Jailhouse Lawyers Speak is a collective of radical incarcerated activists. In a March 1 press release, they have called for national demonstrations to shut down jails, prisons and ICE detention centers on Aug. 21 and Sept. 9 (#shutemdown2021). These dates were selected to commemorate the 50th anniversaries of the assassination of imprisoned Black revolutionary George Jackson and the Attica prison uprising.
In a March 1 press release, JLS announced “In the spirit of Abolition, let’s shut ’em down!” a call that the Prisoners Solidarity Committee of Workers World Party proudly endorses:
Since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, incarcerated people across the U.S. have been holding long and spontaneous demonstrations to respond to COVID-19 in the prisons. With at least 300,000 and possibly as many as 800,000 people in prison infected by COVID, prisoners have demanded basic human rights protections.
These demonstrations have been largely ignored by the public as incarcerated people and supporters have demanded COVID safety precautions be enacted in prisons. In a number of states, these COVID demonstrations have turned into widespread and hard-fought successful court battles to accomplish release of some prisoners.
North Carolina is set to release approximately 3,000 prisoners during the next six months due to a COVID lawsuit settlement.
Even with releases and policy changes won, the U.S. cannot make up for the hundreds of thousands who have become ill or the thousands killed by COVID.
Incarcerated people know that every time a prison official comes to work, our lives are in jeopardy because they may be infected. The same is true regarding prisoner deaths: We attribute every death to prison officials infecting the prison population.
Take a moment to think on how over capacity U.S. prisons and jails are. People are stacked on top of each other.
Lives could have been saved if the U.S. was on the path of Abolition. We must struggle harder to close prisons and jails and to free people from the grips of prison slavery. This is stated while recognizing we must develop effective strategies to have the billions of taxpayer dollars used to grow the prison-industrial slave complex (PISC) redirected to the communities.
Without going into recent political presidential acrobatics, we do want to acknowledge we feel a stronger need than ever to make it known that the struggles of people in prison will not be pushed to the back burner or lost in the muddy water of trying to make people feel good about their party politics.
In the spirit of Abolition, on the historical dates of Aug. 21 and Sept. 9, 2021, organizers must highlight prisoners’ historic struggles and the current political struggles to dismantle the prison-industrial slave complex.
Jailhouse Lawyers Speak is calling for mass outside demonstrations. Specific locations: ICE, jails, prisons and higher learning institutions. With regards to higher learning institutions, we are pointing towards learning institutions with connections to prison labor.
A few states may already have specific ongoing campaigns that directly speak to decarceration or closing down a prison or jail. Efforts should be made to network to boost those campaigns on these dates at the recommended locations.
With everyone working across the U.S. on the same days, this would magnify our struggle for humanity and highlight specific state-related campaigns. These Shut ’em Down demonstrations should serve as a wake-up call to every person in the U.S. that the current jailing path does not work. It’s time to end it!
In the days leading up to the Shut ’em Down demonstrations, we will post locations of planned Abolition demonstrations and endorsements of these events on our website: Iamweubuntu.com/shutemdown.