prisoners strike in georgia

12/14/2010 § Leave a comment

5 days ago, georgia prisoners in up to 10 institutions started the biggest prison strike in US history. GA prisoners have halted operations of their institutions, demanding a LIVING WAGE FOR WORK.  this situation is very current, elaine brown former black panther party chair is serving as outside spokesperson.  (check out their demands at the bottom of this post)

although the current strike is a multi institutional effort (the beauty of contraband cell phones sold to prisoners by guards), there are obvious similarities to the walpole prisoners strike in Massachusetts 1973.  jamie bissonette, a personal mentor, captures this 3 month prison rebellion in her book “when the prisoners ran walpole: a true story in this history of prison abolition,” reviewed by my true homie toussaint.  during this time, the prisoners went on a 70 day strike, which ended with a walk out by the prison guards, leaving the prisoners to run the institution on their own.  the organization of prisoners: the National Prisoners’ Reform Association opened up the prison to 24/7 outside civilian observers, where the prisoners maintained facilities operations and ended interracial violence for the first sustained period in institutional history.  the prisoners sought formal recognition by the national labor rights board (or whatever they’re called) for official certification as a labor union.  though denied, the inclination of prisoners to self identify as workers propelled the historic moment and reemerges in the organic rebellion in georgia today.

jamie’s book is co-authored by bobby dellelo (former npra chair who completed his 40 year sentence 7 years ago and is a friend and mentor), rev. ed rodman (who is also a mentor and former episcopal canon who ran in the highest civil rights and liberation movement circles eg king, malcolm, ella baker, panthers etc) and ralph hamm (who is still incarcerated and was the black leader credited for consciousness and strategy behind npra). u should check it out.

anyway, i do believe we can live in a world where prisons as we know them are abolished.  this involves discrediting the idea of incarceration as a viable punishment (jail is only for people who pose an immediate threat to others). an alternative punishment model (restorative justice) that engages the victims and related community in meeting their needs for the prevention and restoration of harm.  also, a community based alternative policing model.. and somewhere on the syllogism the decriminalization of “crimes” that don’t hurt others.

while we’re at it, i guess implicit in the big picture of prison abolition is also a radically different crime fighting strategy: the eradication of poverty and uprooting systems of gender, sex and race that produce violence.  but.. yea.. i do think its possible, recalling a favorite political dictum “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will”


On December 9, 2010, prisoners in several Georgia prisons began a peaceful strike in order to pressure prison administrators to meet the following list of demands:

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 8th 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 PUNISHMENTS:  In further violation of the 8th Amendment, the DOC is responsible for cruel prisoner punishments for minor infractions of rules.

·         DECENT LIVING CONDITIONS:  Georgia prisoners are confined in over-crowded, 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 plentiful.

·         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.

After final assessments are made, this may be the largest prison strike in United States history.  The strike was orchestrated largely through the use of cell phones, according to Elaine Brown, former chairman of the Black Panther Party, founder of the National Alliance for Radical Prison Reform, and  one of the contact persons for information on developments in the strike listed on a press release.
Elaine Brown is interviewed about the strike one day after it had begun.   She begins the interview by reading a text message sent to her from one of the Georgia prisoners in which the goals and the make-up of the strikers are stated.



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