image shows doors that are closed: school, heatlh, housing, seniors, youth, libraries, etc.  a barred gate (prison) is open.

Since December 9th, thousands of prisoners in Georgia have been on strike, in what is apparently the largest prisoner protest in U.S. history:

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.

The strike was apparently organized using mobile phones that were smuggled into the prisons, and is being carried out by prisoners of all race and religious backgrounds, which many sources cite as a departure from usually sharp divisions along these lines in prison.  Authorities aren’t thrilled, and are responding violently:

Inmate families and other sources claim that when thousands of prisoners remained in their cells Thursday, authorities responded with violence and intimidation. Tactical officers rampaged through Telfair State Prison destroying inmate personal effects and severely beating at least six prisoners. Inmates in Macon State Prison say authorities cut the prisoners’ hot water, and at Telfair the administration shut off heat Thursday when daytime temperatures were in the 30s. Prisoners responded by screening their cells with blankets, keeping prison authorities from performing an accurate count, a crucial aspect of prison operations.

Prisoners are demanding a living wage for their work, decent health care, nutritious meals, adequate living conditions, access to their families, opportunities for self-improvement, access to their families, and just parole decisions – the most basic human rights.  Meanwhile, the mainstream media is mostly ignoring the strike.  You can sign this petition stating your support for the prisoners here, or you can call the wardens’ offices of the following prisoners to express concern for the prisoners’ wellbeing:

Macon State Prison is 978-472-3900.

Hays State Prison is at (706) 857-0400

Telfair State prison is 229-868-7721

Baldwin State Prison is at (478) 445- 5218

Valdosta State Prison is 229-333-7900

Smith State Prison is at (912) 654-5000

The Georgia Department of Corrections is at http://www.dcor.state.ga.us and their phone number is 478-992-5246

The United States imprisons more people per capita than any other nation in the world.  Though the United States accounts for only 5% of the world’s population, it houses nearly a quarter of the world’s prisoners, most of whom have committed non-violent crimes.    Prisoners are also disproportionately people of color and disproportionately poor.  The advent of the private prison in the 1970s means that there is now a profit motive to imprison people – a prison industrial complex:

The prison-industrial complex is not a conspiracy, guiding the nation’s criminal-justice policy behind closed doors. It is a confluence of special interests that has given prison construction in the United States a seemingly unstoppable momentum. It is composed of politicians, both liberal and conservative, who have used the fear of crime to gain votes; impoverished rural areas where prisons have become a cornerstone of economic development; private companies that regard the roughly $35 billion spent each year on corrections not as a burden on American taxpayers but as a lucrative market; and government officials whose fiefdoms have expanded along with the inmate population.

Today’s prisons are home to some of the most egregious human rights violations in the United States, and yet this issue garners very little attention in the media. Please spread the word about the struggle of Georgia’s prisoners – post on your social media outlets, blog about it, tell your friends.  Read about Critical Resistance.  This is an issue that touches on health, reproductive justice, LGBTQ liberation, racial justice, and just about every social justice issue I can think of.  Will you spread the word?

UPDATE: You can sign a petition supporting the strike here.

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