Out of Control: A Fifteen Year Battle Against Control Unit Prisons

Cover of Out of Control

Design: Josh McPhee/Antumbra Design

In Out of Control: A 15-Year Battle Against Control Unit Prisons, Nancy Kurshan tells the inspiring story of the Committee to End the Marion Lockdown (CEML). Founded in 1985 to organize against control unit prisons and related inhumane practices at the notorious federal prison in Marion, Illinois, the committee’s work and influence spread nationwide, even as the practices at Marion became widespread in many other prisons in the U.S. and internationally. Written in a very accessible and eloquent style by Nancy Kurshan, a CEML co-founder and leading activist throughout its history, the book recounts how the committee led and organized hundreds of educational programs and demonstrations in many parts of the country and sought to build a national movement to expose and abolish “end-of-the-line” prisons. Along the way the Committee wrote thousands of pages of educational and agitational literature, and developed new ways of analyzing and fighting against the “prison industrial complex.”

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Although there were some victories along the way, in the end we lost every large issue we pursued. Nonetheless, this is not a story of failure or discouragement. Rather it tells the story of one long determined effort against the very core of the greatest military empire that has ever existed on this planet. If current and future activists who stand in opposition to what Malcolm X called the “American nightmare” can benefit from reading this and can move ahead with some greater insight and effectiveness, then it was all worth it. The story I tell here is accurate as best as I can determine. I hope it will help illuminate a path to building a humane society and I have tried throughout to be guided by the words of the great leader of Guinea Bissau, Amilcar Cabral, who urged us to  “tell no lies, claim no easy victories.”          — From the Introduction

USP Marion was “horror on steroids”— the nightmare that various prison rights and community activists, attorneys, law offices and other concerned people sought to end.                 — Sundiata Acoli

Out of Control concentrates on the political analysis and commitment of the women and men of the Committee to End the Marion Lockdown – and a protracted and determined struggle to stop the physical and psychological abuse in control units in US prisons. I urge everyone to read and distribute this book.        — Lucy Rodriguez

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which includes audio, video, and links to documents.

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Table of Contents | About the Author