Connecting the Dots

“I told the guys how the students were successful in their demands and how that win positively impacts us. They thought what the students did was great and were surprised that young college folk in New York even cared. I told them how there is a whole movement out there that is fighting against the PIC and that all of us need to be involved”

“I told the guys how the students were successful in their demands and how that win positively impacts us. They thought what the students did was great and were surprised that young college folk in New York even cared. I told them how there is a whole movement out there that is fighting against the PIC and that all of us need to be involved”


Earlier today, I took a shower. The showers are four adjacent stalls. Three other prisoners were taking showers too. As usual, we struck up a conversation. This one was about how much prison has changed and is getting worse. One prisoner, who has been incarcerated twenty years, commented on the psychological and mental harm prison enacts upon us. He mentioned how it may not be as physically dangerous as it used to be, due to prisoners not harming each other as much as before, but it has become much more of a mind battle today.

He talked about the food and how the quality and quantity have gotten worse. He mentioned Aramark and how it has exploited the prison food service industry. Aramark gets the food service contract and reduces the meal portions. Then, it bids for the commissary contract. They feed us less and force us to buy commissary from them. Talk about creating a demand!

At this point, I saw a way to open a conversation about abolition. I told the guys about how last year I was contacted by a group of students at New York University who had taken over the main library and were protesting NYU’s dining services contract with Aramark. The students wanted NYU to cancel business with Aramark which profits off prisons. The students were able to connect what was happening to us, prisoners, to what was happening out there. I used this example to show how often the companies and interests groups that profit off the PIC and who exploit our schools and neighborhoods are one and the same. Only through joint efforts to confront these forces can we win.

I told the guys how the students were successful in their demands and how that win positively impacts us. They thought what the students did was great and were surprised that young college folk in New York even cared. I told them how there is a whole movement out there that is fighting against the PIC and that all of us need to be involved. This conversation became an opening to introduce abolition to people who had never heard of penal abolition. I look for times like this to introduce this work to people whom I feel should be not only concerned with it, but providing direction to it. Sometimes, all it takes is being aware of what is happening around us. These moments happen daily. We just have to be open to them.



Abolition in Action

Two months ago, a friend and fellow prisoner, prepared to max out her sentence. She is a Black trans woman who had to do her time in a men’s prison: over two decades of time. The world has changed tremendously since she came to prison. I worried about her transitioning to the “free” world. She didn’t have a strong support system out there.

I was able to connect her to some abolitionists in NY and PA. I wanted her to know that there are people out there who care about her, that don’t want to see back inside. Before she left the prison, she had spoken to some of these folks on the phone. They created a fund to help her prepare for release. When she found out, she was grateful and floored by their generosity. These abolitionists even spoke with her family to ensure she had a home to go to upon release. They even got her furniture. When she left, she knew she had a support team. And I am glad she did.

Her living situation turned ugly. She had to face transphobia daily. She persevered, but enough is enough. I had her promise me, before she left, that she would use her network if things got bad. I didn’t want her to fall into despair and end up back inside.

She held onto that promise. In the face of severe transphobia, feeling despondent, she reached out. And abolitionists were there to support her. She is able now, through the efforts and generosity of others, to get her own place. She is working, but needed help with the move in. And help she got. This is abolition in action.

Recently, I asked people to define abolition in just six words. Two people, one in Illinois and the other in New Jersey, paraphrased Ruthie Gilmore: not just absence, but a presence. Abolition is very much so a presence. It is about what is there and/or what we are building to be there. It is not just about eliminating something (e.g., police and prisons); it is about creating what we need to live, love and thrive. What these abolitionists did was about being present for another human being.

More and more, I am discovering that a major part of abolitionist praxis is just showing up, being present for others. How else will we be in and grow community? It is showing up that really demonstrates abolition to others. We are creating the world we want to live in. A world of care, concern, and connection.

I want to thank those people involved in supporting my, our, friend. She knows abolition is real. Their actions were the best possible advertisement of abolition. These folks know who they are so I haven’t named them. They are living abolition. Thank you.



The Importance of Staying Connected

Across this country, there has been a tremendous outpouring of solidarity and love for imprisoned persons. We are thankful.

As an organizer, I often talk about the need for connections across the walls. Our success is relative to the strength of relationships. In this time of crisis, the deepening and forging of relationships between imprisoned folks and outside supporters and allies have created opportunities for prisoners to build better bonds amongst themselves.

These new bonds and the cooperation they engender among prisoners has not been met with joy from officers. Across the nation, especially in places like California and New York, any measures to prevent prisoners from being infected are met with hostility. Because the officers cannot openly display hostility toward their bosses, they take it out on prisoners. Measures put in place to mitigate the possibility of an officer or staff member infected prisoners, the only way it could happen, are railed against. Officers begrudgingly implement protocols designed to protect prisoners from infection. Often, they retaliate by denying us basic items and opportunities to contact the outside world. And these are considered light retaliation. Some officers have assaulted prisoners.

All of this makes staying connected even more important. You won’t know what is going on inside if you don’t stay connected to someone inside. The DOC’s continue to lie to the public about what they are doing and what has been done. So please stay in touch with people inside. Your support goes a long way. Sometimes, it is the only thing that keeps the officers from harming us.

In Struggle,








Demands from Stevie

Currently our demands center on two things:

1. Releasing prisoners, especially those with compromised immune systems and the elderly (over 50). Also, we hold that all pretrial detainees who have been entered into bail should be released. They are being held due to poverty. Lastly, those with clemency and parole petitions should have their decisions and releases expedited. Healthcare inside is notoriously negligent. While all of us are vulnerable, certain populations face more vulnerability. They should be prioritized for release.

2. Prevention measures should be taken that mitigate the chances of prisoner becoming infected. Most important, the DOC needs to enact measures that protect prisoners from being infected by their employees. The only way we will become infected is if the staff brings COVID19 inside. Proactive steps need to be taken to diminish, if not to eliminate, the chances of this occurring. Currently, little is being done to prevent DOC staff from infecting prisoners.

We are fundraising for toiletries and cleaning supplies. The DOC does not provide these items for us. We need help boosting this fundraiser. Any assistance will be appreciated. A bar of soap costs .90. Prisoners make .19 an hour and 25% of it is automatically deducted for fines and court costs. And now, people are not able to work due to restrictions on movement inside. A little help will go a long way. Thanks.

[Venmo: @ijalexander || CashApp: $ijalexander || PayPal: –IA]




Solidarity with Striking Prisoners!

Right now, prisoners on Rikers Island and in Essex County, NJ jail are hunger striking for basic protection from and preventive measures against contracting COVID19. They should not have to go on hunger strike for these things to occur, but as usual, jail administrators refuse to prioritize prisoners’ health and well being. I fully support these prisoners and their demands. Moreover, most county prisoners are pretrial detainees, poor people who have not been found guilty of any crime. They should be immediately released from jail. Healthcare in jail is notoriously negligent. Prisoners are among the most vulnerable populations. Once inside, the virus will spread like wildfire. And neither Rikers Island or Essex County is truly prepared to deal with this pandemic. Release prisoners now!

I ask that everyone support these prisoners’ actions and amplify their voices and demands. Let the jail administrators know that we are fully behind the prisoners.

In Solidarity,




From: Wilson, Stephen

Date Received: 03/12/2020 06:22 PM


For the past two days, the PA DOC has finally thinking about the coronavirus and how to protect prisoners from it. Only over the past two days! Announcements have been played over the prison television station reminding prisoners to wash our hands frequently and cover our coughs. The usual mandatory co-payment for medical services has been suspended for those with flu-like symptoms. A post up relating what COVID19 is and how it is contracted is circulating too. Lastly, the monthly van and bus visits have been cancelled. We are anticipating a possible lockdown too.

But here’s the thing. We, prisoners, are already quarantined. The only way we will contract the virus is if one of the employees of the PA DOC brings it inside. We have repeatedly stated this to staff. All these precautions they put in place are to keep prisoners from spreading the virus to one another. What are they doing about the only avenue for the virus to get inside? What are they doing to insure their staff don’t infect us? Because if the virus gets inside, we are done. When anyone on the block gets a cold, almost half the block ends up with it. We are crammed together in cells, on blocks and in rooms. Our ventilation system is the worst.

What is more ironic is how here, at SCI-Fayette, prisoners are not given adequate time to clean their living space. Once a week, 32 cells are given 15 minutes to clean their entire cell. The prisoners must share 1 mop, 2 brooms, 2 spray bottles and one toilet brush. 15 minutes! How are we expected to keep clean living spaces with with less that 30 seconds a piece to clean up? It makes me wonder how concerned is the DOC about our health. Moreover, we are prohibited from possessing any cleaning materials or supplies. And now there’s COVID19.

The PA DOC has to put on a show of concern for prisoners’ health. If there were truly concerned, they would allow us to clean ourselves and our living spaces thoroughly. If they were truly concern, they wouldn’t make prisoners choose between hygiene products and a co payment for medical services. A prisoner must work 40 hours to cover the cost of a sick call visit and a prescription for ibuprofen. If they were truly concerned about our health, we wouldn’t be housed next to over 400 acres of coal ash dust. But as usual, when disaster strikes, prisoners are an afterthought.

I hope that people understand how vulnerable prisoners are in situations like this one. We need people to advocate for responsible health services for all prisoners, even when there is no pandemic. .

In Struggle,


Centering the Most Vulnerable Means Challenging the “Movement-for-Prisoners’-Human-Rights” with Queer Analysis and Action

A few years ago, the Lifers’ Association at Smithfield sponsored a forum with CADBI (Coalition Against Death By Incarceration). It was to be an info session, an introduction to the group’s work and how we could become involved. This was the first time something like this took place at Smithfield. As expected, lots of prisoners showed up.

When the coalition members took their seats at a table placed in front of the crowd of prisoners, I immediately noticed the composition, the make-up of the group of presenters: one cis-heterosexual white male, four cisgender women (one white, one black, one Southeast Asian and one Latina), and one white gender nonconforming person. It wasn’t lost on me that not one cis-het man of color was part of the group. I wondered if the other prisoners saw what I was seeing?

Time and time again, activists, often women (cis and trans) are outside these walls and fences fighting on prisoners’ behalf. This work is often a second, third, even fourth job for some of them. Queer, trans and GNC folk are out there advocating for and supporting prisoners. Look around at almost any meeting on penal abolition or prisoner support and you will see many women and queer/trans and GNC folk of different colors. Cis-het men of color have continued to benefit from the work, the sweat, of women and queer/trans and GNC folk, but they refuse to show solidarity to us, behind the walls and outside of them too. It is time they are called out for this lack of reciprocity. They are quick to stick their hands out, expecting the world to come to their aid. But they turn their backs on us. Truth be told, many cis-het men of color out there are not organizing to help them. We are. And it’s time for them to acknowledge that truth and respect it.

Countless prisoner-led activist groups, like Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, seem to refuse this type of critical intervention. They use the “outsiders shouldn’t tell us what to do” line to deflect accusations of homophobia, transphobia and misogyny. They want support without critique. No one is entitled to that. Even imprisoned activists. 

with love and respect,

for all who consider my humanity,

for the humanity of all queer, trans, and gender nonconforming peoples


You can write to Stevie at

Stephen Wilson LB8480; SCI Fayette PO Box 33028 St. Petersburg FL 33733

Stevie’s Reflections on bell hooks’ Feminism is for Everybody

bell hooks writes, in the introduction of “Feminism is for Everybody,”: “More than ever before, I work to share the liberating joy feminist struggle brings to our lives as females and males who continue to work for change, who continue to hope for an end to sexism, to sexist exploitation and oppression.”

As I read this sentence, I couldn’t help but wonder: where is the liberating joy in abolitionist struggle? We should be joyous. We should feel better about the work we’re doing. But so often, we don’t. What are we doing wrong? Where is our joy in community? Where is our joy in working to create a world where everyone is valued? So often, we come off as the Angry Activists. Where do you find and experience joy in the work?

bell hooks continues:

“I work to envision ways of bringing the meaning of feminist thinking and practice to a larger audience, to the masses.”

This is a major goal of mine. I feel there are people, those with incarceration experience and their loved ones, who should and would embrace abolitionist thinking and practice if we would talk to them. Often times, we are talking to each other in a language that sounds foreign to them. I tell people, if a person needs a dictionary to understand your essay, article or book, they’re not going to read your work. Abolition is for everyone. But we have to remember our audiences. So many of us spend lots of time preaching to the choir. We write for other academicians or veterans of the movement. We need to make our messages intelligible to the masses, especially those most impacted. What can we do to effectuate this goal?

Solidarity with all Mississippi Prisoners

Sending strength and love to all Mississippi prisoners. I stand with you. The metalanguage of prison is violence so the only way to eliminate the violence is to eliminate the prison. In every prison and jail in the country, correctional officers are the major instigators and perpetrators of violence. Every order is punctuated with the understanding that acquiescence is demanded or a beat down is coming, no matter how ridiculous or dangerous the order is to the prisoners health and safety.

Former Governor Haley Barbour spoke the truth when he said overcrowding is the major issue. The violence has nothing to do with officers’ pay rate. More cops never equals more safety. We see this everyday in free society. When has more cops created more safety? All we get with more cops is more arrests and more violence. The same applies to the prison.

In Bell v. Wolfish, the SCOTUS, okayed double-celling. Prisoners and their supporters argued against double-celling, citing safety and health issues. Prison officials were all for double-celling as it increased their population capacity. Now, we are seeing just what that ruling has brought us. This past week in PA, at SCI-Fayette, a prisoner died after a cell fight. Double celling is a problem. The administration does not consider prisoner safety when double celling, often housing gang rivals in the same cell. Queer/trans prisoners often find themselves housed within people hostile to their existence.

To end violence in prisons, we need to end prisons. There is no other way to make prison, an inherently violent site, safe for humans.

In Struggle,


On Building Community

When I entered SCI-Smithfield, I wasn’t an abolitionist. I was what we would call a liberal reformer. I believed all the system needed was a little tweaking and some extra oversight. I, along with many other prisoners at Smithfield, railed against a system, an unidentifiable “they” who had it in for poor, Black and Brown people. But my politics called for change in the system, not a dismantling of it.

People at Smithfield knew me. They knew I studied a lot and was always prepared to take a stand against oppression. I knew the people too. I spent years cultivating friendships with them through my work on various projects like health fairs and educational projects. So when I started studying abolition and sharing knowledge, unmasking the “they” who were destroying us and our communities, people listened. And because my actions and speech were congruent, they kept listening. Soon, I was regularly meeting with a groups of guys and passing out zines and copies of essays.

Word spreads quickly behind the walls. Our group grew and requests for materials did too. Within six months, there were three groups studying abolition and transformative justice. No longer did I need to approach people about the work and pique their interest. Prisoners sought me out and were referred to me by other group members. I didn’t give much thought to how to attract others to abolition. I didn’t have to.

Transferring to SCI-Fayette was a wake up call. I didn’t have years of relationship building to lean upon. I didn’t know the people and they didn’t know me. I didn’t even have all the materials I had at SCI-Smithfield. I couldn’t just run up to people and start talking about penal abolition. I realized I needed to establish relationships with the people first. I needed to understand the condition of the people. What are their needs? What are their concerns? What are they struggling with right now? What are their particular barriers to studying? What work have they done already.

If I had hit the ground running, playing the yards and passing out materials, I wouldn’t have gotten too far. People would have thought: “Who’s this guy? What’s his game?” I was in new territory and respected that. I listened to others. I asked questions. I assisted them in what they were struggling with. Most of all, I was sincere. And people can tell when we are being sincere. I wanted goodness for others. I tried to impart sound advice and I lent a hand. Shortly after getting here and getting the lay of the land through sincere concern for others, people started asking me questions:”What you into? I see you reading. I hear you talking on the phone.”

The groundwork had been laid. Now, people are coming to me and asking questions about penal abolition, activism, and how they can get involved. Our book club has its maximum number of participants. I can’t make copies of zines fast enough to keep up with the demand. I’m loaning books out on Black feminist thought, queer liberation, penal abolition and social justice movements. Things are picking up quickly.

I share these points to underscore the need for abolitionists to take our time and establish relationships with the people we intend to work with. Often, we rush into a community, thinking we have all the answers, that we know what’s best for said community, and began to preach abolition. We don’t take the time to connect with others, to find out what they want, what they are struggling with and what they have been doing in the struggle. This behavior can be off putting and hinder our cause.

When we enter a community with a desire to work sincerely and for all our benefit, we get results. People can tell if we are working with them or on them. My advice is to work on building relationships- build community. Through building community, abolition will be effected. Be a part of where you are. Sincerely. Plant the seeds of genuine concern and care and watch community and abolition flower.