I am a formerly incarcerated woman dedicated to memorializing America’s 40 year history of mass incarceration. I plan to document this history through first-hand in-depth video-taped interviews with formerly incarcerated people. The focus of the interview will be on our lives before, during and after release from prison or jail. This project is called Witness to Mass Incarceration.
The model for this project is Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Institute. Mr Spielberg interviewed 55,000 survivors of the Holocaust. This collection of interviews memorialized life before, during and after the Holocaust through first-hand interviews. It is a living history of what people did and are capable of doing to each other. The collection of these interviews is held at the University of Southern California. It is used by scholars and students, librarians, and historians worldwide.
America has a 40 year history of Mass Incarceration. This year alone roughly 20 million are in prison (2.3 million), America’s jails ( 12 million), supervised release ( 5.9 million), and in the juvenile detention or being held in immigration detention centers where all face deportation. Approximately 700,000 are released each year. Roughly 80,000 are hold in solitary confinement each day. A disproportionate number of black, brown and LGBT people are incarcerated.
Statistics alone do not tell the story of prison. Life behind the wall is abusive and violent. The lack of medical and dental care, the physical brutality of prison and being under the absolute power and control of prison officers, leads to life long consequences for returning people.
From incarcerated juveniles to the aging, the impact of prison on the individual, their families and their future is devastating. Witness to Mass Incarceration interview’s will offer insight into this debilitating life experience.
It is my belief, incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people understand prison and know what needs to be changed. We must be the leaders of a grassroots organizing effort to radically change punishment, prison and re-entry.
Manhattan Neighborhood Network (MNN), a local access pubic TV station in New York City is offering their facility to do our interviews. They are giving me programming time to do a series called Witness to Mass Incarceration. Through the taking and subsequent showing of interviews, we will be able to network and organize incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women, demand changes in DOJ policies, educate and advocate for alternatives to prison and challenge the notion of punishment.