Below you will find some descriptions of each study group that this site will serve as a platform for. The goal of this site is to provide a line of communication and information from the inside-out and offer a model for other prison activists to learn from and replicate throughout the country.
Smithfield Abolition Study Squad (SASS)
SASS was the longest running study group at SCI-SMITHFIELD. It meets monthly and is comprised of members of the prison’s LGBTQ support group. Its focus is penal abolition theory and practice that centers the lived experiences of queer/trans folk with policing, imprisonment and parole/probation. Texts SASS has studied and discussed include QUEER IN(JUSTICE), CAPTIVE GENDERS and Invisible NO MORE. Its current iteration at SCI Fayette is the openly held meetings that Stevie hosts for everyone in general population.
9971 is an abolitionist study group that is open to everyone. It meets monthly and is our largest study group. Our studies include Black feminist thought, Black radical thought, queer/trans liberation, indigenous struggles, disability justice, capitalism and the history of social justice movements. Texts studied and discussed include ARE PRISONS OBSOLETE?, RETHINKING THE AMERICAN PRISON MOVEMENT, and BLACK FEMINIST THOUGHT.
This is our restorative/transformative justice study group. It meets weekly and is comprised of some of the youngest prisoners here. Each member has made a commitment to responsible, healthy behavior. In this group, members learn about restorative justice, transformative justice, conflict resolution, and mediation. They learn how to engage the accountability process. Reading and exercises include pod mapping, roleplaying new interpersonal skills, creating healing and peace circles.
Haymarket Books Reading Club
This group is currently limited to a handful of prisoners. It’s a collaborative project with Haymarket Books (based in Chicago). Each month, members receive Haymarket published book and discussion questions. The group meets monthly. These are typically books on marginalized histories of social movements and philosophical books on class struggle, anarchism, Marxism, feminism, and national liberation struggles.
COMMENTS FROM GROUP PARTICIPANTS:
“Until I joined 9971, I never thought about how, even as a prisoner, I benefited from the oppression of other people or groups, like women, disabled or queer people. The group challenged me to see the ways I claimed privilege.”
“Studying made me rethink my definitions of community, safety and justice.”
“You can’t fight the enemy if you don’t know who he is. Until reading ARE PRISONS OBSOLETE?, I didn’t know who or what caused our suffering. Now I know that other prisoners aren’t the enemy, but the PIC is.”
“I wish people would ignore mainstream media depictions of prisons and prisoners and get to know us. Shows like ’60 Days In,’ give a false impression of what goes on in here. These false ideas are the basis of bad policies.”
“I will not be headlocked by my past.”
“I’m learning to separate myself from the habits of thought that reinforce and sustain a domination mentality.”
“There’s so much talk about preparing prisoner for reentry into society, but who’s preparing society for our reentry?”
“If you have a hard heart, you’ll never see people as individuals.”
“I’ve realized how even our speech is violent. We say things like, ‘I’ll holler at you later,’ or ‘I’ll punch at you later.’ We describe sex as ‘smashing,’ ‘crushing,’ or ‘pounding.’ What does that say about our mentality?”
“The PIC never entertains questions of morality; it’s always about profitability.”
“Transgender people are marginalized in free society. Imagine what they face in here.”
“If people aren’t allowed to safely express themselves, we will never be able to really dialogue.”
“How do I perform nontoxic masculinity without turning it into femininity?”