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Last Thursday morning, thousands of Georgia prisoners went on strike, refusing to work, and locking down their cells in a peaceful protest for human rights.

The December 9 Strike has now become the biggest prisoner protest in the history of the United States. Male prisoners from Augusta, Hays, Macon, Smith, Baldwin, Hancock, and Telfair State Prisons went on strike in order to push the Georgia Department of Corrections (“DOC”) to institute programs that address their human rights, and to be paid fairly for their work. The inmates organized the non-violent strike through the use of contraband cell phones over a series of months.

The group had the following demands:

  • A LIVING WAGE FOR WORK
  • EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES
  • DECENT HEALTH CARE
  • AN END TO CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENTS
  • DECENT LIVING CONDITIONS
  • NUTRITIONAL MEALS
  • VOCATIONAL AND SELF-IMPROVEMENT OPPORTUNITIES
  • ACCESS TO FAMILIES
  • JUST PAROLE DECISIONS

The prisoners’ strike was not racially exclusive. “Anybody that has some sort of dictatorship or leadership amongst the crowds,” Mike, one of several prisoners, told The New York Times, “We have to come together and set aside all differences, whites, blacks, those of us that are affiliated in gangs.”

The prisoners’ protest was non-violent, however the DOC attempted to violently force the men back to work, claiming it was “lawful” to order prisoners to work without pay. The CERT Team guards at the Augusta State Prison took six or seven inmates from their cells and beat them.

According to NewsOne, one of the male prisoners leading a group in the prisons released the following statement:

“ . . . Brothers, we have accomplished a major step in our struggle. . . . We must continue what we have started. . . . The only way to achieve our goals is to continue with our peaceful sit-down. . . . I ask each and every one of my Brothers in this struggle to continue the fight.  ON MONDAY MORNING, WHEN THE DOORS OPEN, CLOSE THEM.  DO NOT GO TO WORK.  They cannot do anything to us that they haven’t already done at one time or another.  Brothers, DON’T GIVE UP NOW.  Make them come to the table.  Be strong.  DO NOT MAKE MONEY FOR THE STATE THAT THEY IN TURN USE TO KEEP US AS SLAVES. . . . ”

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  • TheNextOne

    I agree that if someone does the crime, they should do the time. However, we must remember what the penal system was set up for in the first place. It was set up to rehabilitate prisoners so that they may become productive citizens once they finish their time. The penal system today is no longer doing that. Why should we deny the right (a human right) for these prisoners to better themselves? The system is treating these prisoners like animals. I think that it takes so much guts and tenacity for prisoners to do this. It goes to show that prisoners are more than their crime. They’re people too. Angela Davis would be proud!

  • minna k.

    Thank you Clutch for posting this inspiring story. This is real news!!

    I am very proud of these men, peacefully standing up to this unjust system. We can all learn a lot from these people.

    @ Aj, people who have not done prison time should be demonstrating, and boycotting for free educational opportunities as well. “educational opportunities ” doesn’t have to equal free college if this is what you are thinking, although i think it should. Its a bit unfair to shun anyone for demanding what is right and good for society, just because higher education its not a universal right, and instead we have the school industrial complex where many of us fork over hundreds of thousands of dollars over our lifetime. We on the outside have yet to stop passively complying with the status quo. Perhaps these peaceful prisoners will be the shining example for us.

    How can we support from the outside?

  • Clnmike

    Everything on that list is reasonable, eventually a lot of these men will be released from prison and they should at the very least be given the tools to function normally in society. Its absurd to think that punishing someone and then throwing them back into the community that created them will all of a sudden change their behaviour, they will instead come out worst than how they went in.

  • aj

    @ minna k.

    get back to me once one of your family members, fiance or the father of your child is killed by a person who got out of prison, had opportunities while he was there and did nothing with them.

    i just feel like SOME of these demands should be earned and given once COMPLETING prison not given freely to any killer who manages to to stay on good behavior long enough without killing anyone else.

    yes, there are some prisoners who were wrongly accused or even framed. and that’s unfortunate. i’m not talking about them. i talking about the moral majority who belong there.