Thousands of prisoners across Greece are on a hunger strike to protest the planned changes to prisons and the creation of new high security facilities.
On Monday 23rd June thousands of prisoners in almost all of the Greek jails began a hunger strike. The strike, as well as drawing attention to the generally poor conditions in Greek prisons, is aimed at a new bill which will go before parliament shortly. In a statement the prisoners said:
'we start a mass hunger strike in all prisons across Greece. We claim our rights, and we fight to remain humans, instead of human shadows locked up and forgotten into despair'
As reason for the strike the prisoners' statement gave five demands;
1) No Type C prisons- these new high security prisons have been dubbed the 'Greek Guantanamo'
2) Furloughs and parole to be a right of all prisoners
3) Retrial of those imprisoned with life sentences for drug offences due to a change in the law
4) Right to conjugal visits
5) Release of migrants facing deportation
The special high security prison, Type C, to be built at Domokos will house 'special' prisoners. Other prisons will also gain a Type C wing. Prisoners held in these places will essentially be in isolation as their contact with the outside world will be restricted. The legislation will allow people to be held in these conditions for 10 years with no right to furloughs or parole.
Behind these plans we can see the state furthering its repressive abilities. Recently there was an attempt to classify those opposed to a controversial gold mining project in Northern Greece as a 'criminal organisation'. This would make those resisting into 'special' prisoners requiring high security. In the future anyone resisting austerity or the economic 'development' of Greece could find themselves in these new prisons. The plans also clearly target the numerous anarchist prisoners already held and seeks to separate them from the rest of the prison population.
This current plan comes at a time of huge overcrowding and tensions within the prison system. As reported some months ago conditions in the prisons are deteriorating due to overcrowding and budget cuts. Early in the year tensions boiled over when one prisoner, Llia Kareli, killed a guard and was then subsequently tortured and murdered by guards at another prison. To add insult to injury this piece of legislation which will affect and limit the lives of many is set to be debated and voted on in the summer session of parliament. During the summer session only a third of MPs will be present in parliament. So there will not even be a full debate on the issue.
More and more prisoners have joined the strike each day. As of Friday over 3,000 prisoners were on hunger strike. In Korydallos, the main prison in Athens, alone 1,480 people were on strike. Since the strike began on Monday the numbers taking part have grown.
Whilst the hunger strike goes on inside the prisons, solidarity actions have been taking place in the world beyond the bars. On June 24th dozens were detained after carrying out a protest close to the house of Prime Minister Samaras in the affluent neighbourhood of Kiffisa. Thousands marched in support of the hunger strikes in Athens early on Saturday 28th. Further actions have been taking place around the country.