by Anthony Robinson Jr.
The New Underground Railroad Movement is a grassroots inside-outside organization that recognizes that the institutionalization of mass incarceration is the greatest civil rights and social issue we are faced with today. The New Underground Railroad Movement is dedicated to shutting down the “prison industrial complex” through tactical, organizational and grassroots work strikes, boycotts and class conscious empowerment.
“If Martin Luther King Jr. is right that the arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice, a new movement will arise; and if civil rights organizations fail to keep up with the times, they will be pushed to the side as another generation of advocates comes to the fore. Hopefully the new generation will be led by those who know best the brutality of the new caste system – a group with greater vision, courage and determination than the old guard can muster, trapped as they may be in an outdated paradigm. Those of us who hope to be their allies should not be surprised, if and when this day comes, that when those who have been locked up and locked out finally have the chance to speak and truly be heard, what we hear is rage. The rage may frighten us; it may remind us of riots, uprisings and buildings aflame. We may be tempted to control it or douse it with buckets of doubt, dismay and disbelief. But we should do no such thing. Instead, when a young man who was born in the ghetto and who knows little of life beyond the walls of his prison cell and the invisible cage that has become his life, turns to us in bewilderment and rage, we should do nothing more than look him in the eye and tell him the truth.” – Michelle Alexander, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness”
The New Underground Railroad Movement is that truth! Our motto is: “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”
The New Underground Railroad Movement was born out of the premise that the prisoner must be involved in his own liberation. If the prisoner is not involved in the transformation process of his oppressive reality, if he is not involved in the praxis of developing an inquiry of his own humanity – in order to first recognize his chains, then break free of them – then the prisoner is submerged deeper in the reality of his oppression by failing to be recognized for his role as an active participant in his freedom.
Submerged into the dynamics of incarceration and imprisonment, the prisoner adopts the guidelines of the systems that exploit him – due to conforming to his environment out of fear of the consequences, but mostly due to the fact that he has not been involved in creating the guidelines to the transformation process leading to his freedom. Therefore, the prisoner must not only see and carry out his role in the transformation of his chains, but must be recognized as playing a pivotal role in the abolition of the prison industrial complex.
The New Underground Railroad Movement was born out of the premise that the prisoner must be involved in his own liberation.
The prisoner must be his own example in the struggle for his liberation. And any individual, group or organization whose work involves abolition of any part or effect of the prison industrial complex cannot deal with the prisoner, in ideology or practice, as mere subjects waiting to be saved or answered for, but must work in solidarity with prisoners, understanding that it is only in dealing with the day to day realities that prisoners face, articulated from the prisoner’s praxis of experiences, that the true and sustaining solutions are to be found and sought for.
All work done on behalf of prisoners must start with the prisoners’ needs, and the ascertaining of the prisoners’ needs must start with a dialogue that grants the prisoner the opportunity to deal critically and creatively with his reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of his chains. A person learns to swim in the water, not in a library. As well, the prisoner will not become free by reading about what organizations are initiating on his behalf; he or she must get in the water!
“History suggests that it is crucial to the success of social movements that the people on whose behalf the movement speaks and acts need to themselves have a seat at the table when movement decisions are made and the character and culture of the movement is developed.” – “The New Jim Crow Study Guide and Call to Action”
The New Underground Railroad Movement earnestly recognizes this as crucial to the success and empowerment of all organizations and movements whose goals, agendas and mission work involve the transformation of the prison industrial complex and the restorative justice of human rights.
As a prisoner class, we need a seat at the table. The New Underground Railroad Movement seeks to establish a chapter in every prison and county jail in America and invites prisoners as well as the groups and organizations who work on behalf of prisoners’ rights and freedom to join us in organizing and carrying out the praxis of our liberation and the abolishment of the prison industrial complex.
Goals and objectives
– To promote the development and organization of our common praxis as a prisoner-worker class with the understanding that the prisoner cannot be truly rehabilitated unless he is allowed to create his world through his labor, not be exploited by it.
– “Work that is not free ceases to be a fulfilling pursuit and becomes an effective means of dehumanization.” – Paulo Freire
– To promote and develop the understanding that as a prisoner class, it is our labor that carries out the cause and effect of not only the inordinate sentences we are given in the unjust courts of America, but the perpetration of laws and policies that keeps us in prison and bargains on our return to prison via high recidivism.
– To promote and develop the understanding that the “criminal justice system” is a commercial instrument and is concerned about capital investments gained by warehousing prisoners for profit and working with individuals and organizations to wake up the masses and seek solutions where we are no longer exploited by this system.
– To promote and develop the understanding that we could have a real impact if we organize around our labor contribution. The prison industrial complex cannot afford to lose our labor and the economic support given by citizens who buy prison-made products or do business with companies allied to the prison industrial complex. Cut off the economics in order to change the policies!
Cut off the economics in order to change the policies!
– To promote and develop the understanding by all prisoners that we have to start being honest with ourselves about our conditions and the fact that we aren’t doing anything about it. Giving money to a lawyer is a pipedream. Being a mental slave to ignorance, which causes one to be dependent upon a lawyer or a judge to administer justice for a constitutional violation, is hype.
– To promote and develop the understanding that it is counterproductive to rehabilitative efforts to continue to label prisoners according to their crime 10, 15, 20 years later; and that there should be some up to date process to measure a prisoner’s rehabilitation or lack thereof.
– To promote and develop a Prisoners Bill of Rights wherein education, re-entry preparedness and rehabilitation are the priority – not free labor. These systems can’t function without our labor. When we take our labor back, only then will prisoners get back to the correction and rehabilitation that we deserve.
We believe: The premise of the prison system and inherent promise to the people of society is that there will be a viable program and effort to rehabilitate those incarcerated individuals and enable them to re-integrate into society in productive ways.
We believe: That prisons have become “profit motive” institutions that warehouse prisoners as “investments” and through a lack of rehabilitation ensure a return on their investment through high recidivism rates.
We believe: The lawmaker comes to need the outlaw, and in needing him, he creates him. The people can’t rely on those who create laws to undermine their power structure by truly rehabilitating prisoners.
We believe: The people in society, and especially impoverished communities, have a right and obligation to demand that Congress and other elected officials hold prisons accountable for lack of rehabilitation and high recidivism rates – through regulations, fines and budget cuts for prisons whose policies and character displays a lack of programs and results.
We believe: That the recycled criminality going in and out of prisons through lack of rehabilitation serves political agendas and election opportunities for politicians but victimizes the community and those incarcerated by dehumanizing and devaluing prisoners, preventing them from reintegrating into society in productive ways.
We believe: That the incarceration of Blacks and other people of color has reached such extreme levels that a prison sentence or felon label poses a much greater threat to urban families than crime itself.
The incarceration of Blacks and other people of color has reached such extreme levels that a prison sentence or felon label poses a much greater threat to urban families than crime itself.
We believe: That under “strategic release,” prisoners should be granted parole, pardon, or clemency based on the positive impact they have had on their community and society during their incarceration – and the even greater positive impact they will have on society as a whole if released.
We believe: That prisons should invest in social restitution programs, where prisoners can provide direct restorative justice to the people and communities wronged by their past transgressions.
We believe: Today’s prisons have undermined and dismantled social, vocational and educational opportunities, creating a nihilism and double incarceration for those released from prison; and it will take the organized efforts of us all to change this system.
The New Underground Railroad Movement: How you can help
Groups: If you are an organization, group or social movement working on behalf of prisoners’ rights in any way, you can help by developing a dialogue with prisoners organizing in your area to set up a curriculum around the work you are already doing, developing an inside-outside Think Tank and Board of Execution to come up with strategies and material to develop awareness on the inside and outside. You can also set up a page advertising prisoners’ grassroots movements from the inside and a “Donate button” or how-you-can-help link from your website.
Prisoners: If you are doing time in a prison or county jail, then your role is pivotal! Your feet are already planted in the grass of this grassroots movement. We need you to understand your value in terms of social change organizing.
You must develop the courage to see, speak and hear the truth; creativity to chart the needed but often unseen course; and compassion for ourselves and our companions along the way. You must organize around your labor value and class consciousness – utilizing the value of our labor to the system as a collective bargaining chip via work and labor strikes to demand a restructuring of the prison system. “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for!”
Individuals: As was done with the slaves, American prisoners are projected to the public as objects of suspicion, fear, ridicule and hate. This is done to psychologically reinforce racial bribes, stereotypes and biases that create barriers to the recognition of prisoners’ humanity. The first step for many of you will be to re-evaluate your perspective on crime and punishment and your superstitious beliefs in the justice system, determining what psychic adjustments or hallucinations you have made to accept a system more devastating than apartheid.
As was done with the slaves, American prisoners are projected to the public as objects of suspicion, fear, ridicule and hate. This is done to psychologically reinforce racial bribes, stereotypes and biases that create barriers to the recognition of prisoners’ humanity.
The New Underground Railroad Movement Questionnaire will assist you in revealing any biases that may be reinforcing your subconscious support of the system. Answer the questions openly, honestly and observantly – watching for any insights that may spring up. And once your conscience begins to demand a better vision for this country, contact us with how you are willing to help.
“I still believe that freedom is the bonus you receive for telling the truth.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
Contact the New Underground Railroad Movement Director-Coordinator Mr. Anthony Robinson Jr. at P-67144, TCCF MC-67, 415 US Hwy 49 North, Tutwiler, MS 38963.
New Underground Railroad Movement Questionnaire
“We must discuss and debate how the system of mass incarceration actually works (as opposed to how it is advertised) so that our discussions about how best to respond can be grounded in fact, not popular myth. We must be willing to search for the truth – and admit the truth – about ourselves, our own biases, stereotypes and misconceptions and the ways in which we might actually be part of the problem. If we muster the courage to face the truth about ourselves, our history, and our present, we have reason to hope for a radically better future.” – “The New Jim Crow Study Guide and Call to Action”
This questionnaire allows readers to address themselves and their perspectives – biases, misconceptions, stereotypes – on mass incarceration and the prison industrial complex and face the truth about what role they are playing in the institutionalization of mass incarceration.
True or False: There are more people incarcerated in America today than there were in South Africa at the height of apartheid?
Statistics show which crimes to be more damaging to society as a whole: property crime committed by the poor or white collar crime committed by the rich?
Seventy percent of all crimes in America are committed by which group?
Since the 1980s, what is the ratio of prisons to colleges California has built?
Approximately how much or what percent of labor and goods of the GDP in America comes from prison manufactured goods?
Should employers and housing officials ever have the right to discriminate against people with criminal records?
Did you know that the U.S. military dictates that contracts for cheap labor be sought in prisons first before society?
What impact has this tentacle of the prison industrial complex had on the free labor market in communities?
In order to finance World War II, Hitler insured soldiers, then insured prisoners and created reasons and laws to incarcerate as many people as he could; today the U.S. has adopted Hitler’s pattern of bonding and insuring prisoners and locking up more people than any other country in the world. How is criminal justice being served by trading prisoners’ bonds and selling them as mutual funds on the stock market?
The national statistic is that three out of five African American men are in prison, on their way to prison or have been to prison. What does that reveal about the makeup of society when a statistic predicts sending citizens to prisons?
Send our brother some love and light: Anthony Robinson Jr., P-67144, TCCF MC-67, 415 US Hwy 49 North, Tutwiler, MS 38963.