On Tuesday, August 21, incarcerated people across the United States and Canada began a 19-day strike in response to the riot at Lee Correctional Institution in South Carolina and to call out the horrendous conditions they face in prison facilities. The Lee Correctional Institution incident took place on April 15 and resulted in seven deaths and injuries to 22 other people. The current protest includes “men and women in federal, immigration, and state prisons” and is set to end on the anniversary of the Attica Correctional Facility uprising in 1971 that resulted in the death of 33 incarcerated men.

The prison conditions that these individuals are protesting include the underpaid labor – that has been likened to slavery – the physical conditions of the facilities, and the rampant dehumanization that individuals face across these nations. The strike also calls out the fact that incarcerated peoples’ access to the legal system is limited by the Prison Litigation Reform Act, which forces incarcerated individuals to complete internal grievance processes before they are able to bring a case to the judicial system.

Importantly, the strike also addresses “Death by Incarceration” – referring to the fact that many people face sentences that will ensure that they will be incarcerated for the rest of their lives and without any possibility of parole. Sentences like these are not only demoralizing, but are levied at individuals without any consideration of rehabilitation or reformation.

In full, the ten demands of the strike are:

  1. Immediate improvements to the conditions of prisons and prison policies that recognize the humanity of imprisoned men and women.
  2. An immediate end to prison slavery. All persons imprisoned in any place of detention under United States jurisdiction must be paid the prevailing wage in their state or territory for their labor.
  3. The Prison Litigation Reform Act must be rescinded, allowing imprisoned humans a proper channel to address grievances and violations of their rights.
  4. The Truth in Sentencing Act and the Sentencing Reform Act must be rescinded so that imprisoned humans have a possibility of rehabilitation and parole. No human shall be sentenced to Death by Incarceration or serve any sentence without the possibility of parole.
  5. An immediate end to the racial overcharging, over-sentencing, and parole denials of Black and brown humans. Black humans shall no longer be denied parole because the victim of the crime was white, which is a particular problem in southern states.
  6. An immediate end to racist gang enhancement laws targeting Black and brown humans.
  7. No imprisoned human shall be denied access to rehabilitation programs at their place of detention because of their label as a violent offender.
  8. State prisons must be funded specifically to offer more rehabilitation services.
  9. Pell grants must be reinstated in all US states and territories.
  10. The voting rights of all confined citizens serving prison sentences, pretrial detainees, and so-called “ex-felons” must be counted. Representation is demanded. All voices count!

This strike – possibly the largest of its kind to date – continues for another two weeks. More information about the strike is available from the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee.

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