Looking For a Unified Labor Movement? Go to Georgia’s Prisons.

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On December 9, 2010, thousands of Georgia prisoners refused to work, and stopped all other activities to remain in their cells in a peaceful, one-day protest for their human rights. The December 9 Strike is likely the biggest prisoner protest in the history of the United States.

These thousands of men, from Baldwin, Hancock, Hays, Macon, Smith and Telfair State Prisons, among others, state they are striking 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 have set forth the following demands:

A LIVING WAGE FOR WORK: In violation of the 13th Amendment 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 8th Amendment 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 8th Amendment, 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.

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!”

The unity of this action should serve as a lesson for all struggling against oppression, and a clear indication of how “race” fades away when more important reasons to unite take precedence.

 

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About Bruce Reilly

Bruce Reilly is the Deputy Director of Voice of the Ex-Offender in New Orleans, LA. He is a graduate of Tulane Law School and author of NewJack's Guide to the Big House. Much of his writing can be found on www.Unprison.org.
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3 Responses to Looking For a Unified Labor Movement? Go to Georgia’s Prisons.

  1. Pingback: Prison Labor Unions in America: What North Carolina Taught Us. | unprison

  2. Pingback: Hunger Strikes, Solitary Confinement, and the United Nations Day In Support of Victims | unprison

  3. Pingback: Unprison 2011-2013 Index | unprison

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