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In the wake of the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, the left’s anti-fascist response to defend that community and the death of Heather Heyer, a rally that had been planned and organized over a two-year period by imprisoned people and the grassroots prison advocacy group IAMWE offered a powerful opportunity for those looking to actively confront white supremacy. Their demand is the end of slavery in America – the elimination of the “exception clause” in the 13th Amendment.
Sept. 9, 2016, is the day that many people in America are wholeheartedly organizing, mobilizing, taking action, standing and locking arms in solidarity against what we know as prison slave labor – yes, legalized slavery – and people are saying, “No more!” Even though there are many taking action and answering the call to cure this particular ill of society, there is an overwhelmingly larger portion of the U.S. population who are absolutely clueless to the fact that slavery still exists.
Four years ago prisoners in California – led by those in the control units of Pelican Bay – organized a hunger strike to demand an end to the torturous conditions of solitary confinement. Two more strikes would follow, with over 30,000 prisoners taking united action in the summer of 2013 – both in isolation and in general population in nearly every California prison. Current prison organizing continues a historic legacy of struggle.
Less than two weeks ago the United Nations Committee against Torture issued a report strongly criticizing the U.S. record on a number of issues, among them the extensive use of solitary confinement. While the U.S. uses long-term solitary more than any other country in the world, California uses it more than any other state. This practice is designed to break the human spirit and is condemned as a form of torture under international law.
Claiming the need for emergency passage of new visiting policies, the California Department of Corrections (CDCR) is proposing the use of canines and ION scanners that would subject visitors to prisons to humiliating and traumatizing strip searches. The move has brought swift condemnation from prisoner advocacy organizations and groups that work with prisoners, including the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS).
This next phase of the struggle will require the power of the people more than ever. We have to work with and urge our representatives in the legislature to ensure changes are made in the interest of imprisoned people, their loved ones, their communities – in the interests of humanity. We must put an end to solitary confinement. There is no place for indefinite solitary confinement in a civilized society. Let the Department of Corrections know torture will not be tolerated here.