The following critique of jail solidarity in Philly jails is taken from email@example.com, dated Aug. 8.
Since folks were arrested mostly Tuesday Aug 1 there has been
significant participation in jail solidarity - of approx 470
arrests, over 300 have refused to give names and have been
staying in jail.
* the general population of the county jail has been somewhat
empowered by contact with the activists, to the point of
generating their own list of demand including better phones,
better food, end to lockdown head counts, and a few more. This
is very important and powerful.
* the activists have been informed and empowered by their
contact with the general population of the jail - they've
learned and seen new things (for those who naver had contact
before) for a few this is moot
* the group is surviving some sort of 'right of passage' this is
worth more to some than others
* judge has actually come around to SOB (sign on bond) all
misdemeanors de facto, at least all she's seen she's let go
without having to pay 10% of some bail - this is an improvement over last week when many of the released folks actually laid down cold hard cash.
* it gives us on the outside ongoing motivation to do press
actions, build outside allies, etc.
* some misunderstanding expressed in the press that goes like
this 'they could get out of jail if they'd just give their
names' - the judge has said repeatedly that she wont do bail
reduction or allow SOB or ROR (release on own recognizance)
without names. We look stubborn and unreasonable - the message of prison brutality and police abuse is not getting out like it might.
* some feeling among long time activists that this tactic was
tried and left behind in the past and that we are relearning old lessons unnecessarily
* HUGE COSTS in emotion, and day to day planning and work - we are microfocussed on freeing these prisoners - it is REALLY DRAINING!
* parents have gone as far as to say that we've brainwashed
their children into putting themselves in jeapordy for some
things that I wish were different:
* The biggest one is that detainees went large with tactics too soon, notably Hunger Striking and Water Striking. These are drastic tactics and I'd really like to see them framed as such in LA discussions - people weakened by hunger and thirst aren't lasting. It is also causing the outside support huge
consternation and hand-wringing.
* the assumption that we could fill the jail and there would be some pressure from that was unfulfilled. Phila police simply did not arrest there usual quota for the two weeks before and therefor had room. This did have the side effect of demonstrating that arrest policies are actually policy and not really reflective of crime. LA probably has at least two jails built but not staffed - CA is the largest per capita
incarcerator in the world - we aren't filling anything in LA.
* the assumption that the DA would negotiate, AS THE CITY SAID SHE WOULD BEFORE THE ACTION, was unfulfilled. DA has said nothing. The judge put it simply 'we are not negotiating'.
* I wish I wish I wish that we had envisioned different end-game scenarios in the training. I'd love to be able to put the word 'yellow' on the answering machine at the legal office and everyone would know that it was time to bail out - we sort of assumed that we would win our demands quickly and didn't really plan for the no-negotiate scenario.
* Communication from R2K Legal collective to the prisoners is
through the Public Defender and the R2K Legal lawyers with Penn. bar cards - we were simply unable to get activists into the jail, nor could we really meet in groups. As time goes on detainees are becoming more separated. The women have been able to meet in large groups in the AM but not the whole group - folks are still getting moved around to prevent large group decision making.
* Outsiders have some rosier than real notion that we are in
fact in communication with insiders. Even sitting on the jail phone for 24 hours would not make it so. Prisoners are not getting enough phone calls to communicate.
* The sense is that we outsiders need to live up to the role of 'empowering and supporting the insiders' - defering tactical and strategic choices to people who HONESTLY do not have enough information to make great choices. We can see that the hunger strike is not being covered and that there will probably be no mainstream outcry for release. D2K and D2K actions will blast R2K out of the news.
i'm not saying not to do it (the alternative would be to prepare people to give real names and get out as quick as possible - this would limit participation - and we can't really predict who's gonna get arrested)
where I'm at is that we movement types need to take a look at
our tactical choices in light of 1) what our _habits_ are - just cause it worked doesn't mean we keep doing it 2) what else could we do.
Ghandi says go from strength to strength. Win, change tactics, win, change tactics. There is room for creative discussions about what else to do besides punish ourselves before found guilty (is one way to look at it).
Im hoping at this point that the women and men will give names and get out before the trickle (16 today, 17 tommorrow) turns into a stream.
all the best, good luck in LA