiana, the group founded at Angola prison which mobilizes inside and outside advocates to change law and policy in the state (full disclosure: I am a volunteer with the group).  

Stretching across many of these formations is the National Freedom Movement, a group of incarcerated organizers and their supporters working to revitalize coordinated, nationwide organizing in prisons. Currently, the group (which I also volunteer with) is building towards a national day of action on parole on April 3, while also working to educate the public about the legislative roots of modern-day prison slavery through webinars, radio shows, and public events. 

These groups and their leaders are the incarcerated counterparts to the free-world thinkers who continue to elaborate upon the tenets of the modern abolitionist movement. As in earlier periods of radicalism, these theorists and practitioners are predominantly Black women, from Angela Davis and Ruth Wilson Gilmore to Mariame Kaba and collectives like Survived and Punished. Their writing, organizations, and movements are sketching the path toward a world without prisons even as they walk it. The growing prominence of these thinkers and movements on the Left is an absolute necessity. So is giving our support, attention, and resources to incarcerated organizers. 

In recent weeks, as I’ve been struggling to write this article, I’ve been re-listening to episodes of “Live from the Plantation,” the radio show-cum-podcast-cum-conference call where incarcerated listener-participants, led by Kinetik and Bennu, call in to discuss the prison movement. On episodes prior to January 30, it is still possible to hear Kinetik discuss his plans for the work strikes, his pleas alternating between efforts to mobilize listeners and free-form analysis of everything from free-world apathy to strategies of oppression. 

It’s hard not to linger on episode 12, from November 2020, where Kinetik pauses to reflect on how his visible leadership singles him out for retaliation. “What I’m saying is that we put ourselves in harm’s way to try to get the message out, to try to keep the fire alive, to try to push men and women to stand up and stop being dehumanized voluntarily,” he says, “It’s serious to me, it hurts me, that I put my life on the line. Because these people have tried on several occasions to assassinate me in one form or fashion or another. You know what I’m saying?”

That we in the free world can even hear these words, this testament, is improbable, hovering somewhere between a transgression and miracle. But as tempting as it is to focus on charismatic leaders of the movement and the spectacular acts of violence visited upon them, the moment demands more of us than simply bearing witness. 

As Kinetik continues, “I’ve made it clear that I’m going to stand on the front line, I’ll take the first bullet, I’ll take the first lick, I’ll take the first whatever, because I’m willing to throw the first blow, I’m willing to fire the first shot, I’m willing to do all of that, and you know my history speaks for itself. But don’t let it be in vain, man. Don’t let me have to suffer all this and go through all these sacrifices, and y’all ain’t getting the message.”

The violence of mass incarceration is a tangible thing experienced by real people, but it relies upon and exists in relation to a more abstract and shared form of violence. It’s the kind that is committed when we allow ourselves to believe that some people’s lives matter less, that there exists a class of humans who can be relegated to rancid, overcrowded cages, subjected to a barer form of life and, disproportionately, to death. Undoing these systems, likewise, requires that relatively conscious people take actual steps to release people from prison, to stop sending them there, to tear down the buildings themselves—as Baldwin wrote to Davis some 50 years ago, to “render impassable with our bodies the corridor to the gas chamber.” But if we are to embark upon this concrete project, we must first start with the earlier work of rendering these systems themselves unimaginable, and of hearing the message that incarcerated organizers are struggling, with their very lives, to send us.

*Due to the graphic content, Current Affairs has opted not to link to the videos of the aftermath of Kinetik Justice’s beating at the hands of ADOC officers. Those who wish to view the footage can find it elsewhere online.

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