This week, we share an interview with Julie, a researcher who studies the effects of climate change on prisoners. The conversation was held at last month’s Fight Toxic Prisons conference, and focused on her work on how intensifying extremes of heat and cold impacts prisoners’ health.
As this interview is broadcast, a hurricane is bearing down on Louisiana, threatening severe flooding after a season of already-extreme rain events. Poor people and people of color will be disproportionately affected, as many live in municipalities and New Orleans neighborhoods with weaker defenses. The same people already suffer disproportionately from imprisonment, but this weekend, these two structural vulnerabilities will be combined, as prisoners in many jails and prisons risk being left behind during the storm and subsequent flooding. This is why we just shared the call to action made by Fight Toxic Prisons, urging supporters to call in on behalf of these prisoners.
Vulnerability to chronic and acute crises linked to the greenhouse effect is not the only intersection between prisons and climate change. The many indigenous water protectors who remain in prison after the movement at Standing Rock also remind us that the state’s repressive mechanisms are on hand to defend the very industries that are driving the climate crisis and burying our future. Even with the heavy toll of repression and prison, water protectors continue to prepare to stop pipelines, as for example with Line 3 in Minnesota. The persistence of prisoners’ struggles and indigenous land defense movements, even among the rising waters and escalating temperatures, demonstrates the way out of the climate crisis.