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Painting By Marius Mason SQ

The 2019 Fight Toxic Prisons (FTP) Convergence

At this year’s SEYM Gathering, Peter Ackerman and Panagioti Tsolkas led the workshop “Fighting Toxic Prisons: Organizing the Fighting Toxic Prisons Campaign from the Strategic Intersection Where Environmental Justice Crosses Prison Abolition”.

The FTP Convergence, held June 14-17 in Gainesville, offered participants opportunities for a deeper dive into multiple intersections of prison abolition, climate justice, human rights, decolonization, re-enfranchisement, and more.

The first day of the Convergence took place at the Civic Media Center, “…an alternative library, reading room, and infoshop” and included two plenary sessions:

  • Amendment 4 Voter Re-enfranchisement Charter Amendment with Cecile Scoon, a civil rights attorney and first vice president of the League of Women Voters, Florida; and,
  • Movement Lawyering for Prison Abolition and Environmental Justice with Melissa Legge, Equal Justice Works Fellow, Earthjustice.

Cecile Scoon provided information on the efforts to suppress re-enfranchisement, key deadlines, and training to assist with re-enfranchisement, particularly if repayment requirements passed in the last legislative session go into effect.

Painting by Marius Mason at the Convergence

In the Movement Lawyering session, Melissa Legge provided examples on how the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act and Executive Order 12898 – Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations are disregarded by federal agencies and private companies. The scope of the environmental issues range from the siting of prison facilities to disregard for the health, personal security, and safety persons inside. As is being witnessed at detention center in Homestead (FL) and other sites, even young children are subjected these conditions. More information can be found in Toxic Cages.

The afternoon also included two concurrent workshops, ‘Introduction to Abolition’ and ‘Jail Support Basics.’ The Abolition workshop included a brainstorming session on the myth and reality of prisons. One facilitator mentioned that jailhouse lawyers refer to incarceration as the “prison industrial slavery complex.”

Days two and three including more workshops and breakout sessions:

  • Ecosystem Approaches to Abolition: How Policing, Surveillance and Incarceration Harm the Natural Environment
  • Decriminalizing Domestic Violence
  • Facing Race: A Breakout Session with three groups
    • Confronting Whiteness
    • Men of Color/ Non-binary
    • Women of Color/ Non-binary
  • The Farm to Prison Pipeline? Looking at the USDA’s Prison Building Program
  • Prisoner Solidarity During Disasters
  • Queer prisoner experiences
  • Mining in Prison Towns, Prisons in Mining Towns: Lessons in Rural EJ/Abolitionist Organizing
  • Updates From Prisoner Struggles in Louisiana and Alabama
  • Community Bail and Bond Funds as Organizing Tools to End Pretrial Detention
  • Decolonization and Indigenous Political Prisoners
  • Beyond Borders: Immigrant-Led Resistance Criminalization, Detention and Deportation

The National Prison Strike Solidarity Roundtable was split into three sections by geographic region. The participants from the southeast agreed to share contact information in order to continue the dialogue and abolition strategies.

Throughout the convergence, prisoners called in during lunch and dinner. Also there were several participants who were familiar with AVP, including at least one returning citizen who became a facilitator while inside. There is considerable Earthcare work to be done conjunction with prison abolition.

—Beverly Ward, SEYM Field Secretary for Earthcare