Building a world without prisons: IDOC Watch joins Liberation Center

The Indianapolis Liberation Center’s mission of radically transforming society in the interests of the oppressed, exploited, and marginalized might seem like an idealistic dream at first. History, however, proves that the dreams and hopes of one decade or century can—through united struggle—become reality. Even in our short history at the new Center, together we have achieved more than we imagined we could less than a year ago. That is one reason we are especially honored and humbled to officially welcome IDOC Watch as our newest member-organization!

A representative of IDOC Watch announced our strategic alliance for the first time last night, at the June 19 launch of Shaka Shakur’s latest book, From the Republic of New Afrika to Palestine. During his presentation, Shaka Shakur, a New Afrikan Political Prisoner and member of IDOC Watch, helped the audience realize the significance of what we have and will accomplish together:

“Thirty years ago in time, the things that we see developing now with the Indy Liberation Center with IDOC Watch, FOCUS Families, etc., are things that we used to dream about when I was trapped inside these prisons, held in solitary confinement… We now have that. It’s no longer just a thought or a theory.”

The same holds for IDOC Watch (IDOCW). In 2016, when they were founded, how many people truly believed that an anti-prison organization would not only survive but thrive and expand—creating spin-off projects and institutions—in the state of Indiana?

Why the people need IDOC Watch

IDOCW is an abolitionist movement that is building an organization of incarcerated people and outside organizers in Indiana to expose abuses in Indiana’s prisons and jails, fighting back, and struggling for decarceration. IDOCW understands that the prison system and its attendant institutions are designed to maintain a certain model of society and way of life through violence, coercion, and fear. Their mission is to combat this repressive system and to realize the liberation of oppressed nations both within and outside of the United States—a goal that will only be met when through building solidarity with prisoners and creating a mass-based struggle to eliminate white supremacy and capitalism, the two systems that contemporary mass incarceration maintains.

Mass incarceration emerged in response to the revolutionary movements that tore down Jim Crow apartheid and seriously threatened the stability of U.S. imperialism. The ruling class turned to prisons as a means to maintain social control, repress political dissidents, and increase profits. As a result, the ability of prisoners to seek writs of habeas corpus—the legal vehicle through which we can challenge unjust imprisonment—was greatly reduced. More prisoners meant more people wrongfully convicted seeking habeas corpus relief.

While the U.S. champions itself as a bastion of freedom, often juxtaposing itself with governments that it deems “undemocratic,” it refuses to recognize that it detains people for political reasons, and especially has never acknowledged the incarceration of any “prisoners of war” domestically.

In 2021, the Spirit of Mandela Coalition organized an International Tribunal and convened international jurists to rule on whether or not the United States was guilty of human rights abuses against Black, Brown, and Indigenous people.

The jury found the United States guilty on five counts, which, according to Spirit of Mandela, are:

  • Racist police killings of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people
  • Hyper incarcerations of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people
  • Political incarceration of Civil Rights/National Liberation era revolutionaries and activists, as well as present day activists
  • Environmental racism and its impact on Black, Brown, and Indigenous people
  • Public Health racism and disparities and its impact on Black, Brown, and Indigenous people
  • Genocide of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people as a result of the historic and systemic charges of all the above.

The 2021 tribunal was the first time that the U.S. was been found guilty by international jurists of genocide.

Indiana’s incarceration rates stand out internationally and continue to rise. Now, more than ever, we need comrades in IDOCW who are actively fighting for reforms, rollbacks of harmful initiatives and policies, and fostering communication between prisoners and their loved ones in order to cultivate the conditions in which people are allowed and celebrated for transforming themselves and their communities into revolutionaries through political education and action.

Dreaming bigger for a better future

Nick Gavin, IDOC Watch’s co-founder, echoed the group’s excitement about the new possibilities unlocked through this collaboration. “We’re looking forward to having a space to build power with other organizations and community members to struggle for abolition,” he said.

The Liberation Center, too, is energized by how IDOCW’s membership will advance our collective mission of creating a world free of oppression, exploitation, and all forms of discrimination and bigotry. We are enthusiastic about the new relationships we’ll build and the new volunteers we’ll recruit and develop to provide direct support for members of our class held in captivity as well as their loved ones on the outside, all while raising mass consciousness about the prison-industrial complex.

With IDOC Watch in our ranks, the Center and our existing member-organizations like FOCUS Initiatives, Free Shaka Shakur, Hope Packages, PSL Indianapolis, ANSWER Indiana, the Indiana Black Librarians Network, and Arte Mexicano en Indiana, have a key weapon in the battles ahead as we continue to uplift and defend our class; the marginalized, dispossessed, oppressed, and exploited.

Our new relationship is also a challenge for us to dream even bigger and set our expectations of ourselves and each other even higher. “Be realistic,” as Che Guevara once said, “demand the impossible!”