Experiments with Truth: Analysis

Prisons, state budgets and the new national freedom agenda

Three days into a 10-day, 113-mile march across Pennsylvania, Fatimah Islam-Hernandez had a realization: “I have learned that when I want to have a powerful breakthrough in my life, I have to create a space, a clearing, so that my stand can be seen,” wrote Islam-Hernandez. “No matter how unreasonable, no matter what fears I have.”

Islam-Hernandez is an educator and parent in Philadelphia whose partner is one of the 51,370 people locked inside Pennsylvania’s sprawling state prison system. Herreflection came as part of the “March for a People’s Budget- Stop Prison Expansion Now” in Pennsylvania. The March, which left Philadelphia on May 25 and ended with a major rally in Harrisburg on June 3, is a sign of how new movements against imprisonment and punishment have been creating a new clearing by targeting the state budgeting process with creative modes of direct action.

Something new is happening in the realm of American criminal “justice.” After more than three decades of dramatic increases in incarceration, the popularity of prisons is sharply declining. Alarm about the human rights implications of imprisonment is growing as economic crises have raised new concerns about massive expenditures, including the billions spent annually to keep people in cages. And people are taking to the streets in response.

More Follow External Link to Isaac Lev Szmonko, Dan Berger and Layne Mullett, Truthout