The National Prison Strike of 2018 is among the most highlighted prison strikes in the USA. If you are interested in getting an in-depth review of this strike, you are at the right place. You will get a detailed outlook of the National Prison Strike of 2018 here.
Here, you will find a chronological arrangement of the events that led to the strike, its causes, demands, action plan, duration, and later its outcomes or the takeaways that you get from this demonstration. So, if you are enthusiastic about learning the depth of the 2018 U.S. Prison Strike, continue reading and explore every detail.
What Led to The Strike?
On August 21st, 2018, prisoners in several states in the USA called for a national prison strike that continued till September 9th, 2018. The prisoners wanted to draw the authorities’ attention towards the ill-treatment of the inmates and the poor prison condition in general.
The prisoners wanted social recognition as a contributor to society since they were treated unfairly and were being used as cheap or free labor, which propagated modern slavery. Such action clearly reflects how prisoners were devalued and treated badly; thus, they were outraged enough to call for a protest and get their voices heard.
The strike gained its major influence from the Lee Correctional Institution’s prison riot, which took place on April 15th, the same year where seven inmates were brutally killed, making it the deadliest U.S. prison riot in the past 25 years.
What Were the Demands of the Strike?
You would have had some idea about the demands of the strike upon knowing the major booster and the basic reasons why the strike was called. Nevertheless, details of the demands are shared here to give you a complete overview of the protest and the major issues that the inmates wanted to get discussed.
The foremost demand was pretty obvious and basic, i.e., the immediate improvement of the prison environment and prison policies in order to align them with human rights and avoid the inhumane treatment of the prisoners. In addition to this, the inmates also demanded an end to the corrupted idea of prison slavery and that they should be paid as per the prevailing wage of whichever state they were imprisoned in.
Since prisoners realized they needed a proper channel to report grievances and rights violations, they requested the cancellation of the Prison Litigation Reform Act and a better way of getting their issues addressed.
The prisoners also demanded a possibility of rehabilitation and parole as the death by imprisonment or any sentence given without parole was inhumane in their views. For this to become possible, they demanded the cancellation of the Sentencing Reform Act and the Truth in Sentencing Act.
Over sentencing, parole denials, and racial overcharging of black and brown prisoners were quite common in the southern states. There were also several gang enhancement laws that targeted black and brown prisoners only. It was also seen that the black prisoners were denied paroles when the victim was white. Therefore, the prisoners also raised voices for these issues by demanding an immediate end to all such practices.
The prisoners also demanded that none of them should be denied access to rehabilitation programs even if they were quite violent offenders and the state should especially fund the rehabilitation programs to create a better prison environment.
The prisoners also demanded that they should be granted Pell Grant the way they were granted before. Lastly, they demanded voting rights as they wanted to get their voice counted as well. In short, the prisoners wanted humane treatments and wanted their voices to get heard.
Which States Participated in the Strike?
The strike representatives anticipated that the demonstrations would be covered in at least seventeen states; however, when the strike got officially called on August 21st, the number of states that actually participated was comparatively lesser. But still, some national and local reports have claimed that this was the largest national prison strike in U.S. history.
Within the first four days of the protests, it was observed that the strike was officially demonstrated in four states that entailed Washington, California, South Carolina, and Ohio. There were specific detention centers and correctional institutions in these states where media recorded demonstrations.
It was the Northwest Detention Center in Washington, which was an immigration detention center; Folsom State Prison in California; and McCormick Correctional Institution and Toledo Correctional Institution in South Carolina and Ohio, respectively, where the demonstrations were specifically recorded.
This showed that the strikes had sort of a limited scope as the detainees mainly lied on the volunteers and family members of the inmates participating in the strike. It has always been seen that the political actions by detainees have had mixed outcomes. Since communication between prisons was very difficult, it was impossible to contact other prisons and arrange widespread protests.
How Long Did the Strike Last?
Although prisoners were demanding a strike for several weeks, the strike activities officially began on August 21st, where there were work stoppages across prisons, and some places even reported hunger strikes. These activities finally ended on September 9th, which made it a 20-day strike.
The start and end dates of the strike were selected on purpose and have a lot of historical significance if you evaluate the history of prison strikes and other similar events that have taken place in the past.
August 21st, 2018 basically marks the 47th death anniversary of George Jackson, a revolutionist who was shot during an attempt to prison escape in 1971, and September 9th, 1971, marks the Attica Prison Massacre, which is regarded as the deadliest prison riot of its time which had a lot of bloodsheds but was later successful in getting several demands heard upon negotiations.
What Was the Outcome of the Strike?
Although the protest was only demonstrated in four states, there was a little victory at the hand of the prisoners. This time, they were able to bring the serious issue of the inhumane treatment of the prisoners to the bigger picture and get their voices heard by a larger audience since there was a lot of media coverage.
Nevertheless, if you look at the downside, the inmates who participated and the strike organizers were reportedly punished with solitary confinement. Their communications were removed, and some even ad prison transfers as their families and other strike participants confirmed.
All in all, the strike was a means of getting widespread media attention, the organizers reported. Thus, most of the media, including Guardian, Vox, Al Jazeera, BBC World News, New York Magazine, and many others, covered the goals of the strike mainly. This showed how renowned and trusted media sources have shown their attention and covered this procession.
The strike organizers also reported that with this level of media coverage, they are now more confident to arrange more strikes in the future and would now be using Twitter and other writing mediums to build coalitions and organize a much more widespread procession to get their voices heard.
Thus, many advocates believe that this level of media coverage would be a turning point in the efforts to bring reforms to the criminal justice system. Further, this would highlight the ill conditions of the U.S. prisons currently to the masses to clear out their doubts about prisoners.