August 21, 2018 – September 9, 2018
According to the prisoner group Jailhouse Lawyers Speak (JLS), prisoners at the following six institutions participate in the national prison strike: Broad River Correctional Institution, Lee Correctional Institution, McCormick Correctional Institution, Turbeville Correctional Institute, Kershaw Correctional Institution, and Lieber Correctional Institution.
JLS states that prisoners at those facilities are participating in “widespread workstrikes, with only a few prisoners reporting to their jobs, and commissary boycotts.” These claims, however, cannot be confirmed and are contradicted by other sources, including prisoners themselves.
South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) claims there are no work strikes occurring in South Carolina prisons.
On August 21, members of the group the Free South Carolina Movement hold a protest at the South Carolina state house. The group is joined by the family of Damonte Marquez Rivera, a prisoner who was killed during the April 15, 2018 riot at Lee Correctional Institution in South Carolina. During the protest, the group delivered demands to the governor of South Carolina on behalf of the prisoners of the state.
Edward Bell, a S.C. lawyer who often works with inmates and has filed numerous lawsuits against the Corrections Department, said his clients claim a inmate hunger strike is ongoing. Bell wasn’t sure if the hunger strike was due to an ongoing lock down in some S.C. prisons or was in conjunction with the national strike.
According to the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC), on August 17 prisoners at McCormick Correctional in South Carolina report that officials are forcing them to strip to their underwear and walk around a magnetic pole to detect contraband phones.
According to a Kiteline interview with two South Carolina prisoners under conditions of anonymity, because of the lockdown, they are unable to participate in a work strike. However, they are participating in a commissary boycott.
“Even though we can’t actually participate in a full blown no-work strike, we are striking the commissary and the canteen and things to that nature. We’re not spending no money with the state. We just want to encourage everybody to do that. That’s our way of getting on board. We don’t want to help them at all. With any kind of programs they have as far as us putting out money and our families sending in money, we’re trying to cut that short.”
The prisoners go on to describe the conditions of 24 hour lockdown in their prison and the ways in which those conditions have made striking difficult. The first South Carolina prisoner, who gave the name “C”, stated:
“We have been on 24 hour lock down. That means zero movement whatsoever. We’ve been in fed late in the night. we’re only receiving one shower a week. we’re being denying cell cleaning as well as clean drinking water even when there is a water advisory. Any inmate who attempts to participate in the strike is being placed in solitary confinement, which is lockup, seg. As a result what has been taking place since what transpired at Lee and the fact that we’ve been on 24 hour lock down with out any cell movement whatsoever, there’s been a number of suicides and attempts the most recent one has been at Broad River Correctional Institution so I just wanted to say that our condolences go out to the families of the comrades who have been affected by these days of the strike and as well as in the wake of what transpired at Lee. Even though we are unable to be involved physically because of the oppression and repression that we’re receiving in this moment that we are with the guys mentally and spiritually with the guys who are participating in the prison strike. We wanted to tell everyone thank you for supporting us and we are standing behind them at this time. We are behind everyone at this time. We appreciate all the support we are receiving.”
A second South Carolina prisoner, who gave the name “J”, stated:
“As far as the strike goes, yeah lot of the guys want to strike and of course the yards are locked down so the only ones that can strike is the kitchen ones.
Now what SCDC has done over the last few years, they’ve already been preparing for these types of situations as far as the strike goes. So what they did is, they created these quote unquote “programs,” and these “programs dorms.” They’re never locked down, the doors don’t get locked. So it’s kind of like a privilege that nobody wants to lose. They even have a program yard at the parent institution, the entire yard is lifers, some with parole and some without parole. And what they kind of promise the guys is that they stay disciplinary free for a certain amount of time and after that they will be able to go back in front of the judge for reconsideration of their time and possibly get their time cut. Or, you know, get the life sentence converted back to some numbers. So they kind of got it to where people are almost afraid to take those steps toward the strike.
They knew about the strike months ahead of time. They possibly knew about it since last year. Even before the riot happened at Lee, because we had one in 2016 and they already prepared. So what they do is they threaten you with these privileges that you have, so you kind of reluctant to speak up against them. And that’s the situation in South Carolina.
Most of the people going on hunger strikes and things like that, a lot of people already fatigued from the 120 something days locked down where they wasn’t any canteen anyway. Or they wasn’t getting the proper food. Sometimes the food is crap man. You really don’t want to eat it, to be honest. And so they hold these things as leverage over us.
As far as the level two camps go, a lot of those guys are kind of short timers, so I understand they don’t want to step in the way. The level one camps are definitely not gonna strike. And that’s the separation they put between us. South Carolina has the climate where they can contain a lot of the situations where it comes to level twos and ones. You know. The level threes really don’t have a say so in anything. So they could care less about sending out the search team or the strike team or whatever the case may be when it comes to things like that.
But I just wanted to put on record that South Carolina, we appreciate the love and the support of the other states and the other countries that’s participating in the strike. And had the yard been up we would have had total support, full participation…so we definitely appreciate the guys that’s putting their lives on the lines….Even though we can’t actually participate in a full blown no-work strike, we are striking the commissary and the canteen and things to that nature. We’re not spending no money with the state. We just want to encourage everybody to do that. That’s our way of getting on board. We don’t want to help them at all. With any kind of programs they have as far as us putting out money and our families sending in money, we’re trying to cut that short.”
“Allow People in McCormick Prison Wear Clothes,” Incarcerated Workers, August 2018.
“Strike Solidarity from Inside South Carolina’s Prisons,” Kite Line, August 31, 2018.
Prison Slavery #August21 (@SlaveryPrison), SC prisoners recently reported to us that they were told by one reporter nothing would get out unless they provided a picture of their prison i.d. These same reporters will not challenge sc prisons no media access to prisoners policy.
#burntheprisons. August 31, 2018. [Tweet].
Prison Slavery #August21 (@SlaveryPrison), At this same prison, prisoners were forced into humiliating strip and walk searches. One refusal ended with the association warden being punched, then that prisoners was ganged by pigs, clothes strip and taken to max naked. These searches were saw as a response to pending strike.August 29, 2018. [Tweet].
“Strike Statement to the Press,” IncarceratedWorkers.org, August 28, 2018.