Wanting to know more about how prisoners are seeing the success of the historic National Prison Strike going from their perspective on the inside, we talked with those involved in the Jailhouse Lawyers Speak network. Two weeks into the strike, they offer up the following analysis of their current trajectory, outside support, inside organizing across racial lines, and the struggles that lie ahead.
IGD: The prison strike is huge news across the US. What do people need to know about the prison strike and why it is happening?
The strike is going well. Better then we expected. Whether prisoners are participating or not, this strike is a reminder to every prisoner the circumstances we are caught up in as prisoners. For those that are striking, like myself, it let’s the world know we are ready to stand up for change, in this case we have spelled those changes out in the National 10 demands.
“The spreading of the strike tells us that the prison led movement in the US has international credibility and like the US prisoners, [other prisoners are] ready to burn this shit down.”
IGD: We’ve seen everything from banners placed up on freeways in support too noise demonstrations outside of prisons to protests at DOC offices. What do prisoners think of the massive support on the outside?
The support outside these US concentration camps have been phenomenal. We could not have gotten the word around about the ongoing strikes and demands if not for the courageous actions put on by those folks. Not only does it shake prisoners with excitement back here, but it also make the citizens who would normally ignore prison issues out there take a pause to find out what’s going on.
IGD: Before the 21st even kicked off, the strike had spread into a Canadian facility, and then on the 21st, into a detention facility in Tacoma, Washington. What do you think about the spread of the strike?
The spreading of the strike, especially at the speed it had spread outside the US territory tells us that the prison led movement in the US has international credibility and appeal. It’s an acknowledgement of the universal suffering of prisoners around the world. And like the US prisoners, they’re ready to burn this shit down.
IGD: When many people think about life in prison, the first thing they think is racial and gang politics. In organizing and carrying out the strike, how were prisoners able to work past these divisions and make common cause around shared conditions? Now that the strike has started, are people more united?
“This strike was a direct challenge not only to prisoncrats, but prisoners who seemed to thrive in the prison racial or sex politics of division.”
The strike was called because of so-called gang problems. Let’s remember the strike is due to 7 prisoners being killed, with over 40 wounded in a so-called gang beef. This strike was a direct challenge not only to prisoncrats, but prisoners who seemed to thrive in the prison racial or sex politics of division.
This strike is our way of telling them it’s time to refocus on the real causes of the prison class anger, frustrations, and depression. That real cause is not the prisoners themselves, but the prisoncrats and lawmakers that are shaping the social conditions of prisoners. Since the strike, Jailhouse Lawyers Speak members in different states have noted an unreal decrease escalation of so called gang violence. I think this in itself is remarkable.
It means whether they are participating in the National Prison Strike or not, prisoners know the spot light is on them. They are conscious of collective prison violence. Where violence has been noted, it has not resulted in multiple fighters brawling out with weapons. At some point I hope this is studied and conclusions are reached publicly. Such research may assist in fighting against violence on violence of the oppressed. One of the strongest repression tools is to keep those of the same class at war with each other. Behind scenes, we are working overtime in conference calls with key street organization figures to build something against the prisons. It’s all preliminary.
IGD: How has the prison system responded to the strike? In what ways is the prison system repressing it and attacking those they view as organizers or leaders?
“The prison industrial slave complex is no friend or protector for any of us. This is includes the prison class and those outside known as the working class.”
As suspected the prison systems in the US are not taking this so well. Prisons are being turned upside down by the goons. Leading prisoners suspected of promoting strikes or any forms of resistance are being locked down, having mail slowed or rejected, property taken, and we have noted a few assaults on prisoners by pigs. After the strike and the information starts to come in there will be a number of personal horror stories shared.
IGD: Crime in the US is down, yet more than 1 in every 100 Americans is imprisoned in some form or another. Both corporate parties have pushed fear of everything from Black “super predators” to “rapist immigrants.” Ironically, it’s these law and order policies that have also created the conditions which have actively taken away jobs from the outside, and moved them into prisons. What do everyday Americans need to know about how prison slavery and prison ‘insourcing’ affects them?
Right, right, right. The prison industrial slave complex is no friend or protector for any of us. This is includes the prison and those outside known as the working class. It has no respect for the people. It’s a greedy corporate parasite that has only one goal ultimately, profits. Jobs are in prisons that belong on the outside for a person to feed their families. Instead the jobs are inside the prisons using prisoners as slaves. Citizens outside should be outraged at this. Nowhere should slavery be allowed in order to create shortcuts for corporations to avoid paying living wages to citizens outside the wires.
IGD: The strike is now two weeks old, what should we expect next?
There will be a follow-up on these demands. There may even be another date announced for a continued strike next year directly tied to these demands. We want to make sure that we are being heard. So what can people expect, expect us not to let this go. Far too many prisoners have already died and will continue to die if we let it go. In the meantime, we ask everyone else to help us make those creating these prison conditions accountable in relation to the national 10 demands.
IGD: Anything else you’d like to add?
Yes, we thank the world for your out pouring support. You have stumped the grounds, yelled, beat, and kicked the walls for us. We thank you. Know this, this resistance is not going anywhere.
We are only building more and more. Our movement inside is becoming more organized, our network developing into sophisticated channels. Weakness are being isolated. Expect more of us in the coming years as we work harder to dismantling the prison industrial slave complex. All Power To The People!