Category Archives: inmates

The South and the Death Penalty

by KurtFF8

The recent execution of Troy Davis has caused many to again discuss the merits of the death penalty in the United States.  (It also sparked a mass march in New York City that was met with a heavy handed police response). According to the Daily Beast, the South has the highest execution rate in the country, as well as the highest murder rate.  On top of that, the incarceration capital of the world is a southern city: New Orleans.

These renewed debates not only bring into question broad topics like the death penalty itself, but they should also let us contextualize them in a regional sense.  We should begin asking why is the South the home to so many problems still (to throw yet another one in there: the South is “bearing the brunt” of the US’s raising poverty rate).  There are plenty of answers to the question of why the South faces these problems.  But one thing should be quite clear, it is something often repeated on this site: the South remains an important part of the country to organize progressive forces.

Amongst the many lessons we learned from the Troy Davis incident (to steal the ANSWER coalition’s article title), we should also add the lesson that the world pays attention to the South, not only to the injustices that happen there but to the folks that organize against those injustices.

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Filed under African Americans, ANSWER Coalition, Atlanta, Georgia, inmates, Leftists in the U.S. South, National Oppression, New Orleans, Prisoners, prisons, racism, Southern Identity, Southern Strategy, Southern United States, United States

The American Prison System

by KurtFF8 (Mike C)

There have been various stories relating the the conditions of the prison system in the United States in the news recently.  From the under reported (yet perhaps most significant) recent Georgia Prisoner’s strike to the high profile solitary confinement of Bradley Manning who gained notoriety for his involvement in leaking a video to Wikileaks.  This attention should be seen as an opportunity to open up space for debate on the very structure of our prisons.

There is also the case of Cornelius Dupree, Jr.who was just freed in Texas after 30 years of being in prison when DNA evidence showed that he was actually innocent.  According to his attorney, Texas has had the most DNA exonerations of any state, and Dallas the most within Texas.  This is of course a disturbing trend that may certainly be seen as yet another case of institutional racism that has a strong tradition (especially in the South, but of course not limited to the South) and seems to be rather obvious in these cases as according to the Innocence Project, almost 60% of those exonerated post-conviction via DNA are African American.

Bradley Manning’s conditions have been highlighted in the international press recently, with an emphasis on his mental health as a result of being in solitary confinement for a long period of time.  The interesting thing about the Manning case is that it is being portrayed in the media as a sort of political imprisonment by the United States, while the majority of cases that activists consider to be clear cases of political imprisonment tend to be portrayed as seen that way only by a small fringe.  Thus the case offers yet another example for the Left to call into question this system.

The most bizarre incident is the Georgia Prisoner’s strike.  I say bizarre because of the relative silence (or at least not much emphasis) by the “mainstream media” on what has been labeled the largest prisoner’s strike in the history of the United States.  For example, if you compare two New York Times articles that came out within a day of each other, you’ll find one long article about the new “problem” of smart phones in prisons (and it does detail the strike).  The NAACP recently claimed that there was violent retaliation against striking prisoners which was certainly anticipated by prisoner rights activists, yet this story got one paragraph in the NYT.

Taking these various stories together, and how they were covered by the media makes for an interesting trend that reveals a small bit of ideology that dominates our conversations here.  The cases of Cornelius Dupree, Jr. and Bradley Manning received more attention than the Georgia prisoner’s strike.  Why is this the case?  One part of the answer can certainly be traced to ideology: when an individual is treated poorly by the system, this is a miscarriage of justice that simply needs to be corrected.  When prisoners from across an entire state come together and challenge the system itself, this calls into question the system itself.  The strike also defied stereotypes of prisons divided along racial lines, when all prisoners of different races worked together to demand better conditions.  This ideological reasoning can at least help us understand why events like the Georgia strike are not emphasized by the media.

There are many problems about the American prison system.  The United States has the largest prison population on Earth (in terms of raw numbers and as a percentage of our population); the United States has increasingly allow private corporations to run prisons for profit, which includes free labor from their inmates (which some people rightfully equate to modern day slavery); Racism continues to play an important roll .  And the biggest problem of all: There is not a national debate about this, these issues are not constantly being discussed on CNN every night, we’re not having town hall meetings about it.

This is an important issues, especially in the US South where prison populations seem to be particularly large (For example, New Orleans having the biggest incarceration rate in the World).  It’s time we start reframing these issues and start organizing.

Further reading:

U.S. prison population dwarfs that of other nations

YouTube Clip – Angela Davis discusses Prison Industrial Complex

YouTube Clip – Prison Industrial Complex (clip from documentary)

 

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Filed under African Americans, class struggle, Georgia, Gulf States, Human Rights, inmates, Prison Industrial Complex, Prisoners, prisons, Race, Southern Identity, Southern Strategy, Southern United States, strike, Texas, United States, Wikileaks

Georgia prisoners strike for end to cruel and unusual punishment

[Originally posted to pslweb.org on Wednesday, December 15, 2010]

By: Eugene Puryear

 

Black, white, Latino: united for justice!

On Dec. 9, prisoners in Baldwin, Hancock, Hays, Macon, Smith and Telfair state prisons in Georgia went on strike. Prisoners are demanding to be paid for the work they do, to receive adequate healthcare and nutritious food and to have access to educational opportunities. They are calling for and end to “cruel and unusual” punishment.

In a move almost unprecedented inside prisons, convicts have reached across the often violent divide between nationalities. Based on contact with the striking prisoners a supporter and press spokesperson told Liberation: “Blacks, whites, Mexicans, Rastafarians, Muslims, Christians, you name it, they are united.”

Additionally, the prisoners have overcome oppressive communication restrictions, using various means including texting via contraband cell phones in order to continue to keep facilities connected.

According to a press release issued by strike supporters, prisoners refused to work, stopped all other activities and remained in their cells. What originally began as a one day protest has continued. As of Dec. 14 prisoners continue to fight for their rights, and have turned their strike into an open ended action. The spokesperson related a message from one prisoner: “We’re not going to break.”

Despite attempts by the Georgia Department of Corrections to create a media blockade, reports have leaked out describing retaliatory treatment in some of the prisons. In Telfair state prison it was reported that guards and prison officials beat inmates, destroyed their personal effects and turned off the heat in 30-degree weather.

In Macon State Prison, authorities are said to have cut off hot water for inmates. Inmates have told their contacts on the outside of threats to use dogs as well.

Despite the violence and repression at other prisons, inmates at Rogers State Prison have now also joined the strike.

Georgia state inmates are subject to inhumane treatment, with cruel punishments and sub-standard medical care. They are not able to pursue any meaningful educational opportunities, and if released are equipped only to become part of the low wage work force if they can get any job at all. Prison families also face additional hardship when they try to support their loved ones which charge exorbitant rates for their “services.” Prisoners in the Georgia prison system do not receive any pay for the work they do.

High rates of incarceration are a fact of life in Black communities around the country. De-industrialization and skyrocketing unemployment hit the Black working class harder than any other sector. Combined with the over 30-year assault on working-class living standards in general, poverty and destitution also skyrocketed.

As a result, millions of members of the “reserve army of the unemployed” have been thrown in prison on non-violent drug charges, and those incarcerated are treated like unredeemable monsters, forced to work for free or for a pittance, and denied educational opportunities almost universally.

Dealing with the root cause of this “prison population explosion,” would reveal that it is of the capitalists’ own making. Their anti-working class policies created the social context for crime, and their racist drug laws have created a demonized “criminal” population of millions of working class, Black and Latino youth to whom they have already denied any option for a decent standard of living.

The Georgia prisoners have issued a set of demands to improve the onerous and oppressive living conditions in which they are forced to exist, demands that speak to all thoses trapped in the so-called criminal justice system. According to the press release issued by supporters, Georgia prisoners are demanding:

“A LIVING WAGE FOR WORK: In violation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution prohibiting slavery and involuntary servitude, the DOC demands prisoners work for free.

“EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES: For the great majority of prisoners, the DOC denies all opportunities for education beyond the GED, despite the benefit to both prisoners and society.

“DECENT HEALTH CARE: In violation of the 8th Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments, the DOC denies adequate medical care to prisoners, charges excessive fees for the most minimal care and is responsible for extraordinary pain and suffering.

“AN END TO CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENTS: In further violation of the 8th Amendment, the DOC is responsible for cruel prisoner punishments for minor infractions of rules.

“DECENT LIVING CONDITIONS: Georgia prisoners are confined in over-crowded, substandard conditions, with little heat in winter and oppressive heat in summer.

“NUTRITIONAL MEALS: Vegetables and fruit are in short supply in DOC facilities while starches and fatty foods are plentiful.

“VOCATIONAL AND SELF-IMPROVEMENT OPPORTUNITIES: The DOC has stripped its facilities of all opportunities for skills training, self-improvement and proper exercise.

“ACCESS TO FAMILIES: The DOC has disconnected thousands of prisoners from their families by imposing excessive telephone charges and innumerable barriers to visitation.

“JUST PAROLE DECISIONS: The Parole Board capriciously and regularly denies parole to the majority of prisoners despite evidence of eligibility. Prisoner leaders issued the following call: ‘No more slavery. Injustice in one place is injustice to all. Inform your family to support our cause. Lock down for liberty!’”

All revolutionary and progressive people should support the Georgia prisoners’ demands for just treatment.

Victory to the Georgia prisoners’ strike!

Down with the racist, anti-worker prison system!

Please call the prison authorities and demand no reprisals or punishments for striking prisoners!

Macon State Prison is 978-472-3900.

Telfair State Prison is 229-868-7721

Valdosta State Prison is 229-333-7900

Hays State Prison is at (706) 857-0400

Baldwin State Prison is at (478) 445- 5218

Smith State Prison is at (912) 654-5000

 

 

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Filed under African Americans, class struggle, Georgia, Human Rights, inmates, National Oppression, Prison Industrial Complex, Prisoners, prisons, Race, Solidarity, Southern United States, strike, Uncategorized, United States