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Critical Resistance and IWW support prisoner resistance at Holman, call for action

March 19, 2016

Tear down cages

by Critical Resistance

Our attention has been turned this week to Holman Prison in Alabama where rolling uprisings inside have led to prisoners taking control of certain areas of the prison. Prisoners have since released a set of demands including increased educational programs for prisoners, monetary damages for physical and mental abuse, and revoking the State’s 446 laws that – similar to Three Strikes laws – harden sentences for subsequent convictions.

Poster created by the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in support of the 1971 Attica Prisoner Rebellion

Poster created by the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in support of the 1971 Attica Prisoner Rebellion

The prisoners, alongside many loved ones and supporters on the outside, are pointing to the harsh conditions at Holman Prison. While Holman is notably crowded, holds the only death row in Alabama, has a high number of prisoners in solitary confinement, and cages many prisoners dealing with medical, physical, and psychological abuses, Holman should not be isolated as an extreme example. It is in fact emblematic of the racism and violence inherent in the system of imprisonment.

This uprising is part of a long history of resistance to imprisonment from people inside, including the 1971 Attica Rebellion and the 2011-2013 California and Guantanamo Bay prisoner hunger strikes. Just as the abolition of the prison industrial complex (PIC) follows in the tradition of the abolition of slavery, these acts of resistance are part of a history that includes Nat Turner’s Rebellion in 1831 and other resistance to slavery like work slowdowns, tool breaking, covert meetings and escapes to free zones.

Abolitionists of the PIC do not believe that this system can be fixed through reform but seek to rid society of it entirely. As one of the prisoners at Holman stated, “We’re tired of this … There’s only one way to deal with it: Tear the prison down.”

We support the demands of the Holman prisoners and hold strong to our insistence that demands around poor prison conditions and crowding not be used as excuses to cage more people or build more new prisons for abolitionists to tear down later. Unfortunately, as the Holman uprising raged on, we saw an Alabama Senate Committee preliminarily approve $800 million to construct four new prisons.

Abolitionists of the PIC do not believe that this system can be fixed through reform but seek to rid society of it entirely.

We must organize against states, counties and the federal government building more prisons and jails – that are temporarily less crowded before they are filled again – as a supposed solution to poor conditions. We must confront the inherently violent and oppressive condition of imprisonment and fight for alternatives to caging people altogether.

Critical Resistance can be reached at 1904 Franklin St., Suite 504, Oakland, CA 94612, 510-444-0484 or crnational@criticalresistance.org.

A call for action in solidarity with Alabama prison rebels

by the IWW Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee

“Things here are tense but festive. The CO and warden was stabbed … It has nothing to do with overcrowding, but with the practice of locking folks up for profit, control and subjugation. Fires were set, we got control of two cubicles, bust windows. The riot team came, shot gas, locked down, searched the dorms. Five have been shipped and two put in lockup.” – a prisoner at Holman Correctional

During the March 11 rebellion, prisoners set a guard station on fire.

During the March 11 rebellion, prisoners set a guard station on fire.

This week, prison rebels at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama, staged two riots in three days – battling guards, building barricades, stabbing the warden, taking over sections of the prison and setting a guard station on fire. These actions come as no surprise to those who have been paying attention to the crumbling prison system in Alabama and the increasing level of radicalization of the prison population there.

The uprising at Holman – and the conditions of Alabama prisons in general – provide a unique situation in which anarchist solidarity may prove strategic. Historically speaking, successful prison uprisings have often been the result of a degrading prison system – incompetence, understaffing, weak administration – in combination with a high level of prisoner unity and the development of a strong political subculture within the prison that supports and encourages acts of resistance.

These conditions shift the balance of power between prisoners and their captors and allow prisoners more latitude to take bold action. Prison rebels in Alabama report that guards often refuse to enter the cell blocks for months at a time out of fear of attacks. The conditions for rebellion are ripe in the Alabama prison system.

The connections that Alabama prison rebels and anarchists outside of prisons have cultivated over years have created a situation in which expressions of solidarity from anarchists may have an impact. There is a great possibility that news of solidarity actions will reach prisoners there and that those actions will make sense to these rebels.

The uprising at Holman – and the conditions of Alabama prisons in general – provide a unique situation in which anarchist solidarity may prove strategic.

Another way in which anarchist solidarity may prove uniquely valuable in this and other situations of prison rebellion is in our capacity to relate to these uprisings outside the framework of reform that the media, the state and the left will inevitably push them toward. We are already hearing the rhetoric of those outside Holman turning immediately toward reform, appeals to legitimacy in hopes of reaching journalists and liberals, and framing the riots as a “last resort” after non-violent methods failed.

What we propose instead is direct affirmation, through action, of prisoners’ own revolt. In this, our solidarity is equally with those demanding better living conditions and those who say, quite simply, “They need to let us free up out this bitch” and “There’s only one way to deal with it: Tear the prison down.”

In the spirit of diversity of tactics, we’ve compiled a list of some ways to act in solidarity with prison rebels in Alabama. The intention of this list is to find ways to act in solidarity with the many, often contradictory desires of the many different rebels involved in the uprising.

In the spirit of diversity of tactics, we’ve compiled a list of some ways to act in solidarity with prison rebels in Alabama.

A.  Publish and spread the list of demands, provided by journalists who were able to get in touch with some of the rioting inmates:

  1. We inmates at Holman Prison ask for immediate federal assistance.
  2. We ask that the Alabama government release all inmates who have spent excessive time in Holman Prison – due to the conditions of the prison and the overcrowding of these prisons in Alabama.
  3. We ask that the 446 laws [Habitual Felony Offender laws] that Alabama holds as of 1975 be abolished.
  4. We ask that Parole Board release all inmates who fit the criteria to be back in society with their families.
  5. We ask that these prisons in Alabama implement proper classes that will prepare inmates to be released back into society with 21st century information that will prepare inmates to open and own their own businesses instead of making them having to beg for a job.
  6. We also ask for monetary damages for mental pain and physical abuse that inmates have already suffered.

B.  Call and write Alabama Department of Corrections officials:

C.  Contact inmates at various Alabama prisons in order to form bonds and connections on which to build struggle. At http://www.doc.state.al.us/InmateSearch.aspx, you can type a letter into the first or last name section and get a whole giant list of inmates to choose from. It’s up to you to discern who you’d like to write to. We avoid inmates who are listed as having racist tattoos or sex crimes. However, there are also several pen pal sites where you can find Alabama inmates who are already looking to maintain correspondence with someone. [Here’s the Bay View’s: http://sfbayview.com/category/enemylines/pen-pals/.]

D.  Visit https://itsgoingdown.org/call-actions-solidarity-alabama-prison-rebels/ for more creative ways to get involved!

Contact IWW Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee at iwoc@riseup.net. This story is the work of It’s Going Down and first appeared at https://itsgoingdown.org/call-actions-solidarity-alabama-prison-rebels/

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