NATIONAL PRISON STRIKE
On august 25th, the Bay Area witnessed an outpouring of more than 300 people mobilizing for a call to action at an entrance point of the San Quentin State Prison. The Mobilization and Call To Action was organized by the Bay Area National Prisoner Strike Solidarity Committee, a regional network of organizations that includes POOR Magazine/Poor People’s Revolutionary Radio, the Anti-Police Terror Project, Worker’s World Party, California Prison Focus, the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (Oakland), and the Democratic Socialists of America (San Francisco). The call for the mobilization was in response to the call for a Nation-Wide Prisoner Strike by Jailhouse Lawyers Speak (JLS, a network of self-trained incarcerated legal scholars and organizers.
Bay Area community groups and organizations stood united with prisoners participating in coordinated strike activity that includes work stoppages, sit-ins, commissary boycotts, and hunger strikes, from August 21 – September 9. Prisoners are demanding “humane living conditions, access to rehabilitation, sentencing reform, and the end of modern day slavery” and have called on outside supporters to amplify prisoners’ voices and demands. The Bay Area National Prison Strike Solidarity Committee was formed to further these prisoner’s goals and demands. There was significant media coverage of the mobilization action, as has been the case of major media coverage of the National Prison Strike itself.
Men and women incarcerated in prisons across the nation declared a nationwide strike in response to the riot in Lee Correctional Institution, a maximum security prison in South Carolina. Seven people lost their lives during an instigated melee that could have been avoided had the prison not been so overcrowded from the greed wrought by mass incarceration, and a lack of respect for human life that is embedded in our nation’s penal ideology.
The 19 day strike commenced on August 21 – the 47th, the anniversary of the death of George Jackson, a prominent Black prison organizer and Black Panther Party member, who was killed at San Quentin, prison guards – and extended through September 9 – the 47th anniversary of the Attica Prison Rebellion, the largest prison uprising of the 1970s prison movement. As the current prisoner resistance spread, prisoners in 15 states joined the resistance. In addition to these states there have been reports of solidarity actions overseas. Nova Scotia, Canada: at Burnside County Jail in Halifax prisoners went on strike and issued a protest statement in solidarity with the strike and naming local demands. Larissa Prison, Greece: 127 prisoners of the A wing issued a statement in solidarity. Palestine: imprisoned Palestinians of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine held in Israeli jails issued a statement in solidarity. Additionally, 200 immigrants being held in U.S. detention facilities have joined the strike.
As anticipated by the prisoners, officials have denied the prisoner strike is even happening while taking retaliatory measures to punish and isolate leaders and participants. Threats of retaliation are real and continue to persist beyond the strike dates. Incarcerated leaders like Jason Walker continue to suffer from abusive treatment and staff harassment, Imam Hasan has been placed on a one year ban from outside communications and Kevin Rashid Johnson just went up for another transfer trial and is being sent for another out-of-state transfer. They are shipping organizers like cargo, and JLS members are being hunted like animals as officials try to pluck them out of general population and tear them down due to the amazing work that they were able to complete these past few weeks. As of this writing, Hurricane Florence is on its way toward South Carolina, where officials are refusing to evacuate prisoners.
Indeed, prisons are a hostile environment; prison policies and actions on the part of prison staff maintain this hostile climate. The prison system is an example of how a society run by white racists maintains its control. Inmates in states across the nation are on strike against the world’s largest and most racist prison system. At root, striking prisoners demand they be treated as human beings; the rest of their demands flow logically from recognition of prisoners’ humanity. The prison strike is a means of bringing attention to a system that is rotten and must be abolished. Prisoners on strike are proving that this country lies when it claims to be a champion and upholder of human rights. While the national prison strike official end date has come, the work will not be done until the last brick on the last prison in this country has come down. The work of the national prison strike will not be complete until every single demand has been fulfilled in this country. Striking prisoner’s are no longer asking for light reforms, they are demanding a transformative change led by the incarcerated individuals whose lives depend on those changes. Jailhouse Lawyers Speaks has confirmed that they will be hosting another National Prison Strike in 2019 to continue to push for any of the demands that have yet to be fulfilled by that time.
Where there is oppression the result will be resistance. Prisoner’s Movements and Resistance gives credence to this dialectic.
These are the NATIONAL DEMANDS of the men and women in federal, immigration, and state prisons:
- Immediate improvements to the conditions of prisons and prison policies that recognize the humanity of imprisoned men and women.
- An immediate end to prison slavery. All persons imprisoned in any place of detention under United States jurisdiction must be paid the prevailing wage in their state or territory for their labor.
- The Prison Litigation Reform Act must be rescinded, allowing imprisoned humans a proper channel to address grievances and violations of their rights.
- The Truth in Sentencing Act and the Sentencing Reform Act must be rescinded so that imprisoned humans have a possibility of rehabilitation and parole. No human shall be sentenced to Death by Incarceration or serve any sentence without the possibility of parole.
- An immediate end to the racial overcharging, over-sentencing, and parole denials of Black and brown humans. Black humans shall no longer be denied parole because the victim of the crime was white, which is a particular problem in southern states.
- An immediate end to racist gang enhancement laws targeting Black and brown humans.
- No imprisoned human shall be denied access to rehabilitation programs at their place of detention because of their label as a violent offender.
- State prisons must be funded specifically to offer more rehabilitation services.
- Pell grants must be reinstated in all US states and territories.
- The voting rights of all confined citizens serving prison sentences, pretrial detainees, and so-called “ex-felons” must be counted. Representation is demanded. All voices count!
All Power To The People…All Power To Those People Who Are Ready and Willing To Seize The Power!!!