An historic prisoners' strike underway in the state of Georgia with inmates in at least six separate prisons refusing to leave their cells for the third work day.
Of note, this strike seems to be entirely organized by the inmates themselves who have worked across the (particularly in prison) stark lines of race and religion which so often keep workers divided.
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!”
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
The action is taking place in at least half a dozen of Georgia’s more than one hundred state prisons, correctional facilities, work camps, county prisons and other correctional facilities. According to Elaine Brown and other sources, inmates have planned the strike with the use of contraband cell phones. Inmates who have spoken to Elaine Brown are reporting that the strike is be honored by almost all inmates. This may be partially because the wardens have responded to their refusal to work, by locking down the prison.
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. At the heart of this strike, is a very real outrage at legalized slavery that exists within US prisons. The 13th Amendment to the US Constitution which is widely believed to have abolished slavery reads "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."
The peaceful inmate strike is being led from within the prison and some of those thought to be its leaders have been placed under close confinement.
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.
actical officers rampaged through Telfair State Prison destroying inmate personal effects and severely beating at least six prisoners. The warden aso shut off heat Thursday when daytime temperatures were in the 30s.
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. Inmates there also say authorities cut the prisoners' hot water.
Prisoners have responded to violence and intimidation by screening their cells with blankets, keeping prison authorities from performing an accurate count, a crucial aspect of prison operations.
As of Friday, inmates at several prisons say they are committed to continuing the strike. “We are going to ride it,” the inmate press release quotes one, “till the wheels fall off. We want our human rights.”
Still, today(12/12/10), men at Macon, Smith, Augusta, Hays and Telfair State Prisons say they are committed to continuing the strike.
Inmate leaders at Macon, Smith, Augusta, Hays, and Telfair State Prisons representing Blacks, Latinos, 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….”
Elaine Brown, former chairman of the Black Panther Party gave a detailed interview about the ongoing strike, and has apparently been asked to be a mouthpiece for the strike leaders who are nameless. Listen to the interview here
People are being asked to call into the various prisons and the Department of Corrections to show solidarity with the striking prisoners.
Macon State Prison is 978-472-3900.
Hays State Prison is at (706) 857-0400
Telfair State prison is 229-868-7721
Baldwin State Prison is at (478) 445- 5218
Valdosta State Prison is 229-333-7900
Smith State Prison is at (912) 654-5000
The Georgia Department of Corrections is at http://www.dcor.state.ga.us and their phone number is 478-992-5246