September 16, 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
This poem meditates on the dual threats of COVID-19 and being Black in America. Layman concludes: “I want us to be free. I know what I feel... It took way too much Black death to get here, and here is where I’d love to live without guns, without prisons, without monuments of humiliation, without the undervalued expected sacrifice of essential workers, without the worst of white folks.”

This investigative report into fatal police shootings of women. Breonna Taylor’s “killing has also brought into focus an often overlooked but consistent subset of people fatally shot by police—women.” The report details the circumstances of this shootings, and shows that “Black women are fatally shot at rates higher than women of other races.”

University of Michigan's graduate students voted to strike on Sep. 7. While the University administration has filed an injunction against GEO, studnets continue to demand a safe and just campus. The strike demands include support, testing, and safety in response to COVID-19 and a list of anti-policing demands for a "disarmed and demilitarized workplace" with the University cutting "all ties with police" including local Ann Arbor PD and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

In response to activists calling to limit the scope and budget of police departments, Denver launched Support Team Assistance Response (STAR). STAR, which sends a mental health professional and paramedic rather than police for some emergency calls, is “replacing police in matters that doesn't threaten public safety and are often connected to unmet mental or physical needs.” STAR professionals try to help people “instead of putting people in handcuffs,” and the pilot program has thus far responded to over 350 calls without needing to call in police backup. 

In a sign of the shifting ideals and practice of labor organizing, Kooper Caraway, who “became aware of the inequities of social class at any early age,” was elected the new president of the South Dakota AFL-CIO. Caraway, a young person of color, replaces the past president who is a, "old, white (and bigoted, as it turned out) reactionary” person. Caraway’s vision of a broadly inclusive labor coalition is informed by his belief in a Black Panther-style self determination, which “he’s always felt could (and should) translate over to the labor movement.” 

The Great Depression simultaneously destroyed the lives of and radicalized workers across the U.S., especially poor Black tenant farmers in the South. Wood argues, “One of the defining themes in these workers’ political world view was the completion of the project of Reconstruction.” As Black workers organized for collective civil and economic rights with the Communist Party in Alabama, they were met with hostility from the state--oftentimes violent--against their collective resistance. 

Taylor argues that the “radicalization of young Black professional athletes is a stunning development in this unfolding, raucous movement, one that demonstrates the sheer scale of racial inequality and a deep need to do something about it.” As women's basketball players have been at the front of athlete’s activism, other athletes, particularly in the NBA, followed suit after the uprisings in Kenosha to protest and “force white America to recognize the humanness of ordinary Black people.” 

Serwer argues that in this moment—in the midst of a radical reckoning on race, economy, and health—Americans will need to reconstruct the U.S. and "could endeavor to resolve the unfinished work of the nation’s past Reconstructions.” The unrealized promises of democracy could be fulfilled by reconceptualizing race and capitalism in society. In the aftermath of the coronavirus, the U.S. will require reconstruction, and “it will take an even greater effort to do so in a manner that does not simply reproduce existing inequities.”

This essay traces Du Bois’s radical project of a “People’s College” in Atlanta oriented “toward the welfare and sustainability of the whole community.” Douglas argues that “Du Bois wanted students to reflect on how best to engage Black working people in serious consideration of the structural inequalities and crisis tendencies endemic to global capitalism, past and present.” This project considered college and education as a partnership with the people.


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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