Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

The Winonan

Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

The Winonan

Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

The Winonan


What is your favorite building to study in?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Beyond Walls: Film on the Prison Industrial Complex

Chris Reed
The discussion panel with members of Community not Cages members after the films. There were 5 films shown. The panel members talked about abolition and the prison industrial complex.

Last Tuesday, the local chapter of Community Not Cages, alongside local organization Our Voices and Twin Cities-based Aspiring Abolitionists, brought Working Films’ “Beyond Walls” to Winona State University. Working Films, per their website, “…position[s] documentaries to increase civic engagement and shift culture at the local, state, and national level,” and has done such again with their set of five films centered on abolition and the prison industrial complex (or PIC for short).

Three of the films centered on people’s personal experiences with the prison industrial complex, while the other two were animated films with more information and statistics about the PIC.

From abolitionist organization Critical Resistance, the prison industrial complex is a term used to “describe the overlapping interests of government and industry that use surveillance, policing, and imprisonment as solutions to economic, social and political problems.” Abolitionist groups (i.e. groups for abolition) look to abolish the prison industrial complex, a large part of which is incarceration or imprisonment all together.

While the five “Beyond Walls” films educated viewers on the prison industrial complex and its impact, a big part of the films were centered around not only the people directly imprisoned but also their families and communities.

Story continues below advertisement

Keeping in line with the activist-based idea that all social structures are intertwined, the films show how one act impacts everyone. Whether it’s a man and his partner exchanging letters, or parents being with their son and grandchildren after 40 years, or incarcerated people listening intently to a radio station with the hopes of hearing a loved one calling in, the films showed that more than just one person can be impacted by incarceration.

The panel after the film showing featured Tova Strange, a Winona State 2023 graduate who is involved with Communities Not Cages, Jason Soles of Aspiring Abolitionists and his work partner David Starks, and a local high school student whose name won’t be shared for privacy reasons.

The four shared their own experiences with abolition, and sometimes they got deeply personal: Soles and Starks were both formerly incarcerated, and Strange has experienced pushback in their organizing efforts in Winona.

The panel also took questions from the audience, which went from how they work with the formal government compared to doing their own work, to a divest/invest model, to even tackling the question of what happens when accountability fails?

Soles answered “We don’t have any throwaway people. So, if they fail, we still in it… It’s like, if we care about you, we gonna keep trying different things.”

It goes back to the idea of community that the films are centered around, and that idea struck a chord with students, too.

Morgan Adams, a third-year Social Work student commented, stating “What particularly resonated with me was how a community came together to send messages to prisoners through the radio station. I thought it was a beautiful moment where even when things are tough, life still found a way to have love come out on top.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributors
Dana Walker
Dana Walker, News Reporter
Dana Walker is an incoming news reporter for the Winonan as of Spring 2024. They are a second-year Applied and Professional Writing major, with minors in Music: BA and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Don’t ask what they’re planning to do with that amalgamation of degrees, because they don’t know either! Dana also plays string bass in the WSU orchestra (and occasionally band), and has served as the orchestra’s music librarian since Spring 2023. In their freetime, Dana enjoys playing video games such as Baldur’s Gate 3 and Civilization 6, baking, reading fantasy novels, knitting, and hanging out with their friends and fiend of a cat, Vinny. Currently Dana is working on a mini research project, and saving up for their eventual trip to Japan. Neither is going splendidly, but at least there’s self-awareness.
Chris Reed
Chris Reed, Photographer
Chris Reed (he/him/they/them) is currently a photographer for the Winonan.
Reed is from Golden Valley, Minnesota, right outside Minneapolis and is a first-year student at Winona State University studying psychology with a minor in photography. He enjoys helping people and making sure they feel heard.
Reed can often be found rock climbing or bouldering; hiking; camping; playing pool, ping pong or board games; practicing cello or bass; or, when time allows, on a roadtrip.

Comments (0)

All The Winonan Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *