Thursday, February 26, 2015

Interviewing Free Alabama Movement (FAM)

The following is an interview with Free Alabama Movement Founder Bennue Hannibal Ra(y)-Sun (Spokesman Ray) and Co-Founder Kinetik Justice Amun (Robert E. Council).

For more information about the Free Alabama Movement – check out their site:
In order to share the unique perspective of the Free Alabama Movement and their perspective on the means of struggle against the system of mass incarceration, the NJ Decarcerator conducted this interview with two of its founding members.  Please share this interview widely as it could help open our minds to outside the box, avenues for our struggle to defeat mass incarceration.

Question 1: What do you see as main motivators of mass incarceration?

At the heart of mass incarceration we see economics. It is so much money involved, many jobs across all branches of government, and now private businesses have access to this market of human capital that can be forced into free labor that produces hundreds of billions of dollars worth of products and services. The money that is being made off of mass incarceration is just . . . massive. What they say is a crime, is a crime. Whomever they say is guilty, is guilty. The Constitution only applies to who they say it applies to. Businessmen and women write laws like mandatory minimums, to make sure that you stay long enough to pay for college for their children to finish college. When the police in New York went on protest and stopped making "petty crime" arrests, the first people to complain were defense attorneys and bailbonds companies. Mass incarceration is all about the money, and many people are getting paid B-I-G !!!

The only other main factor is race, because someone has to serve the rich and provide the free labor. In America, we already know how that works. The exception in the 13 th Amendment is there for a reason. Right there is where you find the heart of mass incarceration. "Neither slavery or involuntary servitude" is an expression of economic principles. So that's (economics) is where you have to look to find the solution. We see McDonald's, Bob Barker, Koch Brothers, ALEC, Wells Fargo, Wal Mart, Wendy's, US military, Dick Chaney, AT&T, you name a company, and all of them are using prison labor. We know that when vulture capitalist like some of those whose names we see are hovering over private prisons or private factories, then that should tell you that mass incarceration is about money.


You advocate a particular form of resistance to mass incarceration – can you give a high level overview?

Today, Mass Incarceration is one of the most talked about issues plaguing this country. However, only a few years ago, there were only a hand full of people that had ever heard the term.


The numbers support our contention that "MONEY" is the motive and most important factor in explaining the policies and conditions within the D.O.C. Therefore, an economical response is our most effective strategy. A PEACEFUL & NONVIOLENT ECONOMICAL RESPONSE...Each institution is a"STATE FREE LABOR FORCE", which generates BILLIONS of dollars each year, in tax dollars, industry market, imposed fines & fees, co-payments, court costs and the millions saved by inmate "FREE LABOR." We have researched and studied the lessons of previous prison movements throughout the country; and the evidence of the Jan. 1, 2014 - Jan. 21, 2014 work stoppage has confirmed that prisons do not function without inmate labor. And every day that the prison does not function the prison profit margin plummets.

Based upon these premises and understanding the motive behind Alabama's Prison Policies, Free Alabama Movement takes the position that - if we, collectively, engage in a proactive peaceful & nonviolent work stoppage, the financial burden will compel the Dept. of Corrections and the law makers of this state to be more receptive to our demands for fundamental Human Rights. This method also affords us the opportunity to show society that many of us are intelligent & rational men striving to resolve our issues with the most peaceful means possible; and to combat the misconception that we all are, irrational, violent predators lacking any morality and humanity.


Why do you believe this is the best form of resistance?

One of our Elders, Elder Mafundi, always tells us that we must look to our history for the solutions to our problems. Historically, when a people had to bear the burden of slavery, the success or failure of the slave system always depended on the slave providing labor where they received none of the benefits of the production. The maintenance of such an economic system has always been dependent upon the labor for its very existence. When the slave stops going into the field, all investment is lost for the capitalist. The crops rot in the field !!! The animals dies! The factories and assembly lines stop rolling! The tags stop getting made!
 The military gear stops getting made! At&t's calls stop getting answered! McDonald's and Wendy's meat patties stop getting made! . . . But for the prison profiteer investor, the bills keep on coming in. 2,500,000 people still have to be fed in their custody. 2.5 million people still must be provided water, heat, and electricity must still be provided. 2.5 million people still have to have their laundry done. When on strike, all of the revenue that is generated from prison labor that is used to support this slave system stops when we go on strike. Additionally, all of the people who would then be required by law to perform this labor would be correctional officers -- and none of them work for FREE !!!! 

There are barely enough officers to cook the food, pull the trash, and wash the clothes. One can't even begin to imagine the costs it would take to hire freeworld laborers to run the prison industries. Tags, chemicals, clothes, military hardware, recycling, farms, road crews, etc. No tactic other than work strikes has the ability to have that type of impact upon the system all at once. And best of all, it is the easiest and simplest tactic of them all. No trying to get voter blocks. No empty promises and lies from politicians and/or lawyers. No fund raisers needed !! Winnie Mandela said it best: We have to stop working for them and start working for ourselves.
All we are asking men and women in prison to do is, when the officer comes by to announce work call, just tell him or her that you are engaging in a non-violent and peaceful protest for your civil and human rights and that you no longer wish to work for free while you and your family continues to suffer. Just that simple. No violence needed. No cursing. No threats. No knife or anything. Oh, and don't forget to tell the officer to wake you when "he" gets done cooking breakfast !!!



How do you see such a tactic succeeding?

What are some of the challenges to this form of protest?

We are very confident that this tactic will produce the desired effect, which is to disrupt, dismantle and destroy the slave system run by the various Criminal Justice Systems. To once and for all, rip the heart- the laborers- out of the slave machine. As fate would have it, we just witnesses a demonstration by the men at Willacy County Immigration Center in Texas, and that provided yet another example of the effectiveness of work strike and activism from within. A 2800 bed prison was taken down in one day with a work strike (and some internal destruction). But the workstrikes are what brought that prison's operations to a halt. 
This approach also eliminates a lot of possible obstacles, leaving only one real obstacle- the mentality and vision of the people incarcerated. This represents the biggest threat to our Movement, in Alabama as well as, in Mississippi. Our Goal is obtainable, Our Method is clear, however, winning the minds of the people is our biggest obstacle. But that is what the struggle is about


What are the reactions of those who consider themselves prison reformers, decarcerators, abolitionists – has the support for this tactic been forthcoming?

Well, the reaction to this tactic has been varied, but that is to be expected. There are various interests, ideologies, and reasons as to why people are involved in this field, so everyone won't be on the same page. Second, what we are doing is "different" from the ineffective status-quo tactics that we have seen for 15-plus years. We are prison-led and we use technology like cell phones and social media from inside prisons. Some people are not used to this from people in prison, and they are especially not used to asking our opinion on the solution to these problems. When we contact groups, we are giving our assessment of the solution to this problem and seeing where they can offer their support, and there are those who have to adjust to that.
You have people and orgnizations in this for a single worthy issue like the death penalty or a cause like solitary confinement, mandatory minimums or non-violent crimes. Well, we are against the systematic incarceration and enslavement of 2.5 million people. Almost 1 million of them are mentally ill. Probably close to 500,000 of both non-violent and violent people are innocent for a number of reasons, including political prisoners, framed, lied on, prosecutor misconduct, and actual innocent people. Even those who are guilty of violent crimes have already done 20, 25, 40, 50 years in prison. Many of these people deserve relief from the oppression of mass incarceration and prison slavery too. It's hard for an organization to say that they know that people are being mass incarcerated for prison slavery, but then say that they don't embrace a tactic that will defeat the economic underpinning of that system in a way that will impact all of the "symptoms" of that we see people fighting individually.


What are the risks to the organizers and participants?

The risks to organizers and participants is that if we do not stop the economics of this system os mass incarceratiion and prison slavery by stopping our labor, then we will continue to perish in these death camps. Disease, violence, executions, child imprisonment, malnutrition, inadequate healthcare and dental care, sensory deprivation, abuse, rape, exploitation, long-term confinement, and the costs to our families, children and communities. Those are the risks !!! In essence, we run the risk of dying as slaves, but only if we continue to accept living and working as slaves.


1) What retribution have you seen happen?


As with all historical endeavors against this system, prison organizing comes with swift repression. Brothers associated with the FREE ALABAMA MOVEMENT have been unjustly deemed" threats to the DOC" and reclassed to indefinite sentences in Solitary confinement. I've witnessed brothers be assaulted, sprayed with different gasses and their very lives threatened. The risks are real, just as the Retribution is. While networking and organizing with brothers from Georgia, I watched as a lot of brothers were falsely accused, misclassified then placed in a TIER PROGRAM; which is a tortuous indoctrination program, sort of like the "Re education and Concentration Camps of WWII. So the Retribution is real and that's why its so important to have a EMERGENCY RESPONSE TEAM when you are engaging in prison organizing.


2) What role can people on the outside play around this strategy when there is no such action underway?

Free ALABAMA promotes a 2 prong direct Economical tactic to confront this system of Mass Incarceration and Prison Slavery. On the Inside, we will engage in a Non Violent & Peaceful work stoppage, while simultaneously protesting outside these institutions and protesting outside the facility of one of the targeted Corporate benefactors of Mass Incarceration and Prison Slavery. So, even though FAM, FMM & FCM are Inside created and led Movements, there is an active role that our Family, Friends and Loved Ones can play in this struggle.


What about when there IS action but in another state?

The first thing to do when there is action in another state is to help spread the word at the prison(s) in your own State that you have started organizing to join in the strike. From there, try to help spread work across all networks and channels of communication to help mobilize people and attention to the prison that is down. The more people spreading the word, the better chance of getting more people on the ground at the downed prison -- and the greater chance to get other prisons to go down !!


When there is action in ones own state?

When there is action in ones own state, try to get down to the prison that is down ASAP. Spread the word to other prisons in the state where you may have organizers and contacts. Whichever prison is serving as the "headquarters" for the Movement should begin mobilizing people to the downed prison to start protesting, marching, phone zaps to the prison, praying, filming from the outside, etc. Whatever you can do to help support the shutdowns. Do everything within y'alls power to hold that prison down as long as possible. Block shift change officers. Jam the traffic. Do everything possible to keep the Administration in disarray. When that one prison is firmly secured, then it is time to move on to the next one.


DO you envision that there is a way to protect the public from crime yet does not have the super abuse and exploitation nor serve the social control and profit motivation aspects that mass incarceration serves?

No, I don't think that there is any way to protect the public from crime under our current model of government. There is simply too much money at stake to protect the public from corporations like Monsanto, who poisons our food. Of the large drug companies that are selling prescription drugs to millions of patients who they are turning into addicts, and let's not forget about the people dying from alcohol and tobacco. Then, you have the banks, mortgage companies, insurance companies, and the "private contractor military companies" like Haliburton, etc., who thrive off of wars that kill millions of innocent people. Add police murders, unscrupulous prosecutors and lawyers, and child-selling judges, and I just don't have an answer for how to protect the public from crime.

Remember something: Out of 2.5 million people in prison, probably close to 1 million of them are mentally ill. Of the ramining 1.5 million, an estimated 300 are innocent. Of the remaining 1.2 million, close to 2/3 are drug offenders. When you factor in property crimes and drugs addicts who commit crimes to support their habits, I don't think that that leaves very many true "boogieman" criminals left. There are only a few Timothy McVeighs or Charles Manson or serial killers in the system. Addressing mass incarceration by releasing the 2 million people who need to be released won't put the public at risk. In fact, it will strengthen the public because more families will benefit from having mothers, fathers, providers, etc. to be able to contribute to the family, as opposed to been incarcerated solely for free labor.


What do you see of how it SHOULD BE?
We don't have to try to overcomplicate what a prison should look like. In a nutshell, when the economic equation (slavery) is removed from the Prison Industry, then most of the problems that we see with prisons will disappear anyway. What will be left will be akin to a college/therapy/­treatment center. Prisons are supposed to be a place where a person who is unable to function in society should be removed from their environment, assessed for whatever is causing them problems, and then afforded treatment that will prepare them for successful re-entry back into society. Alot of these things are outlined in our "FREEDOM BILL." We want to see mentoring programs, community voluteering, family nights, computer classes, financial and budgeting literacy, etc. We (F.A.M.) have a comprehensive plan drawned out for this because releasing people from these hell holes like the ones in Alabama with only a $10.00 check after serving decades in prison has a predictable result.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Youth and Decarceration - Please Take Survey!

Decarcerate the Garden State wants input from youth – teenagers and young adults to get a sense as to how to better incorporate a youth perspective into our approach to decarceration organizing and how to better involve youth in the effort at every level.  We invite you to answer a few questions and hopefully share with us a way to contact you for follow up.  One of the most important questions is the open ended one – the essay question where you get to expand on your opinions.

The results of the survey in addition to helping us better organize, might be used by our members, writers, researchers and others to analyze youth opinions on decarceration.   It is possible that based upon your “essay” answer some might want to ask follow up questions.  If you are interested in the data for your own research, just contact us at .  

So please take a few minutes to take the survey.   This is a tremendous effort we are undertaking and it will be youth at the forefront that will win it.  We do not have all the answers yet and we are still at the groundbreaking stage of building a successful struggle – new ideas from the youth will be what wins this for us!  So please take a few minutes to take the survey.  

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Decarcerating Bridgeton, NJ: Chapter 2

For the previous posting on this topic, see:Decarcerating in Bridgeton, a Historic Challenge

On the evening of February 10, at the Sheppard House. in Bridgeton, NJ, 12 people (including one by phone) attended the Kick-Off Meeting for Decarcerate NJ Panel Discussion to begin planning an event in conjunction with Tour de Decarcerate, a project of Decarcerate the Garden State that is working to bring “panel discussions” to cities and campuses throughout NJ to lay the ground work for a critical mass rising around the demand to DECARCERATE THE GARDEN STATE.
The meeting included representation of community forces that have been organizing and providing leadership to the protest over the killing of Jerame Reid by police as he attempted to emerge from a vehicle with his hands up, representatives of Up to Us South Jersey and young members of a local farmers collective as well as myself on behalf of Decarcerate the Garden State.

After about an hour of discussion, some of it intensive, those in attendance unanimously agreed to move forward with the proposal to organize a panel discussion in Bridgeton with the following parameters:

While the date is not set, it will likely occur at 3:30 pm on a Saturday with the hopes that we can do outreach to those with people inside Southwoods State Penitentiary who are in town for an afternoon  visit of a family member.

It will occur on a date that is after February 28, the date of a statewide protest in Bridgeton demanding justice for Jerame Reid.

It will likely occur some time in the second half of March or the first part of April.

Attempts will be made to reach out to every sector of the local community as well as to those outside of Bridgeton.

The local panel will involve representatives of the efforts demanding justice for Jerame Reid and explore connections between mass incarceration and police brutality in Bridgeton and elsewhere.

The panel will also address issues of concern around the Southwoods facility and hopes to engage those that have family / friends on the inside.

While a location has not been set, possibilities include the Sheppard House – and there is also a plan to reach out to local pastors to see if there can be a local church facility that would hopefully be free of charge.

After the meeting, most of those in attendance moved down two blocks for a celebratory pizza party at Big John’s Pizza where meeting participants were able to get to know each other a little as we prepare ourselves for this historic journey.

While the meeting was able to get the ball in the air there is a tremendous amount of challenges ahead to make this successful.

The first order of business is to continue to support the community forces that are demanding justice in the wake of the police killing of Jermae Reid.  The next event for that purpose is:

Tuesday, 5pmn February 17, 350 Fayette Street in Bridgeton, NJ. 

Following that will be a major statewide event in Bridgeton:

The NJ Statewide March Against Police Brutality:



FEBRUARY 28, 2015

South and Henry Street in Bridgeton, NJ
Line up to march at 11 am
Start marching at 12 noon
March to Cumberland County Courthouse
60 West Broad Street, Bridgeton, NJ

For more information or to endorse and participate contact Walter Hudson, 609 381 8509.

It is important for Decarcerators to help strengthen this movement.  The police brutality, racial profiling, school to prison pipeline and police corruption, abuse and outright killing with impunity has for many turned the streets and communities into open air prisons.  Ending mass incarceration and police brutality are just varying focal points of a common fight.  We should hopefully have our event planned – at least the date and location by February 28 so that we can have materials at the statewide march inviting participation.

Another important order of business is securing the location for the event.  One suggestion is Sheppard House which is a great venue.  We might want to consider other alternatives especially if we are successful in mobilizing for a sizable event and also if we intend to have any nourishment available.  We are  looking into possible church venues.  Another possibility is the Free Public Library meeting room, which has a nominal $25 fee.

Another decision is whether we should try to have food.  It would be nice if either pizza or sandwiches can be provided – if we can reach out to some local establishments to see if anyone would donate some servings.  That would make it more inviting especially to those who came a distance for visiting at Southwoods.  However, we should only pursue that if it can be done with minimalist effort – and depending upon the venue, food might not be a possibility.

A big question is – as we move forward – how can we effectively communicate to the families of Southwoods and promote the idea of a Statewide Southwoods Visit / Attend Decarcerate Event day.   A group has been started on Facebook to start building conversation among Southwoods families – that can be part of the strategy but other methods are needed to make that communication possible.  I would also like to suggest that Renee Felton, whose son is a victim of injustice (shot in head by police, blinded, prosecuted and serving 16 years, serving at Southwoods) be a possible invited speaker on the Southwoods issues.

One idea possibly to ponder is if we can communicate via letter, family phone calls and visits to some of the incarcerated at Southwoods and ask if they can let other incarcerated know about what we are doing and ask them to contact their friends and relatives on the outside about getting in touch with our efforts.

Of course we need to find the heavy hitter key note presenter – hopefully someone of this sort of caliber (though Johanna Fernandez is not available).  I am reaching into Philadelphia for possible talent in this regard.

We invite all those interested in participating and helping to make this event a success – if you are on Facebook join Decarcerate the Garden State and communicate with us there or you can call 908-881-5275 or write to .