by Mr. Sundiata Jawanza, NLG member of Jailhouse Lawyers Speak
Contributing Authors: Jenipher Jones, Esq., Lydia Ghuman, Audrey Bomse, Esq., Iltaff Bala of the JLS International Law Project
In the spirit of abolition, let’s shut’em down!:
The Jailhouse Lawyers Speak (JLS) national membership are calling for national Shut’em Down demonstrations to take place on August 21st and September 9th, 2021, the official days of organizing. To show solidarity, people are asked to demonstrate at jails, prisons, and ICE detention centers. Institutions of higher learning, which profit from prison labor, are another location where supporters can gather. The demonstrations are based on the JLS National Organizing Platform, which lists ten demands. Simply put, we are calling for an end to the prison industrial slave complex, both rife with human rights abuses and a modern-day extension of Transatlantic Slavery. For we are not beasts.
For those who don’t know, Jailhouse Lawyers Speak is a collective of imprisoned persons organizing for human rights. JLS’s organizing national platform is the national prison strike’s ten demands that grew out of the national prisoners’ strike of 2018. Both selected Shut’em Down dates carry significant weight in the modern-day Prisoners’ Movement and Abolitionist circles. August 21, 2021 memorializes the historical assassination of George L. Jackson, 50 years ago. September 9, 2021 marks the Attica Rebellion, also 50 years ago. The dates also recall the more modern day historical national prisoners’ work strikes of 2016 and 2018. All the above has helped shape the Prisoners’ Movement as we know it today.
Five decades later, human rights violations in U.S. prisons still persist. The attention of the public has been called away from a great national moral hypocrisy. This time of major political upheaval has distracted the people from domestic social issues related to abolition. Because distraction and division are the main instruments of empire, we must refuse to be distracted. We refuse to be distracted because our goal remains our collective liberation: to dismantle the prison industrial slave complex. It is important to reaffirm our commitment to this principal objective. Reaffirming our commitment and focus is necessary in order to catalyze the Movement forward, to continue pressing for progressive changes in a quickly changing society that wishes to forget its prisons and police problems.
This is why it’s important not to allow this to be a year that we are only talking about the past struggles of people in prison, but a year to demonstrate, educate, network, and to strengthen current state and national decarceration and abolitionist agendas.