The Rethinking Prisons conference at Vanderbilt University began as a project of REACH Coalition. We are an interracial, intergenerational group of men and women who are committed to breaking down social barriers and challenging the structures of oppression that support the prison industrial complex and capital punishment in the US. Some of us are prisoners on death row at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution. Others are students and professors at Nashville colleges and universities. But we are all members of a community that is affected by mass incarceration and the hyper-incarceration of poor people and people of color.
REACH Coalition has been meeting once a week since January 2012 to discuss philosophy, art, and politics. We have read work by Plato, Simone de Beauvoir, Michelle Alexander, and others. In January 2013, we exhibited art from Tennessee’s death row at Vanderbilt’s Sarratt Gallery. We also collaborated with WUI Collective to create a series of Postcards from Death Row. Together with W. Scott Lyon, inside members of REACH produced a book of writing from death row, called So I Can Live, which will be available at the conference.
Most recently, we have prepared three conference presentations on issues of central importance to us: death penalty law in Tennessee; cycles of domestic violence and abuse; and creative ways that REACH Coalition members have sought to address these issues.
Outside members of REACH presented statements written by inside participants at the Rethinking Prisons conference on May 5, 2013 at Vanderbilt University. You can watch a video of the REACH Coalition here, or read the statements by clicking on the links below.
Subcommittee on Death Penalty Law
Authority by Derrick Quintero
Subcommittee on Domestic Violence
A Changing Climate by Abu Ali Abdur’Rahman
Closing the Revolving Door by Harold Wayne Nichols
Akil – Poem and Statement by Akil Jahi