Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Happening Now: Largest Prison Strike in History

Georgia Prison Strike

by Donal 12/13/2010 - 8:43 pm   |

I listened to WEAA 88.9 FM tonight, on the walk to the light rail. (I'd rather bike, but they were calling for snow.) After a good discussion on WikiLeaks, Marc Steiner interviewed Bruce Dixon of the Black Agenda Report for a story that has been largely unreported, the Georgia Prison 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 rights, 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.

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.

Steiner, and occasional cohost Anthony McCarthy introduced the story by quoting stats from a blog by Ta-Nehisi Coates, who is called TNC at The Atlantic. TNC wrote that blacks, African-Americans of both sexes, make up 0.6% of the world population, but African-American males represent 8% of the world prison population. If the US released all our black prisoners, we would fall slightly behind China in the number imprisoned.

But why are the Georgia prisoners so worked up, and so unified? They have a list of demands, but Dixon spoke of the increasing costs of staying in touch with family. According to Dixon, it used to be that family could send small amounts of cash directly to inmates with a money order. I can see where cash should be regulated, but now they have to go through something called J-Pay, who take nearly ten percent off the top. Fifteen minutes of phone calls to an inmate through Global Tel-Link can cost $55 per month. The strike is continuing, and Dixon posted a second article at the Black Agenda Report:
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.

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