2018 US Prison Strike Continues: “We Are Not Animals”
Hundreds of inmates in various U.S. prisons have gone on strike, protesting what they’ve labeled “modern-day slavery.”
Solidarity and Support
In what may pass as the largest strike in recent history, the 2018 U.S. prison strike has attracted solidarity from across the country, as well as other countries as far as Germany and Palestine.
Planned to last till September 9, the strike began on August 21, and is currently ongoing in at least 17 states. Through hunger strikes, sit-ins, and work boycotts, the prisoners hope to pressure the judicial system into ending what they deem as “slave-like conditions in the prisons,” and to adhere to a list of demands they’ve put together.
“You can’t just treat people like animals. Yes, we need the prison. But some way of actually rehabilitating these people,” said Kelvin Gadson, an inmate who spoke to USA Today in reference to the strike. “Services like that can stop people from being repeat offenders,” he added.
Spearheaded by Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, a prisoner group that provides legal training to other inmates, the strike was planned in retaliation to the death of seven inmates from the Lee Correctional Institute, a major prison in South Carolina. The inmates died in the hands of prison officials during a riot in the prison. The strike is also supported by the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC), a trading group that is led by prisoners.
Through the above-noted organizations, the prisoners have put together the following demands:
- Immediate improvements to the conditions of prisons and prison policies, that recognize the humanity of imprisoned men and women.
- An immediate end to prison slavery. All persons imprisoned in any place of detention under United States jurisdiction must be paid the prevailing wage in their state or territory for their labor.
- The Prison Litigation Reform Act must be rescinded, allowing imprisoned humans a proper channel to address grievances and violations of their rights.
- The Truth in Sentencing Act and the Sentencing Reform Act must be rescinded so that imprisoned humans have a possibility of rehabilitation and parole. No human shall be sentenced to Death by Incarceration or serve any sentence without the possibility of parole.
- An immediate end to the racial overcharging, over-sentencing, and parole denials of black and brown humans. Black humans shall no longer be denied parole because the victim of the crime was white, which is a particular problem in southern states.
- An immediate end to racist gang enhancement laws targeting black and brown humans.
- No imprisoned human shall be denied access to rehabilitation programs at their place of detention because of their label as a violent offender.
- State prisons must be funded specifically to offer more rehabilitation services.
- Pell grants must be reinstated in all U.S. states and territories.
- The voting rights of all confined citizens serving prison sentences, pretrial detainees, and so-called “ex-felons” must be counted. Representation is demanded. All voices count.
Over the strike, activists, former prisoners, families of prisoners, and members of the public have been holding peaceful demonstrations in cities across the U.S. to show solidarity with the prisoners. Using the hashtags #August21 and #prisonstrike, a social media campaign has also been kicked off to raise awareness of the strike and to also attract more participants.
To support the 2018 U.S. prison strike, IWOC suggests that you “educate yourself and others about the strike demands” by reading this article or listening to this interview with Jailhouse Lawyers Speak. You can also donate to the strike here or follow the strike on social media using the hashtags #August21 and #prisonstrike.