Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, and Truthdig columnist, Chris Hedges has taught in America's most elite universities, including Princeton, Columbia, and New York University. Yet, it was 28 students at one particular institution where, according to him, "There was more brilliance, literacy, passion, wisdom and integrity in that classroom than in any other classroom I have taught in."
The institution in question? A maximum security prison in New Jersey.
In that prison, the remarkable minds of 28 inmates collaboratively penned a play under the tutelage of Hedges. Inspired by their exceptional talent, Hedges promised that he’d share their singular voices with the world and -- somehow, someway, someday -- mount the play.
The play is called “Caged.” The premiere is now slated for Spring of 2018, at the Passage Theatre in Trenton, New Jersey.
The 28 voices in the play are distilled and crafted into a story that personifies the plight of millions of Americans, their families and communities. Its tone is at once brutal and heartbreaking. Its purpose is it to serve as megaphone for those born into, tempted by, and trapped within a system that is tragically built for the already oppressed such as these 28 men, primarily of color, who have cumulatively spent 515 years in prison, some for non-violent crimes, others with sentences utterly disproportionate to their crimes and yet others still who have spent days, weeks, even years, in the emotionally crippling cage that is solitary confinement.
"CAGED" offers a unique perspective about mass incarceration. We view it from the inside out and hear the voices of the imprisoned, the forgotten, the lost and the damned. They speak of a system that is harvesting human beings for profit but they also press the real need to heal and reform the system. Not merely inside the prison cell but moreover, and more urgently, outside in the real world where millions are just as equally trapped.
The Play (and the documentary film about it) strives to become a mechanism that can inspire, instigate and can provide both healing and reform inside and outside of the prison cell.
Our current political forces are looking to roll back any and all progress in stopping mass incarceration, making projects such as "Caged" crucial education and resistance tools for the general public.
It’s human trafficking. It’s impossible to ignore. And no one is immune.