George Jackson once remarked:
The nature of the function of the prison with the police state has to be continuously explained, elucidated to the people on the street because we can’t fight alone in here. Oh yeah, we can fight, but if we’re isolated, if the state is successful in accomplishing that, the results are usually not constructive in terms of proving our point. We fight and we die, but that’s not the point, although it may be admirable from some sort of purely moral point of view. The point is, however, the fact of what we confront, to fight and win. That’s the real objective: not just to make statements, no matter how noble, but to destroy the system that oppresses us. By any means available to us. And to do this, we must be connected, in contact and communication with those in struggle on the outside. We must be mutually supporting because we’re all in this together. It’s all one struggle at base.
1965 – 1975 | Period of Increasing Collective Rage Against the (Racial) Prison Regime
George Jackson’s Assassination (1971)
Attica Uprising/Pogrom-Massacre (1971)
- Focus of counter-carceral blocs in this phase was strike-based, study groups, the formulation of demands, and consciousness raising efforts on the outside;
- Strategy generally proto-abolitionist with respect to the criminal (in)justice system’s futurity, yet relied on liberal “human rights” discourse and was relatively diffuse, and spread out in disparate pockets throughout the country.
- The legal regime has been understood largely as a mechanism among a multiplicity of others that can be engaged with to achieve particular short-term goals, i.e. the immediacies of survival and the defense / nominal freeing of imprisoned comrades;
- Shift in the modus operandi of statecraft toward repression: policing and punitive carceral violence;
- Contemporaneous with this shift is the ascendency of the counter-intelligence state, i.e. COINTELPRO.
1976 – 1986 | Assata Shakur’s Liberation: Period of Increasing Liberation of Individual Prisoners
- Focus became not only defense campaigns, but liberation of individual prisoners through the use of armed tactical operations;
- Insurgency was developing, people studying revolutionary military policy and the art/science of warfare;
- Shift in the modus operandi of statecraft toward military counterinsurgency
- UN definition of “enemy combatant” changes in 1977 (I think);
- All of this takes place within a context of increasing expansion and legitimation of domestic policing and counterinsurgency operations, i.e. Wars of “Drugs,” “Gangs,” “Terror” — which is driven and compelled by a gendered anti-Black racist penality;
- Control Unit Prisons become a focal point of radical grassroots movements
- New political discourses are fashioned in contrapuntal relation to the state, curating a tradition of radical print-culture-as-medium of counter-carceral pedagogy and communication.