Prisoners go on strike in at least 17 states

Starting Tuesday, inmates across the country went on a prison strike to protest what they call “modern-day slavery” within the U.S. correctional system.

Prison activist organizations like the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee and Jailhouse Lawyers Speak are leading the movement and have participation in at least 17 states participating.

The protesters’ list of 10 demands include restoring the voting rights of prisoners and ex-convicts and having a prevailing wage for labor as inmates are paid pennies on the dollar per hour.

In their statement, Jailhouse Lawyers Speak stated:

“Fundamentally, it’s a human rights issue. Prisoners understand they are being treated as animals. Prisons in American are a war zone. Every day prisoners are harmed due to conditions of confinement. For some of us it’s as if we are already dead, so what do we have to lose?”

The call for action is set to last 19 days, with work stoppages, hunger strikes, and sit-ins staged until Sept. 9.

These dates are notable because Aug. 21 is the day African-American activist and author George Jackson died. Jackson was incarcerated at San Quentin Prison and killed by a correction officer after taking guards and fellow prisoners hostage while trying to escape.

Sept. 9 is the anniversary of the Attica Prison uprising in upstate New York where 1,300 prisoners took control of the prison and issued demands, while simultaneously being broadcasted to a national television audience.

The protests are a response to the prison riot that occurred in the Lee Correctional Institution in South Carolina in April that resulted in the death of seven inmates who were stabbed and beaten, with at least a dozen others injured. Inmates claim that prison officials took hours to stop the riot and stacked the dead bodies in piles outside the prison yard.

Prison striking is technically illegal, as U.S. inmates are not allowed to organize, form unions, or congregate in large groups. Organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union have endorsed the strike and argued for the restoration of prisoner voting rights.

Currently, only Vermont and Maine allow current and former prisoners to vote.

Senior fellow at New York University Law School’s Brennan Center for Justice and author Lauren-Brooke Eisen believes that this strike could be one of the largest prison strikes ever in America, which already holds the title of having the largest imprisoned population in the world at 2.3 million, or nearly 25 percent of the world’s prisoners.


[Time] [RT] [Vox] [USA Today] [The Independent] [The Guardian] [Photo courtesy Left Voice]