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Georgia Prisoners on Strike?!

Posted on December 13th, 2010 in Current Events

Prison and money graphicIn today’s installment of “what the media doesn’t tell you,” has everyone been following what’s going on in Georgia where thousands of prisoners—thousands—went on strike last Thursday in over a half dozen of the state’s prisons and penitentiaries to protest their treatment and demand their human rights. From the small drips and drabs of information leaking out, it appears that many of the prisons are still on lockdown, and many of the prisoners participating in the strike are suffering violent retribution for their peaceful protest.

Here’s a bit of text from the press release issued by former Panther Party chairperson Elaine Brown, who serves as the primary contact and advisor on the outside for the strike organizers:

These thousands of men, from Baldwin, Hancock, Hays, Macon, Smith and Telfair State Prisons, among others, state they are striking 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 have set forth the following 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.

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!”

The excellent Black Agenda Report reported the strike on December 9, as soon as it began. A quick web search turns up next to nothing in terms of mainstream news coverage, though it does provide one article from the New York Times that seems mostly excited by the fact that prisoners used contraband cellphones to organize across prison boundaries, coordinating simultaneous strikes in several units spread across Georgia (which is admittedly pretty amazing). Bruce Dixon, managing editor of Black Agenda Report posted a really helpful update on December 11 that’s made its way around the web: And, KPFA‘s Hard Knock Radio aired a great interview with Elaine Brown on December 9, the day the strike began, but it’s now four days later, and while Georgia newspapers confirm that several prisons are still on lockdown, it’s unclear what the exact situation is inside the prisons, and what’s become of the strike and the strikers.

Anybody else been able to turn up more information? Some reports cite this as the largest prisoner protest in history … and it’s almost non-existent in the media at the moment. Figures. Here’s hoping that those inside the Georgia prisons are standing strong, and know that folks on the outside stand with them in any way we can.

UPDATE: Here’s an article from the Chattanooga Times Free Press that has a little more info, and confirms that at least four prisons are still on lock down, as well as including a lovely quote from Georgia representative Barbara Massey Reece:

“I can’t see paying inmates anything…. I would much rather take that money and put 25 more state troopers on the highway.”

Charming. Read the full article:

And, Democracy Now! finally catches on: Elaine Brown on DN! this morning.