The United States is spreading its model of mass incarceration around the world. The US government is involved in the prison systems of at least 33 different countries, mainly to majority non-white and “developing” nations. These programs involve the construction of new prisons, prison guard training, accreditation, data management, and overall design. Common features of prisons structured on the U.S. model include systemic overcrowding, neglect of health care, the use of torture and extreme and punitive isolation, transfer of prisoners far away from their families and communities, severe restrictions on visits including by their legal defenders, and prison militarization in different forms. Funding is provided mainly as a part of the “War on Drugs”. These programs began in 2000 when the US Embassy in Colombia signed a cooperation agreement with Colombia’s Ministry of the Interior.
The Alliance for Global Justice calls these international incarceration programs Prison Imperialism. We use that phrase because it is a US model that we are exporting around the world that contibutes to rising incarceration rates and inhumane conditions for prisoners. More so, we recognize that Prison Imperialism along with foreign occupations and military bases, police and border militarization, neoliberal economics and subsequent austerity measures, media manipulation and intimidation, are all part of the infrastructure of empire.
We call for an end to US international prison progams and the release of all Prisoners of Empire. We hope to help build international bridges among those resisting empire and struggling for the liberation of prisoners of empire. For more information, contact James Jordan at James@afgj.org or 202-540-8336, ext. 3, or check out What is Prison Imperialism?
A FEW OF OUR SUCCESSES SO FAR…
- One of our first campaigns was for the liberation of Liliany Obando, a Colombian labor and human rights defender who was jailed for three years and eight months on the vague charge of “rebellion” at Bogotá’s Buen Pastor Women’s Prison. AfGJ led the US campaign for her release. We also produced a play (that you can watch here) based on writings of Liliany and of other political prisoners at Buen Pastor.
- Colombian human rights defender David Ravelo was released from prison after seven years of being held on false murder charges. AfGJ was an active part of the international advocacy on his behalf.
- AfGJ worked hard for the liberation of Hubert Ballesteros, a member of the executive committee of the Fensuagro agricultural workers union, and one of Colombia’s most important labor leaders. Hubert was arrested for “rebellion” while leading the national agricultural strike of 2013 and spent almost three and a half years in jail.
- AfGJ, along with Alianza Indígena (Indigenous Alliance Without Borders), helped gain the freedom of Yaqui political prisoners Mario Luna and Fernando Jiménez, who were jailed for over a year in the Mexican state of Sonora for their defense of the Rio Yaqui. These water defenders are leaders of the struggle against the deviation of huge volumes of the river’s water to meet the needs of free trade industrial zones in the capital city of Hermosillo.
- AfGJ organized email campaigns and a day of national solidarity with Mexico’s CNTE teachers union after the massacre at Nochixtlan in June, 2016. A central part of this struggle was successfully demanding the liberty of Francisco Nuñez and Victor Villalobos and all teachers union leaders who were being held in US funded and advised prisons in Mexico.
- The Honduras Solidarity Network, of which AfGJ is a co-founder, organized the US and Canadian campaign against the detention of a dozen Honduran democracy activists who were arrested after the electoral fraud of 2017. All but two have been released due to international pressure.
- While the campaign to close the infamous US-funded La Tramacúa prison in Colombia is still far from won, our ongoing struggle has had several partial wins. We were able to gain access to the prison to expose bad conditions there. We were part of a campaign that was able to secure at least some medical attention for 73 prisoners at various Colombian prisons – mostly at La Tramacúa. Our efforts combined with others achieved an increase in the availability of fresh water from around 10 minutes a day to 20.
- AfGJ and the People’s Human Rights Observatory, have mounted campaigns, including two demonstrations at the US embassy in Bogotá and a press conference outside a jail in Cali, that helped force the Colombian government to honor commitments and release political prisoners who were still incarcerated in violation of the peace accords. Unfortunately, there still remain over 600 eligible political prisoners behind bars.