Prisoners in 17 states across the country started a two-week strike Tuesday, calling for an end to “modern slavery.” Prisoners will abstain from going to work at their jobs, halt commissary spending, engage in sit-ins, and refuse to eat.
The main reason for the strike was an April prison riot at the Lee Correctional Institution in South Carolina that left seven inmates dead and a dozen more injured. The strike launched Tuesday was planned for next year, but following the violent incident, Lee prisoners wanted to take more immediate action.
According to a press release from Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, an advocacy organization, “These men and women are demanding humane living conditions, access to rehabilitation, sentencing reform and the end of modern day slavery.”
NATIONAL PRISON STRIKE AUGUST 21-SEPTEMBER 9TH, 2018 pic.twitter.com/Mzbb4e96yp
— Jailhouse Lawyers Speak #August21 (@JailLawSpeak) April 24, 2018
The release includes a list of ten demands, including the repeal of the Prison Litigation Reform Act, which would allow prisoners an increased ability to “address grievances and violations of their rights.” They are also calling for an end to racism in the justice system and a restoration of voting rights.
America’s prison problem has been documented for quite some time, with the United States’ reputation for being the largest jailer in the world receiving widespread criticism and attention. The prison-industrial complex, which has seen the proliferation of private prisons and for-profit demand for prisoners, has also been under scrutiny. Further, instances of guard brutality against prisoners are constant—and often severe.
The strike was launched Tuesday to commemorate the anniversary of the 1971 killing of black activist George Jackson, who was “killed by a guard in 1971 after taking guards and two inmates hostage in a bid to escape from San Quentin State Prison in California,” USA Today noted. The final day of the strike, September 9, marks the anniversary of the beginning of the 1971 prison riots in New York, which left 40 inmates dead.
The strike is taking place in locations from Washington, Oregon, and California to Ohio, Illinois, New York, Florida, and North Carolina.