Essay:Prison solidarity

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Prison solidarity efforts involve showing moral and other forms of support to those who are incarcerated. In the past, this often involved sending care packages usually containing food; for security reasons, modern prison systems typically no longer allow such packages. Prison solidarity can also take the form of visiting prisoners, having books sent in (directly from the publisher, in most cases), engaging in correspondence with prisoners, and wiring money to prisoners' accounts.

Certain religions and political movements have tended to engage in more prison solidarity activities than others. For example, the anarchist and left-libertarian movements have been rather active in publishing and sending to prisoners zines, often containing content contributed by prisoners. Their interest in such prison solidarity is probably due to their favoring direct action, including some illegal activities, as a means of revolution. The boylover movement, including offshoots of the largely defunct NAMbLA, has also shown a great deal of support to its incarcerated members by sending in newsletters, holiday cards, letters, electronic messages (e.g. via the Federal Bureau of Prisons TRULINCS/CorrLinks electronic messaging system), and so on. One theory for why they have been so active in this regard is that the boylover movement has historically been closely associated with the gay rights movement, whose members have become somewhat battle-hardened from years of persecution, and have learned to take care of their own and present a united front.

Prison solidarity efforts tend to be logistically difficult due to the challenges of dealing with a bureaucratic system designed to isolate criminals from the community. Books and other mail are routinely censored on dubious grounds, and prisoners are often falsely accused of infractions and consequently denied visitation, telephone, and electronic messaging privileges. Visitation can also be arbitrarily denied if the visitor has a criminal record or for other reasons, such as an ion spectrometer having a false positive reading for drugs due to a malfunction in the machine[1] or, perhaps, the visitor's having handled money that contained traces of illicit substances. Aside from the left-libertarians, the libertarian movement has generally not focused much on prison solidarity, perhaps because it deems it to be more productive to change the laws in such a way as to keep people out of prison, rather than to expend resources helping those who are already in prison.


  1. Lombardi, Kristen (17 October 2012). "False alarm". The Phoenix.