In December 2010 GA prisoners staged a brief strike, asking for their rights as men and human beings. They depended, and still depend on support from outside, support that is yet to be organized. How much longer will they wait?
Voices in the community were raised, and demanded to meet with the governor or his representatives in support of the prisoners. We at Black Agenda Report and the Georgia Green Party were among those voices and attended some of those meetings.
Three years and a couple months ago, prisoners in multiple institutions in Georgia went on strike, peacefully refusing to leave their dorms and cells for work details or meals. The demands of the prisoners were remarkably simple.
They wanted educational and job training opportunities including literacy training for those who could not read.
They insisted on adequate food and real medical care.
They demanded some transparency in the way the authorities handled inmate funds, prisoner grievances, the adjudication of alleged offenses committed by prisoners, and in release and parole decision making.
The prisoners were Black and they were White and they were Latino. They were Rastas and Muslims and Christians and no religion at all. They belonged to this or that street organization, or to none. They stood up for each other and for those who could not stand at all, and they reached out to the communities from which they’d come for support.
A number of voices in the community were raised, and demanded to meet with the governor or his representatives in support of the prisoners. We at Black Agenda Report and the Georgia Green Party were among those voices and attended some of those meetings. We succeeded in getting an unprecedented delegation of citizens a couple of visits to two state prisons at which they were able to question staff and inmates more or less freely, and a report on what the delegation discovered was promised.
The report never happened. The governor’s office enticed some members of the community coalition to abandon it in return for patronage dished out via the state’s re-entry programs. Some of those who remained refused to call public meetings or work productively with each other. As a result, no substantial organized force called itself into being outside the walls to support the efforts of those inside the walls.
State authorities reacted with savage near-fatal beatings of inmates in several institutions, some of which we covered in Black Agenda Report, for which some correctional officers have been indicted and tried. A number of prisoners from around the state were immediately confined in administrative segregation, an exceptionally harsh prison within the state prison at Jackson, the prison at which Troy Davis was executed<http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/22/us/final-pleas-and-vigils-in-troy-davis-execution.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0>  in 2011, where some have remained ever since.
Brutal retaliation by state authorities has provoked more than one hunger strike since then. The latest such incident was reported in the national African American newspaper San Francisco Bay View<http://sfbayview.com/2014/georgia-prisoners-on-hunger-strike-since-feb-9/>  in early February. The story named the following prisoners in Jackson’s prison within a prison, as having begun a hunger strike on February 9, and concluded thusly:
“Ultimately, there is very little that the prisoners can do to find the muscle to fight for their rights. Prisoners feel their only choice is to put their lives in danger by refusing to eat. Staff are even threatening the prisoners – that if they stay on the hunger strike, they will die under their watch and it would be no problem to cover it up.
These prisoners are pleading for some true outside support – from newspapers, world newspapers, magazines, television shows, pen pal services and any organizations.
Please contact the prisoners on strike. To write them messages of support and encouragement, use the names and Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC) numbers shown below and the address, GDCSP SMU, P.O. Box 3877, Jackson GA 30233. – Tamarcus Wright, GDC#1070891 – LaMarcus Thomas, GDC#1075958 – Isaiah Meadows, GDC#1202688 – Rodrick Henderson, GDC#294536 – Robert Watkins, GDC#1245402 – Ernesto Catillo, GDC#1291603 – Rickey Mosley, GDC#1218550 – Malachi Jenkins, GDC#725779 – Anthony Parker, GDC#10065811 – Hjolmar Rodriguez, GDC#1036561
You can call the institution at (770) 504-2000, and ask politely to leave a message of concern at the warden’s office, with your return phone number.
In the next few weeks there will be a number of meetings around Atlanta aimed at pulling together a political force that will stand up for the rights of people behind the walls and their families. It’s no sense lying about this, we are starting from almost nothing. When the prisoners behind those walls stand up now, there is next to nothing, no dependable allies and forces for them to work with or rely upon. This has to change.
Our traditional “civil rights organizations” like to make statements on mass incarceration, now that they’ve learned that phrase. They spend a lot of time denouncing Republicans for being immoral. But standing up with the families of prisoners, and for the rights of those locked up now is something they shy away from. Maybe they see themselves as members of a different social class from that which prisoners and their families come from.
Maybe they’re right. Maybe that’s why leadership on this issue is going to have to come from somewhere else.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a state committee member of the GA Green Party. He can be reached at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.