“A threat to justice anywhere, is a threat to justice everywhere.” – Martin Luther King Jr
Not unlike the prisoners in the United States, the working class, without an organized Union, lose their rights granted to them by the U.S. Constitution. The moment you clock in, you are subject to the will of the employer, losing your individuality and status as a free human being. We immediately enter the realm of second class citizens, which should not be tolerated by any moral human being. Understanding that our second class status as a worker isn’t far removed from that of the prisoner, the Richmond Industrial Workers of the World feel it is within our responsibility as fellow workers, to show solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the Georgia state prison system, and echo their demands to retain their dignity and status as human beings:
“These conditions can be changed and the interest of the working class upheld only by an organization formed in such a way that all its members in any one industry (or in this case ‘industrial complex’), or in all industries if necessary, cease work whenever a strike or lockout is on in any department thereof, thus making an injury to one, an injury to all.” – Industrial Workers of the World Preamble
Support The Largest Prison Strike in U.S. History! On Thursday morning, December 9, 2010, thousands of Georgia prisoners refused to work, stopped all other activities and locked themselves down in their cells in a peaceful protest for their human rights. The ‘December 9 Strike’ became the biggest prisoner protest in the history of the United States.
Thousands of men, from Augusta, Baldwin, Hancock, Hays, Macon, Smith and Telfair State Prisons, among others, initiated this strike 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 set forth the following demands:
·A LIVING WAGE FOR WORK: In violation of the 13thAmendment 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 8thAmendment 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 8thAmendment, 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.
Despite that the prisoners’ protest remained non-violent, the Department of Corrections (DOC) violently attempted to force the men back to work—claiming it was “lawful” to order prisoners to work without pay, in defiance of the 13th Amendment’s abolition of slavery. In Augusta State Prison, six or seven inmates were brutally ripped from their cells by CERT Team guards and beaten, resulting in broken ribs for several men, one man beaten beyond recognition. This brutality continues there. At Telfair, the Tactical Squad trashed all the property in inmate cells. At Macon State, the Tactical Squad has menaced the men for two days, removing some to the “hole,” and the warden ordered the heat and hot water turned off. Still, today, men at Macon, Smith, Augusta, Hays and Telfair State Prisons say they are committed to continuing the strike. Inmate leaders, representing blacks, Hispanics, whites, Muslims, Rastafarians, Christians, have stated the men will stay down until their demands are addressed. One issuing this statement:
“…Brothers, we have accomplished a major step in our struggle…We must continue what we have started…The only way to achieve our goals is to continue with our peaceful sit-down…I ask each and every one of my Brothers in this struggle to continue the fight. ON MONDAY MORNING, WHEN THE DOORS OPEN, CLOSE THEM.DO NOT GO TO WORK. They cannot do anything to us that they haven’t already done at one time or another. Brothers, DON’T GIVE UP NOW. Make them come to the table. Be strong. DO NOT MAKE MONEY FOR THE STATE THAT THEY IN TURN USE TO KEEP US AS SLAVES….”
When the strike began, 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!”