Prepared by Jennifer Reyes Lay
On June 6, 2015 the Coalition to Abolish the Prison Industrial Complex hosted its first conference: People Over Profits: Designing a World Without the Prison Industrial Complex. The event was hosted at the University of Missouri St. Louis, with the support of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity. We had a good turnout of around 50 people total who attended the all-day Conference.
During the Conference we had presenters from local community organizations come in and educate attendees about what is the prison industrial complex (PIC), how it impacts our lives, and what are some local alternatives to PIC. These guest presenters covered topics of breaking the school-to-prison pipeline, restorative justice initiatives, police reform and oversight, ending the war on drugs, and economic alternatives such as building solidarity economies and time banks.
The morning portion of the Conference was dedicated to education, then we had a break for lunch which was provided to attendees, and in the afternoon we had some group brainstorming sessions for next steps and actions we could take to implement some of the alternatives we had been learning about in the morning. At the end of the day, we engaged the practice of the “circle” from restorative justice practices, and everyone had a chance to go around and say a few words about how they were feeling or what they thought of the conference. There was overwhelming support and gratitude expressed by the attendees for the knowledge they gained, for how well organized everything was, and a desire to get more involved in the work to abolish the prison industrial complex.
This Conference was hosted by the Coalition to Abolish the Prison Industrial Complex, which is co-led by Jennifer Reyes Lay, member of the International Committee for Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation for the Incarnate Word Congregation. We would not have been able to host this Conference without the generous support of our donors including the JPIC Committee of the Incarnate Word Congregation, and we are very grateful for their support in helping to educate more people about the prison industrial complex and the more life giving alternatives that put people over profits.