Four years ago prisoners in California – led by those in the control units of Pelican Bay – organized a hunger strike to demand an end to the torturous conditions of solitary confinement. Two more strikes would follow, with over 30,000 prisoners taking united action in the summer of 2013 – both in isolation and in general population in nearly every California prison.
The strikes reflected significant shifts in political consciousness among prisoners and their loved ones. The violence of imprisonment was further exposed by demands and heightened organization from within the cages. Prisoner-led collective actions as well as growing public support dramatically have changed the political landscape.
As of 2013, there were 80,000 men and women in solitary confinement in the United States, some of them as young as 14 years old. In this illustrated op-ed video, artist Molly Crabapple explains the psychological and physical trauma suffered by those forced to spend 22-24 hours a day alone — sometimes for arbitrary reasons, like reading the wrong book, or having the wrong tattoo — in a grey, concrete box. (According to the U.N. 15 days in solitary is torture.) “There is no limit to how long someone can be held in solitary confinement,” says Crabappple. “And very little evidence is needed to justify holding a person in solitary indefinitely.”
Walter Rodney (1942 – 1980) was a Guyanese historian and political activist, who was assassinated in 1980. Rodney's influential book "How Europe Underdeveloped Africa" (1972) described an Africa that had been exploited by European imperialists, leading to the modern underdevelopment of the continent.
By Walter Rodney, November 1971
To most readers in this continent, starved of authentic information by the imperialist news agencies, the name of George Jackson is either unfamiliar or just a name. The powers that be in the United States put forward the official version that George Jackson was a dangerous criminal kept in maximum security in Americas toughest jails and still capable of killing a guard at Soledad Prison. They say that he himself was killed attempting escape this year in August. Official versions given by the United States of everything from the Bay of Pigs in Cuba to the Bay of Tonkin in Vietnam have the common characteristic of standing truth on its head. George Jackson was jailed ostensibly for stealing 70 dollars. He was given a sentence of one year to life because he was black, and he was kept incarcerated for years under the most dehumanizing conditions because he discovered that blackness need not be a badge of servility but rather could be a banner for uncompromising revolutionary struggle. He was murdered because he was doing too much to pass this attitude on to fellow prisoners. George Jackson was political prisoner and a black freedom fighter. He died at the hands of the enemy.
George Jackson--executed by San Quentin prison guards August 21, 1971
Once it is made known that George Jackson was a black revolutionary in the white mans jails, at least one point is established, since we are familiar with the fact that a significant proportion of African nationalist leaders graduated from colonialist prisons, and right now the jails of South Africa hold captive some of the best of our brothers in that part of the continent. Furthermore, there is some considerable awareness that ever since the days of slavery the U.S.A. is nothing but a vast prison as far as African descendants are concerned. Within this prison, black life is cheap, so it should be no surprise that George Jackson was murdered by the San Quentin prison authorities who are responsible to Americas chief prison warder, Richard Nixon. What remains is to go beyond the generalities and to understand the most significant elements attaching to George Jacksons life and death. Continue reading →