A weblog dedicated to gathering documentation directly from prisoners, from media and other sources about the state of prisons and prisoners' - human rights abuses.
In cooperation with our other weblogs of the Prison Watch Network.
The prison system began lifting lock downs at four institutions and returning the facilities to normal operations Wednesday and inmate said they were ending their protest for now and reporting to work assignments.
One of the organizers of the protest said prisoners are still going to pursue their concerns. If the Department of Corrections ignores their requests, the next protest will be violent, he said.
Prison officials did not say what led to the decision to end the lock downs that had been in place since last Thursday. But an inmate at Smith State Prison in Glenville said in a telephone interview prisoners had agreed to end their “non-violent” protest to allow administrators time to focus on their concerns rather than operating the institutions without inmate labor.
“We’ve ended the protest,” said Mike, a convicted armed robber who was one of the inmates who planned and coordinated the work stoppage. “We needed to come off lock down so we can go to the law library and start ... the paperwork for a [prison conditions] lawsuit.
“We’re just giving them time to … meet our requests without having to worry about us on lock down,” Mike told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Wednesday.
Mike is one of the inmates who organized the protest at Smith prison who has talked to the AJC about it. He did not want his last name published for fear of retaliation from prison officials, but agreed to allow the AJC to verify his prisoner identification number, which the paper then cross-checked with the Department of Corrections website.
Inmates began planning the protest in early September when tobacco was banned throughout the prison system. The inmates said they picked Dec. 9 as the day to start because it allowed time for the word to spread throughout the system and because the temperature in the cellblocks would be cooler by then, which is important when otherwise violent men are trying to keep their tempers in check.
Over the months before the protest and in the days after it began, updates and details were spread inmate-to-inmate and prison-to-prison using cell phones, text messages and word of mouth.
Beginning last Thursday and for six days inmates at several prisons refused to leave their cells in protest of the lack of pay for the work they do maintaining and running prison operations and cleaning other government properties; state law forbids paying inmates except for one limited program. The prisoners also were protesting the quality of the food and the lack of fruits and vegetables, the quality of medical care, the availability of education and job training programs, parole decisions and overall conditions.
The organizations expressing their support in this letter are sponsoring a rally and march on Friday, Dec. 17, starting at 4 p.m. at North County Jail, 661 Washington St. in Downtown Oakland, and later marching to 14th and Broadway – JOIN THEM!
We, as members of activist and community organizations in the Bay Area of California, send our support for your strike against the terrible conditions you face in Georgia’s prisons. We salute you for making history as your strike has become the largest prison strike in the history of this nation. As steadfast defenders of human and civil rights, we recognize the potential that your action has to improve the lives of millions subject to inhumane treatment in correctional facilities across this country.
This chain gang was photographed on a road near the maximum security South Florida Reception Center in Miami. Chain gangs are becoming common again, especially in the South. If the striking Georgia prisoners draw enough support, prisoners in neighboring states like Florida and around the country are likely to make similar demands.
Every single day, prisoners face the same deplorable and unnecessarily punitive conditions that you have courageously decided to stand up against. For too long, this nation has chosen silence in the face of the gross injustices that our brothers and sisters in prison are subjected to. Your fight against these injustices is a necessary and righteous struggle that must be carried out to victory.
We have heard about the brutal acts that Georgia Department of Corrections officers have been resorting to as a means of breaking your protest and we denounce them. In order to put a stop to the violence to which you have been subjected, we are now in the process of developing contacts with the personnel at the different prison facilities and circulating petitions addressed to the governor and the Georgia DOC. We will continue to expose the DOC’s shameless physical attacks on you and use our influence to call for an immediate end to the violence.
Here, in the Bay Area, we are all too familiar with the violence that this system is known to unleash upon our people. Recently, our community erupted in protest over the killing of an unarmed innocent Black man named Oscar Grant by transit police in Oakland. We forced the authorities to arrest and convict the police officer responsible for Grant’s murder by building up a mass movement. We intend to win justice with you and stop the violent repression of your peaceful protest in the same way – by appealing to the power and influence of the masses.
We fully support all of your demands. We strongly identify with your demand for expanded educational opportunities. In recent years, our state government has been initiating a series of massive cuts to our system of public education that continue to endanger our right to a quality, affordable education; in response, students all across our state have stood up and fought back just as you are doing now.
In fact, students and workers across the globe have begun to organize and fight back against austerity measures and the corresponding violence of the state. Just in the past few weeks in Greece, Ireland, Spain, England, Italy, Haiti, Puerto Rico – tens and hundreds of thousands of students and workers have taken to the streets. We, as a movement, are gaining momentum and we do so even more as our struggles are unified and seen as interdependent.
At times we are discouraged. It may seem insurmountable. But in the words of Malcolm X, “Power in defense of freedom is greater than power on behalf of tyranny and oppression.”
You have inspired us. News of your strike, from day one, has served to inspire and invigorate hundreds of students and community organizers here in Berkeley and Oakland alone. We are especially inspired by your ability to organize across color lines and are interested in hearing an account from the inside of how this process developed and was accomplished.
You have also encouraged us to take more direct actions toward radical prison reform in our own communities, namely Santa Rita County Jail and San Quentin Prison. We are now beginning the process of developing a similar set of demands regarding expediting processing – it can take 20-30 hours to get a bed; they call it “bullpen therapy” – nutrition, visiting and phone calls, educational services, legal support, compensation for labor and humane treatment in general. We will also seek to unify the education and prison justice movements by collaborating with existing organizations that have been engaging in this work.
We echo your call: No more Slavery! Injustice to one is injustice to all!
In us, students, activists, the community members and people of the Bay Area, you have an ally. We will continue to spread the news about your cause all over the Bay Area and California, the country and world. We pledge to do everything in our power to make sure your demands are met.
UC-Berkeley Student Worker Action Team (SWAT), Community Action Project (CAP), La Voz de los Trabajadores (www.lavozlit.com), Laney College Student Unity & Power (SUPLaney.wordpress.com), Laney College Black Student Union (BSU), Bay Area United Against War Newsletter (bauaw.org), Socialist Viewpoint magazine (socialistviewpoint.org), Workers International League (www.socialistappeal.org), Bay Area ISO (norcalsocialism.org), We Are the Crisis (UC Davis Chapter), Bicycle Barricades (UC Davis)
This letter originally appeared at Defend California Public Education  on Dec. 15, posted by Juan G. It is also available there and below as a petition you can sign: Solidarity Petition for the Prisoners on Strike in Georgia