The Southern HEP Collective works to advance educational opportunities for people who are incarcerated. We are committed to making direct change to systems in the South that negatively impact our students and their families and communities. As such, the Collective is rooted in the following core values:

  • Black Lives Matter. We recognize that anti-Blackness is the foundation of the carceral system—especially in the South. We oppose oppression in all its intersecting forms—racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia—as it manifests in incarceration, higher education, and in the South broadly. We acknowledge the complications of doing liberation work in the southeastern United States and the oppressive systems we operate in and – and commit to doing our part to dismantle them.
  • Humanity and dignity are central. We believe in the inherent humanity and dignity of all incarcerated people. All people (including those who are not incarcerated) are capable of inflicting harm and offering healing. We fundamentally believe that no person should be defined solely by past conduct that may have violated the law because these labels do not reflect the full breadth of a person’s humanity. Our students are scholars, graduates, veterans, parents, friends, and human beings with both a past and a future. Our language and actions work to honor this reality and to dismantle systems of oppression that dehumanize people and communities.
  • Educational access is a human right. We strive to advance equity by expanding access and support for incarcerated students, who often come from communities that educational systems typically exclude. We support and represent a wide variety of modes of access and educational options.
  • A better world is possible. We believe that prisons are inherently inhumane. We believe it is possible to have a world without prisons, in which communities achieve safety through care and support rather than retributive punishment. We are rooted in the teaching of Ruth Wilson Gilmore: “abolition is an act of creation” and “abolition means not just the closing of prisons but the presence, instead, of vital systems of support that many communities lack.” We are committed to abolishing oppressive systems and building systems of care and mutual aid in their place.
  • We can achieve this through collective action and de-centralized leadership. We believe in the power of collective knowledge. By sharing ideas and experiences, we can improve education and support networks for all students impacted by incarceration in the South and teach each other to actively dismantle oppression. We believe in the power of collective decision-making. A nonhierarchical model helps us consider a diversity of voices and share the burdens of leadership. We believe in the power of collective action and impact. Together, we can advance a policy agenda that reduces the harm people experience during incarceration, accelerates decarceration, and expands support for people upon release.