As a nationwide prison strike demanding an end to brutal conditions and slave labor continues into its second week, inmates and advocates are accusing prison officials of retaliating against participants in the non-violent action by revoking communication privileges and subjecting demonstrators to solitary confinement.
"Prisoners are facing repression right now as we speak and it is our duty on the outside to do whatever we can to shield them from that violence of the state."
—Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee
"The retaliation and repression was instantaneous and constant," Brooke Terpstra, a spokesperson for the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee—a coalition of groups that is helping to publicize the strike—told the Guardian. "Leaders were picked off, one by one, and thrown into solitary in anticipation of the strike that was coming."
In an op-ed for the Guardian last week, Kevin Rashid Johnson—a Virginia prison strike leader who is among those claiming retaliation by officials—noted that he "was moved to Sussex state prison in Waverly, Virginia, and placed in a cell in death row."
"I have never been sentenced to the death penalty, so there can be only one reason they have put me here—to shut me up and prevent me fraternizing with other prisoners as they fear I will radicalize them and encourage them to resist their oppression," Johnson wrote.
The strike—which is reportedly taking place in as many as 17 states, and is set to continue through Sept. 9—has consisted of hunger strikes, work stoppages, and sit-ins aimed at calling attention to the horrific treatment of inmates throughout the United States.
In a statement earlier this week, the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee reiterated the inmates' demands and noted that "thousands of prisoners are risking torturous repression to bring this agenda forward, and we do not take their sacrifice lightly and neither should you."
"Prisoners are facing repression right now as we speak and it is our duty on the outside to do whatever we can to shield them from that violence of the state," the committee added.
Immediate improvements to the conditions of prisons and prison policies that recognize the humanity of imprisoned men and women.
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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.
The Prison Litigation Reform Act must be rescinded, allowing imprisoned humans a proper channel to address grievances and violations of their rights.
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.
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.
An immediate end to racist gang enhancement laws targeting Black and brown humans.
No imprisoned human shall be denied access to rehabilitation programs at their place of detention because of their label as a violent offender.
State prisons must be funded specifically to offer more rehabilitation services.
Pell grants must be reinstated in all U.S. states and territories.
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!