What is a political prisoner and does the U.S. have them?

What is a Political Prisoner and Prisoner of War?

Political Prisoner: A person incarcerated for actions carried out in support of legitimate struggles for self determination* or for opposing the illegal policies of the government and/or its political sub-divisions. (Special International Tribunal on the Violation of Human Rights of Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War in the United States Prisons and Jails, December, 1990)

Prisoner of War: Those combatants struggling against colonial and alien domination and racist regimes captured as prisoners are to be accorded the status of prisoner of war and their treatment should be in accordance with the provisions of the Geneva Conventions Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War. (August 12, 1949, General Assembly Resolution 3103 [XXVIII])

Does the U.S. Hold Political Prisoners?

When the subject of prisons are brought up, most people make the assumption that prisons are places that “bad” people are kept to keep the rest of us safe and to punish people for their “bad” or “evil” behavior.  People usually realize that prisons are used as a mechanism of social-control and a repository of socially oppressed populations.

Comparatively, when the subject of political prisoners or prisoners of war is mentioned, as a person imprisoned for their political beliefs or actions, one conjures up images of a totalitarian governments or some despotic authoritarian manner of dealing with dissidents. Rarely does one think of amerikkka, as a country that holds its citizens in such a state.  Afterall, amerikkka claims to be a democracy and denies the existence of political prisoners and prisoners of war. 

Yet, there are about 100 political prisoners in various prisons across the United States. These women and men are listed and recognized as political prisoners by numerous human rights, legal defense and progressive/socialist organizations. These people all come from the Civil Rights/Black Power/New African Liberation struggles, the Puerto Rican Independence Movement, Indigenous Peoples survival struggles, Chicano/Mexicano Movements, anti-imperialist/anti-war movements, anti-racist/anti-fascist struggles, the Women’s Movement, social and economic justice struggles, and especially in the past several years, from the Environmental/Animal Rights movement. They are Black, white, Latino and Native American. Most of these political prisoners have been in captivity since the 1970s and 80s. Some were convicted on totally fabricated charges, others for nebulous political conspiracies or for acts of resistance. All received huge sentences for their political beliefs or actions in support of these beliefs.

Additionally, there are many thousands of revolutionary minded, politically conscious prisoners in U.S. jails. These are people who became more politically aware and active once they landed in prison. A lot of these prisoners also get singled out for extra harsh and restrictive treatment like the political prisoners. Since 9/11, the U.S. has also imprisoned thousands of Arab and Muslim visitors to this country, as well as some Islamic citizens and residents.

During the Jimmy Carter administration, Ambassador to the United Nations and civil right icon, Andrew Young, admitted there were scores of political prisoners being held in the U.S.  This statement by Young, embarrassed the President Carter and Young was rebuked by the President and was forced to backpedal on his statement.

Who Are America’s Political Prisoners & Prisoners of War?

This is a list of individuals who are currently incarcerated in the U.S, who became targets  because of their actions threatening US imperial power, and who were imprisoned for their political beliefs and activity. This list is not  exhaustive by any means.

National groups such as the Jericho Movement are have been formed with the defined goal of gaining recognition of the fact that political prisoners and prisoners of war exist inside of the United States, despite the Unite States’ government’s continued denial … and winning amnesty and freedom for these political prisoners. A more extensive list and information on these men and women can be found at www.thejerichomovement.com.

What’s the Call?  Free ‘em all!!!