Saturday, April 18, 2015

Friends and Family on the Outside – Adopting NJ Facilities

We have incorporated into our action plan for Decarcerate the Garden State, inside – outside communications to erase the walls of the facilities as a dividing line that prevents unity between decarerators and the incarcerated – and thus obstructs the effectiveness of our efforts.

We have taken several small steps in this direction, including promoting our April 4 event in Bridgeton directly to incarcerated at South Woods facility .  We did this by mailing letters into the facility – and at least one person came to the event having heard about the event from her loved one on the inside.  According to this person, “the men (on the inside) knew about” the event.  We also passed information to visitors on visitation day at South Woods – an action that was somewhat thwarted by obstruction of corrections officers and local police.  At the April 4 event Dawn Felton announced the new organization Southwoods Family United and our strategy of communicating with families and incarcerated was picked up in the South Jersey Times report.

We also initiated a letter writing drive – not so much of a prison “pen pal” project but more of an incarcerated outreach project.  So far there has been very limited participation  in this project – it needs to be better organized and coordinated.

I think though we need a tighter approach  - and we need some committees and coordinators to make this really work.  I am suggesting an “adopt a facility” approach.  We need about 3 - 10 people (for starters) to pick each facility that we are going to “adopt” and work to reach out to.  You can pick a facility by geographical location, pick a facility that you have a friend or loved one in or by area of interest (women organizers might prefer the Edna Mahan facility and youth organizers might choose one of the youth facilities.)

The proposed plan is as follows:

2.       Second step, send about 50 letters into each facility.   This link explains the method and has a sample letter (modify to your liking if preferred) and how to find the names of incarcerated persons: . .  The goals are to let incarcerated know about Decarcerate the Garden State efforts and give them a way to communicate out to us about situations on the inside and the kinds of support they need.

3.       If enough interest, initiate an attempt to reach out to visitors on visitation day.  Right now there are problems with corrections officials and local police respecting the constitution in this regard but we are currently pursuing a plan to take legal action to establish our constitutional rights.  See:
4.       Attempt to identify friends and family members of those incarcerated at that facility and reach out to them to involve them – and ask if they know issues that need to be addressed at the facility.  Encourage them to let their loved one know about our efforts and ask to help spread the word inside the facility.

5.       Invite other local groups to participate in the efforts – the idea is this effort would not be an exclusive Decarcerate the Garden State project but be a statewide Decarceration project uniting all of the freedom, justice and human rights organizations in the state.

6.       Set up a discussion near the facility and communicate to those on the inside as well as those with ties to the facility on the outside inviting attendance and participation.

If you want in – please write to or call 908-881-5275.  

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