Welcome to the Breaking Point Project (BPP)! Whether you are intimately familiar with the connection between Disability Justice and the rights of incarcerated people, or this is your first introduction to the topic, we are delighted to share this project with you.
BPP developed from our personal interests in disability justice and prison abolition, conversations with abolitionist attorneys and advocates, and the practically non-existent medical care within carceral systems across the country – which gained some acknowledgment as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prisons and jails are intentionally shrouded in secrecy, and we envision this project as part of countless efforts to bring those secrets to light and hopefully create meaningful change. As two Disabled recent law school graduates, we find ourselves uniquely positioned to have these conversations by drawing on both our legal and personal backgrounds. For us, the personal is very much political.
This website contains disabled folks’ stories about their experiences with incarceration, particularly in light of their disability or chronic illness. These stories are either written by the individual and submitted to us as-is or written by us in collaboration with the individual after an interview — whatever feels more comfortable to the storyteller. We then reach out to disabled, neurodivergent, and/or chronically ill artists to collaborate with us on this project by bringing the narratives to life through visual media.
You will no doubt notice that in these narratives, we have not included the individuals’ names, the medications they take, the location of the jail, and other potentially identifying information. We made this decision in conjunction with the interviewees to protect their privacy and shield them from potential retaliation by jail staff.
We are continuously grateful to everyone who chooses to share this story with us. Further, we cannot thank the artists enough for being not only willing but excited to contribute their time and talents to this project. Please take some time to read through the experiences of those we interviewed, learn more about the artists who generously contributed to this project at the bottom of each narrative, and share these stories with others.
Change can only happen if each of us educates ourselves and those around us about the inhumane treatment of incarcerated people – including those who are disabled or chronically ill – and commits to doing something about it. Here are some action items to get you started:
Learn. Check out Abolition and Disability Justice to learn more about how carceral systems, from jails to mental health facilities to policing, subject disabled people to violence and strip them of their agency. You can also browse our news page for current stories and action items.
Take Action. Support movements to pass important local legislation, like the Human Alternatives to Long-Term (HALT) Solitary Confinement Act in New York. You can find more information on your state legislature here; then, call your legislators and urge them to support bills that advocate for the welfare of incarcerated people or create opportunities for decarceration.
Change requires those in positions of relative privilege to leverage their power in support of our collective community. Disability justice and abolition are inextricably intertwined. Donate, learn, and take action in furtherance of this common goal.
Kaitlin Grant 2020
Throughout the Breaking Point Project, we intentionally default to identity-first language when talking in broad strokes to emphasize the centrality and importance of disability to many disabled people’s lived experiences and identities. When it comes to particular individuals' identities, we use whatever language they prefer.
We hold an anti-racist, anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist understanding of disability that also encompasses neurodivergence, Madness, and all others who identify with the disability community. We also follow Talila Lewis’ definition of ableism.
i keep asking
etching, aquatint, & monoprint
Benjamin Merritt 2020
behind the scenes.
Conducting these interviews are Lucy Trieshmann and Maya Goldman, two recent law graduates. We both identify as Disabled, and have a strong belief in the power of storytelling to catalyze change. As two white people who haven't ourselves been ensnared by the criminal-legal system, we acknowledge the power imbalance between us and many of the folks generous enough to share their stories. We actively work to combat this by utilizing trauma-informed interviewing practices, offering compensation, ensuring storytellers maintain full autonomy over how (and if) their words are shared, and more. However, we also understand our own limitations as non-justice-impacted white people, as well as the inherent power imbalance between interviewers and interviewees. We constantly strive to improve, and welcome feedback to that end.
As of summer 2022, the BPP team is growing and changing. We look forward to introducing our leadership team soon!