Georgia Prison Strike

~ Special Edition Post ~

It's officially been one week since the strike began.  It is also my understanding that Google only started showing results for "Georgia Prison Strike" this week.  And as the lil sis aptly pointed out, Faux News, CNN, and the rest of the family ain't sayin' ish about the largest prison strike in history.

Some background on the strike:
On Thursday morning, December 9, 2010, thousands of Georgia prisoners refused to work, stopped all other activities and locked down in their cells in a peaceful protest for their human rights. The December 9 Strike became the biggest prisoner protest in the history of the United States. Thousands of men, from Augusta, Baldwin, Hancock, Hays, Macon, Smith and Telfair State Prisons, among others, initiated this strike to press the Georgia Department of Corrections (“DOC”) to stop treating them like animals and slaves and institute programs that address their basic human rights. They set forth the following demands:

* · A LIVING WAGE FOR WORK
* · EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES
* · DECENT HEALTH CARE
* · AN END TO CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENTS
* · DECENT LIVING CONDITIONS
* · NUTRITIONAL MEALS
* · VOCATIONAL AND SELF-IMPROVEMENT OPPORTUNITIES
* · ACCESS TO FAMILIES
* · JUST PAROLE DECISIONS

Despite that the prisoners’ protest remained non-violent, the DOC violently attempted to force the men back to work—claiming it was “lawful” to order prisoners to work without pay, in defiance of the 13th Amendment’s abolition of slavery. In Augusta State Prison, six or seven inmates were brutally ripped from their cells by CERT Team guards and beaten, resulting in broken ribs for several men, one man beaten beyond recognition. This brutality continues there. At Telfair, the Tactical Squad trashed all the property in inmate cells. At Macon State, the Tactical Squad has menaced the men for two days, removing some to the “hole,” and the warden ordered the heat and hot water turned off. Still, today, men at Macon, Smith, Augusta, Hays and Telfair State Prisons say they are committed to continuing the strike. Inmate leaders, representing blacks, Hispanics, whites, Muslims, Rastafarians, Christians, have stated the men will stay down until their demands are addressed, one issuing this statement:

“…Brothers, we have accomplished a major step in our struggle…We must continue what we have started…The only way to achieve our goals is to continue with our peaceful sit-down…I ask each and every one of my Brothers in this struggle to continue the fight. ON MONDAY MORNING, WHEN THE DOORS OPEN, CLOSE THEM. DO NOT GO TO WORK. They cannot do anything to us that they haven’t already done at one time or another. Brothers, DON’T GIVE UP NOW. Make them come to the table. Be strong. DO NOT MAKE MONEY FOR THE STATE THAT THEY IN TURN USE TO KEEP US AS SLAVES….”

When the strike began, prisoner leaders issued the following call: “No more slavery. Injustice in one place is injustice to all. Inform your family to support our cause. Lock down for liberty!”(Hip-Hop and Politics)
So why is no one talking about it?  There are more than a few theories:
We, as members of activist and community organizations in the Bay Area of California, send our support for your strike against the terrible conditions you face in Georgia’s prisons. We salute you for making history as your strike has become the largest prison strike in the history of this nation. As steadfast defenders of human and civil rights, we recognize the potential that your action has to improve the lives of millions subject to inhumane treatment in correctional facilities across this country.

(This chain gang was photographed on a road near the maximum security South Florida Reception Center in Miami. Chain gangs are becoming common again, especially in the South. If the striking Georgia prisoners draw enough support, prisoners in neighboring states like Florida and around the country are likely to make similar demands.)

Every single day, prisoners face the same deplorable and unnecessarily punitive conditions that you have courageously decided to stand up against. For too long, this nation has chosen silence in the face of the gross injustices that our brothers and sisters in prison are subjected to. Your fight against these injustices is a necessary and righteous struggle that must be carried out to victory.

We have heard about the brutal acts that Georgia Department of Corrections officers have been resorting to as a means of breaking your protest and we denounce them. In order to put a stop to the violence to which you have been subjected, we are now in the process of developing contacts with the personnel at the different prison facilities and circulating petitions addressed to the governor and the Georgia DOC. We will continue to expose the DOC’s shameless physical attacks on you and use our influence to call for an immediate end to the violence.

Here, in the Bay Area, we are all too familiar with the violence that this system is known to unleash upon our people. Recently, our community erupted in protest over the killing of an unarmed innocent Black man named Oscar Grant by transit police in Oakland. We forced the authorities to arrest and convict the police officer responsible for Grant’s murder by building up a mass movement. We intend to win justice with you and stop the violent repression of your peaceful protest in the same way – by appealing to the power and influence of the masses.

We fully support all of your demands. We strongly identify with your demand for expanded educational opportunities. In recent years, our state government has been initiating a series of massive cuts to our system of public education that continue to endanger our right to a quality, affordable education; in response, students all across our state have stood up and fought back just as you are doing now.

In fact, students and workers across the globe have begun to organize and fight back against austerity measures and the corresponding violence of the state. Just in the past few weeks in Greece, Ireland, Spain, England, Italy, Haiti, Puerto Rico – tens and hundreds of thousands of students and workers have taken to the streets. We, as a movement, are gaining momentum and we do so even more as our struggles are unified and seen as interdependent.  (San Francisco Bay View)
I applaud the bravery and resilience of these men.  I hope their movement continues to gain worldwide attention and momentum, and I hope the other prisons across the country follow suit.  After all, America claims to want change.

Well, here it comes.

Comments

  1. I heard about this from another blog. I, too, applaud their devotion to make changes.

    I'm not surprised that the mainstream media is quiet about this news because it seems to me that in the media, Hollywood especially, only or mostly white people can rebel or revolt against oppression.

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  2. Here's an update on the strike:

    http://colorlines.com/archives/2010/12/georgia_prisoners_strike_for_pay_decent_food.html

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  3. @ Will

    Thanks for the link.

    “If they want to get paid, they shouldn’t commit crimes,” said state Sen. Johnny Grant, R-Milledgeville, chairman of the Senate Institutions and Property Committee, which oversees prisons.

    Besides, he said, “If we started paying inmates, we’d also start charging them for room and board, as well. They ought to be careful what they ask for.”


    Notice he doesn't mention the other conditions. He's trying to play it off like the workers haven't called off the strike for now. I believe they will go right back to self-imposed lockdown if their demands aren't met.

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  4. Two things:
    1. The Constitution needs to be amended, because contrary to popular belief, slavery is LEGAL if the person is a prisoner.

    2. The protest has not gotten media attention because it is nonviolent, and does not conform the the stereotype of prisoners as violent savages who deserve inhumane treatment.

    3. Prison officials all over the country are invested in reinforcing discord between racial and religious groups in prisons, so this protest has bee unique in that it has shown that factions that are normally at odds with each other can work together to promote change.

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  5. I'm not defending the corporate media, but my sister said that the strike was finally reported on WSB today. I'm proud of the bravery of my fellow brothers and sisters. Sometimes I shake my head thinking about the people of my home state, but events like these show that there are people who will stand up for themselves here.

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  6. The prison history of the South is intertwined with slavery/racism. So this doesn't surprise me at all.
    Anyone ever seen that movie Brubaker?


    Weren't chain gangs originally a place for slaves that kept escaping or couldn't be trusted to "stay in their place"? And also a way of getting free labor. Not surprised by any of this corruption.

    It kills me when the US comes down on places like Cuba for using prisons as a means of suppressing political and social dissent, as if the US doesn't do the same thing in a no less brutal fashion.

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  7. @K

    I agree with all the demands except for the living wage part. I don't think that prisons OR prisoners should be tied in any way to the free market economy. That is a disaster no matter how you slice it. At the end of the day these are NOT free men. So it's not fair for ANYONE to have them participating in any exchange of goods or services WITH free people. If these wages came from tax dollars it would be a waste because what are tax payers receiving? If it's for work what about the contractors with real expenses that are getting out bid because of cheap prison labor? It is slavery, but paying them isn't the answer.

    I think that prisoners should operate their own farms. There's your nutritious meals. I haven't done the math but I don't think land would be an issue depending on where the prisons are located. In fact I see no reason why prisons couldn't be totally self-sustaining. They are basically just warehouses of able-bodied men. They can and should take care of themselves.

    Farm work is hard but these guys would be doing it for themselves. Doing work where you get to literally reap the benefits like that would make them less hopeless I think.

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  8. Jason- Considering that so many men are in jail just because of the color of their skin, and NOT for committing any violent act that hurt someone else, I ABSOLUTELY believe that prisoners deserve to be paid. I have several prisoners who are pen pals. Most of them are in federal prisons, and while they do not get paid a lot (less than a dollar an hour)they are less of a burden on their family and friends on the outside because they are able to use their wages to buy stamps, stationary, phone calls, soap, shampoo, and other items from the commissary. If the prison system does not want to pay these men, then they should not force them to work. They should instead commit to providing an education so that their prospects are better upon release.

    And as for the senator who saifd that if they get paid, they should be charged for room and board, that is reminiscent of the racist ass people who claim that "Slavery wasn't so bad- at least they got free room and board!".

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  9. " If the prison system does not want to pay these men, then they should not force them to work."

    That's true. But the problem here is that people are profiting from prison labor. That's what needs to stop. It's not a business!

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  10. Jason. Aside from racism (the most dominant reason) one of the primary reasons for the so called "War on Drugs" is because prisons are profitable. And the more work they can force prisoners to perform for the least money, the more goes into the coffers of those in charge. Make no mistake, the prison industrial complex is BIG BUSINESS, kept alive by the warehousing and forced servitude of POC. This model of prisons as businesses needs to end, so yes, prisoners should not be made to work in prison. But, if they ARE, they should at least receive pay for their labors. Because frankly, those profiting from prison labor are not going to stop simply because it is a morally bankrupt system, and those providing the labor should be able to benefit in some way.

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  11. Go, Joanna! Really feelin' this discussion now!

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