Thousands of Georgia prisoners on strike

There is a prisoner strike of historic proportions going on right now in Georgia. Since Thursday, thousands of prisoners have been refusing to leave their cells in protest of poor living and working conditions in GA prisons.

Samhita mentioned the strike in yesterday’s What We Missed, but it deserves more attention.

The protest has been organized via cell phones and represented an unprecedented coordinated effort, across prisons and racial groups within the prisoners.

Elaine Brown, prison activist and former Black Panther talks about the conditions in prisons during this Democracy Now interview:

Well, I’m sure they’re not very much different from other prisons, I mean, or as the men would say, the chain gang or the camp they’re in. You know, you have overcrowded conditions. There is no activity other than the work tasks that they’re assigned to do. In other words, there’s no real educational opportunities. There’s no exercise. There’s nothing else. The food is bad. They have poor nutrition. They have crowded—overcrowded cells. A lot of the day-to-day thing, I think the most important part is that, as it was outlined many years ago in a Stanford study conducted by Dr. Phil Zimbardo, one of the most important things is that the constant violence being perpetrated against them by guards, who with their own idle time look to try and instigate an incident here or there, so there’s a lot of screaming, hollering, you know, aggressive behaviors that go on. And so, there’s always some incident jumping off, as it were, and so forth and so on. It’s just a life of idle—idleness and violence and a lack of any basic human condition.

It’s appalling how little mainstream media attention this strike has gotten. The prisoners are being brutally treated in response to this strike, despite the fact that it is a peaceful protest.

Our criminal justice system is an abomination. We incarcerate more people in the world than any other nation. There is no justice in this system and it’s in crisis. The rates of incarceration are so much higher for people of color and there are almost no programs that help incarcerated folks get out of the cycle of poverty fueled by incarceration. Nearly fifty percent of US prisoners are black men.

A large percentage of the people in prison are there for minor non-violent crimes, usually connected to drugs. The war on drugs, instigated by the Nixon Administration, is responsible for the wildly increasing rates of incarceration. Race and class have huge impacts on who ends up in prison.

With such a corrupt and broken criminal justice system, social justice is almost impossible. When our only source of retribution for things like rape, theft and other crimes is this corrupt and inhumane prison system all our movements are at risk.  The prison system abuses incarcerated folks, costs millions of dollars to the government and does nothing to make us a safer or more just society.

Our current criminal justice system helps no one, including victims of crime. We need serious reform.

Watch the full Democracy Now interview for more about this issue (transcript available below video).

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4 Comments

  1. Posted December 14, 2010 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    From the link, being paid a minimum wage while working in prison, and comparing it’s lack to slavery seems like the most prominent issue of the protest. It seems skewed not to mention that here.

    We should absolutely support the release of non-violent offenders, an end to corruption, steps taken to the maintain the health and wellness of inmates, but I can not get behind financially compensating them for their time. I’m particularly against it when that work is maintaining their own institution or performing community service. It’s a stretch of credibility to call being paid while incarcerated a basic human right, and I’m wary of Feministing presenting only part of the issue.

    • Posted December 14, 2010 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

      How is it a “stretch of credibility to call being paid while incarcerated a basic human right”? International human rights law is NOT ambiguous on this issue. The Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners very clearly states that prisoners put to work must be compensated for their time and be able to send that money to their families.

  2. Posted December 14, 2010 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    How, exactly, does a prisoner go on strike?

    • Posted December 15, 2010 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

      They are refusing to leave their cells or do their jobs, which they’re not getting compensated for anyway.

      It was my understanding that prisoners’ compensation was to ensure the prisoners had something to start out with at the time of their release. If they are not being compensated for their work, not only does that create a condition of slavery, but what are they supposed to fall back on when their time is served and they are in the process of re-establishing themselves?

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