Introduction: On April 15, a rebellion erupted at South Carolina’s Lee Correctional Institution, a maximum security prison, where 44 officers were guarding 1,583 prisoners. A quarter of all prison jobs in the state are unfilled.
Seven prisoners died – Eddie Casey Jay Gaskins, Joshua Svwin Jenkins, Michael Milledge, Cornelius Quantral McClary, Damonte Marquez Rivera, Raymond Angelo Scott and Corey Scott – and 22 were seriously injured. Ironically, this is being called the deadliest prison violence in a quarter century, since the Lucasville Uprising on April 11-21, 1993. Lucasville survivors on death row are currently on hunger strike.
In an op-ed to the Charlotte Observer, Isaac Bailey, a member of the Observer Editorial Board, wrote what he’d learned from his brother, a long time prisoner at Lee: “Officials say the riot was caused by a turf war over cell phones and other contraband. But James had been detailing to me for more than a year the more likely culprit: deteriorating conditions at Lee. The staffing levels are so low, officers don’t make required rounds. That left prisoners inside their cells longer each day. Some weeks, they got to shower twice; other times they went without showers for up to nine days. Prisoners knew officers would not come to the rescue if they were attacked – which provided a major incentive to join gangs as a means of self-preservation.
“Productive programs that can stimulate prisoners’ minds and bodies – a real public service, given that most prisoners are eventually freed – have been curtailed. Some prisoners have gone for up to a year without sneakers. There has been a long-term water outage in part of the prison, according to another prisoner I spoke with. Those small indignities add up, yet some officials feign surprise when those treated inhumanely behave in inhumane ways.
“After every incident, prisoners are locked down longer, which leads to more resentment and unrest and more violence, a vicious cycle.”
ABC reports that prisoners cannot even escape the violence by locking themselves in their cells. “ALL of the doors to the cells are broken,” a prisoner wrote.
A quarrel over contraband having been blamed for sparking the rebellion, on April 18, 14 former guards, a nurse, a groundskeeper and service workers were indicted for taking bribes, wire fraud and smuggling cellphones and cocaine, methamphetamines, marijuana and alcohol into prisons from April 2015 to December 2017.
Men and women incarcerated in prisons across the nation declare a nationwide strike in response to the riot in Lee Correctional Institution, a maximum security prison in South Carolina. Seven comrades lost their lives during a senseless uprising that could have been avoided had the prison not been so overcrowded from the greed wrought by mass incarceration and a lack of respect for human life that is embedded in our nation’s penal ideology.
These men and women are demanding humane living conditions, access to rehabilitation, sentencing reform and the end of modern day slavery.
Men and women incarcerated in prisons across the nation declare a nationwide strike in response to the riot in Lee Correctional Institution, a maximum security prison in South Carolina.
These are the NATIONAL DEMANDS of the men and women in federal, immigration and state prisons:
- Immediate improvements to the conditions of prisons and prison policies that recognize the humanity of imprisoned men and women.
- 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.
- Rescission of the Prison Litigation Reform Act, allowing imprisoned humans a proper channel to address grievances and violations of their rights.
- Rescission of the Truth in Sentencing Act and the Sentencing Reform Act so that imprisoned humans have a possibility of rehabilitation and parole. No human shall be sentenced to death by incarceration or serve any sentence without the possibility of parole.
- An immediate end to the racial overcharging, over-sentencing and parole denials of Black and brown humans. Black humans shall no longer be denied parole because the victim of the crime was white, which is a particular problem in Southern states.
- An immediate end to racist gang enhancement laws targeting Black and Brown humans.
- No denial of access to rehabilitation programs for imprisoned humans at their place of detention because of their label as a violent offender.
- State prisons must be funded specifically to offer more rehabilitation services.
- Reinstatement of Pell grant eligibility to prisoners in all US states and territories.
- Recognition of voting rights for all confined citizens serving prison sentences, pretrial detainees and so-called “ex-felons.” Their votes must be counted. Representation is demanded. All voices count!
We all agree to spread this strike throughout the prisons of Amerikkka! From Aug. 21 to Sept. 9, 2018, men and women in prisons across the nation will strike in the following manner:
- Work Strikes: Prisoners will not report to assigned jobs. Each place of detention will determine how long its strike will last. Some of these strikes may translate into a local list of demands designed to improve conditions and reduce harm within the prison.
- Sit-ins: In certain prisons, men and women will engage in peaceful sit-in protests.
- Boycotts: All spending should be halted. We ask those outside the walls not to make financial judgments for those inside. Men and women on the inside will inform you if they are participating in this boycott. We support the call of the Free Alabama Movement Campaign to “Redistribute the Pain” 2018, as Bennu Hannibal Ra-Sun, formerly known as Melvin Ray, has laid out – with the exception of refusing visitation. See these principles described here: https://redistributethepain.wordpress.com/.
- Hunger Strikes: Men and women shall refuse to eat.
How you can help:
- Make the nation take a look at our demands. Demand action on our demands by contacting your local, state and federal political representatives with these demands. Ask them where they stand.
- Spread the strike and word of the strike in every place of detention.
- Contact a supporting local organization to see how you can be supportive. If you are unsure of who to connect with, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Be prepared by making contact with people in prison, family members of prisoners and prisoner support organizations in your state to assist in notifying the public and media on strike conditions.
- Assist in our announced initiatives to have the votes of people in jail and prison counted in elections.
Media inquiries should be directed to email@example.com.