Atlanta Journal-Constitution Interview with Georgia Prison Strikers
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has published this article based on phone interviews with Georgia prisoners. Here are some highlights:
According to the prisoners and their advocates, inmates are refusing to report to their work assignments that usually involve cleaning or maintaining the prison or nearby government buildings.
Department of Corrections officials dispute the inmates’ version. They say, as a precaution, wardens at four of its 30 prisons — Hays State Prison in Trion; Macon State Prison in Oglethorpe; Telfair State Prison in Helena and Smith State Prison, about an hour’s drive west of Savannah — decided to lock down their institutions before the protest started, and the situation had not changed.
“That’s wrong. We’ve locked ourselves down,” said Mike.
Cell phones — Mike said he bought his from a guard — were key in organizing the protest and for sharing information once it began, especially with text messaging. …
“The tactic squad spent the nite at the prison last nite, n they stayn tnite, too. Pass the word and stay on ur toes,” was a text message sent Tuesday.
One sent Monday read, “Glad yall str8. Stay down. Evry1 needs 2 file grievances. We not getting 2500 calories wit these sandwiches, we sposed 2 get 2 hot meals, and da laundry. Da resolution iz lawsuit! Evry1 do it!”
UPDATE: The AJC is now reporting that the strike (and/or lockdown), which lasted almost a week, has ended:
Prison officials did not say what led to the decision to end the lock downs that had been in place since last Thursday. But an inmate at Smith State Prison in Glenville said in a telephone interview prisoners had agreed to end their “non-violent” protest to allow administrators time to focus on their concerns rather than operating the institutions without inmate labor.
“We’ve ended the protest,” said Mike, a convicted armed robber who was one of the inmates who planned and coordinated the work stoppage. “We needed to come off lock down so we can go to the law library and start … the paperwork for a [prison conditions] lawsuit.” …
Inmates began planning the protest in early September when tobacco was banned throughout the prison system. The inmates said they picked Dec. 9 as the day to start because it allowed time for the word to spread throughout the system and because the temperature in the cellblocks would be cooler by then, which is important when otherwise violent men are trying to keep their tempers in check.