If You Love the Planet but Hate the Prisons…

From Earth First! Newswire:

Support Organizing at the Intersection of Mass Incarceration and Ecological Destruction

by Panagioti / Prison Ecology Project

The Prison Ecology Project is currently raising funds to create activist tools for dismantling toxic prisons.  Your contributions will provide needed start-up funds for on-the-ground work to bridge the gap between criminal justice reform, prison abolition and the environmental movement. 


The prison industry has a long history of ecological violence. Rikers Island prison in New York City was literally built on a trash heap, and evidence suggests a high incidence of cancer among guards and prisoners. In California and Texas prisoners have little recourse but to drink arsenic-laced water. In Alabama, an overpopulated prison habitually dumps sewage into a river where people fish and swim. In Kentucky, construction of a new prison is poised to clear 700 acres of endangered species habitat. Stories like these are too common. The issues impact millions of people in and around prisons across the US but are largely ignored.

The Prison Ecology Project is uncovering these abuses and building a clearinghouse of data you can use to fight toxic prisons in your community.

We are a project of the Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), a national non-profit that advocates for protecting the human rights of people held in U.S. detention facilities, including their access to communications from outside sources. For 25 years, HRDC has published Prison Legal News, a monthly publication with subscribers in all 50 states and internationally. HRDC engages in litigation, conducts media and educational campaigns, provides testimony before legislative and regulatory bodies, and also does significant work around government transparency and accountability issues. Read more about HRDC’s history, staff, and extensive work on its website.

What We Need & What You Get

We are raising $15,000 to boost our research and data analysis work in this chronically understudied area, and to keep pressure on an industry notorious for its lack of transparency.

If we meet our stretch goal of $25,000, your donations will also fund our organizing work to halt the construction of new prisons. Our first target? A federal prison planned for Letcher County, Kentucky whose construction would demolish 700 acres of endangered species habitat in Appalachia while imprisoning people hundreds of miles from their families. If we raise these funds, we will plan an organizing tour across the southeast to mobilize against the permitting of this prison.

We are offering special gifts to our backers! Check out our list of perks available as thanks for contributions. You can find out more about the perks in our gallery.


The Impact

Prison Ecology Project is building a database of the five thousand prisons and jails around the country, finding the weak points in the environmental realm, and providing tools to organize locally.

Incarcerated people are one of the most vulnerable and uniquely over-burdened demographics in our nation. Prisons have become a big business. One fourth of the world’s prisoners are locked up in the US, where the the number of prisons has shot up by 500% in the last thirty years. Almost all of the prison population is low-income, and people of color are disproportionately represented by wide margins in every state.

Most people whose lives have been impacted by the criminal justice system have not engaged with the environmental movement up to the present time. The Prison Ecology Project creates an entryway for them, as we are able to illustrate that the environmental toll of building and operating prisons indicates yet another reason to massively reduce the nation’s prison populations and send people back to their families. Thus, an additional result of the project: the growth of the environmental movement.

Risks & Challenges

The prison industry is entrenched in US government and society, but is not untouchable. The Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC) already succeeded in wielding large scale influence in the regulatory arena through the Prison Phone Justice Campaign, which zeroed in on price gouging by telecom companies in collusion with prisons and jails. Its data collection and analysis were central to getting the FCC to reduce inflated prison phone rates and safeguard the lifeline between the incarcerated and their loved ones. HRDC is also the publisher of Prison Legal News, which has exposed environmental problems and covered stories of whistleblower litigation in prisons for well over two decades. The Prison Ecology Project aims to build on this kind of success.

Other Ways You Can Help

Please spread the word! A crowdfunding campaign is as good as the crowd behind it. Use the Indiegogo social media tools. Tell your friends. Talk to your family. Share our campaign with your networks! Your efforts are key to our success.

Check out some news coverage of our efforts thus far:


Please donate to help reach our funding goal. Become a part of this growing movement to end mass incarceration and defend the earth. Your money will go towards:

1.  Exposing

the prison system for poisoning incarcerated people and destroying the environment

2.  Organizing

to engage local communities and create new tools, including a national database of toxic prisons and prison pollution

3.  Fighting

The construction of new prisons that tear apart human communities and damage ecosystems

4.  Protecting

Wildlife, waterways and the habitat of endangered species, such as the Indiana bat threatened by a new federal prison in southern Appalachia

$15,000 will give us resources to move forward on these four fronts. Check here for more details.

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