I’m riding with Nola to Angola this year. The organization raises funds to provide bus rides to folks so they can visit their incarcerated loved ones in detention facilities all over Louisiana.
Since this is a personal blog and its been a while I’m gonna say that I am using some personal details about the things that have happened in the last year here but only for the sake of sharing in a personal blog sort of way, I don’t need anything personally right now. I have had a garbage year. It has kicked me around in so many ways I have not even had the time or stability to write about it. That is for another day. Today my post utilizes a small portion of my experience but in no way reflects the reality of the majority of the folks who have been raised in Louisiana. I don’t really know what sort of impression this blog has made on you, if you are a regular here, but after I released a video about my chronic, and at that time undiagnosed, illness I got a lot of hate mail and accusations of faking it. I assure you that any post about social justice issues is real. Many of my stories need to fall under the legal definition of fiction simply because the first amendment is not as strong as it used to be.
That said, here is what is happening in my life and what is concerning me lately.
Mass incarceration adversely affects the whole of our society in ways that fundamentally threaten the freedom, dignity, and humanity of us all.
I recently turned myself in on a warrant in Louisiana. Then I started unpacking the prison industrial complex. In a way staring down the barrel of ten years of hard labor over a squabble with a bitchy white lady forced me to question my choices. There was a part of me that wondered why I had turned myself in. If I had just waited four years the statue of limitations would have passed and I could have simply avoided the ordeal at the OPP, the lawyer who stole my money, the orange jump suit and shackles, the other lawyer who screamed at me calling me names in a packed criminal court room, the hours of reading Louisiana legal policy, wrapping my head around the incredibly punitive policy of prosecuting 99 percent of cases that come through the New Orleans criminal court house. If I had just gone about blending into white culture I could have avoided the boot of the criminal justice system pressed against my throat for over a year as I tried to grapple with the fact that in Louisiana folks can be sentenced to life in prison without a unanimous jury verdict.
Lets stop here for a second and read that again.
Louisiana and Oregon are the two states in the nation where you (yes you) can be sentenced to LIFE IN PRISON WITHOUT A UNANIMOUS JURY VERDICT.
Well that’s a fucking problem.
Not that I was facing life. Not that I was gonna do time at all. Because I am white.
I’m a catch and release kinda girl. I have been threatened with prison time on more than one occasion. The reason I have managed to evade charges, time, and a criminal record has everything to do with systems of oppression and injustice; namely racism in America. If I was black I would be in prison right now. Justice is not fair, it is not doled out evenly, it is based solely on a system of white supremacy that works in tandem with capitalism to keep black folks trapped in a system of slavery, even if ya’ll wanna call it the justice system. It aint justice. It aint fair. Mass incarceration is slavery.
Louisiana has until very recently had the highest rate of incarceration in the world. Eighty percent of folks incarcerated in Louisiana are serving time for nonviolent crimes.
What is the point of incarcerating folks for nonviolent crimes, you might ask. MONEY
The criminal justice system in at the intersection of capitalism and racism. The privatization of prisons has developed a for profit industry based on the incarceration of citizens. The collateral damage that occurs from this modern day slavery should be considered terrorism.
In 2015 1 of 50 children had a parent in prison. Stop and start to unpack the layers of social problems that occur even on the surface of this statement. Having a parent incarcerated means that your family has fewer resources, fiscally, socially, spiritually and emotionally. Incarcerated parents can not physically be present in their child’s life. They can’t help pay rent or make sure homework is done, they can’t play ball in the park with them, they effectively can’t help raise their child leaving the burden to family members who are already over committed. This creates a culture where children get accustomed to parents being incarcerated, it develops a pattern and a level of indifference to parents being captured by the state. And it reproduces itself. Children who have an incarcerated parent are more likely to end up incarcerated themselves.
Eighty percent of the folks incarcerated in Louisiana are being held for extensive amounts of time for nonviolent crimes. Drugs, theft, parole violations, prostitution. Very often these crimes are survival crimes.
Having something like a drug charge on your criminal record does significantly more damage to society than a lot of white folks realize. Drug crimes, among other nonviolent offenses, are barrier crimes. When someone tries to get a job, they can’t. When someone tries to get food stamps, they can’t. When someone tries to get student loans so they can get an education — they can not. Three drug charges in Louisiana can lead to a life sentence. So what is someone with a criminal record to do to simply make ends meet?
In a society that systematically profiles and captures it’s citizens for profit, who amongst us can honestly say that this is a good model to create anything but even greater inequality? Suffering, poverty, desperation — these are things that the prison industrial complex perpetuates. This is grossly inhumane and we need to stop capturing folks, keeping them in cages, forcing them to work at hard labor camps, removing their human rights, and spreading the great white lie of justice. Criminal justice system is not simply flawed, the criminal justice system is slavery.
Louisiana is poor and black. Every time a white judge puts a poor black person in prison for a survival crime they sit there on their throne defending slavery, white supremacy and injustice.
I have wanted to ride with nola to angola for a while. In the middle of charges being brought against me I got an email saying I was selected for the ride. I’m getting a chance to raise awareness about the problems involved with the prison industrial complex — one of them is the great distance that folks are kept from their social support networks, their family, friends, community. Keeping in contact with folks on the outside significantly improves the odds that previously incarcerated people will be able to stay out of prison in the future.
Nola to Angola is a fundraiser. We raise funds to support the cornerstone bus project so that people can visit their incarcerated loved ones in prisons around Louisiana, thereby providing them with much needed support to stay out of prison in the future and ultimately helping to end mass incarceration.
Imagine it’s you. Imagine you are being held in prison and your family can’t afford to even come visit you. Think about how absolutely horrible this truly is. Imagine you are a child who wants to visit their parent in prison but you can’t because of money. It is not an accident that the prisons are impossibly far away from the cities. It is not about safety, it is a tool for social control. Keeping people who are incarcerated removed from their families makes it that much harder to stay out of prison in the future.
Angola prison is almost 200 miles away from New Orleans. The majority of people incarcerated at Angola are from New Orleans. Cornerstone busses transport people from all the major cities in Louisiana to all of the detention facilities in Louisiana to visit their incarcerated loved ones.
Click the button and donate money to this worthy project. Help end mass incarceration.
And come out to the press conference on the 19th of October at the OPP. We roll at 8AM.
If I have not actually mentioned it — the better part of 100 of us ride our bicycles fromNew Orleans to Angola prison the third weekend of October. It takes us three days.
Prison is terrible. It’s worse when your family can’t afford to visit. Give money. Help the community stay in contact with their captured incarcerated loved ones.
Stop Mass Incarceration! Stop Slavery!
For more information about Nola to Angola and the Cornerstone Bus Project please visit
Donate money here https://www.mightycause.com/story/Jello