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Honoring History at Bucknell University

On November 17, 2016, in the Atrium Lobby at Bucknell University’s Weis Center, an event took place as part of the university’s “Coal Collections” series that may help change the way history is written, taught, and interpreted. Early visitors to the program titled “Molly Maguires in the Pennsylvania Coal Region” found an array of sofas arranged before a mounted display. A large blow-up, a number of feet high, of a black-and-white photo taken of alleged “Molly” leader John Kehoe shortly before his execution, gave a hint as to how the event might proceed.

http://mythofmollymaguires.blogspot.com/

Refugees at Work: the U.S. History of Capitalizing on Captive Labor

The States of Incarceration exhibit module Seabrook Farms and “Free” Labor: How is the racialized prisoner the ideal worker? explores the complicated immigrant labor history of Seabrook Farms. The frozen vegetable plant was a successful producer of suburban household staples during rise of consumerism. The company’s labor practices told a different story. Seabrook Farms labor camp was the largest agribusiness in the United States by 1950, with 6,000 employees at its peak. As the CEO, Charles Franklin Seabrook received the reputation of compassionately relocating refugee groups into the Seabrook Farms community. He also made calculated business decisions to take advantage of refugee displacement, monopolizing on racialized captive labor that would bring him certain financial gain. Seabrook...

UNO Film Series Focuses on Incarceration

The University of New Orleans’ chapter of the national history honors society Phi Alpha Theta is sponsoring a series of film screenings this fall about incarceration in Louisiana These events are also co-sponsored by The Midlo Center for New Orleans Studies.

The films in this series are chosen to accompany Ben Weber’s class on the history of policing and prisons that will be contributing to the Humanity Action Lab’s national traveling exhibit on mass incarceration. UNO will contribute pieces on various aspects of Louisiana State Penitentiary, better known as Angola, in the past, present, and into the future. By screening these films on campus, Phi Alpha Theta also hopes to start a dialogue among the UNO community about the...

Crimmigration and Immigrant Detention in South Florida

On the first day of class, I had no idea what detention centers were. I loosely knew about immigration and deportation, yet never considered what stood between the two. I honestly was under the impression that once immigrants were identified by authorities, they were immediately sent back to their countries of origin. In South Florida alone, there are two immigrant detention centers. Krome Detention Center, located about thirty five minutes west of my university, is run by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Broward Transitional Center, located about forty minutes north of my university, is owned and run by GEO Group. The concept of privatized detention centers was what came as the biggest shock to me. I had no idea that...

Incarceration Present and Past: 2015 and 1829

Photo by Lou Weinstein, Gothamist, gothamist.com/2015/10/25/photos_artist_locks_himself_in_cage.php#photo-2

October 25, 2015: Artist Lech Szporer staged art installation The Cage Project in front of “The Tombs,” the Manhattan Detention Complex. In an orange jumpsuit and handcuffs, Szporer stood in a locked cage to protest mass incarceration. A prison abolitionist, Szporer expressed support for the bipartisan Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 and desire to render the invisible visible in a statement:

“I am staging this disruption because the scandal of mass criminalization, incarceration, and neglect in America is horrific, inhumane, and an issue of grave urgency. Not only do we need to pass the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 – We should abolish prison as the dominant mode...

Incarceration Past and Present: 1951 and 2015

On March 5, 1951, students incarcerated at MCI-Norfolk in Norfolk, Mass., beat Harvard debate society in a debate about the welfare state. Started in 1933, Norfolk Debate Society’s history and success has gone largely undocumented. By 1966, Norfolk Debate Society’s outstanding record was 144 wins, 8 losses, and included victories over top opponents: Yale, Princeton, West Point, Oxford, MIT, and Harvard. As a young man incarcerated at MCI-Norfolk, Malcolm X was a member of the Norfolk Debate Society from 1960 to 1964. While incarcerated, Malcolm X copied the dictionary beginning to end, a painstaking effort to free his mind with literacy. He read and wrote voraciously, paving the way for his entrée into the Norfolk Debate Society, the publication of...

What is Reproductive Justice?

“The Reproductive Justice analysis offers a framework for empowering women and girls relevant to every family. Instead of focusing on the means-a divisive debate on abortion and birth control that neglects the real-life experiences of women and girls-the Reproductive Justice analysis focuses on the ends: better lives for women, healthier families, and sustainable communities. This is a clear and consistent message for all social justice movements. Using this analysis, we can integrate multiple issues and bring together constituencies that are multi-racial, multi-generational, and multi-class in order to build a more powerful and relevant grassroots movement." -- Loretta Ross, founding mother of Reproductive Justice, co-founder and the National Coordinator of the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective from 2005-2012. The...

The Real Cost of Prisons Project

Lois Ahrens, founding director of the Real Cost of Prisons Project ( www.realcostofprisons.org ) and long-time activist, is pictured here speaking about bail and bail reform at a #BlackLivesMatter demonstration in February 2015.

Courtesy of: Chelsea Miller

In 2012, Lois Ahrens co-founded the Pretrial Working Group (PWG), a statewide coalition advocating for alternatives to pretrial incarceration, including the elimination of the monetary bail system and opposing construction of new jails in Massachusetts. The group’s website explains, “in Massachusetts, every day, more than 5,000 women and men are jailed pretrial, that is, they have been convicted of nothing. A majority is often held for months only because they do not have money for bail.” The Pretrial...

The State of Public Humiliation

There isn’t anything new about public humiliation and its role in punishment. Throughout history, public humiliation was used to warn others away from committing a crime, while branding some criminals for life. In the United States, the development of Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia during the early nineteenth century was heralded as a reform in the prison system, because convicted felons were imprisoned anonymously. This, in theory, allowed them to reintegrate into society without the stigma that public humiliation created.

Despite such reforms, public humiliation remains a part of the system – and has been reemphasized as a method of punishment – and the dehumanization of criminals continues to be an ongoing issue. With the development of new forms...