“Lock down for liberty”

By: Marlene Martin

One of the prisoners from the largest prison strike in U.S. history signed a letter “Lock down for liberty,” which captures the peaceful, positive protest that thousands of prisoners waged inside of at least six different prisons in Georgia.

On December 9, prisoners refused to leave their cells in a protest to draw attention to the changes they felt needed to be made inside these prisons. For six days, the peaceful strike endured, despite intimida- tion tactics by the prison administration.

For example, at Telfair State Prison, tactical officers ransacked cells, destroying personal belongings, and at least six prisoners were severely beaten. At Macon State Prison authorities shut off the prisoner’s hot water, and at Telfair, the heat was shut off even though temperatures were in the 30s.

What is remarkable about the strike is not only that it was led by prisoners themselves, but that it overcame racial divisions that the prison is known to foster.

As one prisoner said, “We have the Crips and the Bloods, we have the Muslims, we have the head Mexicans, and we have the Aryans, all with a peaceful understanding, all on common ground. We all want to be paid for our work, and we all want education in here. There’s people in here who can’t even read...

“They’re trying to provoke people to violence in here, but we’re not letting that happen. We just want our human rights.”

In the prisoners’ own words, the strike was for decent living conditions, adequate medical care and nutrition, educational and self-improvement opportunities, just parole decisions, an end to cruel and unusual punishments, and better access to their families.

According to 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 nonexistent, 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, with them and their families potentially locked into a disadvantaged economic status for life. “Despite the single biggest predictor of successful reintegration into society being sustained contact with family and community, Georgia’s prison authorities make visits and family contact needlessly difficult and expensive.

“Georgia no longer allows families to send funds via U.S. postal money orders to inmates. It requires families to send money through J-Pay, a private company that rakes off nearly 10 percent of all transfers. Telephone conversations between Georgia prisoners and their families are also a profit center for another prison contractor, Global Tel-Link, which extracts about $55 a month for a weekly 15 minute phone call from cash-strapped families.”

Prison advocates on the outside have held press conferences, met with prison officials and initiated a petition drive in support of the prisoners.  A new group has formed called Concerned Coalition to Protect Prisoner Rights. It is made up of many different organizations, including the CEDP.

The courage, dignity and determina- tion these prisoners have shown is an inspiration to all those who struggle for justice. We are proud to stand with them.

Solidarity Statement from San Quentin’s death row

In Solidarity

By Kevin Cooper

On Thursday, December 9, 2010, the inmates in the state of Georgia sat down in unity and peace in order to stand up for their human rights. African American, white and Latino inmates put aside their differences, if they had any, and came together as a “people” fighting for their humanity in a system that dehumanizes all of them.

For this they have my utmost respect and appreciation and support. I am in true solidarity with them all!

We urge people to sign this petition in support of the Georgia prisoners: PetitionOnline.com/ wagesnow/petition.html.

Also check out the Coalition here: facebook. com/pages/Concerned-Coalition-to-Respect- Prisoners-Rights/134681756588784.