October 2, 2020
Welcome to the University of Oklahoma Carceral Studies Consortium Newsletter. The Carceral Studies Consortium strives to build a community for intellectual exploration that includes faculty, staff, graduate students, community members, practitioners, and organizers.

Carceral Studies is concerned with the independent function and nexus of the political and social systems that organize, shape, sustain, and entrench practices of punishment, surveillance, incarceration, and harm.
Today's News
Veteran activists and organizers Kaba and Gilmore converse about the institutions that need to be dismantled and the institutions that need to be invested in for liberation and freedom. They demonstrate the infrastructure and people already imagining and working towards these futures, and Gilmore encourages us to “organize with people who are already organizing.” Abolition, they explain, must be green (protesting environmental degradation), red (distributing the resources needed for all people), and international (consolidating strength by stretching across borders). 

McCoy explores the responses of “disruptive power” to the “multilayered crisis of legitimacy of state institutions.” This summer’s uprisings led to creative reimagining of participatory democracy that will yield more engagement. The new strategies and imaginings underscore the goal of “delegitimizing or abolishing the current system of law enforcement and prisons” because the radical demand “exposes law enforcement’s power and the political establishment’s preference for state violence over community care and economic justice.” Participatory democracy and abolition-democracy engage people in the questions of how to practice and achieve justice. 

Recent outbreaks of Covid-19, including deaths from the virus, in Oklahoma’s prisons is “a moral emergency requiring urgent action to better protect inmates, staff, and vulnerable communities.” Prisons and jails across the U.S. have experienced some of the country’s worst outbreaks, and Oklahoma’s carceral facilities have not escaped. Oklahoma’s prison population is “uniquely vulnerable” because it disproportionately incarcerates older people, people of color, and people with chronic health conditions. Oklahoma has failed to grant medical parole en masse during the pandemic and to conduct widespread testing.

According to a new study by Citigroup, U.S. gross domestic product lost $16 trillion as a result of discrimination against Black people since 2000. The study arrived at this figure by noting four key racial gaps: loss of potential business revenue because of discriminatory lending; lost income because of disparities in wages; losses due to discrimination in providing housing credit; income lost from discrimination in accessing higher education. 


Cowie unpacks and contextualizes the meaning of freedom in the U.S. to argue that “talk of American freedom has long been connected to the presumed right of whites to dominate everyone else.” Oppression and freedom are thus treated as mutually constitutive and working in concert. When noting the hope and promise in a third Reconstruction, Cowie argues that “Few tasks could be more important, urgent, or have higher stakes than” the project of “dismantl[ing] a core element of a nation’s belief system.”

Exploring the long history of policing and surveillance in the U.S., Muhammad and Kumanyika conclude that policing has reflected political and economic power. Emphasizing the political and cultural construction of crime that has bolstered racial and economic supremacy, the historians differentiates crime from harm and argues “The history allows us to decouple the idea of public safety from police.” Kumanyika argues, “We have to stop saying police are broken. We have to start saying police are working.”

The City of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Housing Action reached a tentative agreement to resolve a standoff over two homeless protest encampments and fifteen vacant city-owned homes occupied by mothers and children. In the “largest self-organized housing takeover in the country, 50 homeless mothers and children to remain in 15 vacant city-owned homes, homeless protest encampments to take additional houses.” The 50 city-owned houses will be transferred to a trust set up by a coalition of housing activists for use as extremely low-income housing. The direct action of occupying vacant homes sets a precedent for the power of the people to reclaim resources and stabilize the community. 

This article is part of a series that explores “Black ecologies”: “Black ecologies charts Black peoples’ seemingly endless proximity to disaster.” Williams argues that Black ecologies link policing and environmental justice by conceiving of “Black ecologies as embodying how environmental habitats are used to enact and hide modes of anti-Black violence.” The article explores University of Chicago’s history to analyze the connections between Chicago's urban conservation, private property, and policing. 

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The Consortium Newsletter will offer a roundup of a few selected articles that reflect today’s news, organizing, and thinking related to the carceral state. We understand that freedom work is built on education and engagement. Education requires an understanding of contemporary issues informed by their historical context. We hope that these curated articles will help you analyze the issues that we face and understand the community that we strive to construct.

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