On August 21st, 2018 inmates across the country began demonstrations opposing conditions of American prisons. The trike comes as a response to a deadly riot that occurred at Lee Correctional Facility in South Carolina in April 2018. Although the initial breakout seemed to be gang-related, what has also been attributed to the riot is understaffing, poor living conditions and slavery-like exploitation of the incarcerated. Happening over several hours, the riot ended with official accounts of 7 deaths and 17 serious injuries.It was reported that the violence spread to three housing units. On April 15th South Carolina Department of Corrections issued a statement regarding the event.
The strike is organized by prisoners who have begun to refuse to work, stage hunger strikes and hold sit-ins. The organizers of the demonstrations are prisoners themselves and the efforts are being coordinated by the imprisoned members of Jailhouse Lawyers Speak. The group consists of inmates who provide legal support, education and training that speaks to prisoners’ human rights. The organization put out a press release laying out their demands which include:
“1. Immediate improvements to the conditions of prisons and prison policies that recognize the humanity of imprisoned men and women.
2. 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.
3. The Prison Litigation Reform Act must be rescinded, allowing imprisoned humans a proper channel to address grievances and violations of their rights.”
The strike starts on the anniversary of the killing of jailed prison activist George Jackson who was killed by a guard in 1971 after taking guards and two prisoners hostage in exchange for freedom from San Quentin State Prison in California. The strike will end on September 9th on the anniversary of the Attica Prison riots in New York.
The strike is slated to be the largest in the country’s history. The previous one held in 2016 saw well over 20,000 people imprisoned across 12 states who refused to work.