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5 ways to challenge mass incarceration

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Photo: Tudor Stanley / AFSC

This list was created by Laura Magnani and Layne Mullett from their workshop, "Dismantling the carceral state: Who’s leading the movement? What's propping up the system?" at AFSC's 2017 Centennial summit. See this list and others from the summit online at Download this list as a PDF here.  

1. Find out who is already doing this work in your area and how you can support them.

Check in with existing organizations, search the internet, talk to knowledgeable people. If you find a compatible group, join them. 

2. Join or start a study group to learn more about mass incarceration.

Michelle Alexander’s book, "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in An Era of Color Blindness" can be a good place to start.  

3. Connect with people on the inside.

Seek out people inside prisons/jails/juvenile detention through letters, visits, Alternatives to Violence programs, etc., to get to know them and hear their concerns. Alternatively, reach out to family members or formerly incarcerated people in your community. Listen and Learn. 

4. Move your money. 

Are you invested in companies that make money off mass incarceration? Find out at 

5. Start your own organizing project. 

If you don’t find a group already addressing the problems you are passionate about, find others who share your concern and get started. Analyze and strategize, identify pressure points, and work towards the positive changes you want to see.  


Follow the leadership of those directly affected; contact your legislators; submit letters to the editor or Op-eds to local newspapers; occupy offices; divest from private prisons; be a court watcher; support or participate in vigils and hunger strikes; join the Quaker Network to End Mass Incarceration; testify at hearings; protest; join inmate family councils, police commissions, or advisory groups. 

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