by Herb Geraghty
Anyone who follows the news could conclude that the United States justice system is anything but just. Particularly, instances of police brutality seem to constantly flash across our news screens and social media feeds partially thanks to the tireless work of activists to bring this issue to light. Just this summer, 17-year-old Antwon Rose was killed in broad daylight, shot three times in the back by a police officer in Rehumanize International’s own home city of Pittsburgh.
These injustices coming to the attention of average citizens is a vitally important step toward ending these abuses of state power. However, there are many more injustices taking place inside this country every day that are far less visible; that is why this week the Rehumanize blog will be focusing on human beings that are among some of the least visible and most marginalized -- the incarcerated.
The American carceral system is far from human-centered; and, like many of the modern injustices that exist in this country, the oppression faced by those impacted by our prison industry is often compounded by the evils of racism, colorism, classism, transphobia, and poverty. Right now, millions of human beings are locked in cages in this country, facing inhumane and dehumanizing conditions in the name of “justice.”
Instead of working to rehabilitate offenders and restore their communities -- state actors often see retribution and punishment as the ends that incarceration achieves. In many cases, men and women who pose no threat to their communities continue to be kept behind prison walls where they are subject to subpar medical care, exploitative working conditions, physical and sexual violence, as well as psychological torture in the form of solitary confinement.
As a result of these conditions and in response to a recent riot at the Lee Correctional Institution wherein seven incarcerated people died, a national strike has been called.
A press release from Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, a group of incarcerated prisoner rights advocates, stated:
“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 so overcrowded from the greed wrought by mass incarceration, and a 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.”
They included a list of 10 demands that they are asking supporters to share with their representatives.
“The demands are as follows:
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.”
In solidarity with those striking and all incarcerated people, for the duration of the strike the Rehumanize blog will be addressing various human rights abuses in American prisons -- primarily centering reproductive and sexual violence behind bars.
We will focus on education about the injustice incarcerated humans face; however, we must not stop there. Let us actively work toward a world where all human beings, regardless of presumed guilt or innocence, will be treated with the respect and dignity that they deserve.