Nothing to Celebrate! Protest at CCA Headquarters in Nashville, May 16

CCA is the oldest for-profit prison company in the nation.  On May 16th, they met at the Nashville headquarters to celebrate their 30th anniversary, and to hold their annual shareholder meeting.  Meanwhile, protesters outside made it clear that 30 years of profiting from human misery was nothing to celebrate!

Channel 4 News reported:

“It affects real people–not just numbers; not just the dollar signs that they count on their ledgers at the end of the day when they’re calculating their profit; not just their stock price in the New York Stock Exchange. But what CCA does impacts real people and real families,” said Alex Friedman with the Human Rights Defense Center.

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Update from the Children’s Defense Fund, Nashville Team

As we continue our ongoing efforts towards dismantling the cradle to prison pipeline the Rethinking Prisons conference held at Vanderbilt University last Friday May 3 brought together scholars, community organizers, concerned parents, professors, public school teachers, business owners, students, people from various faith communities and other non-profit organizations for a series of workshops, presentations and conversations about what can be done and what is being done in an effort to rethink the whole prison industry as well as consider ways to dismantle the cradle to prison pipeline. Our team was invited to present on the topic of Zero Tolerance policies and how they have been used to contribute to the constantly growing numbers of young black and brown bodies in juvenile facilities and behind prison walls. During our presentation we discussed the history of zero tolerance policies and the shift in their usage and criteria as they were once used for serious offenses such as drugs and guns but now are used for behavior infractions ( e.g. arguing, yelling during class, inappropriate language etc..) that might require serious intervention, counseling or creative teaching. We discussed the differences between conflict and criminal behavior, particularly as it pertains to how black boys are sometimes perceived as problem children (and not children with problems) from the outset which can in many ways influence how their behavior may not be classified as adolescent conflict but instead as criminal. CDF Nashville Team member Ndume Olatushanti shared his experience of dealing with the school system as a young child and then the prison system well into his adulthood years of imprisonment.


His story was followed by the stories of three young men who attend a local high school. They shared their experiences in school as well as in their respective communities. The young men also shared how a trip to the Alex Haley farm during their recent spring break opened their eyes and helped them make some life altering decisions concerning either getting involved in or getting disconnected from activities that may have possibly led to prison or death. For the young men it was an opportunity for them to share as primary voices who have been impacted or have friends who have been impacted by either zero tolerance or the prison system.


We had an opportunity to not only hear from these primary voices but from people in the local and academic community and others who are deeply concerned about trying to disrupt and dismantle this deadly circle and cycle that continues to impact children of color across this nation. As a result of the conference we were able to make some new connections and share some of the work we are doing in the city with parents, students and other organizations to listen, engage and expand the network of partners who are committed to doing serious work around this issue.

Connect with the CDF Nashville Team through their  facebook page here:

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Forum on Private Prisons and Protest at CCA Headquarters, May 15-16, Nashville

CCA is the oldest for-profit prison company in the nation.
On May 16th, they will be holding their annual shareholder meeting.

Join the Public Safety and Justice Campaign to tell CCA 30 years of profiting from human misery is nothing to celebrate!

Wednesday, May 15:

6 pm: Sign-making party

7pm: Forum on private prisons

Casa Azafran, 2195 Nolensville Pike, Nashville, TN

Thursday, May 16, 9 am – 10:30 am:


Outside the CCA shareholder meeting:
10 Burton Hills Boulevard, Nashville, TN

Download a flyer for this event here: CCA 30th flyer

Facebook page for this event:

ACLU of Tennessee
Children’s Defense Fund
Grassroots Leadership
Human Rights Defense Center
Justice Strategies
Mid-South Peace and Justice Center
Public Safety and Justice Campaign

For more information about protests across the country to mark the 30th anniversary of CCA, see:

To find out how you can participate in the grassroots campaign, no matter where you live, click here:

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A Conversation with Ndume Olatushani, May 16, 5:30-7pm at The Arts Company

Laura Hutson, Arts Editor, Nashville Scene and
Paul Polycarpou, Editor, Nashville Arts Magazine
personally invite you to a very special evening with Ndume Olatushani.

Olatushani spent 20 years on death row for a crime he didn’t commit. Today, he is a free man catching up on life, family, and his art. Join us for a frank and candid conversation with him.

Where: Upstairs at The Arts Company
215 5th Ave. N. 

When: Thursday, May 16 5:30 to 7:00 pm

Why: Because it is very important!

Read his remarkable story in the May issue of Nashville Arts Magazine and the May 23 issue of the Nashville Scene.

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Photo Gallery: Rethinking Prisons Conference, May 3-5 at Vanderbilt University

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Rethinking Prisons conference last weekend at Vanderbilt University!  Here are a few photographs of the event by Rohan Quinby.

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Bryant Smith: Postcards to Death Row

A few months ago, REACH Coalition collaborated with WUI Collective to create a series of Postcards from Death Row.  Bryant Smith, a student at Watkins College of Art, Design & Film, has responded to this project with his own works of art.  Check out Bryant’s visual responses here (scroll down the page).  You can submit your own responses to, and we will post them on this page!




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Rethinking Prisons Conference, May 3-5 at Vanderbilt University, Buttrick Hall

Prison Conference Poster
Join us on May 3-5 for the Rethinking Prisons Conference at Vanderbilt University.  The conference brings together over 100 scholars, activists, and practitioners from across the US, as well as Canada and Brazil, to discuss issues raised by prisons and the death penalty.  Keynote speakers are Joy James (author of Resisting State Violence: Race, Gender and State Violence (1996) and editor of The New Abolitionists: (Neo) Slave Narratives and Contemporary Prison Writings (2005), Imprisoned Intellectuals (2003), and States of Confinement: Policing, Detention and Prisons (2002)), Susan Rosenberg (author of An American Radical: A Political Prisoner In My Own Country (2011)), and Mark Lewis Taylor (author of The Theological and the Political: On the Weight of the World (2011) and The Executed God: The Way of the Cross in Lockdown America (2001)).

A full conference schedule is available here.  All sessions will be held in Buttrick Hall.  The conference is free and open to the public.

This conference is the final, culminating event in A Year of Rethinking Prisons at Vanderbilt, which has included a lecture by Michelle Alexander, art exhibitions at Sarratt Gallery (featuring work by prisoners currently on Tennessee’s death row) and at the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center (featuring the work of Ndume Olatushani, who spent 20 years on death row for a crime he did not commit), a collaborative postcard art project between WUI Collective (including Vanderbilt’s Jonathan Rattner) and prisoners on death row, two roundtable discussions and a book launch for work by political prisoner, Russell Maroon Shoatz, a lecture on solitary confinement by Lisa Guenther, as well as other lectures and presentations at Vanderbilt and in the Nashville community.

Thank you to the following sponsors for making this conference possible: Vanderbilt Department of Philosophy, Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center, Robert Penn Warren Center, Program in African American & Diaspora Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies, Department of Political Science, Ellen Armour, Colin Dayan, Kelly Oliver, and David Wood.

For more information, please contact Lisa Guenther at

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