Ad Astra Comix is excited to announce an upcoming anthology by Peter Collins, a Canadian artist, AIDS activist and prisoner.
Peter has been imprisoned for more than three decades at various prisons. In that time he has worked as a prison abolitionist, challenging the racism, incompetence and corruption of the prison industrial complex. He has also honed his skills as an artist and produced hundreds if not thousands of comics about Canadian politics, life in prison and social justice.
Recently, a friend reached out to us to see if we would be interested in publishing Peter’s work. After getting a chance to look at his biting commentary that alternates between very dark humor and very human vulnerability, we were happy to say yes. We are glad to be working with Peter as well as some of his friends and supporters to help crowd-fund and publish an anthology of his work to form part of a record of the life of this man.
On a somber note, Peter is currently suffering from an aggressive cancer that has spread from his bladder to his stomach walls, lungs and bones. He is entering the 32rd year of a Life 25 sentence. He has spent the better part of the last 3 decades trying to make amends for the suffering that he caused when he killed Constable David Utman. He has worked to personally transform himself, and to make the world a better place. His risk has been addressed long ago, and CSC refuses to release him because of his political advocacy and critique of the prison system.
We hope that undertaking this project will help raise awareness of Peter’s situation and help push for him to be granted compassionate release. This anthology will be our small part in amplifying the voice of a thoughtful, compassionate man who has overcome incredible obstacles to live a giving, creative life. To keep up to date on the details of Peter’s situation, you can like the Peter Collins Support Committee on Facebook.
To stay up to date on this project, follow Ad Astra Comix on Facebook and Twitter if you haven’t already done so. We will be posting examples of Peter’s work in the lead-up to the crowdfunder. Thanks for taking the time to read – Stay tuned for more details!
Every year, thousands of teens are held in solitary confinement in jails, prisons and juvenile halls nationwide. This is the story of Ismael “Izzy” Nazario and the time he spent in solitary confinement in New York City’s Rikers Island jail. Izzy’s dialogue is taken from transcriptions of audio recordings from several interviews.
There are currently thousands of kids in solitary confinement nationwide. New York state prisons recently agreed to ban solitary confinement as punishment for inmates younger than eighteen. But this doesn’t apply to Rikers Island and other New York jails.
The New York City Department of Correction declined interview requests and would not let the Center for Investigative Reporting visit the box.
Izzy is now a case manager for teens and adults coming out of Rikers Island.
Reported by Daffodil Altan and Trey Bundy, and illustrated and designed by Anna Vignet. Senior multimedia producer: Michael Schiller
If all great truths begin as blasphemies, as George Bernard Shaw put it, we in Canada find ourselves living in a theocracy. Certainly even Adam and Eve would wonder at the spectacular efforts to preserve the innocence of ignorance undertaken by our present government. It has taken a valiant stand against sex education so we may uncover our nakedness. In seeking to dismantle the National Archives, they will free us from knowledge of good and evil. Thanks to the government’s destruction of the integrity of census data, we are free from even the prospect of acquiring knowledge.
But to be sure we are safe from it, they are throwing whole libraries into the trash, and forbidding the wicked among us from sharing their dangerous truths with the press.
So we are nearly free of blasphemy, and what greater expression of piety than prisons? At a time when American districts are turning away from the tough on crime approach, Canada embraces it enthusiastically. If books are not totally passe at this point, I should recommend to the Justice Minister and any higher powers to which he might answer a thorough reading of ‘Race To Incarcerate.’
Title: Race to Incarcerate: A Graphic Retelling Created by: Sabrina Jones and Marc Mauer Forward: Michelle Alexander Preface: The Sentencing Project Published: 2013 by The New Press
‘Race To Incarcerate’ practically bursts its bindings with relevant historical, sociological and economic data. It doesn’t shrink from statistics either, as it outlines the growth in prison populations, corrections spending and the prevalence of private prisons. Exploring public attitudes towards morality, the dishonesty of elected representatives and the role played by the War on Drugs, this expressive tome shines light onto critical questions in one area of public policy where high-minded moralizing has long reigned supreme.
The comic traces the evolution of America’s obsession with getting ‘tough on crime’ from its beginnings in the 1970s through to the second Bush administration. Along the way it explores the impact of the War on Drugs, changes in social attitudes towards crime and the role of racism in expanding the prison-industrial complex. On the political file, the crass electoral motives of successive legislators are exposed. Clinton and George W. Bush are particularly held up as hypocrites, promising to reform the system while allowing prison spending and populations to grow in tandem.
The comic does an excellent job of outlining the role played by racism in incarcerating black and Hispanic Americans at a disproportionate rate. Racism, and underlying white cultural anxieties, are ably exposed as the culprits for rates of black incarceration. The usual apologies for the racial composition of the prison population are handily debunked. The proverbial fig leaf is pulled away, and the naked truth is not a pretty thing to behold.
If there is a flaw in ‘Race To Incarcerate’, it is in the conclusion. After spending the majority of its pages identifying the endemic racism in American society, it proposes a coalition of business, academic leaders, communities of colour and families of addicts to tackle the problem by lobbying the government. The book persuasively argues that the rich and powerful have a vested interest in maintaining the current system. It then proposes the problems be solved through a coalition made up in part by the rich and powerful appealing to the very politicians whose dishonesty it has exposed. Some business leaders may feel compelled to oppose the prison industrial complex, but it is a drop in the bucket to a system that has been constructed–designed–in the interests of corporate profits.
Furthermore, the book is right to suggest the involvement communities of colour, but missed the opportunity to highlight one of the most important groups of all – prisoners and ex-convicts themselves. Prisoners and ex-cons not only deserve the right to tell their stories, their voices should be at the forefront of a prison abolition movement. Regardless of the accuracy of the book’s conclusion, the information in it can help persuade regular people that prisons don’t work.
But the truth, we are told, shall set us free. The Conservative government is hot to bring many of the measures described in ‘Race To Incarcerate’ up to Canada, including mandatory minimum sentences and private prisons. The message of ‘Race To Incarcerate’ is clear: prisons don’t work. But more than that, they are dangerous to a degree that should alarm us. Indigenous people make up about 4% of Canada’s population, but 23% of its prison population – and the rates are climbing. In Canada, prisons are looking more and more like another form of genocide.
The facts in ‘Race To Incarcerate’ won’t liberate those prisoners, but they can free the rest of us from the moralizing naiveté that justifies mass imprisonment. Liberated from our ignorance, we can turn our attention to prying open the bars of the prison industrial complex.