There is currently a push for a national prisoner strike from August 21st – September 9th. This is in response to seven people who lost their lives in the uprising at Lee Correction Institution in South Carolina.
According to multiple sources (IWOC, Monkey Wrench Books, The Kite), this event was sparked because of the overcrowding of the prison and the system’s complete disregard for human life or dignity.
Historically speaking, there has been very little prisoner unity in Washington state with the exception of WCCW. However, recently the boys showed that they can strike together. A hunger strike in Walla Walla successfully convinced the Washington DOC to bring back hot breakfasts and reduce the amount of starch and soy in the mainline diet.
Which gives me hope.
Not just because they stood together to strike, but because they purposely and intentionally used non-violent means to bring about their goals.
Which brings me back to the national prison strike. The articles I have read on it emphasize that peaceful protest and civil disobedience are the only way to win against the prison industrial complex. This, in my experience, is true. The cops have literal military hardware they are itching to play with, while many c/o’s work for the DOC because all they need is a GED and a driver’s license to be hired (not even kidding, they don’t even have to pass a background check). Others, especially those that enjoy working R&M and IMV, are here because they enjoy the physical violence of it. Now let me be clear, I’m talking about roughly 2/3 of the c/o’s in those posts, and not all of them.
So if people in prison rise up in violent insurrection, we will only accomplish getting beaten down by a highly violent military boot to the head. But a non-violent protest? What exactly can the WA DOC do about that? If all we are doing is sitting in our cells quietly reading a book and refusing to go to work or meals? What exactly can they do about that? Not much, especially if the news media, various sponsors/volunteers, and our families are aware of what is happening and holding the DOC accountable.
The problem is one of risk and sacrifice. There is an attitude of not wanting to miss yard or get in trouble unless it is for fighting or tattooing. Getting a job here is so difficult that those with a job are scared to lose it.
How to overcome this issue: build relationships between people in Washington prisons and increase our social and political awareness.
Most people in Washington prisons see being unemployed in a Washington prison as a personal problem, not a social issue. The same goes for poverty, Buck Rogers sentences, poor health, loneliness/depravity, lack of voting rights, lack of education, etc, which is exactly how the WA DOC likes it.
And this, ladies, gents, and andrones, is where the rubber meets the road. Due to the WA DOC censoring the communication in and out of the prisons, not allowing counterculture materials in the prison like Slingshot magazine or Viceland channel, by not allowing us to correspond with other prisoners, not even ones in foreign countries, by not allowing books or music of a particular political bent, they are doing their best to keep people in Washington prisons feeling alone, isolated, voiceless, and docile.
Editor’s note 7/25/18: ICE detainees at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma are participating in a hunger strike and work stoppage as part of the national prison strike. Follow NWDC Resistance/Resistencia al NWDC for updates.