As prisoners prepare for a nationwide prison strike, activists and supporters are descending on Columbus, Ohio for the Bend The Bars conference.
On September 9, prisoners across the United States will participate in coordinated work stoppage and hunger strikes in an attempt to what they view as prison slavery. The nationwide action is the result of years of frustration and organizing by prisoners and their support networks outside of the prison bars.
To every prisoner in every state and federal institution across this land, we call on you to stop being a slave, to let the crops rot in the plantation fields, to go on strike and cease reproducing the institutions of your confinement.
This is a call for a nationwide prisoner work stoppage to end prison slavery, starting on Sept. 9, 2016. They cannot run these facilities without us.
The event is being planned by a number of groups, including The Ordinary People Society (TOPS), Free Alabama Movement(FAM), Free Virginia Movement, Free Ohio Movement, Free Mississippi Movement, New Underground Railroad Movement (CA), Formerly Incarcerated, Convicted People, and Families Movement (FICPFM), and Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee. The FICPFM has also scheduled a national conference for September 9 when the strikes begin.
“Our protest against prison slavery is a protest against the school to prison pipeline, a protest against police terror, a protest against post-release controls,” reads a statement announcing the strikes. “Prison impacts everyone, when we stand up and refuse on Sept. 9, 2016, we need to know our friends, families and allies on the outside will have our backs. This spring and summer will be seasons of organizing, of spreading the word, building the networks of solidarity and showing that we’re serious and what we’re capable of.”
In preparation for the strike, prisoner solidarity activists in Columbus, Ohio are organizing the “Bend the Bars 2016 Midwest convergence” in support of prisoners’ struggles. The convergence will take place from August 26 to 29 and feature workshops, and discussions on prisoners’ resistance and the September 9 strike. The organizers say they are hoping “to assemble a diverse group of individuals, groups, and organizations that are united by a desire to work against prisons, in support of our friends and family members who are locked up, and prisoners who are organizing themselves and acting up on the inside.”
Ohio itself has been a hotbed for prisoner resistance activity. In 1993 prisoners organized to shut down the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility for eleven days. That strike was organized without outside help and without the organizing power of the Internet. Ohio residents and activists have plenty of reason to oppose the prison industrial complex, as a new report from the U.S. Department of Education revealed that Ohio has spent more money on correction facilities than education over the last 30 years. The budget for corrections grew by a whopping 237 percent, while public education funds grew just 71 percent.
The September 9 nationwide strike will also mark 45th anniversary of the notorious Attica prison uprising. On September 9, 1971, around 1,000 of Attica prison’s 2,200 inmates organized a riot that lasted five days and claimed the lives of 33 prisoners and 10 prison guards. During that time the prisoners took 42 guards hostage and released the The Attica Liberation Faction Manifesto Of Demands. The manifesto contained 27 demands, including better medical treatment, fair visitation rights, an end to physical brutality, better sanitation, and improved food quality.
In the 45 years since the Attica riot, the American prison population has exploded to never before seen levels of incarceration. As The Influence notes, the massive growth in prison population is largely due to the failed War on Drugs.
Three months before the Attica Uprising, President Richard Nixon had declared his War on Drugs. The combined US state and federal prison population then hovered below 200,000 people. Through the Reagan and Clinton years—which ramped up the drug war and introduced mandatory minimum sentencing—until today, that number ballooned to over 1.5 million. In total, over 2.2 million people now behind bars—in jail, prison, immigration detention, or youth detention—on any given day.
According to Federal Bureau of Prisons data, nearly half (84,746, 46.3%) of all federal inmates are incarcerated for drug offenses. That is nearly 85,000 human beings in prison for victimless crimes (selling or using illicit drugs). But what about the other prisoners? Should we limit our outrage to only those prisoners who are non-violent?
At the end of the day these prisoners are human beings who are forced to endure inhumane treatment and abuse. Many of the prisoners in America’s prisons found themselves there because of the Drug War and ridiculous schemes like Reverse Drug Stings.
There is also the issue of forcing prisoners to work for extremely low pay, creating products or growing food that is then shipped to corporations and resold for a large profit to unwitting Americans. (See this for a list of companies who reportedly use prison labor.) Slavery in America does indeed still exist. It exists in the minds of those who believe the State will provide for them and it exists in the prisons where men and women are forced to work.
If you care about this issue please share this article and do what you can to support the nationwide strike.
Derrick Broze is an investigative journalist and liberty activist. He is the Lead Investigative Reporter for ActivistPost.com and the founder of the TheConsciousResistance.com. Follow him on Twitter. Derrick is the author of two books: The Conscious Resistance: Reflections on Anarchy and Spirituality and Finding Freedom in an Age of Confusion.
Derrick is available for interviews. Please contact [email protected]
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