Prisoner support can be a very challenging issue. Any movement
is only as strong as its support for its fallen comrades.
Any movement that fails to aid and support its political prisoners
or prisoners of war will ultimately fail. Each prisoner’s
needs will vary depending on the case, length of sentence
and where s/he is imprisoned. All prisoners, however, need
emotional and monetary support.
Monetary support is an easy one. If you can afford to send
a few bucks, it is always appreciated. Many prisoners have
to pay for their own hygiene products, as well as food to
supplement the prisoner’s diet. These items are often
200%-300% more expensive than on the streets. So, every little
Fundraisers (bake sales, shows, etc.) are an excellent way
to raise money and spread information about prisoners and
their cases. They are also a great forum for building support.
Perhaps the hardest part of prisoner support is emotional
support. It is never easy to write a prisoner for the first
time. People are unsure of what to write and how their words
will affect the prisoner.
As prisoners we experience the outside world through letters.
There is nothing I love more than to get a letter describing
a beautiful sunset or amazing wilderness someone saw. It is
always great, whether you are a prisoner or not, to make a
new friend. Getting to know someone through letters can be
really fun. Sharing news from the outside, political ideas/views,
personal experiences…really just about anything is good.
Just getting mail raises the morale of prisoners.
Remember not to over commit yourself, though. It is easy
to want to write to a lot of prisoners. But it is better to
pick one or two who you can write to regularly (every one
to four months) than to not be able to keep up with your letters.
When it comes to supporting individual prisoners (e.g. long-term
prisoners fighting for their freedom or life), the support
needs to be tailored to fit with their campaign goals. It
is important to know things they support being done on their
behalf. Communicating with them, or in some cases, their designated
support people, and starting a support group in your area
is a good way to start.
Obviously, needs will vary from prisoner to prisoner. Some
will be raising legal funds as a priority; others may simply
be asking people to write letters of support to governors
or prison officials. Still others may be asking for solidarity
actions and/or demos.
Strong support networks and visible discontent with a prisoner’s
sentence and/or conditions will be the number one factor in
obtaining justice. It is only through the word and dedication
of people on the outside that all political prisoners and
POW’s will gain their release.
Having said this, I do not know of any prisoner—though
I can only speak for myself—who would rather have energy
directed toward us than to the causes for which we fought.
The absolute most valuable support that any one person can
do is to continue the struggle for which we came to prison.
Never give up; never stop fighting until all are free: Earth,
animal and human. Onward to a world without prisoners.
Jeff “Free” Luers is an environmental activist
who was convicted of torching three SUVs in an action where
no one was injured. He is currently serving twenty-two years
and eight months in Oregon, without possibility of parole.
To learn more about Free’s case, visit www.freefreenow.org.