“He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners . . . to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” –Jesus, Luke 4:18-19
Jesus proclaimed in his mission statement, taken from the prophet Isaiah, that he came to this world to set the oppressed free. This is not simply a spiritual or emotional reality, but it is meant to be a material reality.
In Acts 12, Peter was imprisoned during a wave of persecution from King Herod. The church earnestly prayed for him, and the night before his trial his chains miraculously fell off and an angel guided him out of the prison.
God is a prison abolitionist.
As Christians, we are called to be as well.
That means supporting prisoners and fighting for their freedom. That means fighting for reforms, providing needed support and material aid that can alleviate their suffering, and actively building toward a world without prisons. It means fighting for a world where justice isn’t molded by white supremacy, the cishetero-patriarchy, and capitalism.
As Jesus illustrates in the parable of the sheep and the goats, those who provide material support and become accomplices of the oppressed, including those in prison, will hear at Christ’s return: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” (Matt. 25:34-36)
Prisoners throughout the so-called United States are calling for a prison strike, beginning on #August21 and ending on September 9th. This was sparked by the recent loss of life at the hands of the state at Lee Correctional Institution in South Carolina. South Carolina’s prison system receives very little state funding, making their prisons even more dangerous. According to Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, what led to the deaths of the seven revolutionaries who died in April was the overcrowded condition of the prisons due to the “greed wrought by mass incarceration, and a lack of respect for human life that is embedded in our nation’s penal ideology.”
These revolutionaries and organizers behind prison bars have a list of demands. The Friendly Fire Collective is endorsing this prison strike, confident that the total abolition of our current prison system is necessary, but that there are reforms that prisoners could usher in that will alleviate their suffering and expand their experience of freedom.
To quote the Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement (RAM), fellow endorsers of the prison strike: “The risks people inside are taking to regain their humanity and dignity stand as a model for all abolitionists and revolutionaries. Our actions outside must amplify their voices and match their commitment.”
Abolish the police!
Abolish all prisons!
Another world is possible!
Below is the press release from Jailhouse Lawyers Speak:
Men and women incarcerated in prisons across the nation declare a nationwide strike in response to the riot in Lee Correctional Institution, a maximum security prison in South Carolina. Seven comrades lost their lives during a senseless uprising that could have been avoided had the prison not been overcrowded from the greed that undergirds mass incarceration as a money-making enterprise, and a generalized lack of respect for human life that is embedded in our nation’s penal ideology. These men and women are demanding humane living conditions, access to rehabilitation, sentencing reform and the end of modern day slavery.
THESE ARE THE NATIONAL DEMANDS OF THE MEN AND WOMEN IN FEDERAL, IMMIGRATION, AND STATE PRISONS:
Immediate improvements to the conditions of prisons and prison policies that recognize the humanity of imprisoned men and women.
An immediate end to prison slavery. All persons imprisoned in any place of detention under United States jurisdiction must be paid the prevailing wage in their state or territory for their labor.
The Prison Litigation Reform Act must be rescinded, allowing imprisoned humans a proper channel to address grievances and violations of their rights.
The Truth in Sentencing Act and the Sentencing Reform Act must be rescinded so that imprisoned humans have a possibility of rehabilitation and parole. No human shall be sentenced to Death by Incarceration or serve any sentence without the possibility of parole.
An immediate end to the racial overcharging, over-sentencing, and parole denials of black and brown humans. Black humans shall no longer be denied parole because the victim of the crime was white, which is a particular problem in southern states.
An immediate end to racist gang enhancement laws targeting black and brown humans.
No imprisoned human shall be denied access to rehabilitation programs at their place of detention because of their label as a violent offender.
State prisons must be funded specifically to offer more rehabilitation services.
Pell grants must be reinstated in all US states and territories.
The voting rights of all confined citizens serving prison sentences, pretrial detainees, and so-called “ex-felons” must be counted. Representation is demanded. All voices count.
WE ALL AGREE TO SPREAD THIS STRIKE THROUGHOUT THE PRISONS OF AMERI$$$A! FROM AUGUST 21ST TO SEPTEMBER 9TH, 2018, MEN AND WOMEN IN PRISONS ACROSS THE NATION WILL STRIKE IN THE FOLLOWING MANNER:
WORK STRIKES: Prisoners will not report to assigned jobs. Each place of detention will determine how long its strike will last. Some of these strikes may translate
into a local list of demands designed to improve conditions and reduce harm within the prison.
SIT-INS: In certain prisons, men and women will engage in peaceful sit-in protests.
BOYCOTTS: All spending should be halted. We ask those outside the walls not to make financial judgments for those inside. Men and women on the inside will inform you if they are participating in this boycott.
HUNGER STRIKES: Men and women shall refuse to eat.
We support the call of Free Alabama Movement Campaign to “Redistribute the Pain” 2018 as Bennu Hannibal Ra – Sun, formerly known as Melvin Ray has laid out (with the exception of refusing visitation). See these principles described here: https://redistributethepain.wordpress.com/
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Make the nation take a look at our demands. Demand action on our demands by contacting your local, state, and federal political representatives with these demands. Ask them where they stand.
Spread the strike and word of the strike in every place of detention.
Contact a supporting local organization to see how you can be supportive. If you are unsure of where to start, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Be prepared by making contact with people in prison, family members of prisoners, and prisoner support organizations in your state to assist in notifying the public and media on strike conditions.
Assist in our announced initiatives to have the votes of people in jail and prison counted in elections.
For the Media: Inquiries should be directed to email@example.com
A number of resources have been created by groups such as Michigan Abolition and Prison Solidarity and Oakland IWOC to assist in spreading the word about the strike, and Oakland IWOC have also drawn up the following list of ways to support the strike:
WAYS TO SUPPORT:
1) Calling during a phone blast that is announced through news media or through the IWOC list. To subscribe, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Receiving hundreds of phone calls places pressure on prison administrators. As phone actions are announced, make calls and mobilize friends or family to do so as well.
2) Sharing updates with your communities
Access and share the national demands of the prison strike here: http://sawarimi.org/national-prison-strike and view a participating state map. This page can also be used to pledge your endorsement of the strike.
If you don’t follow social media, you can write to:
email@example.com – Media Requests for Strikers
firstname.lastname@example.org – Media Requests for IWOC
3) Direct outreach
While you may access information regarding the strike digitally, sharing and communicating directly with others is essential. Gather support for the strike with individuals in your workplace and groups to increase awareness and mobilize support! Consider seeking an endorsement and commitment to support from your organization. Ask others to join a phone support network. And, importantly, familiarize yourself with the demands of the strike so that you can inform others and convey its urgency.
Finally, the strike call first appeared in the San Francisco Bay View, and readers who find this information useful may wish to donate to help cover the Bay View’s printing costs so that the print edition can continue getting into prisons around the country.