This April, a Week of Action is taking place across England, Wales and Scotland to confront the prison industrial complex; the overlapping interests of government and industry that use surveillance, policing, and imprisonment as solutions to economic, social and political problems.

One member of the Empty Cages Collective writes why they are part of organising it:

Over the last 12 years of visiting friends in prison, the weekly visit is the same. The same ritual of working class people being lined up, searched and ‘processed’. The same screaming children saying goodbye to their Mums or Dads. The same tired faces; a desperate complexion of sadness, grief, rage and pain, or simply a downright bored emotionless energy of being to too tired to deal with this shit any more. More often that not, I’m the only white person in the queue. There is the odd male partner, father or relative, but its mostly women and genderqueer folk, gays, and misfits. We share a shattered dream that our destiny is our own, surrendering to the state as we’re dwarfed by the power of the prison system, its daily abuses to our loved ones, and our sense of powerlessness that we can possibly change it in any way, shape or form. Coping from week to week, worrying about money and how we’re gonna send them in their postal order the next month, or pay the train fayre to the prison, is generally as far as we get. It’s a game of survival, of staying emotionally and financially afloat, and supporting the people we love in prison to not harm or kill themselves, and to come out those gates alive. If they get out at all.

Week SmallThe one thing that has helped me cope with this ritual, is organising. It helps me feel less alone, and gives me critical hope that maybe one day, HMP will fall. That’s why this April, the Empty Cages Collective, a group of ex-prisoners and those who support or have supported people they love inside, are organising a Women and Trans* Week of Action against the Prison Industrial Complex. It is a week explicitly for folks who identify as women, non-binary, transgender, transsexual, gender queer and gender variant.

We will be gathering over three days in Liverpool over the weekend of the 22 – 24th April 2016 to explore how our struggles connect. There will be workshops about state violence such as prisons, migration controls, policing and poverty, as well as spaces to reflect and explore how these relate to interpersonal violence, such as sexual harassment, rape and domestic abuse. We want to explore how we can confront the endemic violence in our lives without strengthening the criminal justice system and the power of the state. Sounds really fun, eh? Well there will also be physical self defense workshops, direct action training, and a whole lot of cake. We know from the people already coming to speak and host workshops that it will be an inspiring convergence that could change our lives.

After the weekend gathering there will be three days of action, where people can turn their pain into power. We are imagining blockades and demos at prison construction sites and their suppliers, noise demos at prisons, stalls at prison visit times, reclaim the night marches and more. On the Wednesday 27th there will be a decentralised day of action, so people from all over England, Wales and Scotland can act locally to confront the invisibility of the prison system and challenge its inevitability.

We have written a series of blogs here that are intended to very briefly introduce some of the different threads over the weekend.

The gathering will have childcare, multiple sleeping options so everyone is comfortable, and we are fundraising for bursaries for supporting travel costs. To ensure we can try our best to meet people’s needs we are asking people to register in advance where possible. Please find a form here.

If you’re interested in hosting a workshop, proposing an activity or just otherwise want to help make this happen please email info@prisonabolition.org. This is a 100% grassroots event, with limited cash, no paid staff, or access to state or institutional resources, but a whole lot of anger and rage to make this happen. We need you to get stuck in! Please get in touch.