When I was in school, it took two years of organizing to get our college library to build their collection of books about prisons from a dusty shelf of old criminal justice sociology texts to a clutch of volumes about prison movements and books written by prisoners. At al-Quds University in Abu Dis, there is an entire building central to the campus dedicated to Palestinian prisoners!
Rather than hiding the struggles of prisoners away in the shadows, they are front and center here. The Abu Jihad Prisoner’s Museum is a three story museum, library, and office space organized around the history of Palestinian prisoners and their relationship to the national liberation struggle and human rights issues. The first two floors are a smartly designed and arranged museum, with basic background information and history of prison struggles, specific prisoners, the solidarity movement in the broader Palestinian society and internationally, and the art and writing of the prisoners.
This is a wall illustrating the over 200 political prisoners who have died in Israeli jails:
These displays show the way that prisoner write notes on small sheets of paper, wrap them tightly in plastic creating small pill-like capsules, and swallow them before they are transferred to different prisons or released. This way they can communicate across a wide network of jails, prisons, and detention centers:
On the top floor of the museum in an archive and library, which contains hundreds of notebooks and journals written by prisoners. Our tour guide Mohammad is showing us archive boxes of these notebooks, many bound in cardboard and magazine advertisements. The museum is actively scanning, digitizing, summarizing, and cataloging the documents, and hopes to get them online soon: