Friday, February 24, 2012

Occupy San Quentin

This past Monday, President's Day, was also National Occupy 4 Prisoners Day.  Matt, his 8 year old son, and I trekked over to San Quentin (navigating around all the closed exits and police barricades) to take part in the movement.  It was a peaceful protest outside the prison gates, the goals of which included:

*amend the 3 Strikes Law
*end the death penalty
*fair treatment for prisoners (medical care, etc.)
*stop trying juveniles as adults
*no more shackling of pregnant women

among many others.  Our nation is spending billions of dollars incarcerating 2.4 million people, the majority of whom are nonviolent offenders.  Prisoners work (often grueling) jobs for 12 cents an hour, profiting companies who contract with prisons for cheap labor.  It's incredible to think of the education and rehabilitation (community centers, tutoring, arts programs, therapy, scholarships, school resources) that could happen if we weren't spending so much on prisons.

Working on the latest Voice of Witness book really made me think about how, with the right combination of bad luck/family neglect/natural disaster/etc., any of us could end up in prison.

Here are some pictures from the event:

wall of guards inside the East Gate
(the gate I go through every Monday night to teach class)

fence where folks were encouraged to leave notes for prisoners
(photographs of the fence will be shared with inmates)

It's always really powerful being surrounded by people who are so committed to justice.  There were around 700 people at San Quentin, demonstrating solidarity and passion for positive change.  It was a really diverse crowd: people like Matt and me, who have worked in prisons and juvenile halls; people who had served time in juvenile hall, jail, and prison; activists like Barbara Becnel (Stan Tookie Williams' best friend and co-author); etc.  I'm glad we brought Jasper, too--he was focused on his Nintendo DS most of the time, but in the end, we had some great conversations with him about what the movement is about.  That kid is sharp as a tack, I tell you.

Here's the San Francisco Chronicle article about the event, here's an interesting and well-written article on the Prison Industrial Complex if you're interested, and here's Matt's blog post about our Monday at San Quentin.

Happy Friday!


undomestic chica said...

WHAT?! How did I not know you worked on a book?! It sounds incredible. I think I'll need to pick up a copy. I LOVE that you guys got Jasper involved, I hope to raise socially conscious children too.

bananas. said...

i love your passsion's truly inspiring!

i don't think i know enough to have a strong opinion. guess i better do my research! but after a few rounds at mua.


starnes family said...

I love your passion, too. And, you've opened my eyes to the WM3 and others like them.

Would love to see a blog post on what your ideas for change would be. I am a conservative by nature, but do not believe in the death penalty. So, I'm often torn with what the solution is.

Would you be willing to make some suggestions?

Emily said...

What a great event!!!! California definitely needs to reform and focus more time, energy, and money on sexual predators and serious criminals....and LESS time on the small time, drug related stuff.

Thanks for peacefully protesting.

Girlie Blogger said...

Bet it was invigorating being around all these passionate people who are rallying for a cause. Great post!

Meghan said...

This sounds like an amazing event, and I love that people can leave notes. I teach my students about our prison system, and they are always appalled at the fact that so many of our prisoners are nonviolent offenders!

Faiza said...

loved reading your post and matt's. his way of including jasper was gentle, inclusive and for lack of a better word...real. what an honest way to involve jasper.

The Poppy Creative said...

This is so awesome claire, and yet I find it really odd that I can write that because the fact that there had to be a protest in the first place means that there is nothing cool about it at all.

You are an inspiring and amazing woman! And I personally think it is an incredible thing youa re doing!

Miss Caitlin S. said...

I love that you are writing about social issues like this, I would love to come and observe this! always interesting to watch things unfold in a peaceful protest.

melifaif said...

Good for will forever inspire me. Makes me smile....

Micaela said...

i can't imagine an atmosphere like this and love that you can share something you're so passionate about with the people you love.

i agree, you will forever inspire me. <3

Ocean Dreams said...

Good for you for being involved in this great social cause and love your passion! Also - how cool is a book?! Thanks for making a difference. :)