To draw attention to poor living conditions and exploitative labor practices in U.S. correctional facilities, incarcerated people staged a nationwide strike from August 21 to September 9 in response to explosive acts of violence in April at Lee Correctional Institution in South Carolina, which left seven dead and many more injured.On the prison strike, see Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, “National Prison Strike,” 2018; and Merrit Kennedy, “Inmates Plan to Hold Weeks-Long Strike at Prisons Across U.S.,” NPR, August 21, 2018. On the South Carolina prison riot, see Heather Anne Thompson, “How a South Carolina Prison Riot Really Went Down,” New York Times, April 28, 2018.
The dates mark, respectively, the 47th anniversary of the death of activist and Black Panther Party member George Jackson, who was shot by guards at San Quentin Prison, and the 47th anniversary of the Attica Correctional Facility uprising in New York, which left 43 people dead.Wallace Turner, “Two Desperate Hours: How George Jackson Died,” New York Times, September 3, 1971; and Clyde Haberman, “The Lessons of Attica, 25 Years Later,” New York Times, September 10, 1996. According to the strike’s organizers, incarcerated people across 16 states participated with sit-ins, work stoppages, or hunger strikes.Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, “September 11 Strike Update,” September 11, 2018. The strikers outlined 10 demands, including “immediate improvements to the conditions of prisons” and “an immediate end to prison slavery.”Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, “National Prison Strike,” 2018. They also called for an end to racial inequality in the criminal justice system and an increase in prison rehabilitation programs.Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, “National Prison Strike,” 2018. While the controlled environments of prisons—including restrictions on communication and free movement—likely limited participation in the strike, organizers pointed to extensive media coverage as a major win.Vara, “The Viral Success of a Strike No One Can See,” 2018.