By Taylor Roar
The Maryland Food Collective partnered with the Prison Resistance Project (PRP) Nov. 29 to bring awareness to the treatment of LGBTQIA+ prisoners in the U.S. and to write letters to prisoners around the country.
Zoey Warecki, a third year doctoral engineering student and president of the Prison Resistance Project led the event. Now that it’s the holiday season, prisoners become especially lonely, Warecki said. The event was aimed at bringing a bit of joy to specifically LGBTQIA+ prisoners during the holiday season, while also informing students about the misconduct that goes on within the prison system, Warecki said.
Attendees gathered around tables with stacks of postcards and colored pencils to write to the prisoners. Holiday-themed pictures and greetings marked one side of the postcard, while the other side had an address and the name of a prisoner. They were tasked with filling out about 80 postcards.
Meanwhile, Warecki and another member of PRP, senior English major Lee Harkness, gave brief speeches about the goals of the project. The Prison Resistance Project aims to support legislation that will eventually lead to the abolishment of prisons.
The number of people in prison is disproportionate to the country’s population, Wareckie said. According to prisonpolicy.org there are over 2 million prisoners held within the American criminal justice system, including federal prisons, juvenile facilities, local jails, military prisons, Indian Country jails and immigration facilities.
“We tell ourselves that people who are [in prison] deserve to be there” so that we don’t have to accept responsibility for their mistreatment and the state of the prison system, Warecki said.
Harkness spoke about the impact writing letters has on the inmates. He has been working with PRP, and another prison abolition group called Black and Pink, for about a year.
“I believe in the idea of chosen family,” he said. There is a family you are born into and there are people who you can stand with in solidarity to show that you are family, according to Harkness. “I consider the people I write to through Black and Pink family and when I wrote to them they were so grateful.”
A junior Biology major, Stephanie Colon said she attended because of an LGBTQIA+ class she took her freshman year. “I thought it would be good to do something to support that community,” she said. “LGBTQ people have enough edversity already, so it must be ten times harder in prison.”
The postcard format of the letters left almost no space for Colon to write a personalized letter, so she said she’d stick to just coloring. Next time, the project hopes to set up a way for students to have a regular pen pal, Warecki said.
Featured Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of WikiCommons.
Taylor Roar is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.