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2023’s final issue of Critical Resistance’s cross-wall bilingual newspaper, The Abolitionist— this time focused on control units—, is heading to print at our new printing press and will be en route to about 4,800 subscribers inside and outside of cages in the coming weeks. About 1,000 additional print copies are available for distribution, too!

Check out Issue 40’s Letter from the Editors below, as well as an early release sneak peek articlean interview with former political prisoner Susan Rosenberg on shutting down a control unit for women in Kentucky.

Like what you see? Support the project and subscribe today. All paid subscriptions for allies outside of cages sponsor free subscriptions for imprisoned people. If you know someone locked up who would like a free subscription, sign them up here

Want more from The Abolitionist? 2024 has two great issues in store: #41, will print in June 2024, featuring articles on environmental justice; and #42, printing in November/December 2024 features anti-war organizing.

Be sure to check out all of our past issues on our website here (including Issue 39 on Reproductive Justice printed in June now finally available for free download), and our new podcast show “Over the Wall: The Abolitionist Hour,” collaboration with Beyond Prisons Podcast. Episode 2 on Issue 40 will air this month (December 2023).

 

This issue is the first printed with our new printing press, Folger Graphics, after many years of working with Fricke-Parks Press who recently closed. Critical Resistance looks forward to this new partnership and is very fortunate and grateful to still be able to publish The Abolitionist as newsprint becomes more and more rare. Thank you, Folger Graphics!

 

Issue 40 on Control Units:

Letter from the Editors

 

Beloved Readers of The Abolitionist,

Behold our final issue of 2023–Issue 40 featuring articles on control units. Across the globe, state violence escalates to repress liberation movements. As referenced in this issue’s Critical Resistance (CR) Updates and Movement Highlights column (pg 22) and “Until All Are Free” Political Prisoner news (pg 26), in September of this year, 61 people affiliated with the Stop Cop City campaign in Atlanta were charged under Georgia’s Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) law in an attempt to delegitimize the Stop Cop City movement as a “criminal conspiracy.” A month later on October 7, apartheid Israel escalated its genocidal campaign against the people of Gaza. With over 15,000 Palestinians murdered and over 35,000 injured in only eight weeks, the overlapping crises of Israel’s ongoing genocidal attacks which have collapsed Gaza’s healthcare system, COVID-19, and climate disaster have made conditions unlivable for over 2 million Palestinians, igniting powerful worldwide solidarity demanding an immediate and permanent ceasefire and for Palestine to be free.

 

As we write this letter at the end of November before heading to print in early December, Israel and Palestine enter a temporary pause for a long-anticipated prisoner exchange resulting in the release of over 117 Palestinian political prisoners so far, most of whom are women and children detained indefinitely without trial or charge under Israel’s administrative detention. Meanwhile, Israel has continued raiding Palestinians homes in the West Bank, arresting over 116. From Palestine to the US, the systems and conditions we fight against are varied and distinct, yet the prison industrial complex (PIC) remains the boot on all of our necks—ready to criminalize, control, imprison, police, kill, harm, and repress our communities and our movements. At CR, we understand control units as a foundational—and particularly violent—repressive tool of the PIC we must vehemently oppose and organize to abolish.

 

While control units may vary in name, regulation, and logistics, across geographies they are an imprisonment strategy designed to break our will to resist. The issue’s feature analysis article ( page 4) by longtime anti-prison activist and author Nancy Kurshan traces the origins of the first control unit in the US, the campaign to shut down the first lockdown at USP Marion, the development of control units as a counterinsurgency strategy to destroy revolutionary movements on both sides of the wall, and the proliferation of control units since the 1980s. Similarly, in an interview with former political prisoner Susan Rosenberg (page 6), we examine how the Lexington High Security Unit in Kentucky was designed to torture and break women political prisoners as Susan reflects on a successful campaign to shut it down. Because resisting control units now in the 2020s is quite different than in the 1980s, we include an original piece by The Abolitionist Project Coordinator Molly Porzig on CR’s work with Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition supporting prisoners wage the largest action of its kind in US prison history. Based on conversations with coalition partners Marie Levin and “Comrade Pops,” the piece discusses the necessity and power of disciplined prisoner leadership, of cross-racial unity across imprisoned resistance, international solidarity, and family members fighting back all to defy solitary confinement.

 

These pieces are accompanied by a set of feature articles covering other strategies and reflections for resisting control units, including a piece by the Rome Assembly Against Prison and Repression analyzing the 41-bis regime, known as ‘carcere duro,’ or long-term solitary confinement that targets political threats including the mafia and anti-capitalists in Italy, as well as a compilation of insights from US prisoners Kenjuan Congo, Kamau, James Anderson, and Gulley Britney detailing their personal experiences and reflections enduring control units in this issue’s feature Prisoner SpeakOut. Building off of Gulley Britney’s submission persevering as a transgender person inside, longtime LGBTQ movement lawyer Jen Orthwein’s article explores how the normalized practice of isolating transgender prisoners in control units further compounds the violence trans and gender nonconforming people face while imprisoned, and offers insights into past and present resistance to this practice, questioning the cheap liberal reforms that are hardly wins for trans liberation.

 

Given the grave weight of this issue’s content, CR has created a new resource guide “Surviving Solitary,” which imprisoned subscribers can write to us to request a copy. For issue 40, we preview a series of interviews with solitary survivors including CR co-founder Masai Ehehosi, CR community advisor Laura Whitehorn, along with Keith LaMar, Levi Springer, and Jo’an Dunn to highlight the resource guide (on pg 1).

 

Throughout each feature article, Issue 40 explores the dialectical relationship between repression and resistance, while also uplifting the ways in which imprisoned people have fortified their will to fight in the face of tortuous conditions. In the wake of more mainstream recognition of both the pervasiveness and torturous design of solitary confinement, calls for reform aimed at reducing the harms of control units by shortening the length of solitary, like California’s Mandela Act—which would set a 15 consecutive-day limit for how long prisoners can be caged in control units within a 60-day period—gain traction. With this issue, CR hopes to interrupt half-measures that fail to challenge the legitimacy of the PIC and hinder PIC abolitionists’ ability to dismantle control units entirely. Imprisoned columnist Stevie Wilson reinforces this objective with this issue’s 9971 article, where he breaks down how liberal reformers have diluted the demand to abolish solitary confinement, and urges us all to commit to developing new tactics and strategies in the fight against control units. Meanwhile, this issue’s Inside-Outside Fishing Line examines the nebulous practices of solitary confinement across different units of imprisonment in a cross-wall conversation with imprisoned organizers in Washington State called “Psychological Warfare By Any Name.”

 

Forced isolation is used as a weapon to deprive our humanity and kill our movements because we are mightiest when we stand together as a collective. Flex your muscles for building collectivity and care inside with this issue’s Abby Throwback, a reprint resource from The Icarus Project on building mutual aid. Be sure to check out the submission guidelines in the Call for Content on page 28 and then write to us. Our next issue, the first of 2024, will print in June focused on environmental justice.

 

From the streets to the dungeons of the PIC, we are sending each of you radical love, strength, and undying freedom dreams.

Yours in struggle,
-Critical Resistance & The Abolitionist Editorial Collective

 

List of Issue 40 Contributors

  • American Friends Service Committee
  • Comrade Pops
  • Felix Sitthivong
  • Greg Messenger
  • Gulley Britney
  • The Icarus Project
  • James Anderson
  • Jeffrey McKee
  • Jen Orthwein
  • Jo’an Dunn
  • Jonathan “JoJo” Ejonga-Lihau
  • Kamau
  • Keith LaMar (aka Bomani Shakur)
  • Kenjuan Congo Jr
  • Laura Whitehorn
  • Levi Springer
  • Marie Levin
  • Masai Ehehosi
  • Molly Porzig
  • Nancy Kurshan
  • Ralph Dunuan
  • The Rome Assembly Against Prison and Repression
  • Stephanie Greene
  • Stevie Wilson
  • Susan Rosenberg
  • Tomas Afeworki
  • Trenton Rush & The REAL Youth Initiative