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Freedom & Captivity Curriculum Project

The Freedom & Captivity Curricula Project is building curricula on abolitionist themes from the materials created by 2021’s Freedom & Captivity initiative and featured on this website. These curricula can be used to facilitate conversations with community groups, study groups inside of prisons, and in college courses in order to foster conversations inside, outside, and across the walls about abolitionist questions like: What would accountability look like in an abolitionist society? How is repair addressed in an abolitionist society? What does ‘community’ mean in a context of incarceration? What does liberation sound like and move like? What is the relationship between freedom, liberation, and abolitionism? What is the relationship between racial equity, repair, justice, and abolition? How can we model concepts of justice, repair, liberation and abolition in poetry, movement, narrative, spoken word, and stories?

The courses are: ‘Loss, Repair, and Transformation;’ ‘Journeys of Trauma, Healing and Forgiveness;’ and ‘What is Liberation?’ Each 13-week curriculum can be broken down into smaller segments. The curricula will be available as downloadable pdfs on this website in fall 2023.

The Freedom & Captivity Curriculum Project Team:

Abdulkadir Ali is an Ethiopian-American social activist. From human rights to community leadership, Mr. Ali addresses issues that continuously occur in silenced communities caused by systematic oppression. He is an Artistic Director with Maine Inside Out, an organization that uses theater to engage communities around the subject of incarceration, and works as the Advocacy Director with Maine Youth Justice. An organization that brings people of all backgrounds together to address the failures of the criminal/juvenile justice system while working to advance reform. Mr. Ali also works in partnership with the Young People’s Caucus, which connects policy decision makers with young people to discuss and learn about topics that are important to youth, and Opportunity Scholars at the University of Southern Maine, which creates a bridge for formerly incarcerated young people to access post-secondary education.  As a formerly incarcerated young man, Mr. Ali works tirelessly as an activist and organizer on behalf of Maine’s most vulnerable populations. Mr. Ali lives in Portland. Ali uses philosophical poetry from life’s experiences to meaningful messages in hopes of a better world.

Catherine Besteman is an abolitionist educator at Colby College. She founded Freedom & Captivity, the Freedom & Captivity Curriculum Project, the Freedom & Captivity Archive of carceral experience, the Colby Across the Walls prison education program, and the Colby College Justice Think Tank and is a DJ for Justice Radio. She has researched and published on carcerality, security, militarism, displacement, and community-based activism and transformation, focused on Somalia, South Africa, and the U.S.

Brandon Brown   

Geneviève Beaudoin has been with the Freedom & Captivity initiative since 2020, supporting efforts in communications, website management, the Freedom & Captivity archive, and the forthcoming Freedom & Captivity Curriculum Project. 

Jan Collins, Associate Director of Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition and Freedom & Captivity board member curates exhibitions of work by incarcerated artists around the state, facilitates art programming inside Maine Prison facilities, and collects creative material for the Freedom & Captivity archive at Maine Historical Society. She works tirelessly to educate legislators and the public about carceral issues and the people who are shaped by them including family members like herself.

Jon Courtney is an event coordinator and film programmer. He organizes film and musical performance programming through the NAACP Branch at the Maine State Prison and at the Southern Maine Women’s Reentry Center and facilitates men’s integrity circles through the Jericho Circle Project at Maine State Prison. He coordinates book drives and library planning for correctional facilities in Maine and stewards podcast and film content onto the Edovo tablet systems. He served as board member for Maine Inside Out and Freedom & Captivity.  

Linda Small is the founder and executive director of Reentry Sisters, an emergent nonprofit support organization specializing in a gender-responsive and trauma-informed approach for women’s reentry. She serves on the New England Commission for the Future of Higher Education in Prison at the Educational Justice Institute at MIT. She is a Columbia University Women’s Collective Leadership Fellow, focusing on changing the impact of the carceral state on women and girls, a member of the Justice Scholars Network, and the Colby College Justice Think Tank, highlighting the scholarship and research of justice-impacted people. Linda collaborated with the Freedom & Captivity team to develop community-based classes taught by incarcerated people and serves on the Mass Incarceration Convening Planning Committee for the national humanities councils while completing a Master of Science in Adult and Higher Education.

Andre “Dray” Hicks is a social entrepreneur, mentor and national performance artist who has performed with the Yeti and Kool G. Rap. Andre is a Deering High School alumni student athlete, lives in Portland with his family and is the longstanding Manager of Toni’s Touch, Portland’s cornerstone barbershop and salon in the Portland community. Building upon his lived experience in the justice system as a youth and adult, he works as a mentor to young people and adults with the Opportunity Scholars Initiative at the University of Southern Maine and organizes with Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition. Andre facilitates weekly groups of currently and formerly incarcerated people to build positive reentry supports and works to create opportunities for people to aspire to greatness and thrive.  He uses the tools of writing, conversation, and performance art to facilitate justice as healing and liberation and mentors’ youth in financial literacy and wellbeing.

Leo Hylton is a PhD student at George Mason University’s Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution. His education and work are based in trauma-informed, healing-centered Restorative Justice practices, and are focused on Social Justice Advocacy and Activism, with a vision toward an abolitionist future. Toward that end, he has worked as a Visiting Instructor at Colby College, co-teaching AY346 – Carcerality and Abolition. He was a lead facilitator of Maine State Prison’s Restorative Practices Steering Committee, served on Colby College’s Restorative Practices Team, and provides consultation to RJ practitioners in the US and abroad. Leo is a core organizer of the Carter School Working Group on Forgiveness and Reconciliation, creating spaces of co-learning, growth, and trauma healing in the context of forgiveness and reconciliation. He is also a columnist for the The Bollard (formerly Mainer), where he writes a monthly column to raise public consciousness around the existence and power of humanity in carceral spaces. Leo’s education, work, and research are informed by his experience as a currently incarcerated citizen in Maine State Prison.

A. Cuba Jackson is an abolitionist and Strategic Partnership Lead with MPAC. He holds an associate degree (magna cum laude) from UMA. Founder of 3T Builders and Renovators, he channels his experience from Maine’s prison system into justice reform and contributes to the Freedom & Captivity Curriculum.

Joseph Jackson is Director of Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition and Director of Leadership Development for Maine Inside Out, a theater group for formerly incarcerated youth. During his 20-year period of incarceration he founded the Maine State Prison chapter of the NAACP, completed two BA degrees and was accepted into an MFA program, which he completed post-release. He serves as a board member of the Prison Education Partnership and was on Freedom & Captivity’s advisory board.

Erica King, MSW, is Director of the Place Matters program at University of Southern Maine, coordinator of the Opportunity Scholars Network, and member of the Prison Education Partnership. She teaches inside Maine’s prisons, provides trainings to Department of Corrections staff on equity and de-escalation techniques, and overseas the creation of regional care teams for assisting formerly incarcerated people who are reentering society.  

Bobby Payzant did not have to go to heaven to be an angel. He cared for his dying brothers in the prison hospice program with tenderness and love. When he was released, he visited their graves and kept them ever in his thoughts as he advocated for more compassionate care for the ill and elderly within prison walls. Before legislative committees, he spoke truth to power and never stopped caring about those who had no voice. He held himself accountable for the wrongs he had committed and was his own harshest critic. He would be so proud of all of those who made this curriculum possible.

Brian Pitman is a lecturer in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice at Clemson University teaching criminology classes. Brian’s public sociology pieces have been published in the Bangor Daily News, Truthout, and Shelterforce. He has worked with the Freedom & Captivity Project since 2020.   

Wendy Allen recently completed a prison sentence in Maine and works as a recovery coach with Maine Recovery Advocacy Coalition, a community facilitator with Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition, and is a program facilitator for the Maine Humanities Council.  She is completing her degree with Washington County Community College. She facilitates book discussion groups through the Maine Humanities Council and collaborated on Freedom & Captivity public programming while incarcerated.

This project is supported by an American Council of Learned Societies Sustaining Public Engagement Grant, a Maine Humanities Council SHARP grant, the Mellon Foundation, Opportunity Scholars of University of Southern Maine’s Cutler Institute, Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition and Colby College.