Tag: incarcerated people
During the National Prison Strike, Jailhouse Lawyers Speak (JLS) inspired incarcerated and outside activists across the country. Activists on the outside were inspired by prisoners’ leadership on the inside, their ability to work effectively through limited communication and under the threat of retaliation. After the strike, incarcerated people were even more inspired by the activism that happened across the country on the inside. Prisoners from each corner of the country are realizing the power that they have to influence positive changes in their environments.
Few prisoners, if any, at San Quentin State Prison participated in what was reported to be the largest prisoner-led strike in United States history. There are many reasons for these prisoners’ lack of involvement. Most of the men imprisoned at San Quentin were unaware of the strike and the groups involved with it like Jailhouse Lawyers Speak and the Bay Area National Prison Strike Solidarity Committee.
I’d like to send out a clenched fist salute to Amani Sawari of Jailhouse Lawyers Speak. I have studied the transcript of Amani’s appearance on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman. Amani did an excellent job articulating the reasons for our actions. Amani also had the presence of mind to highlight and accentuate the fact that we, the prisoners across Amerika, seek to be treated as human beings and given meaningful opportunities toward our rehabilitation.
As incarcerated people across the country began a three-week series of protests, a contingent of physicians, health professions students and other allied health professionals expressed their solidarity with the protestors. More than 125 students and healthcare providers signed an open letter endorsing the National Prison Strike, with many participating in local solidarity actions or making phone calls to prisons to show support for the strikers’ demands.
This call is for a two-week national strike beginning on Aug. 21, the anniversary of George Jackson’s assassination, and extending until Sept. 9, the anniversary of the Attica Prison Rebellion in 1971. The call has been taken up inside from coast to coast, and across at least 17 different states. The author of this call, Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, is a national collective of incarcerated people who fight for human rights by providing other incarcerated people with access to legal education, resources and assistance.
On March 21, the Stateville Correctional Center Debate Team, hosted a public debate about bringing a parole system back to Illinois – one of two states which currently does not have parole. As Illinois boasts the No. 1 most overcrowded prison system in the US – operating at 151 percent capacity – and the system is spending $2 billion and counting each year, the time to reinstate parole was undoubtedly yesterday.
There is one place in the U.S. where slavery is still constitutionally legal: in prisons. The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, passed in 1864, abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. But prisoners held in this enslavement are organizing resistance. Brave prisoners within the Florida state prison system have organized themselves into a month-long work strike called Operation Push. It began on Jan. 15, Martin Luther King Day. In a phone interview, an anonymous prisoner-activist specifically linked the strike to King’s legacy of protest against racism and economic injustice.
For most of the 23 years Romarilyn Ralston spent in a California prison, she made 37 cents an hour, unable to afford crafty birthday cards for her two sons, let alone the financial support she desperately wanted to give them. Ralston did clerical and recreational work at the California Institution for Women in Chino, while voluntarily training women who have recently made national headlines for being on the front lines of the state’s biggest wildfires.
I am a prison abolitionist in my heart. But I’m a prison reformist in the world by virtue of the sad fact that I can’t yet imagine a working society without prisons. I’ve spent every birthday since my 13th in an institution, so I’ve seen only prisons, heard only “prisons.” I want to abolish prisons; I just don’t have the imagination. Part of my failure is a lack of language to describe such a world convincingly. Likewise, a barrier we face trying to dismantle the prison industrial complex is we continue to use the language that helped build it.
“Prison abolition is different from penal abolition. We don’t just want to get rid of the structures; we want to get rid of the whole system that functions to destroy people,” said Ashanti Alston, Black Panther and penal abolitionist. POOR Magazine had the blessing of listening to Ashanti and many more freedom fighters at the 17th International Conference on Penal Abolition held in New Bedford, Mass.
On Aug. 19, you can be part of the New Abolitionist Movement even if you can’t travel to Washington, D.C., for the Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March. We’re organizing a sister march right here in the Bay, in San Jose. Be with us as we gather at 11 a.m. in Raymond Bernal Jr. Memorial Park, then march at 12:30 p.m. to James P. McEntee Plaza for our rally. We guarantee you’ll be inspired and meet new friends and allies. We feel this is a defining moment for those on the front lines working tirelessly and courageously to bring light to the humanitarian crisis that is mass incarceration.
On May 16, inmates at Old Folsom State Prison made contact with the outside world to announce that they will begin a hunger strike on May 25 in response to ongoing mistreatment, dehumanization and unbearable living conditions at Old Folsom. When incarcerated people take action to fight for their dignity, their rights and their lives, those of us on the outside must answer with solidarity. Our support is crucial in getting their demands met and minimizing retaliation against them. We must let these brave individuals know that we have their backs, and that they will not be forgotten.
My 67-year-old friend is not violent, but California would beg to differ. At his sentencing, the judge told him, “You are a Vietnam trained killer,” and then sentenced him to 68 years to life. His crime? One day my friend broke into an unoccupied house. After he was caught and tried, he was convicted of burglary and sentenced under California’s Three-Strikes law. We call him Cadillac. He was really excited by the passage of Proposition 57 last November.
My name is Emmanuel “Mandu-Ra” Johnson. I’m the inspiration behind the “Uncle Du” comic strip. My homie, Ruben Beltran, the artist behind the “Uncle Du” comic strips, told me how he received a letter from you guys – Bay View – and y’all agreed to put “Uncle Du” in your paper. I think that’s wonderful! When he told me he wrote y’all to see if y’all would publish the strip, I knew y’all would do it, because “Uncle Du” is all the news in Bay View rolled up in one. Everything “Uncle Du” stands for is what Bay View stands for, so it’s a perfect match.
On the surface, the recent “retirement” of the wardens from two of California’s women’s facilities appears to be a needed move in an effort to reform California’s violent correctional system. While many Californians are just beginning to agree that our Department of Corrections does more harm than good, many legal advocates and anti-prison activists have been fighting to make that very point from both inside and out of prison for years.
Calling all families: Come out for ‘A Fair Chance to Advance’ on Saturday, Aug. 1, 11-2, at At Thy Word Church, 8915 International Blvd, Oakland, to see how Prop 47, reducing many felonies to misdemeanors, can free your family – presented by Bay Area Black Workers Center, Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice, East Bay Community Law Center, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and Assemblyman Rob Bonta.
There’s a growing national consensus that, as Attorney General Eric Holder stated in August, “too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long, and for no truly good law enforcement reason.” Despite the heavy toll that mass incarceration exacts every day and in countless ways on many American communities the topic attracts remarkably little consistent coverage in the mainstream media.
As more people put their lives on the line today to fight for the hunger strikers’ five core demands – still unmet by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation – the need for this kind of artwork feels critical. Noah succeeds in creating visually impactful and beautiful work that also activates audiences to learn about human rights abuses and to get involved.
This year marks the 11th Annual Community Giveback – an event where bikes, toys and gifts will be given to children; but they are not the average kids. Eleven years ago a group of formerly incarcerated people, with the help of prisoners, started to give away bikes to the children of incarcerated parents.