Since 2013, Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and host of The Chris Hedges Report, has taught faculty programs in drama, literature, philosophy, and historical past at East Jersey State Jail (aka “Rahway”) and different New Jersey prisons. In a single such course, after studying performs by Amiri Baraka and August Wilson, amongst others, Hedges’ college students wrote a play of their very own. The play, Caged, would finally be revealed and carried out at The Passage Theatre in Trenton, New Jersey, for a month-long run in 2018 to sold-out audiences. In his newest e book, Our Class: Trauma and Transformation in an American Prison, Hedges chronicles the journey he and his class launched into collectively. Becoming a member of Mansa Musa on Rattling the Bars, Hedges speaks about his e book and the transformations he witnessed among the many males he taught behind jail partitions.
Chris Hedges is the previous Center East bureau chief of The New York Occasions, a Pulitzer Prize winner, and a columnist at ScheerPost. He previously hosted this system Days of Revolt, produced by TRNN, and at present hosts The Chris Hedges Report. Hedges is the writer of a number of books, together with America: The Farewell Tour; American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America, and Our Class: Trauma and Transformation in an American Prison.
Pre-Manufacturing/Studio/Put up-Manufacturing: Cameron Granadino
Mansa Musa: Welcome to this version of Rattling the Bars. I’m Mansa Musa, co-hosting with Eddie Conway. Right now, we’ve got a unprecedented visitor. We have now Chris Hedges, who’s a Pulitzer Prize successful journalist, was a overseas correspondent and bureau chief within the Center East and the Balkans for 15 years. His physique of labor is infinite in a whole lot of regards. A Grasp of Divinity of Harvard College, and I’m simply scratching the floor. He wrote a e book entitled Our Class: Trauma and Transformation in an American Jail. We’ll be discussing this e book amongst different issues right now. Welcome, Chris.
Chris Hedges: Thanks.
Mansa Musa: Let’s begin by taking a look at among the issues that you just stated in your e book. You ventured into Rahway jail, most safety jail, September the fifth of 2013, and also you stated in your e book that this was a calling. Clarify that.
Chris Hedges: Nicely, I had gone to Harvard Divinity Faculty, however I’d lived in Roxbury, which is a depressed city space in Boston, and ran a small church as a result of I wished to be an inside metropolis minister. And I finally left divinity college to grow to be a journalist. However I did spend two and a half years within the inside metropolis, which, as anyone who grew up white, middle-class, was maybe probably the most formative expertise in my life as a result of it taught me how the interlocking techniques of institutional racism and the way they work. The probation officers, the courts, the police, the faculties, the banks, all of them work in live performance to maintain the poor poor. However you don’t actually see it till you reside inside what Malcolm X referred to as, considered one of these inside colonies.
I used to be abroad for 20 years. I got here again. My neighbor, who was the top of the historical past division on the Faculty of New Jersey – This was earlier than Rutgers had a university program – Was educating semester-long programs as a result of after folks acquired their GEDs, there wasn’t something for them to proceed their training. So she would train like a historical past course, the identical type of course she taught on the Faculty of New Jersey. It didn’t have any tutorial validity, but when the scholars completed the course, she would print up on her residence pc a certificates. It could go of their file. Once they went earlier than the parole board, it will present optimistic exercise that that they had completed whereas they had been incarcerated.
So I started there. After which in 2013, Rutgers started a level program, which has been fairly profitable, initially an affiliate’s diploma, now a full BA diploma, and I began educating there. But it surely was returning to my unique calling in a way that I went again to that group that I had labored with and thought I used to be going to spend most of my life working with as a minister, and so it was a type of return. You understand, they are saying, life’s not a line, it’s a circle.
Mansa Musa: Okay. And let’s have a look at the e book in and of itself, Our Class. This e book, Our Class: Trauma and Transformation in an American Jail, has a singular means of unpacking the trauma that the majority of us undergo from mass incarceration. However extra importantly, by way of utilizing drama to get the lads to unpack traumatic experiences. Speak about that. How did you provide you with this idea? As a result of, as I stated, in and of itself, I used to be locked up 48 years within the Maryland jail system, so I’m actual accustomed to jail exercise, and we sponsor a whole lot of actions, however this specific idea and the way in which you put it to use to get males to enter areas that had been a whole lot of occasions arduous to deal with or unpack. How had been you capable of provide you with this specific strategy?
Chris Hedges: It was utterly unintended. Nicely, that’s in all probability why it labored. It wasn’t premeditated. So I used to be educating a course on drama. Nicely, not surprisingly, most individuals within the class, had 28 college students, had no firsthand expertise with drama as a result of they don’t have $150 to go purchase a ticket to see one thing in New York. And so I made a decision, as a result of drama, every part is conveyed primarily by means of dialogue – Though in fact nice actors convey so much to that – However primarily by means of dialogue. And so simply on a whim, I stated, nicely, why don’t you write scenes from your individual life, however in dialogue, in dramatic dialogue, in order that they may grow to be accustomed to the type of drama.
However what I didn’t know is that it had gotten round contained in the jail that I used to be a author. One among my college students truly was fairly accustomed to my work, and he had recruited the perfect writers within the jail. And as , there are at all times inside a jail a bunch of people that take writing very critically. My college students, they turned their cells into libraries. However I had a few half dozen extraordinarily gifted writers. So after they wrote these scenes, I introduced them residence. My spouse is an actor, and I confirmed her these scenes. And after two, three weeks, the standard was nonetheless so exemplary that I made a decision that I might assist them write a play.
Nicely, once more, I didn’t perceive what I used to be doing. As a result of as , in a jail, you don’t ask what individuals are in for, folks don’t even use their authorized names in jail. It’s important to construct these emotional partitions as a result of any signal of weak point, any signal of concern, any signal of vulnerability, even sensitivity, makes you prey, could make you prey for predators in jail. So you retain these partitions up. And by getting them to write down out of their very own life, in fact what they had been doing is dredging up these traumatic, emotional experiences, each inside and out of doors jail that many had by no means spoken about ever. Despite the fact that they might have been in a cell with anyone for years, they’d by no means talked about it.
I imply, only one instance, considered one of my college students, I stated, we had been making an attempt to work on a scene with a mom. My job was to type of paste every part collectively. And I stated, nicely, write only a dialogue along with your mom. And on the finish of the category, one of many college students got here up and stated, nicely, what if we’re a product of rape? And I stated, nicely, that’s what it’s important to write. So what he writes is the cellphone name that he makes from the county when, after he’s picked up. He’s from Patterson. He’s picked up in a automotive together with his half-brother. There’s a gun within the automotive. If anyone doesn’t declare it, then all people’s going to get a weapons cost. He says it’s his gun. It wasn’t his gun. It was his half-brother’s gun. However the dialog together with his mom is, it doesn’t matter, Ma, I used to be by no means imagined to be right here anyway. And you’ve got the son you like. He went to jail to basically give his mom the son she cherished.
And, in fact, it was deeply emotional. However that’s what occurred that inadvertently these partitions crumbled in that course of. And there have been issues that folks wrote that they couldn’t… It was so emotional, they couldn’t even learn it. And it created a type of bonding in that classroom, which, to today, I imply, that was 2013. I’m on the gate when these guys get out. I’ve continued relationships with them. They’ve relationships within the jail which can be completely different from different relationships as a result of basically, inside that classroom setting by means of the method of writing that play – Which was finally revealed and finally carried out by the skilled theater in Trenton, was offered out each evening, was referred to as Caged – They instructed the reality about their lives, their experiences, that simply doesn’t get heard inside a jail setting. Nicely, very not often.
Mansa Musa: And that brings me to my subsequent query, as a result of, as you eloquently expressed how by means of this writing they got this chance. I do know from expertise that a whole lot of us that come into jail, a whole lot of us are illiterate. Numerous us don’t have the flexibility to articulate ourselves in a literary capability. However on this case, one, you bought the perfect writers. However extra importantly, in exposing them to writing, did you sense that that they had one thing in them to speak about and that this writing would give them the outlet to convey what they verbally, usually convey amongst themselves in non-public? We discuss so much amongst ourselves. However did you sense that, in some unspecified time in the future, did you sense that this writing, that this mechanism proper right here was going to permit you to have the ability to get them to be extra comfy with what they had been saying, and extra importantly, to vary their desirous about themselves and the world round them?
Chris Hedges: I don’t know the way a lot I modified their pondering. It was extra that I allowed these inside ideas by means of that course of to be expressed. It’s important to bear in mind, these are extremely educated folks. A number of college students in that class went on to graduate summa cum laude from Rutgers College. And they also had completed a whole lot of pondering themselves and a whole lot of self-reflection. However right here it got here out and it was expressed, and ache, the ache that they carried. It was attention-grabbing how lots of the college students within the class, as a result of they’re large guys, a whole lot of them, all of them elevate weights. They name it The 400 Membership as a result of all of them bench over 400. However all of them typically talked about bullying, which was a quite common expertise throughout the classroom as kids. They’d been bullied. So simply all kinds of ache that that they had endured, loss, grief, that wrestle to carry collectively a household.
The entire plot line of the play was based mostly on a real story a few man who’d been picked up for against the law he didn’t commit. He was the only real employee within the household, so he took care of the mom who had most cancers and [his] 16-year previous brother. Nicely, in fact he goes into jail and the world collapses. His mom dies, his brother will get evicted, finally ends up on the streets, and he begins to hustle to get cash to get a lawyer for his brother. And it is a very… His lawyer calls it a Halley’s Comet expertise. He truly acquired his conviction overturned finally after a couple of years, however the world had disintegrated due to that, and that was the plot line of the play.
So these folks, they’re faraway from their communities. They’re faraway from their kids. They’re faraway from their households. They’re powerless in some ways to try to assist. I imply, they attempt to be fathers over the cellphone, however there’s a whole lot of anger that’s expressed by the kids, after which they cease coming. As , they at all times say after about 5 years, then the visits get scarcer and scarcer. And there are various instances I had with college students who merely instructed them, as a result of it’s a humiliating course of to undergo a go to, the guards will deal with the households, even the kids, not a lot better than the prisoners. And lots of people simply say, don’t go to, particularly to their moms. The relationships disintegrate, the marriages. I had college students who had been paralegals who wrote basically the divorces for his or her wives, and we neglect about all of that and what that does to folks on the within. But in addition what that does, as a result of jail impacts not solely those that had been inside, however those that are exterior in innumerable methods, not least of which is monetary, as a result of prisons are utterly predatory.
So it’s World Tel Hyperlink and Aramark and Jpay and the commissary, every part is privatized. Plus you bought fines. I imply, you’re extracting cash from the poorest of the poor. It’s simply modern-day slavery. [crosstalk] Prisons are principally plantations. They’re run like plantations. Even the way in which I used to be as soon as at an occasion and I watched the warden, who had been a guard on this jail, come up. And I simply watched all my college students flatter him. I imply, he was even blushing. And I stated to them afterwards, I stated, as a result of I do know what they consider him and what they… And it jogged my memory precisely of what W.E.B. Du Bois would write about that type of double consciousness, that should you’re Black in a state of affairs like that, you’ve acquired to know the white world and perceive your individual world. However in fact, that white hierarchy doesn’t perceive the Black world in any respect, despite the fact that they’re in bodily shut proximity to it.
However there was an ideal instance. They hate the warden, clearly, however they realized inside that energy construction, as a result of he had whole energy in the identical means the plantation proprietor has whole energy, they needed to flatter him in such a means, and which turned a type of type of manipulation, clearly.
All of these issues had been captured within the play. Together with the jail code. So you could have a type of formal code. If anyone dishonors you or disrespects you, you’re supposed to reply. However as my college students stated, that code is in truth extra typically violated than adopted. The best way they put it’s, you might have anyone are available in who did one thing to a member of your loved ones, and the code could say that it’s important to search revenge, however of their phrases, you’re a phantom and he’s a phantom, and stroll by. I imply, as a jail is a posh subculture, which clearly higher than I do. However all of that acquired wrapped into this superb play.
Mansa Musa: And let’s dial down on, let’s speak about the way you had been capable of like… And initially, how lengthy was this course of?
Chris Hedges: 4 months.
Mansa Musa: Okay. So let’s speak about the way you had been capable of get them to take care of the mission on this emotional rollercoaster. As a result of, as you spoke, the one individual stated, nicely, your father was on this cell, or one other individual that’s ready to observe the code and do one thing. And by the identical token, is talked out of it or the various things that go on within the dialog that you just… How had been you capable of get them to remain targeted on the mission within the midst of this emotional rollercoaster? As a result of bear in mind, I do know for a truth, I’ve been on this surroundings that, oh, I’ll go on a diatribe. You understand, one thing comes up in my head and also you say, okay, learn what you wrote. After which in some unspecified time in the future I’m going right into a diatribe. How had been you capable of get round these kinds of conditions and get all people to remain targeted on the mission?
Chris Hedges: Proper. Nicely, that was my job. I used to be the editor, so I might take the 28 scenes – And I added one other class, so we’re assembly twice per week. You’ll be able to signal college students up for remedial assist based on the jail so I simply signed all 28 college students up for remedial assist and acquired them for one more day. However I might cobble it collectively, typically taking elements of 1 scene with one other scene. Clearly I went again to the category and skim it to them. They needed to approve it. They had been reticent at first, folks coming in from the surface, particularly should you’re white, there’s that they don’t like do-gooders, they don’t actually need to, they’re not… It’s that type of exoticism folks really feel in direction of prisoners like visiting animals in a zoo. I imply they’re conscious of all that stuff, in order that they’re cautious.
I imply, they’ve good antennas. There’s a chapter referred to as “Antennas”. And I do know as a warfare correspondent, you want a superb antenna simply to outlive, and should you don’t have it, you don’t survive. That was true in warfare, it’s additionally true in jail, additionally true for his or her experiences on the road which had been violent and harmful. So that they have extremely developed antennas to sense folks out. And they also watched me at first they usually saved their distance, however I don’t faux to be something that I’m not. I don’t faux to know the place they arrive from. I’m at all times utterly sincere. And I don’t go in there in any means and faux I’m hip, which might be a catastrophic catastrophe. I truly put on a swimsuit. I put on a swimsuit, simply as I’ve taught at Princeton or Columbia, simply as I might at Princeton or Columbia. And I anticipate the identical decorum and the identical stage, tutorial stage, which I get, as I might for college kids at Princeton, Columbia, NYU, or some other college I’ve taught at.
And I feel that there was that sense that I used to be sincere and I used to be actual and I do care. After which it was watching different college students make that first emotional step that gave them the area to make it. I imply, we had been studying performs. We had been studying August Wilson and Amiri Baraka and James Baldwin, so I needed to train the play. However folks would get actually stressed if I didn’t preserve room on the finish for them, as a result of all of them wished to stand up. They might stand up in entrance of the category and skim it. It was very shifting, after which everybody would applaud. They usually all wished, with some exceptions when it was simply too emotional, all of them wished to learn what they’d completed. And so it had a… The drive was built-in, it wasn’t constructed by me essentially, it was constructed throughout the class, that they determined to take these emotional steps, that that they had the braveness to be weak. And some folks stepped out first after which the remaining adopted.
Mansa Musa: And I need to enterprise in that space just a little bit extra as a result of the secure area, you hear this time period so much. And in a reentry group and even in jail, like I used to be in supermax, and one of many tiers I used to be on, that they had a whole lot of guys who had a whole lot of open costs. So that you couldn’t come on that tier except anyone sanctioned you to come back on that tier, making a secure area that was ensuring that the individual that got here on that tier wouldn’t return and write the state’s legal professional and say, oh, I heard… So when did you notice, or when did you acknowledge that you just had truly, that by means of this course of, you had created a secure area? As a result of should you don’t haven’t any secure area, you then going to get a whole lot of storytelling, and it’s going to be a whole lot of fabrication, and also you’re not going to get what you really need, and that’s the lads to open up and speak about traumatic occasions of their lives and be capable of course of that data?
Chris Hedges: Yeah. So among the college students tried to write down not out of their very own expertise, however like out of a tv script, like The Wire or one thing, or I don’t know what you considered The Wire. I couldn’t watch it. I simply thought it was romanticized crap. However yeah, it was very talked-about, possibly –
Mansa Musa: Amen. Amen.
Chris Hedges: Okay. I didn’t… Simply wasn’t actual for me. Anyway, however they might attempt to write like that or they’d write out of some gangster movie or one thing, however I may scent it. Despite the fact that I don’t know the road, I may simply scent that it wasn’t actual. And clearly any well-run jail has figures. I’m speaking about prisoners who’re leaders and revered, not solely by the opposite prisoners, by the administration and the guards as nicely. They usually’re type of interlocutors, they’re the folks the guards will go to. They’re sincere. They would be the tier rep. I don’t know, however they’ve a standing inside.
I had three guys like that within the jail. I imply, actually considered one of them was the top of the Muslim group, they usually had been actually critical guys. They usually had been those who sat within the again row they usually watched me the closest. However after they stepped ahead, then I feel it opened the door for everybody else. And they’d name out that type of writing as a result of it wasn’t actual, it was like… I like Tupac so much. I feel he’s superb. However once more, it was that romanticizing gangster life. And that’s why the play is actual, as a result of they made positive it was actual.
I used to be educating on the supermax jail in Trenton, and considered one of my college students gave me this story he’d written about driving a Lexus and ingesting Cristal champagne, all this sort of stuff. And he made his cash robbing different drug sellers. There’s this complete group of people that will rob. Like, nicely, I’ve had college students who’re large drug sellers. They are saying, I don’t even empty my rubbish except I acquired a gun, which isn’t for the cops. It’s as a result of they know there’s a bunch of people that know he’s acquired medication and know he’s acquired cash they usually’ll take it from him. And so I gave it to considered one of my college students, Boris, who was out by then. He stated, you return and inform him that he by no means made a dime. And I went again, gave it to him and I stated, nicely, I don’t know something about it, and the man regarded, he goes, yeah, it’s true.
So we needed to shatter… As a result of mass media is so highly effective, it creates these photographs which can be unreal. And that was shattered. Not a lot by me, as a result of I don’t have the experience to do it, however by different folks within the classroom who simply referred to as it out for what it was. I imply, I bear in mind as soon as, as a result of there was a query of whether or not a man was going to get shanked or stabbed within the play, as a result of within the play they’d killed his brother, and I used to be asking the category. I stated, nicely, should you shank anyone, don’t you might get one other life bid? I imply, you’re not going to flee. They’re going to… And all people goes, oh yeah, they know, they know. And on the finish of the category, one of many guys comes up and he goes, every part you heard is crap, as a result of I shanked anyone in one other jail, and let me inform you, I wasn’t desirous about something that. The one factor I used to be desirous about was taking the man out.
Mansa Musa: Proper. Yeah.
Chris Hedges: Even throughout the jail classroom, there needed to be checks like that.
Mansa Musa: Proper. And, oh, let’s transfer into, I had requested you earlier and also you referenced that you just don’t know whether or not you modified their pondering. And in researching this interview, I used to be revisiting an essay that Huey Newton wrote referred to as “Jail, The place Is Thy Victory?” And on this essay, he identifies that how, in some unspecified time in the future in time, the contradiction between within the jail inhabitants turns into to the purpose the place you could have the illegitimate capitalist, these of us which can be nonetheless striving to get some huge cash, though illegitimately, not saying that capitalism is reliable, after which when he talks about prisoners turning into politicized and turning into political prisoners. On this course of, did you see that sort of transition? As a result of I do know you stated you cope with them after they’re popping out and also you keep… Have you ever seen them take a step ahead by way of turning into extra political and advocating for the abolition of jail or advocating for prisoner’s rights or advocating for extra packages or extra actions the place prisoners can be capable of write our story?
Chris Hedges: Yeah. Nicely, initially, the those that I cope with are fairly distinctive intellectuals who’ve turned their cells into libraries, who’ve learn voraciously, got here out of failed college techniques. But when they hadn’t come out of failed college techniques, they might’ve excelled academically. They usually’re older. I imply, a lot of the guys I train are in all probability, common age, of their 40s, as a result of they’re in a medium safety jail, however a whole lot of them began out at Trenton on the supermax after which after a decade they get transferred. So I might say their political consciousness is fairly excessive, particularly, I discovered, among the many Muslims. I don’t know what your expertise is, however within the prisons that I’ve taught in New Jersey, and I feel largely due to Malcolm X and others, they had been in all probability probably the most politicized. I imply, I’ve taught 5 Percenters and others. In fact, should you are available in and you’ve got a political consciousness, that’s normally a ticket to advert seg.
Mansa Musa: Just about, yeah.
Chris Hedges: Fairly fast. Fairly proper there, you don’t must commit any jail infraction –
Mansa Musa: Your pondering is legitimate sufficient.
Chris Hedges: Yeah. Yeah. So I imply, that’s why advert seg was created. It was for the [crosstalk]
Mansa Musa: So true.
Chris Hedges: So like I taught a category the place that they had a sit-down strike. Nicely in fact they discovered who the leaders had been. That’s all they cared [about]. Everyone’s cell was strip searched, and people guys had been despatched to a different jail and put in indefinite solitary confinement. Just like the Free Alabama Motion. They used to name me – I haven’t talked to them for some time – On clandestine cell telephones, however they’re in indefinite solitary. So the aim is to isolate folks with any type of consciousness as a result of jail authorities discover that harmful. For those who have a look at a handbook, there are manuals held by slaveholders. Kenneth Stampp wrote a e book on it referred to as The Peculiar Establishment. However there have been, as a result of if you consider a plantation, 98% of individuals on there are enslaved. So how do you divide them?
Nicely, you’ve acquired folks working the home, you’ve acquired drivers, however there’s an entire technique. And there are manuals that inform slaveholders preserve an enslaved inhabitants divided in opposition to itself. And that’s precisely how prisons work. It’s the identical. So, all my lessons have informants. They name them snitches. Everyone knows who they’re. And should you acquired a jail rebellion, they’re at all times the primary to get it, by the way in which, just like the Lucasville jail rebellion. [crosstalk].
I had one man, he was within the Black Liberation Military. I didn’t train him, however I do know him, Ojore Lutalo, and he wouldn’t put on the jail uniform. He wouldn’t even put it on. However on his tier, wherever the snitches had been, their cells one way or the other acquired lit on hearth till there weren’t any extra snitches. So that they acquired all kinds of tips to determine this out. Like in the event that they acquired three folks they suppose are snitches, they’ll inform considered one of them there’s a shank within the yard. Within the yard, they’ll inform one other one there’s a shank beneath a desk someplace. They’ll inform one other one – After which they’ll wait and see the place the guards go, after which they know which one was the snitch. So yeah, if there’s any unity throughout the jail, which we noticed in Attica again in, what was Attica, ’73?
Mansa Musa: ’70.
Chris Hedges: ’70, was it? Any type of unity like that’s harmful. They must preserve them divided they usually have a lot of soiled methods to do it.
Mansa Musa: Okay, let’s speak about Our Class and the way was Our Class, since you say Our Class: Trauma and Transformation in an American Jail. How was the jail remodeled by Our Class?
Chris Hedges: Nicely, I might say, on this means, it gave them a voice exterior of these partitions. So we had it was 100 seat theater the place the play ran for a month. However we had one evening the place it was only for the households, and about 5 minutes into the play I heard folks starting to sniffle, after which all of a sudden all people simply cried by means of the entire play. And it was making their voices heard and giving them dignity and respect and honoring their struggling. That was the… And it broke exterior of these partitions.
It was attention-grabbing, as a result of we needed to increase some cash to assist mount the play, so a pal of mine did a like… I don’t know what it’s referred to as, GoFundMe or one thing. Anyway, he saved saying all these donations, like $2, $4, nicely, it seems it was the households of my college students who don’t have any cash who had been sending no matter they may to place this plan – I feel that’s the transformation. I feel that there’s transformation. There could be transformation. I don’t need to be romantic about struggling, as a result of a whole lot of struggling you don’t get remodeled, you simply get destroyed. I imply, let’s be actual about that. However transformation didn’t come from me. It got here from them. And I feel that what I did by serving to them write that play just isn’t a lot change what was within them, however enable others to see it and permit them to precise it.
Mansa Musa: Proper. And extra importantly, this complete course of humanizes these people. And I feel Conrey George stated that within the prison-industrial complicated and mass incarceration, which we already know, we acknowledge it’s the brand new plantation. He stated that the aim is to destroy your individuality, to make you a collective entity, shifting you in a herd method, whereas I don’t have any identification so subsequently I don’t have any voice. If I don’t have a voice, I don’t have any individuality, and I’m only a quantity. However with this, I feel my takeaway from this complete course of was that you just had been capable of give those that individuality, to let folks see them for who they’re and humanizing them. As a result of all people goes by means of one thing in society. However I feel you referenced Michelle Alexander within the introduction the place it was speaking about how I say, nicely, we’re probably the most expendable class of individuals. Prisoners, you get the proper to make use of us as a doormat. Chris, you bought the final phrase on this. What would you like our listeners and our viewers to remove from Our Class?
Chris Hedges: I need them to see how outstanding these individuals are and what integrity they’ve and what brilliance they’ve and the way, not simply they and their households are damage by this method however we as a group are damage, and we’ve got to destroy the system. We have now deindustrialized cities like Baltimore and Newark and in every single place else and ruptured what sociologists would name social bonds. And so the types of social management are militarized police who act as inside armies of occupation, and the jail system. That’s why we’ve got the most important jail system on the earth. And it’s an ethical accountability for us to destroy it. And I feel the mechanism by which we’ll destroy it isn’t by writing to our congresspeople who don’t give a rattling, they earn cash from the prison-industrial complicated, they’re instruments of the prison-industrial complicated.
I feel the hope is thru strikes internally throughout the jail, there have been a number of, and people strikes have a core demand which is that folks must be paid a good wage, a minimal wage for the work. Keep in mind, individuals are working 40 hours per week in a jail in New Jersey and making $22 they usually don’t have social safety. But when we drive the jail system to pay a dwelling wage for the work that’s completed – And naturally beneath the thirteenth Modification, prisoners are excluded from a dwelling wage – Then we will start to cripple the system. However making appeals to conscience or the folks in energy I feel is ineffective. I imply, that’s what I get from folks on the within, that we’ve got to assist them. I imply, one of many Free Alabama folks stated, don’t go to the State Home to protest, go in entrance of the jail, particularly once we’re making an attempt to hold out a strike.
So, it’s, I feel, one of the monstrous… We’ve completed a whole lot of monstrous issues on this empire from Guantanamo to Iraq to in every single place else, however it’s simply monstrous what we do to our personal. I imply, my college students inform me after six days in solitary they start to go loopy, which is what solitary is designed to do. We drive by these establishments, however we don’t cease and examine what’s being completed to our fellow residents on the within. And all of us, these of us who’re on the surface I feel have an ethical accountability to cease what’s being completed as a result of it’s inhuman, it’s merciless, and it’s unjust.
Mansa Musa: There you could have it. The actual information concerning the prison-industrial complicated and mass incarceration, a brand new type of slavery. The prisoners are the chattel. However within the midst of all this, within the midst of all this degradation and inhumanity and dehumanization, the phoenix rose within the type of Our Class, the place prisoners had been capable of unpack the traumatic occasions that came about of their lives and provides context to those issues and be capable of give therapeutic on the identical time. Thanks, Chris. Thanks for this outstanding work that you’ve got completed on behalf of these of us that’s disenfranchised and marginalized. Thanks very a lot.
Chris Hedges: No, thanks for doing it. I respect it.