Discussion in 'Black People Open Forum' started by Ankhur, Dec 14, 2010.
Do we have more desire to network in the lock up then outside?
GA Prisoner Strike Continues a Second Day, Corporate Media Mostly Ignores Them, Corrections Officials Decline Comment
by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
Offices of the wardens at Hay's, Macon State, Telfair, and Augusta state all referred our inquiries to the Department of Corrections public affairs officer, who so far has declined to return our repeated calls.
The prisoner strike in Georgia is unique, sources among inmates and their families say, because it includes not just black prisoners, but Latinos and whites too, a departure from the usual sharp racial divisions that exist behind prison walls. Inmate families and other sources claim that when thousands of prisoners remained in their cells Thursday, authorities responded with violence and intimidation. Tactical officers rampaged through Telfair State Prison destroying inmate personal effects and severely beating at least six prisoners. Inmates in Macon State Prison say authorities cut the prisoners' hot water, and at Telfair the administration shut off heat Thursday when daytime temperatures were in the 30s. Prisoners responded 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.”
The peaceful inmate strike is being led from within the prison. Some of those thought to be its leaders have been placed under close confinement.
The nine specific demands made by Georgia's striking prisoners in two press releases pointedly reflect many of the systemic failures of the U.S. regime of mass incarceration, and the utter disconnection of U.S. prisons from any notions of protecting or serving the public interest. Prisoners are demanding, in their own words, decent living conditions, adequate medical care and nutrition, educational and self-improvement opportunities, just parole decisions, just parole decisions, an end to cruel and unusual punishments, and better access to their families.
It's a fact that Georgia prisons skimp on medical care and nutrition behind the walls, and that in Georgia's prisons recreational facilities are non-existent, and there are no educational programs available beyond GED, with the exception of a single program that trains inmates to be Baptist ministers. Inmates know that upon their release they will have no more education than they did when they went in, and will be legally excluded from Pell Grants and most kinds of educational assistance, they and their families potentially locked into a disadvantaged economic status for life.
Despite the single biggest predictor of successful reintegration into society being sustained contact with family and community, Georgia's prison
authorities make visits and family contact needlessly difficult and expensive. Georgia no longer allows families to send funds via US postal money orders to inmates. It requires families to send money through J-Pay, a private company that rakes off nearly ten percent of all transfers. Telephone conversations between Georgia prisoners and their families are also a profit centers for another prison contractor, Global Tel-Link which extracts about $55 a month for a weekly 15 minute phone call from cash-strapped families. It's hard to imagine why the state cannot operate reliable payment and phone systems for inmates and their families with public employees at lower cost, except that this would put contractors, who probably make hefty contributions to local politicians out of business.
Besides being big business, prisons are public policy. The U.S. has less than five percent of the world's population, but accounts for almost a quarter of its prisoners. African Americans are one eighth this nation's population, but make up almost half the locked down. The nation's prison population increased more than 450% in a generation beginning about 1981.
It wasn't about crime rates, because those went up, and then back down. It wasn't about rates of drug use, since African Americans have the same rates of drug use as whites and Latinos. Since the 1980s, the nation has undertaken a well-documented policy of mass incarceration, focused primarily though not exclusively on African Americans. The good news is that public policies are ultimately the responsibility of the public to
Retired Black Panther Elaine Brown gave an update and fuurther background, n Democrcy Now
audio and vid available
Prisoner Advocate Elaine Brown on Georgia Prison Strike: “Repression Breeds Resistance”
At least four prisons in Georgia remain in lockdown five days after prisoners went on strike in protest of poor living and working conditions. Using cell phones purchased from guards, the prisoners coordinated the nonviolent protests to stage the largest prison strike in U.S. history. There are reports of widespread violence and brutality by the guards against the prisoners on strike. We speak to longtime prison activist Elaine Brown of the newly formed group Concerned Coalition to Respect Prisoners’ Rights.
Published on Saturday, December 18, 2010 by In These Times
Georgia Prison Strike: A Hidden Labor Force Resistsby Michelle Chen
Last week a diverse group of nonviolent protesters across Georgia stood up for their rights, calling for decent wages, better social services and respect for their civil liberties. It didn't take long for the government to crack down on the demonstrations, however: the protesters were already in prison.
The uprising of Georgia inmates on December 9  defied the stereotype of the chaotic "prison riot" in the public imagination. Yet neither did "Lockdown for Liberty" fit within the conventional model of civil disobedience or industrial action. But when the inmates in at least six different prisons  refused to leave their cells to report to work and other activities that day, a strike began. And it effectively paralyzed a small chunk of the bureaucratic monstrosity of America's prison system.
The incarcerated have historically filled the dregs of the American workforce , an emblem of racial subjugation often invisible in the politics of labor and social policy. It was against this hidden legacy of exploitation that the Georgia inmates, with the support of the NAACP and other civil rights advocates, raised issues  common to incarcerated people nationwide: abusive treatment, degrading living conditions, a lack of accountability in the administration and parole authorities, and a lack of basic educational and social services (see below).
Pointedly invoking the term "slave"  to describe the circumstances under which they toiled, the strikers showed how historically entrenched racial divisions play out today in the black-white disparities throughout the criminal justice system. Still, Georgia protesters included Latinos and whites as well as blacks, in a joint effort  to resist and challenge structural injustices.
Their demands were hardly radical, but rather, embodied mainstream standards  for reasonable and humane treatment: protection from cruel and unusual punishment by officers, affordable medicine when they're sick, and above all, fair pay for their labor. According to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, "state law forbids paying inmates  except for one limited program."
Final Call quoted reports  trickling out from inmates earlier this week:
One brother told me, ‘We will ride until the wheels fall off,' and that's been the sentiment amongst the men when they started this," said Elaine Brown, a spokesperson for the strike... Part of our purpose for doing this is that Georgia is the only state that does not pay its inmates at all. Some guys in here work seven days a week and they don't get a dime," said Dondito, one of the strikers, who requested anonymity.
You can almost hear the zero-tolerance conservatives in Washington now: how dare these criminals demand better treatment from the state? The official reaction was to immediately curtail what few resources the inmates possess. According to  news reports , prison staff locked down four facilities, attempted to transfer out the leading troublemakers, cut off the hot water, and revoked cell phone privileges (yes, according to Facing South, "Cell phones are contraband  in Georgia's prisons, but widely available for sale from correctional officers.")
The strike was called off after six days, following reports of violent crackdowns  and rising fears that the situation would escalate. But by then, the inmates had made their mark with one of the largest prison protests in U.S. history . The decision to end the strike, moreover, seems like the beginning of another phase in the inmates' collective action, now that they've caught national political attention. The AJC reported :
an inmate at Smith State Prison in Glenville said in a telephone interview prisoners had agreed to end their "non-violent" protest to allow administrators time to focus on their concerns rather than operating the institutions without inmate labor.
"We've ended the protest," said Mike, a convicted armed robber who was one of the inmates who planned and coordinated the work stoppage. "We needed to come off lock down so we can go to the law library and start ... the paperwork for a [prison conditions] lawsuit.
The proactive militancy of the strike organizers underscores .......
Separate names with a comma.