Published on Black Agenda Report http://blackagendareport.com
Offices of the wardens at Hay’s, Macon State, Telfair, and Augusta state all referred our inquiries to the Department of Corrections public affairs officer, who so far has declined to return our repeated calls.
The nine specific demands made by Georgia’s striking prisoners in two press releases pointedly reflect many of the systemic failures of the U.S. regime of mass incarceration, and the utter disconnection of U.S. prisons from any notions of protecting or serving the public interest.
The prisoner strike in Georgia is unique, sources among inmates and their families say, because it includes not just black prisoners, but Latinos and whites too, a departure from the usual sharp racial divisions that exist behind prison walls. Inmate families and other sources claim that when thousands of prisoners remained in their cells Thursday, authorities responded with violence and intimidation.
Tactical officers rampaged through Telfair State Prison destroying inmate personal effects and severely beating at least six prisoners. Inmates in Macon State Prison say authorities cut the prisoners’ hot water, and at Telfair the administration shut off heat Thursday when daytime temperatures were in the 30s. Prisoners responded by screening their cells with blankets, keeping prison authorities from performing an accurate count, a crucial aspect of prison operations.
As of Friday, inmates at several prisons say they are committed to continuing the strike. “We are going to ride it,” the inmate press release quotes one, “till the wheels fall off. We want our human rights.”
The peaceful inmate strike is being led from within the prison. Some of those thought to be its leaders have been placed under close confinement.
The nine specific demands made by Georgia’s striking prisoners in two press releases pointedly reflect many of the systemic failures of the U.S. regime of mass incarceration, and the utter disconnection of U.S. prisons from any notions of protecting or serving the public interest. Prisoners are demanding, in their own words, decent living conditions, adequate medical care and nutrition, educational and self-improvement opportunities, just parole decisions, just parole decisions, an end to cruel and unusual punishments, and better access to their families.
It’s a fact that Georgia prisons skimp on medical care and nutrition behind the walls, and that in Georgia’s prisons recreational facilities are non-existent, and there are no educational programs available beyond GED, with the exception of a single program that trains inmates to be Baptist ministers. Inmates know that upon their release they will have no more education than they did when they went in, and will be legally excluded from Pell Grants and most kinds of educational assistance, they and their families potentially locked into a disadvantaged economic status for life.
Despite the single biggest predictor of successful reintegration into society being sustained contact with family and community, Georgia’s prison authorities make visits and family contact needlessly difficult and expensive. Georgia no longer allows families to send funds via US postal money orders to inmates. It requires families to send money through J-Pay, a private company that rakes off nearly ten percent of all transfers.
Telephone conversations between Georgia prisoners and their families are also a profit centers for another prison contractor, Global Tel-Link which extracts about $55 a month for a weekly 15 minute phone call from cash-strapped families. It’s hard to imagine why the state cannot operate reliable payment and phone systems for inmates and their families with public employees at lower cost, except that this would put contractors, who probably make hefty contributions to local politicians out of business.
Besides being big business, prisons are public policy. The U.S. has less than five percent of the world’s population, but accounts for almost a quarter of its prisoners. African Americans are one eighth this nation’s population, but make up almost half the locked down. The nation’s prison population increased more than 450% in a generation beginning about 1981. It wasn’t about crime rates, because those went up, and then back down. It wasn’t about rates of drug use, since African Americans have the same rates of drug use as whites and Latinos. Since the 1980s, the nation has undertaken a well-documented policy of mass incarceration, focused primarily though not exclusively on African Americans.
The good news is that public policies are ultimately the responsibility of the public to alter, to change or do do away with. America’s policy of mass incarceration is overdue for real and sustained public scrutiny. A movement has to be built on both sides of the walls that will demand an end to the prison industry and to the American policy of mass incarceration. That movement will have to be outside the Republican and Democratic parties. Both are responsible for building this system, and both rely on it to sustain their careers. The best Democrats could do on the 100 to 1 crack to powder cocaine disparity this year, with a black president in the White House and thumping majorities in the House and Senate was to reduce it to 18 to 1, and then only by lengthening the sentences for powder cocaine. On this issue, Democrats and Republicans are part of the problem, not the solution.
As this article goes to print Saturday morning, it’s not known whether the strike will continue a third day. With prison officials not talking, and corporate media ignoring prisoners not just this week but every day, outlets like Black Agenda Report and the web site upon which you’re reading this are among the chief means inmates and their families have of communicating with the public.
The prisoners are asking the public to continue to call the Georgia Department of Corrections, and the individual prisons listed below to express concern for the welfare of the prisoners.
Prison is about corruption, power and isolation. You can help break the isolation by calling the wardens’ offices at the prisons. Prisons, naturally , are open Saturdays and Sundays too.
Ed. note: Georgia operates the fifth-largest prison system in the nation, at a cost of $1 billion a year. It ranks ninth in population among all states.
Read New York Times article at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/12/us/12prison.html
Atlanta Journal-Constitution article at http://www.ajc.com/news/did-state-prisoners-protest-771451.html
REPORT ON FIRST DAY ON STRIKE
In an action which is unprecedented on several levels, black, brown and white inmates of Georgia’s notorious state prison system are standing together for a historic one day peaceful strike today, during which they are remaining in their cells, refusing work and other assignments and activities. This is a groundbreaking event not only because inmates are standing up for themselves and their own human rughts, but because prisoners are setting an example by reaching across racial boundaries which, in prisons, have historically been used to pit oppressed communities against each other. PRESS RELEASE BELOW.
The action is taking place today in at least half a dozen of Georgia’s more than one hundred state prisons, correctional facilities, work camps, county prisons and other correctional facilities. We have unconfirmed reports that authorities at Macon State prison have aggressively responded to the strike by sending tactical squads in to rough up and menace inmates.
Outside calls from concerned citizens and news media will tend to stay the hand of prison authorities who may tend to react with reckless and brutal aggression
. So calls to the warden’s office of the following Georgia State Prisons expressing concern for the welfare of the prisoners during this and the next few days are welcome.
|Macon State Prison is 978-472-3900.||Hays State Prison is at (706) 857-0400|
|Telfair State prison is 229-868-7721||Baldwin State Prison is at (478) 445- 5218|
|Valdosta State Prison is 229-333-7900||Smith State Prison is at (912) 654-5000|
|The Georgia Department of Corrections is at http://www.dcor.state.ga.us and their phone number is 478-992-5246|
One in every thirteen adults in the state of Georgia is in prison, on parole or probation or some form of court or correctional supervision.
BIGGEST PRISONER STRIKE IN U.S. HISTORY
Thousands of Georgia Prisoners to Stage Peaceful Protest
December 8, 2010…Atlanta, Georgia
Contacts: Elaine Brown, 404-542 1211, firstname.lastname@example.org
Valerie Porter, 229-931-5348, email@example.com
Thousands of Georgia prisoners will refuse to work, stop all other activities and remain in their cells in a peaceful, one-day protest for their human rights. The December 9 Strike is projected to be 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!”