Prison Strike and Solitary Confinement

At every full collective gathering we acknowledge that we live in a society founded on stolen land and stolen lives. Someone researches and presents a relevant topic and then we take a moment of silence to reflect. We share the research here for others as well.

With the nationwide prison strike swiftly approaching on August 21st, thoughts turn to our incarcerated comrades and the conditions of torment they endure in institutions across the world.

During a work stoppage or slowdown, prisoners face increased risk of persecution by prison officials. Participation in these important protests is considered a high-severity level prohibited act. The federal punishment for these acts is solitary confinement, also called restrictive housing. For participation in a strike, prisoners can be sentenced to up to a year of solitary for each offense. These punishments can be exacerbated by attaching gang status to prisoners participating in organized acts with multiple individuals.

Initially seen as an opportunity to reflect on one’s deeds and deepen a prisoner’s relationship with god, this inhumane and barbarous practice has been increasingly under scrutiny due to evidence of the incredibly harmful psychological impacts on inmates, and it’s seeming lack of long-term efficacy.

This torturous treatment is by no means a punishment reserved for striking prisoners. In the united states, the country that leads the world in numbers of imprisoned individuals, there are as many as 80,000 people in solitary confinement, according to the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker humanitarian organization. This includes children. There is some irony in these statistics being tracked by the AFSC, since it’s believed that Quakers were strong supporters of solitary confinement during it’s early usage in american penitentiaries.

The american psychiatrist Stuart Grassian, in the paper entitled Psychopathological Effects of Solitary Confinement, was able to identify many psychiatric symptoms that were common among inmates subject to this form of isolation torture. The list of symptoms includes perceptual changes (including hallucinations, perceptual distortions, difficulty with thinking, memory and concentration)  disturbances of thought content (such as paranoia, or the emergence of aggressive fantasies) problems with impulse control, and self mutilation. These symptoms also were found to quickly subside on termination of the prisoner’s isolation.

This form of torturing prisoners is only one of many techniques used to abuse and degrade people deemed to be a risk to the overall function of the prison machine.

The american prison system exists to strike fear into the population, to manipulate and control individuals, but also largely to make profit through the use of slave labor.

Striking prisoners are taking a huge risk, attacking the very heart of the prison industrial complex. As the strike continues to draw nearer, there is an increased need for actions of solidarity, and to support prisoners directly. No compromise in the abolition of slavery, no compromise in the abolition of prisons.

Some useful links:

a brief list of companies that use prison labor:

a link to the article Psychopathological Effects of Solitary Confinement:

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