by S.J., founder and Central Committee member of Jailhouse Lawyers Speak
Revolutionary greetings to all freedom fighters and supporters for prisoners’ human rights:
On a Southern plantation (prison), Jailhouse Lawyers Speak (JLS) was founded in 2015 amongst a group of jailhouse lawyers who were already in unity as a cadre based upon their studies of George L. Jackson. This original group of comrades make up the current Central Committee.
Today, Jailhouse Lawyers Speak is a national collective of imprisoned persons who fight for human rights by providing other prisoners with access to legal education, resources and assistance.
Our focus is on challenging laws that are dehumanizing prisoners and educating prisoners about these laws. We aim to educate and engage the public at large about prisoners’ human rights violations. This would translate into “By any means necessary.”
We are freedom fighters who believe the current model of how this society addresses people that have fallen short – according to society’s terms – must be dismantled.
This can only be done by prisoners speaking out. Prisoners must use their own voice and organizing skills to connect with the world for change.
We are leading by example. JLS members participated in the national prison strike of 2016 by having a rep at the organizing table when Kenetic Justice of FAM called, promoting and carrying out the plan.
Jailhouse Lawyers Speak is a national collective of imprisoned persons who fight for human rights by providing other prisoners with access to legal education, resources and assistance.
On Aug. 19, 2017, JLS called and organized with an outside committee the biggest abolitionist gathering across this nation known as the Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March. The aim was and is to demand the slavery clause of the 13th Amendment be “abolished” (amended or repealed).
On Aug. 21, 2018, we spearheaded the national prison strike with a list of 10 demands. These national demands were formulated and agreed upon by key prisoner organizers in several states.
National Prisoners Strike 10 Demands
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 The Prison Litigation Reform Act must be rescinded, allowing imprisoned humans a proper channel to address grievances and violations of their rights.
4. The Truth in Sentencing Act and the Sentencing Reform Act must be rescinded 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.
5. 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.
6. An immediate end to racist gang enhancement laws targeting Black and brown humans.
7. No imprisoned human shall be denied access to rehabilitation programs at their place of detention because of their label as a violent offender.
8. State prisons must be funded specifically to offer more rehabilitation services.
9. Pell grants must be reinstated in all US states and territories.
10. The voting rights of all confined citizens serving prison sentences, pretrial detainees, and so-called “ex-felons” must be counted. Representation is demanded. All voices count.
Today these demands are our platform. They grew out of a long struggle that has been ongoing in the prisons since the 13th Amendment officially made prisons the state and government owned slave quarters. We view these “demands” as a means to further our agenda to dismantle the Prison Industrial Slave Complex.
JLS has developed friendships and allies around the country and across the waters.
They respect prisoners’ position of wanting to be at their decision making tables when it pertains to us. They understand and agree with our wanting to have our voices heard and lead our own movement again. Due to this acceptance you will find our voices heard across the world and people picking up to act on our call. No one can explain what’s going on in prison better than a person in prison. No one desires sentence changes more than a prisoner. No one wants to see the prison walls fall more than a prisoner.
How do prisoners join this resistance movement?
We know that many people in prison are interested in connecting to the prisoner organizers of the national prison strike and joining, but are not informed on how to do so. This should clear that up. We do want as many prisoners as possible to be a part of the JLS membership.
In order for an individual to register as a member of JLS and receive the JLS open membership card, you will need to write us at the following address with your request for membership: Jailhouse Lawyers Speak Open Membership Office, P.O. Box 414304, Kansas City, MO 64141.
In order to form a committee, the person would need to write us with three additional names of who would serve in one of each of the following roles: chair, co-chair, secretary and treasurer. Members must include their position on the committee when writing JLS.
In addition to joining JLS as an individual or a JLS committee, there are two types of ways that you can register:
1. Traditional closed membership – identity is withheld
2. General open membership – identity not withheld
The contact address listed here is for general open membership only.
If you are a part of a formation, you can join us. We are all prisoners regardless of affiliations. Unity is the key.
“Settle your quarrels, come together, understand the reality of our situation, understand that fascism is already here, that people are already dying who could be saved, that generations more will live poor butchered half-lives if you fail to act. Do what must be done, discover your humanity and your love in revolution.” – George L. Jackson
As a member, you will have instant national solidarity for concerns in your state from our ranks and allies nationally. You will automatically be authorized to use the JLS logo and name in representing yourself or committee at any time. However, the name cannot be attached to any criminal interests.
All state and federal JLS committees are free to initiate actions without approval. We encourage all potential JLS members to organize with outside organizers in your state to agitate and disrupt the local status quo. We are not trying to save the prisons. Only ourselves and those around us in the same chains.
When you join the open membership, the national prison strike 10 demands are automatically a part of your platform. Promote them in the prisons, to local outside organizers and to lawmakers.
You do not have to be a jailhouse lawyer as we are. But we do strongly encourage you to know the prison rules, regulations and any related laws about any concern you may raise. For instance, if you’re organizing to change the sentencing laws, you must read that particular portion of the law being complained about.
It’s important that we relay this information to as many imprisoned people as possible. JLS was formed knowing that we needed a national organized network to bring about the result we are seeking. There is no such thing as the worst state or federal prison. Why? Because they are all prisons, only changing by degrees. Our fight is a national fight. Know your opposition!
Dare to struggle, dare to win!
Uhuru sasa (Freedom Now).
Carry it on!
JLS founder and central committee member,