The Mockingbird has previously reported on a nationwide campaign of work stoppages, labor strikes and hunger strikes began on August 21 in dozens of prisons. As the campaign was about enter it's third week local organizers from Black Queer Intersectional Columbus and the Incarcerated Workers Committee of the Industrial Workers World held a demonstration on September 4th outside the Franklin County Court and Jail complex on High Street.
The event was billed as a pig roast against prison slavery and featured a variety of speakers who addressed the very harsh and very real pandemic of constant human rights abuse that is the American prison system. Letters were read from around the country that recounted religious discrimination, overflowing toilets, rat limbs in food, five prisoners in cells designed for two and the widespread brutality of guards that most of this country accepts as normal.
National publications have reported on this wave of strikes, but with the exception of Teen Vogue the coverage has been largely confined to the business press. The Wall Street Journal, Forbes and Business Insider have all run articles in the lead up to the event. It appears that the mouthpieces of Wall Streets are well aware of the huge profits that are made on the back of prison labor for such companies as Columbus local employer Abbot Labs (now a subsidiary of Mylan) and Starbucks, who use prisoners to package their coffee.
None of these publications gave full treatment to the prisoner's actual demands, which will be reprinted below followed by a partial list of institutions that have reported strike actions as of August 28th.
The 10 Demands can be read below:
1. Immediate improvements to the conditions of prisons and prison policies that recognize the humanity of imprisoned men and women.
2. An immediate end to prison slavery. All persons imprisoned in any place of detention under United States jurisdiction must be paid the prevailing wage in their state or territory for their labor.
3. The Prison Litigation Reform Act must be rescinded, allowing imprisoned humans a proper channel to address grievances and violations of their rights.
4. The Truth in Sentencing Act and the Sentencing Reform Act must be rescinded so that imprisoned humans have a possibility of rehabilitation and parole.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.
5. 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.
6. An immediate end to racist gang enhancement laws targeting Black and brown humans.
7. No imprisoned human shall be denied access to rehabilitation programs at their place of detention because of their label as a violent offender.
8. State prisons must be funded specifically to offer more rehabilitation services.
9. Pell grants must be reinstated in all US states and territories.
10. The voting rights of all confined citizens serving prison sentences, pretrial detainees, and so-called “ex-felons” must be counted. Representation is demanded. All voices count.
This is a short and partial list of some of the institutions that have reported strike actions:
Prisoner workers at San Quentin in California have gone on strike along with a hunger strike at New Folsom Prison started by Heriberto Garcia on August 21 has grown.
Five Florida facilities are seeing strike activity: Charlotte CI reports 40 refusing work, and 100 boycotting commissary. Prisoners at Dade Correctional say 30-40 on strike, Franklin Correctional report 30-60, Holmes Correctional reports 70, Appalachee Correctional report an unknown number.
Prisoners in Georgia State Prison "Reidsville" have reported a strike according
Prisoners in the segregation unit at Wabash Valley Correctional in Indiana began a hunger strike on Monday August 27 demanding adequate food and an end to cold temperatures in the unit.
Prisoners in the following facilities are in South Carolina are on strike: Broad River Correctional Institution, Lee Correctional Institution, McCormick Correctional Institution, Turbeville Correctional Institute, Kershaw Correctional Institution, and Lieber Correctional Institution. The actions in these facilities include widespread work strikes, with only a few prisoners reporting to their jobs, and commissary boycotts.
Prisoners at Hyde Correctional Institution in Swanquarter, NC demonstrated in solidarity with the strike. There have been unconfirmed reports of strikes at other institutions across the state.
On August 9, prisoners at Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs, NM organized a work stoppage against conditions at the prison, operated by private corporation GEO Group. Tensions at the prison reached a tipping point prior to the date of the strike and prisoners could not wait before initiating their protest. All facilities in New Mexico were placed on lockdown status on the morning of August 20. This statewide lockdown has since been lifted except for Lea County Correctional Facility.
At least two prisoners at Toledo Correctional Institution in Ohio began a hunger strike on August 21. David Easley and James Ward were moved into isolation for participating and authorities have cut off their means of communication to outside contacts.
Texas IWOC was forwarded a message dated 8/23 from inside administrative segregation, (solitary) of a Texas gulf prison confirming that 2 prisoners are on hunger strike in solidarity with the national action: "I feel great. But very hungry! And not because I don't have food but because of our 48 hours solidarity with our brothers and sisters. It's the only way we can show support from inside of Seg. Let everyone know we got their backs." IWOC has confirmed that Robert Uvalle is on hunger strike in solitary at Michael Unit, Anderson County, TX in solidarity with the nationwide strike. Robert has been in solitary for most of his 25 years inside.
In Tacoma, Washington over 200 immigrant detainees at Northwest Detention Center declared a hunger strike on day one of the national prison strike. As of this time, seven continue to refuse food into a second week.
At Burnside County Jail in Halifax prisoners went on strike and issued a protest statement in solidarity with the strike and naming local demands. They went through a lockdown and extensive negotiations with authorities, those who refused to cooperate with humiliating body scans were punished by being locked in a dry cell (no water or working toilets) for three days.