For prisoners, days are filled with activities dedicated to getting your immediate needs met and, the occasional fantasy planning for a future outside of the box that you’re living in.
As a result, when prisoners do demand better conditions, they tend to focus on different food in the commissary or thicker sweatshirts, prioritizing short-term satisfaction over lasting change.
But this time is different. This national prison strike will run from now until Sept. 9 and the list of 10 demands created by various inmate organizers could change American prison systems for the better.
Prisoners in as many as seven states went on strike last week, some refusing food and others refusing to work or boycotting purchases from prison commissaries, reports The Guardian.
There’s been a confirmed case of a hunger strike in Folsom state prison in California. A 26-year-old inmate, Heriberto Garcia managed to reach the outside world with a smartphone. He recorded of himself refusing food and then posted the video on Twitter.
The 19-day strike is the first nationwide action in the US in two years, The Guardian reported, the strike “was triggered by April’s rioting in [the] Lee correctional institution in South Carolina in which seven inmates were killed.”
One of the intentions of the organizers of the current strike is to bring to public attention the number of deaths in custody, which in some states has reached epidemic proportions, reports The Guardian. According to the Clarion Ledger, 10 inmates in Mississippi have died in their cells in the past three weeks alone, with no firm causes of death reported.
The strikers, led by a network of incarcerated activists who call themselves Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, have put together 10 demands. High on the list is an end to forced or underpaid labor that the protesters call a form of modern slavery, reports The Guardian.
These are the national demands of the men and women in federal, immigration,
and state prisons:
1. Immediate improvements to the conditions of prisons and prison policies that
recognize the humanity of imprisoned men and women.
2. An immediate end to prison slavery. All persons imprisoned in any place of detention
under United States jurisdiction must be paid the prevailing wage in their state or
territory for their labor.
3. The Prison Litigation Reform Act must be rescinded, allowing imprisoned humans a
proper channel to address grievances and violations of their rights.
4. The Truth in Sentencing Act and the Sentencing Reform Act must be rescinded so
that imprisoned humans have a possibility of rehabilitation and parole. No human shall
be sentenced to Death by Incarceration or serve any sentence without the possibility of
5. An immediate end to the racial overcharging, over-sentencing, and parole denials of
Black and brown humans. Black humans shall no longer be denied parole because the
victim of the crime was white, which is a particular problem in southern states.
6. An immediate end to racist gang enhancement laws targeting Black and brown
7. No imprisoned human shall be denied access to rehabilitation programs at their place
of detention because of their label as a violent offender.
8. State prisons must be funded specifically to offer more rehabilitation services.
9. Pell grants must be reinstated in all US states and territories.
10. The voting rights of all confined citizens serving prison sentences, pretrial
detainees, and so-called “ex-felons” must be counted. Representation is demanded. All
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