Casey has been held by the state since February 2011. At times, he has taken on employment in prison, which brings in about $14 per month. At that rate, Casey would have to work 9 years before being able to afford his next class. He is seeking alternative fundraising strategies through an online campaign and helping to coordinate events such as last night’s benefit. Casey also hopes to purchase a typewriter to write a novel to bring in additional funds.
Ultimately, Casey hopes to send anarchists to outer space. “Here on Earth we speak of insurrections and revolutions as dreams for a better world,” but “few of us act on the dreams in any way that is likely to bring about that change…the odds are not in our favor.”
“My aim here is to present us with an alternative. I think [sending anarchists to space] is a reasonable alternative to a successful revolution, at least in terms of probability. Both are known as ‘moonshots’. It’s said that it’s wise not to put all of your eggs in one basket. Well, here’s a chance for us to explore another basket.”
The event kicked off with an invitation for attendees to imagine being in prison. At the time of the event, for unknown reasons, Casey Brezik was being held in isolation in the “hole” or Administrative Segregation (Ad-Seg) unit of the prison. In Ad-Seg, prisoners are confined to a 6 x 9-foot room. A 6 x 9-foot zine rack at the event helped supporters to visualize Casey’s conditions. Each year, 80,000 people in the U.S. are held by the state in such isolation chambers.
According to two employees at the Northeast Correctional Center where Casey is currently incarcerated, although prisoners are technically allowed to receive books and other reading material from friends and family members if ordered directly from a publisher, the prison is too understaffed to allow prison employees to actually deliver these materials to the inmates while they are being held in Ad-Seg.
The size of one of Casey’s former prison exercise rooms—4 x 8 feet—was also marked out to allow attendees to experience what it might feel like to pace back and forth in such a room.
A member of the Evansville Letters to Prisoners project also noted that in prison, people are typically segregated by sex and race. “We wouldn’t be able to interact like we can here today.”
Gender segregation occurs as a matter of prison policy, while racial segregation is a de facto consequence of the hostile prison environment and a heavily racialized society. Some have suggested, though, that the environment of racial tension within the prison is intentionally cultivated by prison administration to keep the prison population divided and unable to cooperate against the guards and administration.
Literature was available for browsing and taking, including writings by Casey Brezik and zines about prison struggles and solidarity projects. Donated artwork as well as anarchists-in-space-themed apparel was for sale to benefit Casey. The event included performances by Lightmares, Water Brothers Trust, and Alien_she.
Throughout the event, attendees exchanged stories of relationships with incarcerated people, personal experiences of incarceration, and actions taken against the state and against authority. Folks also spoke of the upcoming prison labor strike starting September 9, 2016.
The Evansville Letters to Prisoners group, which put on the event in collaboration with Casey, started in Fall 2015 and meets weekly at 7 p.m. on Wednesdays at PG to write letters to prisoners. Members of the group write to incarcerated political prisoners, family members, friends, death row inmates, local detainees, and others. The group welcomes newcomers who wish to build relationships with people in prison or who have existing relationships with people who are incarcerated.
Evansville Letters to Prisoners plans to host similar benefits and events on a monthly basis to facilitate supportive relationships among those engaged in prisoner solidarity and to raise funds to support prisoners and prisoner solidarity projects.
A member of the group also noted that although Casey’s aspirations to send anarchists to outer space may come off as “bizarre” to him, he’s happy to see Casey is “dreaming big and taking opportunities to do something about it.” He said that he hopes people will be inspired by Casey’s enthusiasm, creativity, and ambition and hopes that through this event and future ones, “we’ll build relationships where we can do awesome crazy things with one another.”