When I was in high school, I volunteered for a Catholic mission organization that held retreats in prisons, jails, and juvenile halls in Minnesota. I was a peer counselor at one of their retreats in a juvenile detention facility. Seeing my peers, many of whom were Black, Indigenous, or Latino, and almost all were poor, locked up profoundly changed me. It was abundantly clear that the harm caused behind bars was punishing and not rehabilitating. And the work the Catholic mission organization was doing was further traumatizing my peers who were queer. I knew this because, while I wasn’t out yet, a handful of young folx came out to me during that retreat.
It’s now 30+ years later, and I’m more educated on the subject of the Prison Industrial Complex. One chant or protest slogan that cuts through the noise best for me is, “Prisons Are Torture.” It’s clear and concisely summarizes my own fundamental experience at 17. We must abolish all prisons, jails, and detention (juvenile and immigrant) facilities. They are sites of torture, and it's being done in our names.
Now, you can boldly, fashionably, and comfortably declare, “Prisons Are Torture” in this soft Next Level tee. This tee ain’t for the faint of heart. When you wear it, you will definitely strike up conversations. It’s a great way to figure out who is, is not, or might be persuaded to become a comrade. And we need all the comrades we can get if we want to abolish prisons.