World in View: U.S. prisoners strike

From the September-October 2018 issue of News & Letters

George Jackson

Prisoners in at least 17 U.S. states, and one Canadian prison, took part in a nationwide strike beginning Aug. 21 (the date of George Jackson’s 1971 murder) and officially ending on Sept. 9 (the anniversary of the Attica prison uprising).

Participants utilized work stoppages, hunger strikes, boycotts, and other acts of resistance.

Initiated by Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, the strike presented a list of 10 demands beginning with “policies that recognize the humanity of imprisoned men and women”; an “end to prison slavery” and a just wage for labor; and ending with a demand that “voting rights…must be counted.”

The Sentencing Project estimates that 6.1 million people are currently disenfranchised. By sheer numbers this would make up the third largest political party in the U.S. In this context, the demand for voting rights is revolutionary.

The joining of humanism and labor marks this strike as both a practical and theoretical challenge to capitalist oppression. As the organizers said: “It has been a huge success of the 2018 prison strike that the 10 points have been pushed into the national and international consciousness.”

–Gerry Emmett

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