The Militant sends holiday greetings to fellow workers behind bars! We will continue to tell the truth about the conditions you face and to fight to ensure you can receive our paper and news about the struggles of working people worldwide.
The capitalist rulers in the U.S. keep the highest proportion of people behind bars compared to any other country in the world. The criminal “justice” system here holds 2.3 million people in 1,833 state prisons, 110 federal prisons, 3,134 local jails, 1,772 juvenile correctional institutions, 218 immigration detention facilities, and 80 jails on Native American reservations. Others are held in military prisons, civil commitment centers, state psychiatric hospitals and prisons in U.S.-controlled territories worldwide.
The capitalist rulers’ bail, plea-bargain, court, cop and prison system — especially the barbaric use of the death penalty — is aimed at breaking and demoralizing workers and to serve as a warning to millions of working people to submit to the demands of the bosses and their government.
Prisoners face inhumane solitary confinement, lack of health care, and brutality. And 33% of those in prison are Black, even though African Americans are just 12% of the country’s population.
All these facts take on greater significance under today’s conditions of massive unemployment intertwined with pandemic-justified government lockdowns and the disaster of the U.S. for-profit health system.
On any given day nearly 600,000 people are in local jails across the country. Some two-thirds of them are awaiting trial, because they can’t make bail. Using the pandemic as an excuse, many judicial authorities have suspended both grand juries and trials indefinitely. Despite the constitutional right to a speedy trial and to be considered innocent until proven guilty, the accused are kept in jail, increasing the pressure to accept so-called plea bargains.
Well over 10% of those incarcerated in the U.S. are 55 years or older. They are among those at highest risk for contracting coronavirus. At some prisons 75% or more of the inmates have tested positive for the disease, yet government authorities say that prison guards will get priority for the new vaccine while prisoners will be at the bottom of the list! What more graphic illustration of the bankruptcy of the capitalist system.
In addition to the number of workers behind bars, another 4.5 million people are under court supervision — 3.6 million on probation and 900,000 on parole. The vast majority of people sent back to prison from parole are because of technical — often minor — violations, not because they have been found guilty of an offense.
We celebrate the release from prison on parole earlier this year of former Black Panther Jalil Muntaqim, 69, after nearly 50 years in prison. And of Red Fawn Fallis, an Oglala Sioux framed up for her participation in protests against the Dakota Access pipeline. She was released to a halfway house in September.
We demand the release of all remaining imprisoned Black Panthers, including Edward Poindexter of Nebraska, in for more than 50 years; of Native American activist Leonard Peltier; and Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was railroaded to prison in Pennsylvania in 1982 and has had to lead a fight to get needed medical care for himself and other inmates.
We join in demanding the release of political and class-war prisoners around the world, including thousands tortured and thrown in jail by the brutal regime of Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus and the growing number of leaders of the fight for democratic rights in Hong Kong. And the dropping of all charges against those in Thailand accused of “insulting” the king.
Over the last year the Militant has beaten back attempts by prison authorities in Florida and Indiana to suppress the paper. These have backfired, sparking more interest in the paper and the working-class road forward we promote, for working people to take political power into our own hands.
That’s reflected in the 44 prisoners who subscribed for the first time or renewed during our just-concluded eight-week subscription drive.
We encourage workers behind bars to subscribe to the Militant and read books by leaders of the Socialist Workers Party and other revolutionaries published by Pathfinder Press. We ask readers of the paper to contribute to the Militant’s prisoners fund that makes it possible for us to offer reduced-price or free subscriptions to prisoners.