Prison Strikes Spread Nationwide, say Reports

The planned 19-day strike, the first such nationwide action in the U.S. in two years, appears to be gathering traction, according to unconfirmed reports. Organizers hope to bring to public attention the spate of deaths in custody as well as what they say are inhumane living conditions.

A prison strike has begun to take hold, with reports of sporadic protest action from California and Washington state to the eastern seaboard as far south as Florida and up to Nova Scotia in Canada, The Guardian reports.

Details remain sketchy, but  prison reform advocacy groups said Wednesday that protests had been confirmed in three states, with further unconfirmed reports emerging from Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. The confirmed cases related to a hunger strike in California’s Folsom prison. Inmate Heriberto Garcia issued a smartphone recording of himself refusing food. The video was then posted on Twitter.

The second confirmed action was in the Northwest detention center in Tacoma, Wa., where as many as 200 detained immigrants joined the nationwide protest. In a written statement Inmates in 17 states plan protest over ‘modern slavery’ prison conditions.

Inmates in Alabama are not participating in the strike, according to officials and activists; though the state is home to some of the most dangerous working conditions for prisoners in the nation, and a recent spike in suicides behind bars, according to reports from the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The planned 19-day strike is the first such nationwide action in the U.S. in two years. It was triggered by April’s rioting in South Carolina’s Lee prison, when seven inmates were killed and over 17 more wounded. The start of the strike on Monday was symbolically timed to mark the 47th anniversary of the death of the Black Panther leader George Jackson in California’s San Quentin prison. Organizers hope to bring to public attention the spate of deaths in custody, which in some states has reached epidemic proportions.

In Mississippi, 10 inmates have died in their cells in the past three weeks alone, with no firm indication of their causes of death. In Florida, there were unconfirmed reports that 11 of the state’s 143 prisons have been hit by organized protests. A state corrections spokesman said, “We’ve had no stoppages, protests or lockdowns related to the strike.”