T O O L K I T
THE MISSING PROJECT
THE MISSING PROJECT The Missing is a public art/consciousness-raising/community engagement project to focus public attention on the epidemic of mass/hyper incarceration in Chicago. There are two primary goals of this project: 1. To reduce the shame of families and others who have a loved one who is incarcerated by finding a public way to embrace them and also encouraging them to bring stories of their incarcerated loved one into the public square. 2. To encourage Chicagoans to focus their eyes, ears, and spirits on the problem of mass/hyper incarceration.
This toolkit was developed by a group of volunteers. Many of us are involved with Project NIA and also with the Chicago PIC Teaching Collective. Others work at organizations like the Neighborhood Writing Alliance and BeyondMedia Education. All of us are committed to dismantling the prison industrial complex. We hope that you will join us in uplifting the voices of those most impacted by the PIC. We invite you to help bring attention to the injustice of mass incarceration. As part of this effort, we ask you to consider three main questions:
1. What do we miss personally when someone we know or love is in prison (locked up)? 2. What do our communities miss when our neighbors, friends, family are in prison? 3. What does society miss when we incarcerate over 2.3 million of our fellow human beings?
For more information about the Missing, please visit our site: http://the-missing.org Or email us: email@example.com 2
What is the TOOLKIT? The goal of this Toolkit is to provide ideas for projects that address the issue of mass/hyper-incarceration in Chicago, and how the prison industrial complex (P.I.C.) affects individuals, families, neighborhoods, and communities in this city. Our hope is that Chicagoans will use the ideas in this toolkit to spark projects in their community centers, schools, church groups, shelters, and with any other groups interested in working on this issue. The goal of this project is to look at the problem of mass/hyperincarceration through a creative lens, and to bring our ideas, our words, our images, and our artwork to the public stage in a way that engages people in this city. We hope that this project can draw on the wisdom of young people, elders, & people of many different backgrounds. We are all affected by prisons; whether we have been inside ourselves, have been separated from family because of prisons, are troubled by the dehumanization of fellow human beings that stems from the P.I.C., or simply pay taxes that support these institutions, it is important for us to look at what prisons really offer our society. Do prisons really "keep us safe" (and which of "us" does this refer to?) Do prisons offer real solutions to violence in our society? Do prisons offer real rehabilitation to those inside? Because we believe that prisons tear apart families, misuse public resources, and destroy the potential of so many members of our society, it is vital for us to draw on our collective creativity and to engage our communities to explore alternatives to the present-day prison industrial complex. You will find in this toolkit a number of ideas and outlines for projects that you are welcome to use. Because we want to bring this issue to the public stage, we will invite individuals and groups who create work around this issue to be part of a large public sharing of our work in November 2012. Although we cannot provide financial support to each of these projects, please be in touch with us if you are interested in completing a project from the toolkit, but need some help getting started.
Please check our website for forthcoming details about the citywide "Show and Tell" exhibit in November 2012! 3
BACKGROUND THE SCOPE AND NATURE OF THE PRISON INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX from THE P.I.C. IS... Zine by the Chicago PIC Teaching Collective There is no other society in the history of humanity that has imprisoned more people than the United States. With only five percent of the world’s population, the U.S. houses over twenty percent of the world’s prisoners.1 That is more than the top thirty-five European countries combined.1 As a proportion of its total population, America incarcerates five times more people than Britain, nine times more than Germany and 12 times more than Japan1. Moreover, sixty percent of that correctional population comes from a racial or ethnic minority group.1 Our obsession with locking people up in America doesn’t come cheap. States spend more than fifty billion dollars a year on their correctional systems.1 This does not include the tens of billions of dollars spent by the federal government to police, prosecute, and imprison individuals. Last year, the Department of Justice’s budget was nearly thirty billion dollars with six billion dollars going to the federal bureau of prisons. Our tax dollars support a vast network of prisons, jails, immigration detention centers, and associated personnel that maintain over seven million people under state and federal supervision. 1 By comparison, in 1965 there were 780,000 adults under correctional authority of any type.1 The so-called “War on Drugs” has been one of the largest forces behind the explosion of our prison population. This War has failed to curb the use of illegal drugs in our country and has instead succeeded in creating a new racial caste system in the U.S. that legal scholar Michelle Alexander has termed “the New Jim Crow.” Black people are arrested, prosecuted, charged and imprisoned at higher rates than White people for drug offenses. In Los Angeles County, with nearly ten million residents, blacks are arrested at over triple the rate of whites. Blacks are less than 10 percent of L.A. County’s population, but they are 30 percent of the people arrested for marijuana possession.1 While representing only thirteen percent of the U.S. population, and only thirteen percent of drug users, Blacks constitute seventy-four percent of drug offenders sent to prison.1 Women are particularly ensnared by the so-called “War on Drugs.” More women, and mothers, are behind bars now than at any other point in U.S. history. Since the mid-1980s the number of women in prison has risen by 400%.1 There were 115,779 women incarcerated in either state or federal prisons at midyear 2008.1 Overwhelmingly convicted of non-violent crimes,1 women are the fastest growing group in prison, increasing at nearly double the rate of men. And African American women are four times more likely than white women to be locked up.1 The United States manufactures criminals. The billions of dollars that power the prison industrial complex are mostly deployed in the service of racialized surveillance. For example, despite being less than 44 percent of the total population of New York City, black and Latino males composed 85 percent of the pool chosen for stop-and-frisk searches in 2010. With NYPD officers stopping 601,055 people, it means a full 511,000 of those people were men of color (as a point of reference, the population of the entire state of Wyoming is 544,000)1. In addition, as already mentioned, although racial minorities constitute around thirty percent of the population, they make up more than sixty percent of our nation’s prisoners.1 Yet it is also critical to link immigration and military practices to the carceral state. From Abu Ghraib to the Cook County Jail to the U.S.-Mexico border, immigration, military and prisons form an interlocking system to naturalize violence and punishment as a response to conflict. 4
With the merger of the Immigration and Naturalization Services into the Department of Homeland Security in 2001, there was a corresponding shift from immigration as a service to an agency concerned with enforcement. A network of 400-plus private and public detention centers was established across the United States, making the undocumented an integral and expanding component of the criminalized class. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (the largest U.S. enforcement agency) has a workforce of over 17,000. Its 2008 budget topped five billion dollars. The agency deported 977 non-citizens every day in 2008, a 23.5% increase over 2007. As of June 2007, the agency acknowledged that 62 immigrants died in administrative custody since 2004.1 The Washington Post recently calculated that "with roughly 1.6 million immigrants in some stage of immigration proceedings, the government holds more detainees a night than Clarion Hotels have guests, operates nearly as many vehicles as Greyhound has buses, and flies more people each day than do many small U.S. airlines."1 The impacts extend beyond imprisonment. According to the Bureau of Justice, 95% of those incarcerated in state prisons - our brothers, sisters, lovers, parents, daughters, and neighbors - will be released, but the punishment does not stop when the time is done. 1 5.3 million Americans, or one in 41 adults, have currently or permanently lost their voting rights as a result of a felony conviction.1 In 1996, Congress passed the “welfare reform” act, and Section 115 of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), created a federal lifetime ban on accessing entitlements for anyone convicted of a drug related crime. Many states have modified this restriction, but as of 2010, thirty-eight states impose some restrictions on accessing benefits for those convicted of a drug related crime. 1 In 26 states, according to the national advocacy organization, Legal Action Center, employers and occupational licensing agencies – from cosmetology to real estate - can deny applicants a job or professional licensure because of their criminal record. In a whopping 38 states, asking a job candidate about her arrests that did not lead to conviction, is also legal.1 The poverty-stricken, the homeless, the young, queer people, people of color, those gender nonconforming, the mentally ill, the undocumented, addicts, and increasingly women: these are the faces of our prison population. Despite repeated findings that there is no real correlation between incarceration and the country’s crime rate, we insist on imprisonment as our first, and really our only, response to all kinds of harm.1 By creating laws that specifically target these groups, our government essentially establishes a carceral nation. Instead of spending money on drug treatment programs, meaningful employment initiatives, affordable housing and public education, our tax dollars funnel the most vulnerable populations into the prison system so that they may languish with little-to-no access to needed resources. Between 1984 and 2000, across all states and the District of Columbia, state spending on prisons was six times the increase of spending on higher education.1 States build new prisons and detention centers, but there are shrinking resources for new, already existing, public postsecondary institutions. When the top three institutions in the world that house people with designated mental health issues are the jails in LA, New York, and Chicago (Rikers Island County Jail, Cook County Jail, and LA County Jails), our nation's mental health system has more than failed.1 These budgetary priorities and corresponding public initiatives are not economically sound. Research suggests that just one more year of high school would significantly reduce incarceration (and crime) rates. Raising the male high school graduation rate simply by one percent would result in the nation saving, by one estimate, $1.4 billion.1 This is not justice. This is not humane. This must change. 5
Abramsky, Sasha. “Toxic Persons: New Research Shows Precisely how the poverty-to-prison Cycle Does Its Damage”. Slate. October 10, 2008. <http://www.slate.com/id/2270328/> 1 Ghosh, Palash. “The Spiraling Cost of Incarcerating Prisoners”. International Business Times. November 10, 2007. <http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/77714/20101101/prison-population-laws-jobs-income.htm> 1 The Economist. July 22, 2010. http://www.economist.com/node/16636027?story_id=16636027 1 The Sentencing Project. March 1, 2010. http://www.sentencingproject.org/map/map.cfm 1 The Pew Center on the States. “One in 100: Behind Bars in America 2008”. <http://www.pewcenteronthestates.org/uploadedFiles/One%20in%20100.pdf> 1 Schlosser, Eric. “The Prison industrial Complex”. The Atlantic. December 2008. http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1998/12/the-prison-industrial-complex/4669/ 1 President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice, 1967. 1 Levine, Harry G., Gettman, Jon B., and Seigel, Loren. Targeting Blacks for Marijuana: Possession Arrests of African Americans in California 2004-2008 - http://www.drugpolicy.org/library/targetingblacks.cfm 1 Herzing, Rachel. “What is the Prison Industrial Complex?”. Critical Resistance. <http://www.defendingjustice.org/overview/herzing_pic.html> 1 Mothers Behind Bars: A state-by-state report card and analysis of federal policies on conditions of confinement for pregnant and parenting women and the effect on their children. The Rebecca Project for Human Rights and the National Women’s Law Center (October 2010). 1 http://www.wpaonline.org/pdf/Quick%20Facts%20Women%20and%20CJ%202009.pdf 1 As of December 31, 2005, 65.7% of women in California prisons and in 2002 over 90 percent of Illinois’ newly incarcerated women were convicted for non-violent offenses. In Illinois, 2002, over 90 percent of Illinois’ newly incarcerated women were convicted for non-violent offenses. About 38 percent were incarcerated for a drug offense. From, http://www.roosevelt.edu/ima/pdfs/intersectingVoices.pdf , cite page 4 AND “Since 1985, the number of women incarcerated in the U.S. has grown by 404%, from htttp://www.sentencingproject.org/doc/publications/womenincj_total.pdf 1
http://www.pewcenteronthestates.org/uploadedFiles/One%20in%20100.pdf, New York Daily News, February 22, 2011. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/ny_crime/2011/02/22/2011-0222_new_york_police_department_stopped_more_than_600000_in_2010_the_highest_number_e.html?r=news 1 See Herzing. 1 New Scrutiny as Immigrants Die in Custody." New York Times (June 26; at www.nytimes.comI2007106/26/usI26detain.html). 1
Border Policy's Success Strains Resources: Tent City in Texas Among Immi- grant Holding Sites Drawing Criticism." Washington Post (February 2; at www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dynJcoment/articlel2007/0210 IIAR2007020 /02238_ pf.htmti.
http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/reentry/reentry.htm#highlights THE SENTENCING PROJECT FELONY DISENFRANCHISEMENT LAWS IN THE UNITED STATES 1 (2008), available at http://www.sentencingproject.org/Ad- minlDocuments/publications/fd_bs_fdlawsinus.pdf. 1 http://www.lac.org/roadblocks-to-reentry/main.php?view=vision&subaction=stamps ALSO SEE Patricia Allard, Life Sentences: Denying Welfare Benefits to Women Convicted of Drug Offenses, THE SENTENCING PROJECT 1, 8, 11 (Feb. 2002), available at http://www.soros.orgiinitiativeslbaltimore/articIes_publicationsl pubIications/Jifesen tences/03-18-03a triciaAllardReport.pdf. 1
http://www.lac.org/roadblocks-to-reentry/main.php?view=law&subaction=4, cite from page Bobo, Lawrence, August 25, 2010. http://www.theroot.com/views/time-end-criminal-punishment-binge?page=0,0 1 JUSTICE POLICY INSTITUTE, CELLBLOCKS OR CLASSROOMS?: THE FUNDING OF HIGHER EDUCATION AND CORRECTIONS AND ITs IMPACT ON AFRICAN AMERICAN MEN (2002), available at http://www.justicepolicy.org/images/ upload/02-09_REP _CellblocksClassrooms_BB-AC.pdf. 1
13 Ill-Equipped: U.S. Prisons and Offenders with Mental Illness, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH (2003), available at http://www.hrw.org/reports/2003/usa 1003/usal003.pdf. 1 Lance Lochner & Enrico Moretti, The Effect of Education on Crime: Evidence from Prison Inmates, Arrests, and Self-Reports, 94 AM. ECON. REV. 155, 183-84 (2004).
Milk Carton Clothesline: Community Dialogue & Discussion Project Ideas This project is geared towards community organizations, schools, church groups, and other groups or individuals who are interested in finding ways to create dialogue about prisons or other related issues. For example, a church group may use this project to jumpstart discussion of issues faced by youth; schools may use it to open conversations about divorce, or deportation. This project may also be used as an ice breaker at community meetings, CAP meetings, activist meetings, not-for-profit meetings, etc. Because of the creative nature of this project, it may provide a way to engage those who wouldn’t normally share the ways that incarceration effects their family or community, or share personal views on the issue. The goal of the Milk Carton Clothesline project is to help remove the stigma of having an incarcerated loved one; to put human emotion into discussion of who is missing from a community because of prisons rather than treating these community members a statistics.
Items Needed: •
Cardboard cutouts of milk cartons depicting a head profile, with two questions written above and below graphic. Above: Who is missing in your life? Below: What do you wish your neighbor knew about this person? (Head profile should be white with black outline so participants can write inside the profile). Clothesline and clothespins to hang the milk cartons. Potluck items for public presentation.
Project Outlines: Community Organizations: • Place cutouts in public spaces for individuals to take. • Have a date written on the back for community meeting where participants will gather to share and discuss. • Have a clothesline hung at initial meeting for participants to share their milk cartons. • Repeat the process for 2-6 months gathering and discussing, growing the group.
Schools: • (Project may be presented by a single teacher or a group of teachers). • Cutouts are distributed to the youth in class. If working with several teachers conducting this workshop in their own classrooms, determine a date to bring the youth together to share and discuss. If working as an individual teacher, perform the writing, sharing, and discussion in one session. * Milk Cartons can be anonymous if students feel more comfortable with this approach. Although discussion in the classroom can be useful, simply doing the exercise of creating the Milk Cartons is likely to raise awareness around this issue, and will possibly open space for informal discussion between students. Churches: • Cutouts can be distributed in church newsletter or on bulletin board. • Facilitator determines a date to meet for share and discuss. Public Presentation: Facilitating organizations and project participants determine a date and location to exhibit the Milk Carton Clothesline. Possible events could be a Missing Project picnic, an afternoon event at a familiar community center, a school presentation, or a church supper. Participants will bring dishes to pass or take up donations to purchase food. Facilitators will coordinate public speakers on the topic to do a short presentation. Time will be allotted for participants to speak, share their milk carton story, read a poem, etc. Time will also be allotted for spectators to speak, thereby developing a true community dialogue.
Fill in the Blank Activity:
Introduction: This activity is appropriate for anyone—those missing people because of the prison system, people currently or formerly incarcerated, communities impacted by the PIC, anyone who interacts with the police, those currently or formerly incarcerated, or those who want to learn more about how the PIC impacts their lives. People do not have to be directly involved in the prison system to participate in this activity.
Objective: The purpose of this activity is to help people think about how deeply entrenched the prison system is in all of our lives and what life would be like without prisons. Using the simple prompt of this activity, people can consider how prisons have impacted their lives and communities as well as others’ lives.
Items Needed: • • • •
Paper with the prompt “When we have a world without prisons, I will ________________” printed on it. Pens, markers, crayons, or other writing utensils. Posterboard or large paper to make a collage or technical equipment to make a slideshow, website, or poster Cameras
The Project: • • •
Make a plan for who your target participants will be. Work with your church group, classroom, team, coworkers, or people in a public space. Print out strips of paper with the prompt “When we have a world without prisons, I will ___________”. Ask your group to consider what a world without prisons would be like—what would it look like walking down the street, looking in store windows? How would your community be different? Ask people to think about how their lives specifically would be different—who would their friends be? What would they be afraid of? Who would be in their life? What would they do if there were no prisons? Pass out the pre-printed slips of paper and provide participants with writing utensils. Document the project through photography or video. Ask participants to pose with their slip of paper; capture people thinking, writing, etc; ask to photograph participants’ creations; make a photo series that captures important moments from the project. Compile all slips of paper and photographs/video into a collage, poster, poster-board, slideshow, website, etc and display it publicly, or inside of a community/church/school/etc. space where participants can see their work and discuss ideas that came from the project.
Things to consider: • • •
Obtain permission, if necessary, before working in a public space or displaying the project in public. Plan ahead of time the cost of supplies, including printing photos or editing film. Look for ways to do this on a large scale—widely distribute your finished project, engage a whole school in the activity, have people fill in the blank on a large wall, paper, etc instead of small sheets of paper.
Letter Writing Party:
Introduction: Anyone who would like to contact an incarcerated person can participate in this activity. Those with friends and family members currently incarcerated or those who would like to bring a sense of connection to an imprisoned individual can participate.
Objective: The objective of this activity is to provide incarcerated individuals with human connection, hope, and relationships that they are deprived of while in prison. It can help those incarcerated feel a connection to the communities they were taken from. This activity can also help family members and friends of the incarcerated feel connected to those they are missing and can help others learn about the prison system and those incarcerated.
Items Needed: • • • • • • •
Paper, stationery, cards, drawing paper Envelopes Pens, pencils, markers, crayons, colored pencils Stamps Lists of incarcerated individuals who would like to be contacted Snacks for those participating in the party Location for the party with ample writing surfaces
The Project: • • • •
Choose a location, date, and time for the party. Advertise the party through flyers, Facebook, paper or electronic invitations, listserves, etc. Prepare for the party by purchasing ample paper, envelopes, writing utensils and stamps. If people are gathering to write letters to loved ones, ask them to bring the inmate’s ID number, location, and address if available. (A search can be done to obtain this information if they do not know. In that case, you will likely need internet access and a computer during the party.) If the purpose of the party is to initiate pen-pal relationships or make contact with those incarcerated, obtain permission from inmates to be written to. You may want to work with another organization that may have lists of inmates hoping for a pen-pal or organizations who have contact with prisoners and can advertise your idea for the party. During the party, explain to individuals the purpose of letter writing, and any instructions they may need to know about sending mail into a prison (letters are opened and read prior to the inmate receiving them, stickers are not allowed, nothing other than the paper can be included in the envelope, etc). Ask individuals to talk about who they are writing to (if they know that person) or what they hope to gain by participating in the letter writing party. Encourage participants to consider becoming ongoing penpals with prisoners... ongoing penpal relationships offer much greater opportunities for connection between people inside and outside of prisons than single letters (to which prisoners do not have an opportunity to respond). Help individuals properly address the envelopes, seal, and stamp them. Mail the letters.
â€œSaving A Seatâ€?: A Public Art Installation This project invites family members and friends to save a seat for their incarcerated loved ones, creating a visible, physical presence in a public, community setting. Participants will have the chance to publicly and creatively celebrate the individuals that they love, and can then invite observers to interact with the art theyâ€™ve created. Observers will have a unique opportunity to learn more about the spirit, interests, and passions of the incarcerated individuals, who are so often labeled as invisible.
Who should participate? Anyone who would like to celebrate their incarcerated loved one in a public setting, or learn more about the people who are incarcerated in US prisons today.
Facilitate a creative brainstorm session. Gather interested participants to determine available locations, creative materials, and community resources for making art in a visible, public setting and hosting a public art installation. Depending on the number of interested participants, and desired time spent on this project, the art-making and viewing event could be a few hours, a full day, or an entire weekend festival. The public art installation could be a few chairs set up in a public lobby, a high-traffic sidewalk, a front lawn, or hundreds of chairs in a city square.
Participants ask their loved ones what they want in their saved seats. In this project, participants are "saving a seat" for a person who is missing from their family, community, or city because of prisons. This project may offer an opportunity for family and community members to connect with those in prison and open dialogue about how those who are locked up would like to be represented in their own communities. If it is not possible to contact those who are locked up, this is a time for participants to reflect on how they would represent this person... what objects or images could help tell the story of this person? What type of artwork or poetry could give a sense of who this person is, and the place this person holds in a family or community?
Gather materials for art-making and hosting the public installation. Folding chairs, stools, benches, and/or makeshift seats Art supplies (paint, markers, decoupage, glitter, streamers, etc.) Objects to fill seats (photos, writing, favorite clothing, food, etc.) Camera for documenting the installation Guestbook Handouts for observers
Create art. Gather participants to decorate interactive seats representing their incarcerated loved ones. Seats can be ornately decorated, or could have a variety of objects placed simply on them.
Invite observers to take a seat. Place empty seats next to the decorated seats. Invite observers to sit down and interact with the decorated seats, learning more about the stories of incarcerated individuals represented in the art. Participants can distribute additional handouts about incarceration, community resources, and/or about the stories of the represented incarcerated individuals.
Document the event. Send pictures of the event to incarcerated family members and friends. Invite artists and participants to sign a guestbook sharing their experiences. Post information about the event on community blogs. Encourage participants to create public art installations in other communities.
Photography Project: “Making the Missing Visible” Introduction: This project is appropriate for any groups that consist of individuals who are missing or who have missed someone who is or was incarcerated. The purpose of the group does not have to be incarceration. For example, a facilitator of an after-school program with youth who know someone who is incarcerated could introduce this project. Teachers whose students have been impacted by this issue could undertake this project. A group of friends or family members who share the experience of missing someone due to incarceration can get together to do this project.
Objective: The basic objective of this project is to use photographs to show the impact of incarceration on friends and family members of people who are or who have been incarcerated. It is a way to make incarcerated people and the impact of their absence visible.
Items Needed: • • •
Cameras – group members’ own cameras or disposable cameras a facilitator provides Finances to cover the cost of printing digital photos or developing the film in the disposable cameras Collage making materials, Ex: poster-board, glue, tape, markers, scissors, etc.
The Project: Group members choose a period of time (ex. a day, a week, a month, etc.) to carry a camera with them wherever they go. During this time, members take a photo whenever they are reminded of whom they are missing because of incarceration. Members should feel free to take any type of photo that captures how they feel because they are missing an incarcerated person and what they are missing because that person is not with them. Be creative, and follow your instincts! For example: • •
If someone takes a bus or train to visit a loved one in jail or prison, they might consider taking a photograph of the train station or bus stop. If someone used to go to the movies with an incarcerated loved one, they might take a photograph of a movie theater. The possibilities are wide open.
Group members print or develop their photographs and bring them to a designated group meeting. (Alternatively, a facilitator or group leader could volunteer to collect members’ disposable cameras and have the film developed. The leader then would bring the photographs to the designated meeting.) At the designated meeting, group members get together to share their photos and discuss what the photos mean to them. Members comment on one another’s photos and draw comparisons. Did members take photos of the same things? Did members depict the same emotion in different ways? The idea is to use the photos to have a conversation about the impact of incarceration on members’ lives. A facilitator or group member might take notes to document any themes that grow out of the conversation. At the same meeting or at another meeting, group members make individual collages or a group collage that reflect their experiences with incarceration.
If a group collage is made, the facilitator or a volunteer might lead the group in writing a description that explains what the group wants to convey through the collage about the impact of incarceration on their lives. If members make individual collages, each member might write a brief description of what their individual collage represents. Alternatively, rather than make a collage, group members might select individual photographs to share publicly and write brief explanations to accompany each photograph.
Group members decide on a location where they want to display their photographs/collages and accompanying descriptions. Advertise and then hold your public event.
Be sure to inform the Chicago Prison Industrial Complex Teaching Collective about where and when your public display will take place. We will advertise it is as one of “The Missing” projects taking place citywide! You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Things to Consider: Before taking photographs, group members may find it helpful to spend some time as a group talking about whom they are missing because of incarceration. Members might discuss things such as what their relationships were like with their incarcerated loved ones prior to incarceration, what their relationships have been like since incarceration, what they miss doing with their incarcerated loved ones, and important events incarcerated loved ones have missed because of incarceration. Depending on members’ comfort levels, they might also share how they feel about these things and strategies they have developed to cope with missing that person. Members then might brainstorm locations, objects, people, etc. that could represent these feelings. Having this preliminary discussion may help members feel more comfortable as they begin taking their own photographs.
Members should use discretion in what they photograph. For example, do not carry cameras into places where they are not allowed, such as courtrooms, jails, or prisons. Obtain permission to take photos of any people and explain how the photos will be used (for example, where they will displayed and who will be invited to view them).
Writing Workshop: “Writing the Missing into Visibility” Objective: The basic objective of this project is to use prose/poetry to show the impact of incarceration on friends and family members of people who are or who have been incarcerated. It is a way to make incarcerated people and the impact of their absence visible.
Items Needed: •
Pen, paper, and the willingness to explore the topic and share their opinion in writing.
Participant Introductions: Group environments are often intimidating for people. The best way to loosen up even the shiest of people is to get them talking about themselves and provide them a safe place to do so. A way to create community is to get people talking to each other and then giving them an opportunity to share what they have learned. The following provides a couple options for participant introductions: Option 1: Writers take five (5) minutes introducing themselves to each other (2 ½ minutes each) using the five (5) W’s: • • • • • Option 2: • • •
Who are you (Name, Birthplace)? What makes you unique (One compelling characteristic)? When were you first affected by or aware of mass incarceration? Where did you hear about The-Missing Project? Why did you feel compelled to come today?
Writers state their name and one word that would best describe them. Why are they here? What does writing mean to them?
Effective Writing Prompts & Freewrite Exercises: Do you believe mass incarceration is invisible to most Americans? If so, why? If not, what do you think the general attitude surrounding mass incarceration is for most Americans? What consciousness raising means to me Focused Freewrite: Have participants close their eyes for five (5) minutes and visualize a world without mass incarceration. At the end of the five minutes, write about the visualization. Reading the lyrics of KRS-One’s Self Destruction, have participants talk about they lyrics and how (or if) they are still relevant today. And why? Then, as a group (or two, depending upon the size of the group), re-write their own version of Self Destruction with the concept of mass incarceration in mind.
How to Keep the Conversation Going: Create a blog where writers check in weekly, monthly, quarterly Re-introduce the concept of “pen pals” where members exchange information and agree to keep in touch and share their experiences via letters (the old fashioned way of communicating – meaning writing letters and dropping them in the mail). Or, via email…though snail mail is preferred.
Theatre of the Oppressed:
Using Theatre of the Oppressed Techniques to Explore How Prisons Affect Neighborhoods What is "Theatre of The Oppressed"? "The Theater of the Oppressed, established in the early 1970s by Brazilian director and Workers' Party (PT) activist Augusto Boal, is a participatory theater that fosters democratic and cooperative forms of interaction among participants. Theater is emphasized not as a spectacle but rather as a language accessible to all. More specifically, it is a rehearsal theater designed for people who want to learn ways of fighting back against oppression in their daily lives. In what Boal calls “Forum Theater,” for example, the actors begin with a dramatic situation from everyday life and try to find solutions—parents trying to help a child on drugs, a neighbor who is being evicted from his home, and individual confronting racial or gender discrimination, or simply a student in a new community who is shy and has difficulty making friends. Audience members are urged to intervene by stopping the action, coming on stage to replace actors, and enacting their own ideas. Bridging the separation between actor (the one who acts) and spectator (the one who observes but is not permitted to intervene in the theatrical situation), the Theater of the Oppressed is practiced by "spect-actors" who have the opportunity to both act and observe, and who engage in self-empowering processes of dialogue that help foster critical thinking. The theatrical act is thus experienced as conscious intervention, as a rehearsal for social action rooted in a collective analysis of shared problems. This particular type of interactive theater is rooted in the pedagogical and political principles specific to the popular education method developed by Brazilian educator Paulo Freire: 1) to see the situation lived by the participants; 2) to analyze the root causes of the situation, including both internal and external sources of oppression; 3) explore group solutions to these problems, and 4) to act to change the situation following the precepts of social justice". (Source:http://brechtforum.org/abouttop)
Although Theatre of the Oppressed is a form of theatre in which there are many techniques one can learn about and use, a simple way to think of T.O. is that this form of theatre makes space for a "rehearsal for reality". Because so many of us face challenging situations in our daily lives in which we are oppressed because of our race, our age, our income level, whether or not we have a criminal record, etc, it is useful to find ways we can empower ourselves, and find creative solutions to challenges of oppression. Because T.O. is a form of theatre that encourages interactions between spectators and actors, and encourages participants to be both ("spect-actors"), this type of theatre can be very useful for a group hoping to open dialogue and problem solving around challenging issues such as mass-incarceration in a neighborhood.
THE ACTIVITY: Warming Up Because it is important to "warm-up" and "break the ice" in a group setting, it is useful to play a game in order to get started. Here are a couple examples of games you can play to warm up. These games came form a list on the website of Philadlphia Theatre of the Oppressed (check out their website for a list of other great games): http://tophiladelphia.blogspot.com/search/label/rules%20for%20games Walking Games: • Number Speeds: Speed up and slow down at the shout of a number, then do it without breaking eye contact with one other person. • Lines and Triangles: Secretly pick two people and form a shape with them—either a straight line or an equilateral triangle—without letting them know who they are. Oh, and everyone else is trying to do the same thing as well.
ASK QUESTIONS: Once everyone has warmed up, make time for discussion. Ask some open-ended questions about how participants feel that incarceration affects their neighborhood or their community. Ask participants to "fill in the blank" in the following sentences in an open group discussion... 1. Because of prisons, _________________ is missing from my neighborhood/community. 2. In a world without prisons, my neighborhood/community would _____________. Once the group has had some time to discuss and open up ideas, ask the group about real-life challenges they face, or see others in their families or communities facing because of mass incarceration. Don't pressure anyone to reveal personal information they may not feel comfortable with sharing. Encourage people to offer stories in which the people involved remain anonymous if they would like. As a group, settle on a real-life challenging situation related to mass incarceration. (Ex: A young person is struggling because their parent is in prison, yet they are ashamed to talk about this with their peers). As a group, have half of the group chose a role in this real-life situation (Ex: The young person, the parent in prison, the peers of the young person, the grandparent of the young person, the school teacher of the young person).
ACT IT OUT: Take the real-life scenario and act it out. When the central character in the scenario faces a challenge and does not know what to do, let the audience try to find a solution. Allow audience member to replace actors whenever they feel they have a useful approach to a problem. (Ex: What might the peers of the young person do to help their friend out? Maybe an audience member could jump into the role of "peer" and show how to be a supportive friend to the young person by showing them love and respect).
BREAK IT DOWN: Once participants have acted out a situation, and have tried to act out new solutions and approaches in this situation, check in with the group. How did they feel about the exercise? Did it make them think of solutions or approaches they could use in their own lives? What were these? Did they have any other thoughts about the exercise?
Learn more about Theatre of the Oppressed: If this workshop seems useful, and you want to learn more about T.O. check out the writings of Augusto Boal at your public library, or check out these handy websites! http://tophiladelphia.blogspot.com/search/label/rules%20for%20games http://brechtforum.org/abouttop http://www.theatreoftheoppressed.org/en/index.php?useFlash=0
Wall hanging Project:
Using the same discussion questions proposed in the Theatre of the Oppressed Workshop, participants in this workshop are asked to respond to these questions through visual art. If you have time to complete both activities with your group, it could be very interesting to use the wall hanging project as a follow-up to the theatre workshop. This would give members of your group who are more comfortable with visual expression than performance and public speaking a chance to contribute to the group dialogue in different way.
Materials Needed: -Paper (Colorful paper, paper of different textures and sizes) -Magazines to use for collage -Art supplies: Markers, colored pencils, crayons, paints (if desired), glue sticks, scissors -Large piece of cloth or fabric and thumb tacks to attach this to the wall.
The Activity: Use the following questions to spark ideas about how mass-incarceration affects a family, neighborhood, community or city. 1. Because of Prisons, _________is missing from my family/neighborhood/community/city. 2.In a world without prisons, my family/neighborhood/community/city would _________. Allow participants to discuss these questions for about 10 minutes to kick-start ideas, however, don't let conversation go on too long as the focus of this workshop is to ask people to present their responses in a visual way. In the brief discussion period, jot down key phrases or ideas on a chalkboard or a large piece of paper visible to everyone. These words and ideas can provide inspiration for participants when they are making their images. Explain that when participants are making images, there is no pressure to draw anything "realistic", or focus on making things look "nice". Encourage people to express their feelings in a visual way, to make an abstract image, to write a quotation or phrase on their paper if this feels like the best way to express their thoughts. If desired, put on some music while people are making artwork-- something without lyrics may be best as it can difficult for people to concentrate on their own thoughts when listening to the words in a song. Pass out paper, writing utensils, and other art supplies and ask participants to answer one of the questions by way of making an image. As some people may not feel confident with drawing, providing magazines to cut up, glue sticks, etc. can give people an alternative to drawing. Give people ample time to make some type of collage/drawing (approx 30 min). As participants are finishing their projects, attach the artwork onto a large piece of cloth or paper that can hang on the wall (staple or glue the pieces onto the backing to make one large artwork). Once every person's piece is on the wall together, take time to look quietly for a couple of minutes. Then, ask people what they see in the artwork. Ask them to talk about their own pieces. Take time to discuss the ideas that have come out of making this work together. If possible, keep the wall hanging in a classroom, community center, church, or other public place so that people can see this artwork, and so that the artwork can help spark more dialogue about these issues.