Orange ribbons

We created our first batch of orange ribbons to hand out at Boston’s “Jobs Not Jails” rally on April 26, 2014.  Here’s a photo of 1,200 ribbons.

The USA incarcerates more people per capita than any other country in the world. We are 5 percent of the world's population and have 25 percent of the world's incarcerated people

This is a huge pile of  1200 orange ribbons for a Jobs Not Jails rally in Boston. The are a new symbol of ending US mass incarceration.

Orange ribbons are a wearable symbol of the 2.3 million people incarcerated in the USA, which is the world-wide leader in incarceration. Wearing an orange ribbon shines the light on the shameful secret of U.S. mass incarceration and reminds us to act to end it.

You can make orange ribbons easily by following the steps below. They cost 6 to 10 cents each, depending on where you buy the supplies.

Our commitment is to wear the ribbons in the months and years ahead, as we each play our own role in the movement to end mass incarceration.  As we stand in line at the post office or grocery store, or go about our daily activities, we hope that others will ask about our orange ribbons.  At the end of this page, we’ve listed some basic facts to start the conversation.


Michelle Alexander's book "The New Jim Crow" inspired this orange ribbon campaign. You can make an orange ribbon to end mass incarceration in a few minutes and for about 10 cents each

Glue dots make the assembly fast, clean and easy. All of the supplies are easily available at craft stores.

  • Orange grosgrain ribbon – We used 1/4 inch wide ribbon. Some prefer 3/8 wide ribbon.  One yard makes six 6” ribbons.  We used 50 yard rolls from Gifts International. Smaller rolls are available at many craft and sewing stores.  Grosgrain ribbon is preferable because satin ribbon isn’t sturdy enough.  We’re going to wear these ribbons for as long as it takes to end the injustice.
  • Glue Dots Mini (3/16 inch) – Glue dots eliminate drying time.  We bought our value packs (600 dots in a box) from Paper Mart.  We liked this brand because the sheets are perforated, making them easier to use.   Smaller quantities are available at many craft stores.  Make sure they are “permanent.”  Some are sold in dispensers, but you don’t need a dispenser.  Fingers work just fine.
  • Straight pins – find straight pins (often sold in packs of 500) at drug stores and craft stores. Some prefer 1.25 inch pins instead of traditional 1 inch pins.

Making the ribbons – four easy steps

Step 1  Cut the ribbon into 6” lengths (if you are using 1/4 inch wide ribbon).  It looks nice if you cut the ends at an angle.

Orange ribbons are a symbol

It takes 6 inches to make a small ribbon, more than I expected. That’s 6 ribbons to the yard.

Step 2  Tear off a strip of glue dots.  Carefully peel off the opaque paper, leaving the glue dots on the clear side. Turn over the strip and press on a glue dot 1½” from one end of the ribbon.

Glue dots will hold together the orange ribbon, a symbol of ending mass incarceration, for a long time. They cost a bit, and they're worth it because they dry immediately.

It’s hard to see the glue dot on the orange ribbon, but it’s there and super-sticky. They simplify the ribbon making.

Working together, eating, talking and laughing, we devised  an assembly line – very impressive.

orange_ribbons are a symbol of why we need to pay attention to ending mass incarceration, based on the book by "michelle alexander" "The New Jim crow" because the USA incarcerates more people than any country in the world.

An assembly line can speed it up if you’re working at a table. I made about 500 in my lap while riding in a car.

Step 3   Pick up the other end of the ribbon and fold it over so the ends are the same length.  Aim for a 45 degree angle (half a right angle).  Press the two sides together at the glue dot.

Orange ribbons are a symbol to wear that we demand an end to "The New Jim Crow" by "Michelle Alexander" and an end to "mass incarceration."

Push down on the glue dot for a permanent bond. Not even the pin can prick through it.

Step 4  Add a straight pin so people can pin the ribbon to their clothes.

"Orange is the new black"  and Orange is the symbol for county prisons, not state or federal prisons. However orange is what we wear because it's a visible reminder that we MUST end "mass incarceration" now

Put a straight pin and voila! You have a powerful symbol to wear daily that the USA must end mass incarceration.

 Wear your ribbon & spread the word

Here are some easy ways to talk about mass incarceration, without sounding like you are giving a lecture.  Appreciate that someone is curious about the ribbon. Give  room to be unfamiliar with information about mass incarceration and mandatory minimum sentencing. Acknowledge different viewpoints. Be ready to offer ways they can learn more and get involved, all in a one-to-two-minute conversation.

1 thought on “Orange ribbons

  1. Pingback: Orange is the new symbol | EMIT — End MAss Incarceration Together

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