Georgia Prison Strike: Call to Action!
by Brooke Reynolds
On December 9, 2010, the US saw the beginning of the largest prison strike in its history. Thousands of inmates from more than a half dozen Georgia prisons collectively refused to come out of their cells to work in a demand for better prison conditions and compensation for work.
As noted by Bruce A. Dixon, “Georgia leads the nation with an astounding one in thirteen of its adult citizens in prisons and jails, or under court and correctional supervision.” Mass incarceration is a trend which Georgia—like most of the US—is intimately familiar with. And it has become immensely profitable. It has been estimated that close to a million inmates are working full-time in jails and prisons throughout the United States.
It is in this light that prisoners across Georgia joined together—across often divisive racial lines—in order to make a set of demands: better access to adequate health care, nutritional meals, legal materials and self-development programs, the end to cruel and inhumane punishment, access to families, just parole decisions, and adequate wages for work—wages which are currently often less than a dollar per hour.
Despite the fact that the strike consistently remained nonviolent, the Department of Corrections 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. There are even recent allegations of guards beating prisoners with hammers.
After nine days, prisoners ceased the strike in the face of this violence, in order to allow for negotiations over wages and conditions to take place between prison officials and outside community organizations. As noted by those advocating community involvement point out, “The prisoners have done all they can do now. It’s up to us to build a movement out here that can make the changes which have to be made.”
Though this particular strike occurred in Georgia, the issues it addresses are shared throughout prisons nationwide. New York State prisons in particular are plagued by inhumane living conditions, high prisoner suicide rates, unreasonably long sentences, and lack of adequate nutrition. And it is the home of one of the most well known prison riots prompted by inhumane living conditions in the history of the US—Attica.
It is crucial that the nation show its support for the inmates demanding humane conditions and wages in Georgia prisons. They have taken the first step, acting as a catalyst for true and effective change in the US prison system. Though the actual strike is over, the work continues. The movement inside and out are still struggling in a new phase to reach their demands. Come out and show your solidarity with the Georgia inmates, and demand justice in US prisons nationwide!
Meet at the Erie County Holding Center for a short discussion of the strike and its relevance to Erie County prison issues on February 3, at 4:30pm. March to Channel 2 News and Channel 4 News in a demand for more adequate coverage on one of the country’s largest prison strikes.
Contact email@example.com with any questions about the rally and how you can support it!
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