The Sylvia Rivera Law Project’s collective model prioritizes the voices of the people most affected by the systems of violence and oppression we fight daily. This model of community involvement led to the creation of our Prisoner Advisory Committee (PAC); a committee of trans, intersex, gender non-conforming people and allies who are currently incarcerated in New York State. PAC members provide insightful analysis that informs the direction of our legal work and movement building work. Of equal, if not more importance, is the ability to build community through PAC membership. PAC members have been sharing their stories for years through our annual prison newsletter, In Solidarity. This small annual publication, however, could not possibly reprint all of the stories delivered to our mailbox every day. For that reason, we decided to ask PAC members if we could share their stories online. The answer was an emphatic, “yes”!
Our PAC page will now be a platform where we share stories from our incarcerated and formerly incarcerated community members. Click here to visit the page and check back frequently for posts!
SRLP volunteers have been working hard to sort through all of the letters and transcribe stories as they come in. We do not censor the letters, other than correcting grammatical errors or altering names of people who should not be identified. We post this content so it can be shared with prisoners’ rights advocates, family members, students, colleagues, conference attendees, and whoever else cares to hear the real stories about our atrocious system of incarceration.
Prison administrations are constantly trying to prevent our PAC mail from being distributed because they too understand the power of community building and storytelling. It is our hope that after reading these stories, you will be inspired to join the fight against the isolating effects of our prison system. You may ask, “What can I do to work in solidarity with our incarcerated community members?” Here are a few suggestions:
- LEARN about our prison system:
- Start with the blog entries from people who are incarcerated!
- Read SRLP’s reports and articles:
- It’s War In Here: A Report On Transgender People In Men’s Prisons (PDF file)
- Safety and Solidarity Across Gender Lines: Rethinking segregation of transgender people in detention (PDF file)
- Correcting Race and Gender: Prison Regulation of Social Hierarchy Through Dress
- Prisons As a Tool for Reproductive Oppression: Cross Movement Strategies for Gender Justice
- Go beyond the mainstream! Reach out to other grassroots organizations doing amazing work. Here is a list of some grassroots groups across the country.
- CONNECT with people who are incarcerated:
- Become a pen pal
- Consider visiting places of incarceration (SRLP’s “Solidarity in Action: A Guide to Visiting Incarcerated Community Members” is coming soon!)
- SPEAK OUT:
- Share the stories found on the blog!
- Become an advocate and write letters of support, make phone calls and join applicable campaigns.
The Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP) works to guarantee that all people are free to self-determine gender identity and expression, regardless of income or race, and without facing harassment, discrimination or violence.
This blog, which features letters from our Prisoner Advisory Committee (PAC) members, is just one way we overcome the enormous state-created barriers to communication and political participation for the people who are most affected by the prison system.