Emergency Action! Protest To Show Solidarity With Striking Georgia State Inmates!
Friday December 17, 2010
11:30am – 1:00pm
Richmond, Virginia Courthouse
701 E. Broad St.
To endorse this action please visit:
[ https://spreadsheets.google.com/viewform?hl=en&pli=1&formkey=dHVBcXNrOFBIUmExM19TMVN4Z2daOEE6MQ#gid=0 ]
“A threat to justice anywhere, is a threat to justice everywhere.” – Martin Luther King Jr
Not unlike the prisoners in the United States, the working class, without an organized Union, lose their rights granted to them by the U.S. Constitution. The moment you clock in, you are subject to the will of the employer, losing your individuality and status as a free human being. We immediately enter the realm of second class citizens, which should not be tolerated by any moral human being. Understanding that our second class status as a worker isn’t far removed from that of the prisoner, the Richmond Industrial Workers of the World feel it is within our responsibility as fellow workers, to show solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the Georgia state prison system, and echo their demands to retain their dignity and status as human beings:
“These conditions can be changed and the interest of the working class upheld only by an organization formed in such a way that all its members in any one industry (or in this case ‘industrial complex’), or in all industries if necessary, cease work whenever a strike or lockout is on in any department thereof, thus making an injury to one, an injury to all.” – Industrial Workers of the World Preamble
The hereby undersigned stand in solidarity with the striking inmates in the Georgia State prison system. We urge the Georgia Department of Corrections (DOC) to recognize and respect the rights and demands set forth in the press release by the organized prisoners, and cease the brutal repression of their collective voice.
To endorse this action please follow this link!
[ https://spreadsheets.google.com/viewform?hl=en&pli=1&formkey=dHVBcXNrOFBIUmExM19TMVN4Z2daOEE6MQ#gid=0 ]
Support The Largest Prison Strike in U.S. History!
On Thursday morning, December 9, 2010, thousands of Georgia prisoners refused to work, stopped all other activities and locked themselves 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: In violation of the 13thAmendment 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 8thAmendment 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 8thAmendment, 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.
Despite that the prisoners’ protest remained non-violent, the Department of Corrections (DOC) violently attempted to force the men back to work—claiming it was “lawful” to order prisoners to work without pay, in defiance of the 13th Amendment’s abolition of slavery. 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. At Telfair, the Tactical Squad trashed all the property in inmate cells. 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. Still, today, men at Macon, Smith, Augusta, Hays and Telfair State Prisons say they are committed to continuing the strike. Inmate leaders, representing blacks, Hispanics, 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….”
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!”
Please take a moment and call the following prison systems and declare your support for the striking inmates!
Georgia Department of Corrections (478) 992-5246
Macon State Prison (978) 472-3900
Hays State Prison (706) 857-0400
Telfair State Prison (229) 868-7721
Baldwin State Prison (478) 445-5218
Valdosta State Prison (229) 333-7900
Smith State Prison (912) 654-5000
For more information on the ‘December 9 Strike’ please contact the following designated representatives:
For more information please contact:
Richmond Industrial Workers of the World • 804.496.1568 • [email protected]
Metro Detroit contingent of the Concerned Coalition to Respect Prisoners’ Rights carry out a press conference and demonstration in front of the Mound Road Correctional Facility in Detroit December 14, 2010 to urge a stop and a investigation of reports of violent retaliation by Georgia prison officials upon prisoners peacefully protesting by refusing to leave their cells or perform their jobs at several Georgia prisons. Also, no officials or staff were threatened or property damaged.
Inmates discuss planning, details of ongoing prison protest
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
As happens every morning at Smith State Prison, the cell doors were remotely unlocked just before dawn Tuesday.
And, as has happened for the previous five days, that clicking noise was followed with a similar mechanical sound as inmates relocked their cell doors, the echoes ringing through the concrete and metal cell blocks at the close-security prison in Glennville, Ga.
“When they pop the doors we locked the doors back,” said Mike, a convicted armed robber who is one of the organizers of a protest that has spread to at least four state prisons.
“We are not coming out of our rooms,” said Mike, who gave an interview to ajc.com via cell phone. “Once we lock the doors they [prison guards] leave it at that. We’re in control of this situation as of now.”
The AJC learned some details of what appears to be a carefully orchestrated protest via phone interviews with four inmates at Smith prison, one of the four Georgia facilities currently in a lockdown. The inmates said they acquired the phones, considered contraband by prison officials, from guards and used them to organize the protests.
The inmates did not want their last names published for fear of retaliation from prison officials, but agreed to allow the AJC to verify their prisoner identification numbers, which the paper then cross-checked with the Department of Corrections website.
According to the prisoners and their advocates, inmates are refusing to report to their work assignments that usually involve cleaning or maintaining the prison or nearby government buildings.
Department of Corrections officials dispute the inmates' version. They say, as a precaution, wardens at four of its 30 prisons -- Hays State Prison in Trion; Macon State Prison in Oglethorpe; Telfair State Prison in Helena and Smith State Prison, about an hour's drive west of Savannah -- decided to lock down their institutions before the protest started, and the situation had not changed.
“That’s wrong. We’ve locked ourselves down,” said Mike.
Cell phones -- Mike said he bought his from a guard -- were key in organizing the protest and for sharing information once it began, especially with text messaging.
Mike forwarded several to the AJC.
“The tactic squad spent the nite at the prison last nite, n they stayn tnite, too. Pass the word and stay on ur toes,” was a text message sent Tuesday.
One sent Monday read, “Glad yall str8. Stay down. Evry1 needs 2 file grievances. We not getting 2500 calories wit these sandwiches, we sposed 2 get 2 hot meals, and da laundry. Da resolution iz lawsuit! Evry1 do it!”
Another inmate, Diego, who is serving a sentence for murder, said only five prisons were participating in the protest but inmates at another were trying to organize.
“The word went out [that] this is a non-violent movement,” according to Diego, who said he paid a guard $350 for a basic pre-paid cell phone. “But the word got out today: ‘If you break this [protest] and go to work, the inmates are going to deal with you. If you go to work, you might as well pack your [stuff] and take it with you because you’re not coming back.'”
Inmates Mike, Diego, Carlos and Tyquan said they had been given only bologna sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner as inmates assigned to the kitchen detail are refusing to work and officers are having to step in.
Diego said the warden passed through his cell block Tuesday morning trying to get inmates to work.
Later officers came into the cells and removed the doors to each inmate’s locker where they store personal items and their purchases from the prison commissary, the inmates said.
That makes it “enticing for inmates to steal” from each other,” Mike said.
The Department of Corrections declined to comment on Tuesday, referring a reporter to previously issued statements.
“The department’s mission of maintaining safe and secure facilities is non-negotiable and will not be jeopardized,” said corrections Commissioner Brian Owens. “The Department will ensure appropriate safety measures are in place before the lockdown is lifted.”
The inmates’ key concerns are that they are not paid for the work they do at the prison. With the exception of very few in a special program, the inmates also are not paid to work at prison factories, which make furniture, clothing, signs and other items that are sold to state or local governmental agencies.
"If they would start paying us, that would reduce crime behind the walls," Mike said. "Inmates would have the means to get hygiene [items] and food from the commissary."
The prisoners also take issue with the quality of the food and the lack of fruit and vegetables they are given, and with a perceived shortage of education and job training programs.
Planning the protest began in September shortly after cigarettes were banned.
“That enticed us to want to get together, to stand as one and overlook all differences in race and religion," Mike said.
A date of Dec. 9 was set, and the information was spread by family members, letters, text messages, cell phone calls and word-of-mouth. The date was set to allow time for prisoners to stockpile food and for weather considerations -- heat would make it harder for inmates to keep tempers in check, Mike said.
“It gave everybody time to situate themselves. It gave us time to get food [from the prison commissary]. It gave each individual’s gang time to get together and talk to each individual,” he said.
“December was the best time because it was cool, [and] we had less chance of people losing their temper. If they had done it in summer, it would have been hot, the officers would come to us aggressively and they [inmates] might not have kept their cool.”
Last Wednesday, on the night before the protest was to begin, inmates disconnected the TVs in the common areas and put them beside the door to be taken away. They knew that was the first privilege revoked by prison officials in such situations.
Diego said he had, had one shower since Thursday and he had been out of his cell for exercise a total of 20 minutes in the past six days.
He has soup, chips and coffee to supplement the sandwiches he is given.
The prisoners offered no timetable for when the dispute could end.
“They [prison officers] have come at us aggressively,” Mike said. “We’ve continued to keep our composure. We’ve’ come this far... We might not be able to get to this point again. It’s not much were asking. We just want to leave righteously.”