Self-Determination Inside/Out


September 11 – November 16, 2014
Opening: Thursday, September 11, 7-10pm
Organized by Molly Fair, Josh MacPhee, Anika Paris, Laura Whitehorn, and Ryan Wong
Interference Archive presents Self-Determination Inside/Out, a comprehensive exhibition and public program series featuring the cultural materials produced by incarcerated people and their allies. Ranging from the Attica Rebellion to political prisoners, AIDS education to prisoners-as-laborers, the struggles of incarcerated women and queer people to the current wave of hunger strikes in prisons and detention centers across the country, these materials fundamentally recast the history of the prison-industrial complex. The exhibition shows incarcerated people not simply as the objects of state repression or social justice activism, but as active initiators and leaders in the critique of “criminal justice”—and other forms of injustice—in the U.S.
Through publications created on the inside, posters, ephemera, audio recordings, film and video, and a schedule of public programs, Self-Determination Inside/Out highlights key moments in struggles for justice in the prison system.
The 1970s heralded the start of the largest expansion of America’s penal system since the end of the Civil War and the dismantling of slavery. The dearth of employment in the post-industrial economy coupled with a broadened definition of “crime” to include poverty and political radicalism fed a call for “law and order.” A new penal system—a system of social control—arose in response: one that disproportionately targets Blacks and Latin@s and that has grown at alarming rates in size, scope, and sophistication. Increasingly, women, queer people, and immigrants face the brunt of American mass incarceration. Yet at every step of its development, the prison system has encountered fierce resistance from the people it was designed to cage and silence.
Self-Determination Inside/Out examines these issues starting from the 1971 Attica Rebellion, one of the best known uprisings of incarcerated people in American history. This rebellion was a direct response to the dramatic overcrowding of prisons and the lack of opportunities for personal expression and development. The rebellion’s organizers tied their fight to parallel struggles against American imperialism and systematic oppression in the greater society. Attica sparked uprisings in prisons across the country, and the demands and critiques of those in revolt transformed discourse and organizing on the outside. This exchange has persisted in the years that followed, with organizing efforts of incarcerated people revealing that the violence of the carceral state is not limited to the confines of prison walls.
Public Programs (last updated October 29)
Wednesday, September 17, 7:00 pm
Exhibition Walkthrough
Join the curators, prison activists, and formerly incarcerated people for a tour of the Self-Determination Inside/Out exhibition, filled with information and historical anecdotes.
Wednesday, September 24, 7 pm
Private Prison Fueling Criminalization
Private prisons and their major investors are fueling the criminalization and incarceration of immigrants and people of color. As climate change accelerates and creates large refugee communities of color, how will the prison industry respond? We will look at prison investors here in New York, and how local public institutions and pensions are enabling mass incarceration by investing in the prison industry. The event will feature active campaigns in New York and internationally that are building multiracial and intersectional movements to end mass incarceration and immigration enforcement.
Saturday, September 27, 4:30 pm
Reading Group: James Yaki Sayles’ Meditations on the Wretched of the Earth
We’ll be having a reading group with James Yaki Sayles’ reinterpretation of Frantz Fanon’s 1961 book. Sayles was one of the leaders and intellectual heavyweights of the New Afrikan Prisoners Organization (NAPO). We’re aiming for a supportive, collective study and learning environment.  You do not have to be familiar with NAPO or have read Wretched of the Earth to participate! Reading group sessions will take place at Interference Archive, at 4:30pm on five Saturdays: 9/27, 10/11, 10/25, 11/8, and 11/25. The final meeting may be offsite. Discounted copies of the book are available before Sunday 9/14! Details here.
Thursday, October 2, 7:00 pm
Shattering Captivity: Struggles of Incarcerated People Against Solitary Confinement, Control Units, and Communication Management Units
Participants are formerly incarcerated people who experienced control units and solitary confinement, and the sister of a man currently in a Communication Management Unit (CMU): Tyrell Muhammad, Five Mualima-ak, Susan Rosenberg, and Sharmin Sadequee
Thursday, October 9, 7:00 pm
[OFFSITE: At CUNY Grad Center]
Prison is a form of violence against women
This event will highlight women and transpeople’s struggles against “protective” isolation, the criminalization of self defense, and negligent healthcare through short videos, readings, and discussion with people who have been directly involved in organizing within prisons. The program will include concrete ways to provide support for current organizing.  The event moderator will be Vikki Law and panelist include Cecily McMillan, Amy Meacham, and Sharon Richardson.
Tuesday, October 14, 7:00 pm
Film screening: Control
Control is a documentary portrait of mass incarceration as it reverberates through our homes and communities. It is the story of a family whose life is relentlessly punctuated by an intrusive, destructive, counter-intuitive penal system. The film will be followed by a discussion with the filmmakers and youth criminal justice advocates.
Sunday November 9, 4:00 pm [PLEASE NOTE DATE CHANGE]
The Pontiac Brothers and the Rise of New Organizing in Prison
Dr. Toussaint Losier, Assistant Professor in African Americans and the Law at the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at University of Massachusetts-Amherst, discusses the role of the Pontiac and Stateville prison revolts in conceptualizing and orienting organizing inside and outside prisons up to today. His talk will be accompanied by a 35mm slide show originally created as an organizing tool around the Pontiac Brothers in the late 1970s.
Thursday, November 13th, 7:00-9:00 pm
Steps Toward Prison Abolition: A Strategic Conversation
As part of Self-Determination Inside/Out, Milk Not Jails and RAPP (Release Aging People in Prison) host this informal discussion about the different political strategies organizers and activists embrace in the fight for prison abolition.
Saturday November 15, 5:00 pm
Film Screening: Out In The Night
Join director blair dorosh walter and members of the New Jersey 4 for a screening of Out in the Night, a documentary about the NJ4.
If you need childcare for the opening or any of the programming for Self-Determination Inside/Out, please email with “childcare” in the subject line. Let us know what your needs are, how many kids, their ages, and please give us at least a week’s notice if possible.
Education and Class Visits
Self-Determination Inside/Out offers community groups and high school- and college-level students the opportunity to engage with and examine materials created by activists on the inside and their allies. Courses or organizing groups focused on Criminal Justice, U.S. History and Politics, Public Health and Policy, Race, Gender, and LGBT studies are particularly suited. To arrange a visit, contact
This exhibition is sponsored, in part, by the Greater New York Arts Development Fund of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, administered by Brooklyn Arts Council (BAC).
Funding for this exhibition also comes in part from the A.J. Muste Memorial Institute‘s Social Justice Fund.

Exhibition Dates

September 11, 2014

November 16, 2014