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Today begins a prison strike across the United States, launching what is planned to be nineteen days of peaceful resistance organized by prisoners and organizations that support them, in protest of inhumane conditions in the U.S. prison system.
The strike is being spearheaded by incarcerated members of Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, a group of prisoners providing mutual help and legal training to other inmates. A few days ago they released an anonymous statement setting out their reasons for calling a protest that carries the risk of substantial penal retaliation.

"Fundamentally, it's a human rights issue," the statement said. "Prisoners understand they are being treated as animals. Prisons in America are a warzone. Every day prisoners are harmed due to conditions of confinement. For some of us it's as if we are already dead, so what do we have to lose?"

...Inmates who join the action know that they face potentially serious consequences. Participants face being placed individually into isolation cells, while past prison strikes have been met with lockdowns of entire institutions.

Communications too are certain to be blocked, leading potentially to a blackout of news on the protest.

According to prison reform activists engaged in planning the strike, retaliatory measures have already started. Karen Smith, who runs the Gainesville, Florida chapter of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee that is backing the strike, said that prison authorities have moved most of the local strike organisers into solitary confinement wings where they will be unable to communicate with others.

"Other inmates have been warned that if they continue to contact advocacy groups they will be moved to the most brutal camps."

...This year's strike was triggered by the riot at Lee Correctional Institution in South Carolina in April in which seven inmates died in what was the most deadly prison unrest in a quarter of a century. The bloody melee, fueled by gang rivalry over contraband, lasted for seven hours while prison guards did next to nothing to stop it.

Within days of the South Carolina carnage, and the renewed spotlight it put on the gross overcrowding, understaffing, and inhumane living conditions in American prisons, the idea of a nationwide strike began to form.
Prison Strike 2018 has issued a list of 10 demands, which include the immediate end to prison slavery, the end of the death penalty and lifetime sentencing without the possibility of parole, and the restoration of voting rights for all currently or formerly incarcerated people.

At the links, you will also find action items to support the strike and/or to support the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee.

I am a prison abolitionist. As long as we have prisons, I fervently take up space in solidarity with the striking prisoners advocating for their rights, dignity, and humanity.

Follow #PrisonStrike on Twitter to learn more and follow the protests.

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