By Megan Cerullo
Incarcerated men and women launched a massive strike Tuesday to protest the mistreatment of prisoners nationwide.
Prisoners leading the demonstration, organized by members of Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, a prisoner rights advocacy group, said they were well-aware of potential retaliatory measures, but turned to protest as a last resort.
"Prisons in America are a warzone. Every day prisoners are harmed due to conditions of confinement. For some of us it's as if we are already dead. So what do we have to lose," read a statement from Jailhouse Lawyers Speak.
The peaceful protest is expected to last for nineteen days and could be the largest-ever prison labor strike in US history.
Organizers released a statement including a list of 10 national demands for prisoners.
They are insisting on improved prison conditions, an end to life without parole sentences, and more funding for rehabilitation services.
Notably, they are calling for an end to mandatory labor in return for paltry wages -- a practice organizers refer to as modern-day slavery. "All persons imprisoned in any place of detention under United States jurisdiction must be paid the prevailing wage in their state of territory for their labor," the demand reads.
Prisoners will not report to their assigned jobs for the duration of the strike -- which will likely lead to the further deterioration of conditions inside detention facilities.
Additionally, prisoners say they will go on hunger strikes.
Jailhouse Lawyers Speak said that prison officials cannot be relied on to provide accurate information on the strikes, and that "prisoners will have to sneak out updates."
Tuesday marks the anniversary of the death of incarcerated activist George Jackson, a member of the Black Panther Party who was a leading voice in the 1970s prison movement.
The strike -- first announced on April 24 -- will end on the anniversary of the Attica prison uprising in New York.
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