A proposal passed yesterday by the General Assembly of Occupy Oakland is to generate a national day of action that will call attention to prisons across America. While presidential candidates take to their stumps, one might be unaware that America is the international leader of incarceration with no competition in sight. February 20th, amidst American Black History Month, has also been declared by the United Nations as “World Day of Social Justice.”
The call coincides with a recent call to action by supporters of Mumia Abu Jamal to condemn solitary confinement as a means of torture. Mumia has been transferred to solitary since leaving Death Row. Read more from the Human Rights Coalition, here. The call also comes amidst growing awareness of the relationship between Wall Street, prisons, prison labor, and paid lobbyists pushing policies that create more prisoners.
“We are calling for February 20th, 2012 to be a ‘National Occupy Day in Support of Prisoners.’
“In the Bay Area we will ‘Occupy San Quentin,’ to stand in solidarity with the people confined within its walls and to demand the end of the incarceration as a means of containing those dispossessed by unjust social policies.
Prisons have become a central institution in American society, integral to our politics, economy and our culture. Between 1976 and 2000, the United States built on average a new prison each week and the number of imprisoned Americans increased tenfold.
Prison has made the threat of torture part of everyday life for millions of individuals in the United States, especially the 7.3 million people—who are disproportionately people of color—currently incarcerated or under correctional supervision.
Imprisonment itself is a form of torture. The typical American prison, juvenile hall and detainment camp is designed to maximize degradation, brutalization, and dehumanization.
Mass incarceration is the new Jim Crow. Between 1970 and 1995, the incarceration of African Americans increased 7 times. Currently African Americans make up 12 % of the population in the U.S. but 53% of the nation’s prison population. There are more African Americans under correctional control today—in prison or jail, on probation or parole—than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began.
The prison system is the most visible example of policies of punitive containment of the most marginalized and oppressed in our society. Prior to incarceration, 2/3 of all prisoners lived in conditions of economic hardship. While the perpetrators of white-collar crime largely go free.
In addition, the Center for Economic and Policy Research estimated that in 2008 alone there was a loss in economic input associated with people released from prison equal to $57 billion to $65 billion.
We call on Occupies across the country to support:
1. Abolishing unjust sentences, such as the Death Penalty, Life Without the Possibility of Parole, Three Strikes, Juvenile Life Without Parole, and the practice of trying children as adults.
2. Standing in solidarity with movements initiated by prisoners and taking action to support prisoner demands, including the Georgia Prison Strike and the Pelican Bay/California Prisoners Hunger Strikes.
3. Freeing political prisoners, such as Mumia Abu-Jamal, Leonard Peltier, Lynne Stewart, Bradley Manning and Romaine “Chip” Fitzgerald, a Black Panther Party member incarcerated since 1969.
4. Demanding an end to the repression of activists, specifically the targeting of African Americans and those with histories of incarceration, such as Khali in Occupy Oakland who could now face a life sentence, on trumped-up charges, and many others being falsely charged after only exercising their First Amendment rights.
5. Demanding an end to the brutality of the current system, including the torture of those who have lived for many years in Secured Housing Units (SHUs) or in solitary confinement.
6. Demanding that our tax money spent on isolating, harming and killing prisoners, instead be invested in improving the quality of life for all and be spent on education, housing, health care, mental health care and other human services which contribute to the public good.
On February 20th, 2012 we will organize in front of San Quentin, where male death-row prisoners are housed, where Stanley Tookie Williams was immorally executed by the State of California in 2005, and where Kevin Cooper, an innocent man on death row, is currently imprisoned.
At this demonstration, through prisoners’ writings and other artistic and political expressions, we will express the voices of the people who have been inside the walls. The organizers of this action will reach out to the community for support and participation. We will contact social service organizations, faith institutions, labor organizations, schools, prisoners, former prisoners and their family members.
National and International Outreach
We will reach out to Occupies across the country to have similar demonstrations outside of prisons, jails, juvenile halls and detainment facilities or other actions as such groups deem appropriate. We will also reach out to Occupies outside of the United States and will seek to attract international attention and support.”
California Coalition for Women Prisoners
Campaign to End the Death Penalty
Kevin Cooper Defense Committee
Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia Abu Jamal
Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu Jamal
National Committee to Free the Cuban Five
Occupied Oakland Tribune
Oscar Grant Committee Against Police Brutality and State Repression
Prison Activist Resource Center
Prison Watch Network
San Francisco Bay View Newspaper
Stanley Tookie Williams Legacy Network
“Social justice is more than an ethical imperative, it is a foundation for national stability and global prosperity. Equal opportunity, solidarity and respect for human rights — these are essential to unlocking the full productive potential of nations and peoples..”
-Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon