Critical Resistance Portland has been hosting monthly prisoner letter writing nights for over seven years providing political education, resource connection, and genuine support to thousands of imprisoned people in the Pacific Northwest.
The Write Them All (WTA) campaign was launched in July of 2020, while global uprisings against police violence brought many to the understanding that police need to be abolished. WTA organized over 1,000 community members across the state of Oregon and the US to send personalized, hand-written letters along with a printed Spanish and English flyers, including information about Critical Resistance, The Abolitionist newspaper, Beyond These Walls, Liberation Literacy, Black and Pink PDX, and All Rise Magazine to everyone locked up in an Oregon state prisons. Scaling up our coordination of outside solidarity to support imprisoned people, we provided templates and guides for what to include and best-practices for prison letter writing, including an extensive resource guide full of books, zines, webinars, and other materials.
Critical Resistance (CR) is committed to abolishing the PIC by eliminating the interlocking systems that make up the PIC. As a part of this work, we strive to disrupt the isolation and disconnection fostered by imprisonment. At the same time, writing to thousands of people inside Oregon prisons has also been an integral way CR Portland built community during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stimulus Checks for Incarcerated People
Solidarity is at the heart of WTA. Because of this project, CR Portland was able to send stimulus check information packets to over 14,000 people imprisoned in Oregon state prisoners, as well as to thousands of additional prisoners nationwide who were corresponding with other CR chapters and CR’s The Abolitionist newspaper in both October 2020 and April 2021. Without the infrastructure and volunteer base of WTA, the stimulus mailing would not have been possible. This effort thwarted the Oregon Department of Corrections’ attempt to limit and deny prisoners’ ability to receive their stimulus money, and fueled the power of people acting in solidarity across prison walls against state violence.
Together we wrote everyone imprisoned in the state, generating strong relationships and awareness of abolition.
Since the completion of Write Them All in July, we continue to engage hundreds of outside volunteers and incarcerated participants in letter writing, helping strengthen political education, build critical relationships, and support with practical resources and research. Prisoner solidarity remains a vital part of our work to abolish the PIC.
Our Mail Program:
Write Them All has deepened and transformed our correspondence program, from regularly receiving and sending about 30 letters a month to over 300! We’ve received response letters to our WTA letters from thousands of imprisoned comrades. We are building solidarity, engaging in political education, providing research and resources, and planting more & more seeds for inside-outside abolitionist organizing. As the scope of our prisoner correspondence program expands, we are updating our program’s design to meet volunteer and prisoner needs.
How to help now (Keep writing!):
In a time that for many is marked by feelings of isolation during a seemingly-ongoing pandemic, and when PIC abolition is talked about more widely than ever, correspondence with incarcerated people is a concrete step many of us can take to show up for some of those most impacted by the PIC. Sign up today to support our mail program; we’re excited to hear from and work with you! If you’re already signed up and awaiting a letter, contact a CRPDX Mail Team member today.
Words from our comrades:
Thank you for your kind works and sincere interplay with a complete stranger. There are many of us on this side of the divide that need the uplifting heartfelt words of those of you who care in the world enough to take a minute in your hectic schedule to give us just a moment of your treasurable time. We “know” people care about us and think of us daily, but to have this reminder presented in the form of a postcard or letter is more meaningful than you can ever imagine, unless you have been incarcerated yourself.”
– An imprisoned letter writer and recipient of a “Write Them All” letter
Monumental efforts like the Write Them All Campaign are crucial in building and sustaining connection, care, and support across the walls that the PIC so desperately works to maintain. Kudos and solidarity to our comrades at Critical Resistance PDX and letter writers everywhere!”
– Garrett Felber, professor, author, organizer
Critical Resistance PDX’s Write Them All Campaign is a profound example of what it means to scale up mutual aid efforts–to include everyone facing a crisis rather than offering minimal support to a small number of people who meet rigid eligibility criteria, which is what charities and non-profits mostly do. CR PDX is demonstrating how coordinated people power is the best response to the crises created by our current systems, and how if we work together we can make real interventions on current conditions.”
– Dean Spade, organizer, writer and teacher
For 16 months most of society experienced what people that are incarcerated experience for years…Isolation. The Write Them All Campaign provided a desperately needed connection for those who can not Zoom, Facetime, or Instagram. For many individuals incarcerated, the community connection that they received from this campaign was a lifeline. Thank you to everyone that participated and especially the organizers that made this project possible: You changed lives!”
-Hailey Ockinga (She/Her) Executive Director Beyond These Walls
Making and nurturing connections is how we build community. It’s how we win. Because without community, there is no liberation. CR-PDX has shown us, through its Write Them All Campaign, how to make and nurture connections across the walls. Reaching over 14,000 imprisoned folks, the campaign is an important part of abolitionists’ efforts to broaden our movement, connect with the most impacted, and thwart the PIC’s intention to isolate and alienate imprisoned folks. To all those who participated in this campaign and made it possible, your solidarity is much appreciated.”
-Stephen Wilson, imprisoned columnist of The Abolitionist Newspaper (dis)organizer in Pennsylvania.