Left Forum 2009
19 April 2009
Pace University NYC
A discussion about women, incarceration and resistance and why this issue is important at this point in time. We will challenge the audience to think about incarceration not just as imprisonment, but also other ways that women (such as immigrants) are locked away and how their experiences and issues may differ from both women in prison and immigrant men.
The theme of Left Forum this year is “turning points” and we expect that most of the discussion will focus on the economy, war and the environment. It’s not clear that the subject of prisons and certainly women and prison will be dealt with as an important issue for the left. We want to bring together former women prisoners and activists for women in prison to discuss how and why this is an important issue for activists to engage. Women are the fastest growing sector of the prison population, and we can expect prisons and detention centers to continue as a “growth industry” even more so now that the rest of the economy is unraveling in crisis. Even though incarcerated women are largely invisible within the left, their experiences offer significant examples of resistance and solidarity that are critical for activists to understand in the current era. Presenters will provide a framework for the discussion but we plan to structure the session in a way that participants can also really take on the question.
Laura Whitehorn (former political prisoner and senior editor of POZ Magazine),
Diana Block (California Coalition for Women Prisoners, The Fire Inside newsletter and author of Arm the Spirit: A Woman’s Journey Underground and Back) and Joanne Macri (Immigrant Defense Project)
Soffiyah Elijah – human rights attorney, Harvard Law School Criminal Justice Institute
Victoria Law is a writer, photographer and mother. After a brief stint as a teenage armed robber, she became involved in prisoner support. In 1996, she helped start Books Through Bars-New York City, a group that sends free books to prisoners nationwide. In 2000, she began concentrating on the needs and actions of women in prison,drawing attention to their issues by writing articles and giving public presentations. Since 2002, she has worked with women incarcerated nationwide to produce Tenacious: Art and Writings from Women in Prison and has facilitated having incarcerated women’s writings published in larger publications, such as Clamor magazine, the website “Women and Prison: A Site for Resistance” and make/shift magazine. Her book Resistance Behind Bars:The Struggles of Incarcerated Women (PM Press 2009) is the culmination of over 7 years of listening to, writing about and supporting incarcerated women nationwide and resulted in this former delinquent winning the 2009 PASS(Prevention for a Safer Society) Award.