How do you build community inside to ground yourself and escape from the daily reality of incarceration?
How do you attempt to heal your families and communities during your loved one’s incarceration and after your loved one’s return home?
Alameda County was awarded a $54 million state grant to construct a new “health services” unit at Santa Rita Jail, which would require the county to provide $7.3 million in matching construction funds and millions more to operate it. Santa Rita is the 5th largest jail in the nation, yet due to decreasing incarceration rates, is operating at only 60% of its capacity with 3 empty units. About 78% of the county’s jail population have not even been convicted of a crime but are only there because they can’t afford bail or have violated their probation terms.
In addition, roughly 20-25% of the jail population have some form of documented mental illness. However, the jail is clearly unequipped to treat mental illness, with only 11 mental health clinicians serving about 2,500 inmates and huge gaps in drug treatment, provision of medication, discharge planning, re-entry, and other crucial services. There have also been a string of public scandals including suicides, deaths, abuse by deputies, and coerced abortions, which further demonstrate that jail is a wholly inappropriate setting for mental health treatment and that the money would be better spent on community-based care, prevention and diversion programs.
Who We Are:
Decarcerate Alameda County (DAC) an Oakland-based group of freedom fighters who joined together in 2015 to fight the construction of a new “mental health” unit at Santa Rita Jail through direct action, community education, jail outreach, research on alternatives, and advocacy in local government. Through connecting with people currently held inside our local county jails, their loved ones, and community members we learned that there is no such thing as “mental health care in a cage”. Jails and prisons are by design dehumanizing, isolating, and violent places that traumatize, terrorize, and exacerbate mental health issues. We believe cages and hurting should be replaced with care and healing, so we lift up community-based alternatives to incarceration, including investment in housing, education, healthcare, jobs, and all the things our community needs to thrive.
Prison Renaissance is a nonprofit organization created and run by incarcerated artists, editors, and publishers inside California prisons who use art, media, and technology to transform the lives of communities inside as well as outside. They use their artistic and editorial labor to fight for the rights and affirm the humanity of incarcerated folks.
DAC and Prison Renaissance have come together to build Care not Cages: A People’s Guide to Healing, a zine* and video series, including comics, illustrations, written pieces, poetry, and other forms of expression to give voice to the positive ways people impacted by the criminal (in)justice system take care of our own mental health. The project will feature the wisdom of incarcerated folks on how they resist dehumanization and remain strong in the face of state violence and imprisonment.
“Law enforcement departments don’t have the answers - they are, in fact the problem - and we need to stop supporting the state’s solutions. We have our own solutions.”
“Circulating zines is a way to connect incarcerated and free communities in relationships of mutual empowerment and care.”
- Rahsaan Thomas, Co-founder of Prison Renaissance
*What’s a zine? A zine is a do-it-yourself way of piecing together works of art, writing, and photos into a booklet format that is stapled together. Lots of artist and underground communities use zines as a way to document their culture, collect inspiration, and share resistance strategies anonymously.
How Funding Will Be Used:
We are asking to partner with you in the creation of Care Not Cages. Our goal is to raise $5000 (we’ve already raised $2000) to publish in Spring 2018. Any amount you can donate will help!
Funding will be used to provide honorariums to folks inside who share their wisdom and contribute their labor to this project.
Prison Renaissance will be provided a substantial honorarium for their leadership and vision.
Donations will also cover expenses for:
- Communication across prison walls including phone and video calls, and postage
- Printing and distributing the zines
- A launch event for the community in Spring 2018
Individual members of DAC and Prison Renaissance are donating their time and labor to this project and will not be compensated.
We are so excited to provide a platform for folks inside to voice and share their wisdom and resilience. Please help us make this project a reality!
If you have friends or loved ones who would like to contribute to this art project, please contact us.