Michigan’s Kinross Prison Strike: Reflections from Inside is an exclusive archive of audio interviews with people currently incarcerated in Michigan who witnessed and lived through the historic September 2016 prison strike. It is a collaboration between our comrades inside, MAPS, and Rustbelt Abolition Radio.
The September 9th strike sparked by workers incarcerated at Kinross was part of a series of nationwide actions organized by both folks within and outside prison walls, including with groups such as the Free Alabama Movement, the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) of the Industrial Workers of the World, various Anarchist Black Cross chapters, Critical Resistance, and the National Lawyers Guild, amongst others. According to estimates from IWOC in their zine The Fire Inside, as many as 46 facilities nationwide were locked down as a result of the strikes.
As we describe elsewhere, and as we hear in the following reflections from comrades inside, the spark that lit the match of the actions at Kinross were the wholly unlivable conditions. There had already been a series of peaceful collective actions earlier in the year, but prison officials refused to hear, much less address, pressing grievances. Their only response was to retaliate and, true to form, the retaliation for the events of September 2016 at Kinross has been violent, arbitrary, corrupt, and prolonged on the largest scale in recent memory.
A year after the Kinross strike and uprising, we invite you to listen to the reflections of those inside who, like correspondents in war, give us dispatches from the frontlines at substantial personal risk. As you will hear in these interviews not even the smallest changes have been made to the unlivable conditions at Kinross. What’s worse is that according to those imprisoned by the state, the overcrowding, racism, real wages, prices of necessities, health care, and food all continue to worsen. This reminds us that fascism is already here; it lives on in our prisons, and to resist also means to build a world without them.
Listen to the reflections from those that lived through the September 2016 Kinross prison strike here.
LIVE AMMUNITION ON THE GROUNDS
Fred Williams is a poet, emancipatory educator and abolitionist correspondent imprisoned at Michigan’s Kinross Correctional Facility. His dispatch covers the poor systemic conditions that those inside face at the hands of the Michigan Department of Corrections, and particularly in the newly re-opened and renamed Kinross prison. Last September, increasing frustration led to a work stoppage and then a spontaneous march, when the facility declined to provide full meals in the face of the stoppage. Fred describes how the administrative staff told strikers that “some of your demands can only be granted by suits in Lansing,” before housing unit officers fled their posts for the control center and the emergency response team entered the grounds with live ammunition.
IMPACT OF OUTSIDE SUPPORT
Abolitionist intellectual Harold Gonzales is currently imprisoned at Baraga Maximum Security Correctional Facility. Like several hundred others, he was hit with an “incite to riot or strike” ticket in the aftermath of events of September 2016 at Kinross Correctional Facility. We spoke with Harold after he spent nearly eight months in solitary confinement (which the Michigan Department of Corrections euphemistically calls “administrative segregation”). As you will hear, Harold was released from the hole thanks to a call-in campaign by outside supporters.
SEGREGATION IS THE SOUL BREAKER
Ahjamu Baruti is a political prisoner currently incarcerated at St. Louis Correctional Facility. He values study, analysis, and writing. His article “Psychological warfare in prison: Segregation is the soul breaker” was published in The San Francisco Bay View while he spent nine months in solitary confinement–including two months in an observation cell–in the wake of the events at Kinross Correctional Facility in September 2016. He was transferred out of Kinross after being hit with an “incite to riot or strike” ticket.
LACKING NUTRITIOUS FOOD BEHIND BARS
Jake Klemp is a vegan who went on hunger strike to bring public attention to the lack of nutritious food behind bars, particularly for those with spiritual and cultural practices outside the prerogatives of privatized food service providers. His dispatch comes from inside the Baraga Maximum Correctional Facility, where he spent nearly eight months in solitary confinement. Along with several hundred others, he was swept up in the aftermath of the events at Kinross Correctional Facility in September 2016 and hit with an “incite to riot or strike” ticket. In this segment, he describes some of the retaliation he and others faced, such as denial of his required medication.
INTERVIEW INTERRUPTED BY A GUARD
Baba X-Guy was formerly a leader of the Battle Creek Coalition Against Police Brutality, a liberatory community self-defense formation. A jail rebellion took place after he received conspicuous threats from the KKK in the 1980s, which marred his record within the Michigan Department of Corrections and contributed to harsher retaliation against him after last year’s uprising. Baba is currently imprisoned in St. Louis Correctional Facility, where he was transferred after being hit with an “incite to riot or strike” ticket in the wake of the events of September 2016 at Kinross. We spoke with Baba shortly after he was released from the harsh restriction of administrative segregation — that is, solitary confinement–for nearly one year. Our first interview with him was abruptly cut short by a prison guard, without explanation.