Prisons such as the California Correctional Center in Susanville, California, drive the local economy in the rural town, and its residents are just as tied to these facilities as the incarcerated ones. Piper French offers a nuanced portrait of the town, as locals in support of CCC, incarcerated organizers on the inside, and urban abolitionist activists all debate the most just way to close the prison.

Susanville made me wonder about the potential for overlapping aims, solidarity even, between the people who wanted to close the prison—close all prisons—and the people in town fighting for it to stay open. There were obvious political and cultural rifts to bridge.

But there was one commonality between groups advocating for the free and incarcerated people of Susanville: neither was satisfied by the state’s plans for closing the prisons. And in the activists’ calls for a better world, I saw a glimpse of possibilities that might suit the residents of Susanville as well—an economy that didn’t revolve around a prison, a country where losing your job wasn’t tantamount to ruin, a future that looked brighter than the past.

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.