The mission of Liberation Literacy is to build social justice literacy in prisons in order to reimagine and rearticulate the relationship between incarceration, our community, and ourselves.
November 2016 February 2017
“We are the leaders we’ve been looking for.” – Grace Lee Boggs
Liberation Literacy was founded in 2015 by Dr. Garrett Felber (@garrett_felber). One of the most tragic legacies of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 was its elimination of Pell Grants for prisoners, which dismantled prison education programs. The program began as a Black History Study Group with inside students at Columbia River Correctional Institution (CRCI) in Portland, Oregon. We then established a donation-based Freedom Library with books about social justice and the African diaspora. The library is now home to nearly 100 books, which are checked out weekly to our reading group and may also be requested on an individual basis by other prisoners at the institution. In Fall 2016, at the suggestion of longtime participant Joshua Wright, we initiated our first community reading group at CRCI, and took the name Liberation Literacy. Our group is comprised of nearly twenty inside/outside students who read a common set of books and meet weekly.
Our work includes:
- A reading group which meets at CRCI on Wednesday evenings to discuss a range of topics. We read two books a month on a given theme. Examples include: “Studies in Mass Incarceration,” “Policing and the Criminalization of Blackness,” and “Contemporary Social Movements.”
- The Freedom Library, which supports our reading group, is also available to the entire CRCI community. Book reviews by inside and outside students are published in the prison newsletter to raise awareness about the library. These are available online on our blog page.
- We have preliminary plans to create an outside reading group for those who have been released from CRCI and are looking to continue participating with Liberation Literacy.
- In May 2017, we will debut our newsletter, which will feature testimonies, book reviews, editorials, and other content.
- We have partnered with Cinema Project, a collectively run, non-profit organization based in Portland, Oregon, which works to promote public awareness of avant-garde cinema from the past and present. The Project screens documentary films on social justice once a month at CRCI.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here do not reflect those of the Oregon Department of Corrections.