The ever-encroaching behemoth Prison Industrial Complex has entrenched and expanded itself into a mega-billion dollar pillar of an empire. Simultaneously, prisons have activated people into resistance, reform, and alternatives. Some work with organizations, some in small groups, and some in isolation.
Primary blogger for Unprison is Bruce Reilly, deputy director of Voice of the Ex-Offender (VOTE) in New Orleans, LA. He remains a member of Direct Action for Rights & Equality (Providence, RI) since the inception of its Behind the Walls prison committee in 1999. Bruce was a jailhouse lawyer for 12 years inside, and is a steering committee member of the Formerly Incarcerated, Convicted People and Families Movement. His poetry, screenwriting, and PIC commentary has appeared in numerous places over the years. He graduated Tulane University Law School in 2014, and is one of the few people in America who has the direct experiences of prison, community organizing, systemic policy analysis, and a legal education.
“Before I even went to prison, I had done a terrible and irrevocable thing and had to figure out what to do next. Rather than dive into drugs and suppress my emotions, rather than kill myself, I committed to helping people in any way I could. During prison, and after prison, I found many opportunities to assist- particularly those who may be ill equipped to deal with the law. Some are clearly innocent, and/or suffering from addiction or mental illness, have learning disabilities, or speak English as a second language. For some people, if it weren’t me helping, it would be nobody. If there’s anything I can do on others’ behalf, I feel an obligation to give everything I’ve got.”
Bruce Reilly is an artist who seeks to find the cultural ground to stoke thought and activism, including plays he has written and directed. Bruce also is a co-founder of Transcending Through Education Foundation, a scholarship program started with two other formerly incarcerated men who went on to earn law degrees. He serves on the board of Louisiana Chapter of National Lawyers Guild, and advisory board of Prison Policy Initiative. He has been a lead member of groups that reformed policies in housing, employment, voting, prison conditions and drug sentencing.
The Prison Industrial Complex has grown out of ignorance and mechanized the suffering of far too many. They fight to imprison. We fight to unprison.