Lives on the line: Hunger strike in Georgia's Jackson State Prison

Thanks to Radical Eyes for suggesting this. This piece originally appeared on Black Agenda Report.

Starving For Change: Hunger Strike Underway In Georgia's Jackson State Prison, Day 15

by Bruce A. Dixon

 

Since June 10, according to accounts from prisoners and their families and Rev. Kenneth Glasgow of The Ordinary Peoples Society [6] and the Prodigal Child Project, an undetermined number of prisoners at Georgia's massive Diagnostic and Classification Prison near the city of Jackson have been on a hunger strike.

Back in December 2010, black, brown and white inmates in several Georgia prisons staged a peaceful protest [2] remaining in their dorms and cells rather than go to meals or work assignments. Their reasonable demands included wages for work, speedier and more transparent status reviews, decent food, real medical care, a more sane visitation policy and the availability of educational and vocational programs behind the walls. State corrections officials responded with temporary cutoffs of heat, water and electricity in some buildings, along with an orgy of savage assaults and beatings across multiple institutions statewide. In one instance, corrections officials apparently conspired to conceal the whereabouts and condition of one prisoner who lingered near death in a coma for most of a week while they shuffled him hundreds of miles between prisons and hospitals.

State corrections say they rounded up 37 whom they believed were the strike leaders and put them under close confinement at Jackson, the same prison where Troy Davis was executed last year. Most of these prisoners have remained there in close confinement, with severely restricted access to visits, communication and their attorneys, and without medical attention for the past 18 months.

Some of these men are the Jackson State prison hunger strikers. After two weeks, according to the families of Miguel Jackson and Preston Whiting, they are weak from hunger and subject to fainting spells. But they seem to believe they have little to lose. They are, a letter from one of them asserts, “starving for change.” There were originally ten of them, but some may have been transferred out, and some other prisoners joined the strike. We hope to have clearer information tomorrow.

They are demanding access to proper hygiene, medical treatment for their numerous and severe injuries, many of which were inflicted 18 months ago, the restoration of their visiting and communications rights, and access to their meager personal property. They and their attorneys insist that the Georgia Department of Corrections follow its own published procedures requiring a status review of every inmate in punitive isolation every 30 days. They further insist that such evaluations be public and transparent so as to preclude the possibility of prejudicial conduct on the party of prison officials.

One of the strikers is Miguel Jackson, who was taken in handcuffs from his cell at Smith State Prison 18 months ago, removed to a secluded area out of range of the video cameras that monitor almost every inch of most Georgia prisons, and beaten with a hammer-like object. Jackson is one of several brutalized prisoners whose injuries have been untreated since. Despite a blizzard of demands by his attorney, prison officials have refused Jackson and other prisoners medical attention for months [7]. And although they have not eaten in two weeks, Jackson's wife said, at the nine-day mark when medical necessity usually demands prisoners be removed to the infimary, prison officials simply told Jackson “You're going to die,” and left it at that.

“Most of civilized humanity regards extended solitary confinement as a crime,” said Rev. Kennieth Glasgow. “No less an establishment figure than Illinois Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) convened an extraordinary public hearing on the subject less than a week ago. We are calling on the governor to ensure proper medical treatment for the hunger strikers, to restore their visitation other rights and to end their punitive confinement without delay.

“We hope that people around the state and around the country will call the prison, the Department of Corrections and Georgia's governor to express their concern for the well-being of the prisoners on hunger strike, and we further hope that they will join us on Monday July 2 for a day-long fast in solidarity with the Georgia prisoners who are only insisting upon their dignity, their humanity, their legal and human rights.”

We at BAR and the Georgia Green Party hope that you will take the time today and tomorrow to do four things:

  1. Call, email and/or fax the numbers below. Politely convey your deep concern for the welfare of the prison hunger strikers at Georgia Diagnostic Prison, especially Mr. Jackson. We believe there are about ten of them, and will publish their names and ID numbers on Wednesday.
  2. Sign the petition to Georgia's governor demanding an end to the torture of solitary confinement and punitive isolation in its state prisons. [8]
  3. Forward this article and the link to it all your friends, family and co-workers and ask them to do the same. Send or carry a copy to your pastor and ask him to mention the fast on Sunday, and invite him to fast that day as well.
  4. Participate in the July 2 solidarity fast with Georgia's prisoners who are standing up for their human rights across lines of race and religion. The prisoners, like the rest of us, are black, brown and white and of varying religious beliefs.

Black Agenda Report will contain, in its regular Wednesday issue tomorrow an update on the strikers and their condition, and more information about the July 2 solidarity fast and other local activities in support of Georgia's prisoners on hunger strike.

 

Who to Call Voice phone Fax phone
Warden, GA Diagnostic & Classification Prison, Butts County GA 770-504-2000 770-504-2006
GA Department of Corrections Ombudsman 478-992-5367 or 478-992-5358 No fax, but you can email them at Ombudsman@dcor.state.ga.us [9]. Please add a cc to the email, info@georgiagreenparty.org.
Brian Owens, Commissioner, GA Department of Corrections, ask for his administrative assistant Peggy Chapman 478-992-5258  
Georgia governor Nathan Deal 404-656-1776 Fax the governor at 404-657-7332. You can also send the Governor a letter online by clicking here [10].

For its part, the Georgia Green Party sponsors an ongoing effort to work with the families of the incarcerated and others called the Campaign to End Mass Incarceration, and maintains a web page at http://www.endmassincarceration.org [11]. The Campaign to End Mass Incarceration has a list of 13 demands. [12] To find out what you can do, and who you can connect with to do it, especially in Georgia, visit and register at www.endmassincarceration.org [11], and they'll be in touch with you soon.

 

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and a state committee member of the Georgia Green Party. Contact him at bruce.dixon(at)georgiagreenparty.org.

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  • Guest (Ed Thompson)

    These prisoners are not going unheard. In Atlanta, there was a short noise-demo at a local city jail as well as a well-attended letter to prisoners meet up.

    Prisoner solidarity/ prison abolition work is still nascent in the scene in Atlanta. Doing effective work on this front is new and difficult, but strategically vital and something that, to my knowledge, communists are not currently engaged in. This needs to change.