Prisoners demand ‘our human rights’
Published Dec 15, 2010 10:14 PM
According to reports from family members and prisoner rights advocates,
thousands of incarcerated men throughout Georgia engaged in a coordinated
strike starting Dec. 9. They refused to go to work or participate in other
assignments or activities, but stayed in their cells, calling it a
“lockdown for liberty.”
Emily Guzman and her son, Logan,
to march to detention
center in Georgia.
Photo: Jim Toran
Using unauthorized cell phones, the prisoners have been able to organize among
themselves and to communicate with news media and supporters.
What is so extraordinary about this action besides its statewide character is
its unity among the prisoners — Black, Latino, white, Muslims,
Christians, Rastafarians — to achieve their central demand to be treated
as human beings, not slaves or animals.
The Georgia Department of Corrections has refused to provide any information to
date but did release a short statement on Dec. 9 claiming that no job action
had taken place and nothing unusual was happening. However, the DOC
acknowledged that based on the “rumor” of a strike, wardens at four
facilities had ordered a general “lockdown” of the institution to
prevent any disruption. A lockdown means that all prisoners are confined to
their cells and no visitors or phone calls are allowed.
Members of the Concerned Coalition to Respect
Prisoners’ Rights and All
of Us or None of Us
protest at the Mound Road prison in Detroit
WW photo: Bryan G. Pfeifer
Inmate families and community organizers such as Elaine Brown, a former leader
of the Black Panther Party and longtime prisoner rights activist, have received
numerous phone calls recounting instances of violence and intimidation by
prison guards and officials in response to this peaceful protest.
At Augusta State Prison, at least six prisoners were dragged from their cells
and beaten, resulting in broken ribs and other serious injuries.
At Telfair State Prison, guards rampaged through the cells, destroying personal
property while searching for contraband cell phones.
At Macon State Prison, the prison authorities first shut off the heat as
temperatures dropped below freezing and then, on the second day of the strike,
also cut off the hot water.
An unknown number of prisoners have been taken to isolation or “the
hole” at the various facilities.
Georgia, having the fifth largest U.S. prison population, has more than 100
prisons, work camps and other detention centers. It is estimated that one in 13
adult Georgians are under some sort of legal control by the state — in
prison or jail, on parole or out on bond with charges pending, or under some
sort of court or correctional supervision.
In a message sent from a prisoner on day 3 of the strike, he urged,
“Don’t Give Up Now! On Monday, when the doors (to the cells —
DM) open, close them. Do Not Go To Work.”
Prior to the strike, the prisoners issued a statement outlining nine specific
• A living wage for work: In violation of the 13th
Amendment to the Constitution prohibiting slavery and involuntary servitude,
the DOC demands prisoners work for free.
• Educational opportunities: For the great majority
of prisoners, the DOC denies all opportunities for education beyond the GED,
despite the benefit to both prisoners and society.
• Decent health care: In violation of the Eighth
Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments, the DOC denies
adequate medical care to prisoners, charges excessive fees for the most minimal
care and is responsible for extraordinary pain and suffering.
• An end to cruel and unusual punishment: In
further violation of the Eighth Amendment, the DOC is responsible for cruel
prisoner punishments for minor infractions of rules.
• Decent living conditions: Georgia prisoners are
confined in overcrowded, substandard conditions, with little heat in winter and
oppressive heat in summer.
• Nutritional meals: Vegetables and fruit are in
short supply in DOC facilities while starches and fatty foods are
• Vocational and self-improvement opportunities:
The DOC has stripped its facilities of all opportunities for skills training,
self-improvement and proper exercise.
• Access to families: The DOC has disconnected
thousands of prisoners from their families by imposing excessive telephone
charges and innumerable barriers to visitation.
• Just parole decisions: The Parole Board
capriciously and regularly denies parole to the majority of prisoners despite
evidence of eligibility.
The conditions that have caused these men to take such a courageous action are
duplicated in prisons and jails across the U.S. News about their historic
strike has been censored with next to no coverage throughout Georgia. The New
York Times did print information about the strike following calls by prisoners
to the newspaper (Dec. 12).
Solidarity is needed to ensure the safety of the prisoners and the improvement
of their conditions. Calls to the following Georgia prisons are encouraged,
demanding no retaliation or reprisals and full compliance with the
Macon State Prison 978-472-3900
Hays State Prison 706-857-0400
Telfair State Prison 229-868-7721
Baldwin State Prison 478-445-5218
Valdosta State Prison 229-333-7900
Smith State Prison 912-654-5000
Sources for this article also include the Black Agenda Report and the
The strike continues as of Dec. 14.
To sign a petition of support, go to www.iacenter.org and look in the Action Alerts & Report-Backs
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