Oakland, Calif. — A deadly atrocity took place at Lee Correctional Institution, a South Carolina maximum security prison, on April 15. The jailers intentionally set up what was essentially a gladiator fight, housing rival groups of prisoners together in densely overcrowded cell blocks, locking the gates with no means of escape and turning their backs for hours. It was a setup that led to the deaths of seven prisoners.
In response to this, a core group of organized inmates, including prisoners in the collective, Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, have issued a call for a national prison strike from Aug. 21 to Sept. 9.
August 21 is the anniversary of the assassination of Black Panther Party Field Marshal and prison activist George Jackson in 1971. September 9 is the anniversary of the Attica Prison Rebellion, which erupted two weeks after Jackson’s assassination.
In an April 24 press release, Jailhouse Lawyers Speak stated that the Lee uprising “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. These men and women are demanding humane living conditions, access to rehabilitation, sentencing reform and the end of modern day slavery.” (sawarimi.org/national-prison-strike)
Incarcerated people from at least 17 states have already confirmed their participation in the upcoming strike. They have asked for solidarity and support from people outside the walls in a number of ways. Hashtags for solidarity messages and actions are #prisonstrike and #August21.
Prison strike demands and support
Jailhouse Lawyers Speak lists these 10 demands from “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 U.S. 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- The Prison Litigation Reform Act must be rescinded, allowing imprisoned humans a proper channel to address grievances and violations of their rights.
- The Truth in Sentencing Act and the Sentencing Reform Act must be rescinded so that imprisoned humans have a possibility of rehabilitation and parole.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 U.S. states and territories.
- The voting rights of all confined citizens serving prison sentences, pre-trial detainees, and so-called “ex-felons” must be counted. Representation is demanded. All voices count!
Jailhouse Lawyers Speak also announced that the strike will have multiple strategies, including work strikes, sit-ins, boycotts and hunger strikes. They emphasized that some work strikes may also generate “a local list of demands designed to improve conditions and reduce harm within the prison.”
Inmates ask for solidarity through various actions, such as contacting relevant “local, state and federal political representatives” about their demands, especially that prisoner votes be counted. They ask supporters to spread up-to-date news of the strike to other places of detention and community organizations. For the media, inquiries can be made to [email protected]. Supporters can connect to local prisoner rights organizations through [email protected].
They ask that financial boycotts of services to prisoners be based only on the stated wishes of those inside.
WWP supports the prison strike
Workers World Party is one among a large number of organizations nationwide that have endorsed this call for a national prison strike. In addition to helping publicize it, many of our branches across the country are supporting solidarity actions and have also reached out to our comrades inside the walls to make their voices heard.
Workers World newspaper recently published interviews with individuals inside Lee Correctional, including a member of Jailhouse Lawyers Speak. (workers.org/author/jared-ware)
In California, the Bay Area National Prison Strike Solidarity Committee has been formed and is organizing a mobilization and call to action on Aug. 25 at San Quentin State Prison. Its objective is “raising awareness of the inhumane conditions, treatment and policies that afflict those held in these gulags throughout amerikkka.”
Prisoners are part of the working class, being forced to work as slave laborers under the most inhumane conditions. Workers World Party not only supports their right to organize and strike, but is for the complete abolition of prisons and mass incarceration, which are tools of capitalist rule and white supremacy. We are for the abolition of all exploitation, wage slavery and capitalism itself.
Note from the editors of Workers World: Prisoners denied their right to receive any issue of Workers World newspaper should file a grievance. Workers World Party has demanded in our complaints to prisons that $100 be given to every prisoner denied an issue of our paper. If prisoners agree, that demand should be part of their grievance.