Schedule of Events for Wear Orange Day, October 30

In solidarity with the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, Tennessee Students and Educators for Social Justice is calling on students and educators across the state to wear orange on October 30. Together with activists across the country, we endorse the following Pledge of Resistance:

What kind of society do you want to live in?

– Police brutality and police murder are daily occurrences, yet brutal murdering cops are almost never punished for their crimes;
– Black and Latino people, especially the youth, are treated like criminals, guilty until proven innocent, if they can survive to prove their innocence;
– This criminalization has led to 2.2 million people being warehoused in prison, a 500% increase over the past 30 years;
– Tens of thousands of people in prison are subjected to the torture of long term solitary confinement;
– Alongside this has risen a program of criminalizing and incarcerating undocumented immigrants;
– The color of a person’s skin determines whether they live and how they live.

Today we pledge:

Black lives matter.
Latino lives matter.
All lives matter.

* Mass incarceration: WE SAY NO MORE!

* Police murder: WE SAY NO MORE!

* Torture in the prisons: WE SAY NO MORE!

* Criminalization of generations: WE SAY NO MORE!

* Attacks on immigrants: WE SAY NO MORE!

We will NOT be silent.

We WILL resist!

Until these shameful horrors really are… NO MORE!


Schedule of Events in Nashville

Wear orange all day long!

11am-1pm – Imagine a World Without Prisons (Collaborative Art Project)

Outside Rand Dining Hall, Vanderbilt University

1pm – Rally and Discussion of Mass Incarceration

Outside Rand Dining Hall, Vanderbilt University

4 – 6:30pm – Nightmare on Our Street: Teach-In on Racialized Violence

Vanderbilt Divinity School, Reading Room

The Vanderbilt Divinity School in conjunction with the Graduate Department of Religion and Vanderbilt Black Seminarians will host “Nightmare on Our Street!: A Teach-in On Racialized Violence in America” on Thursday, October 30th from 4-6:30PM in the Reading Room located in the Divinity School. This teach-in seeks, through a religious lens, to analyze, critique, and respond to the racialized violence inflicted on communities of color and the systems and structures that reinforce institutionalized racism. Panelists will include Mr. Keron Blair, Campaign Strategist and Field Director at Raise IL, Ms. Darria Janéy Hudson, Multicultural Youth Organizer at Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Coalition, Rev. Dr. Christophe D. Ringer, Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Christian Brothers University, Dr. Stacey Floyd-Thomas, Associate Professor of Ethics and Society, Rev. Mark Forrester, University Chaplain and Director of Religious Life at Vanderbilt University, and August Washington, Associate Vice Chancellor and Chief of Vanderbilt Police Department. Dr. Herbert Marbury, Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible, will serve as moderator.

7:30 pm – “Void of Grace: Mass Incarceration in the State of TN”

Lipscomb University, Swang Business Building, Stowe Hall (Room 108 – there will be signs)



Coverage of Nashville Teach-In and Rally

Thanks to everyone who participated in the Nashville Teach-In on Mass Incarceration and the Death Penalty, and the Rally to Stop Executions!  Here’s some media coverage of the two events:

Coverage of the Teach-In:

“’Teach-in’ takes on death penalty, judicial system,” The Tennessean,

“Group calling for change to prisons and death penalty,” Fox 17 News,

Coverage of the Rally:

“Activists hold rally in downtown Nashville to protest death penalty (Live Coverage),”  WSMV Channel 4 News,

“Rally protesting executions in TN held in downtown Nashville,”  WSMV Channel 4 News,

“Anti-death penalty protesters voice concerns on Capitol Hill,” WKRN-TV Channel 2 News,

Stay tuned for the follow-up to our Open Letter to Stop Executions!


Rally to Stop Executions – TODAY in Nashville!

Monday, Sept 15, 12 noon – 1pm

Legislative Plaza (corner of 6th and Charlotte)

Nashville, TN

As students and educators, we seek to understand the world and to share our understanding with others through a practice of critical thinking and responsible action.  Therefore, we cannot remain silent as Tennessee plans to execute people in the name of justice.

We call upon Governor Bill Haslam to suspend all scheduled executions immediately, and to commission a full and transparent review of capital punishment in Tennessee.

Today at noon, Tennessee Students and Educators for Social Justice will send a delegation to deliver our Open Letter to Governor Haslam, asking him to stop currently-scheduled executions and to conduct a full and transparent review of Tennessee’s death penalty system.

Come out and support our delegation!  Bring signs to express your views and banners to represent your school, college, community group, or congregation.

Sept 13 Teach-in Poster


Prison Re-Form: The Continuation of the Carceral State

Guest post by Judah Schept

There has been recent and welcome attention to the carceral state in major media outlets like the New York Times and from unlikelier sources, like conservative political commentators. Indeed, the Times’ May 24th editorial focused on the bipartisan support for prison reform as evidence for its call to “end mass incarceration now:”

The insanity of the situation is plain to people across the political spectrum, from Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who agree on the urgent need for change. The research is in, and it is uncontestable. The American experiment in mass incarceration has been a moral, legal, social, and economic disaster. It cannot end soon enough.”

While the Times’ critique is direct and pointed, some of the most outspoken public critics of mass incarceration in recent years have been politicians on the right, from Grover Norquist to Rand Paul to even Rick Perry and, of course, Newt Gingrich. It would be politically shrewd to remain skeptical of these individuals and their analyses given their various roles in creating the modern day carceral state, dismantling the welfare state, justifying and carrying out executions, and openness to undoing federal civil rights legislation. But there is no mistaking that there has been a marked shift in rhetoric and some accompanying legislative changes.

Some commentators have seen these developments as indicative of a definite shift toward reform and perhaps even as the harbinger of the end of the era of mass incarceration. I hope they are correct. But following historians like David Rothman and social theorists like Michel Foucault, we should remember that, historically, American prison reform efforts “may well have done less to upgrade dismal conditions than they did to create nightmares of their own” (Rothman 2002, p. 9). Indeed, while we often use the word “reform” to suggest progressive, if incremental, change, the word also can mean “restructuring” or, more obviously, “re-formation.” I want to turn toward a brief discussion of two related phenomena that may caution against celebrating any imminent demise of the carceral state; rather, they suggest its persistence.

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Criminalizing Motherhood

Guest Post by Victoria Law

On July 1st, the nation’s first law incarcerating pregnant women who use drugs will go into effect.

On April 29, Tennessee passed SB1391, allowing the prosecution of pregnant women if her fetus or newborn is considered harmed from illegal drug use. Miscarriage, stillbirths and infants born with birth defects could be grounds for criminal assault charges. The woman may be able to avoid criminal charges if she completes a state treatment program.

However, only two of Tennessee’s 177 addiction treatment facilities provide on-site prenatal care and allow older children to stay with their mothers while they are undergoing treatment. Only nineteen offer treatment specifically oriented towards pregnant women. In addition, Tennessee refused Medicaid expansion, excluding many from access to basic medical or prenatal care, let alone drug treatment. Approximately twenty-six percent of people ages nineteen to thirty-nine are uninsured in Tennessee. Even before SB1391 was introduced, the Tennessee Department of Health noted that approximately twenty-three percent of live births in the state received no prenatal care. With SB1391 now law, doctors and medical professionals fear that even more women may avoid seeking prenatal care.

The new Tennessee law made headlines, outraging reproductive rights advocates nationwide. SB1391 is the first law punishing women for their pregnancy outcomes, placing responsibility for a safe and healthy pregnancy solely on the pregnant woman. But SB1391 neither addresses nor punishes the ways in which the legal system endangers mothers, babies and fetuses. When a pregnant woman goes into labor behind bars in Tennessee, she does so while shackled by her wrists and ankles.

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