Received on 16.03.16:
“Things here are tense but festive. The C.O. and warden was stabbed…It has nothing to do with overcrowding, but with the practice of locking folks up for profit, control and subjugation. Fires were set, we got control of two cubicles, bust windows. The riot team came, shot gas, locked down, searched the dorms. Five have been shipped and two put in lockup.”
– An inmate at Holman Correctional
This week, prison rebels at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama staged two riots in three days—battling guards, building barricades, stabbing the warden, taking over sections of the prison and setting a guard station on fire. These actions come as no surprise to those who have been paying attention to the crumbling prison system in Alabama and the increasing level of radicalization of the prison population there.
The uprising at Holman, and the conditions of Alabama prisons in general, provide a unique situation in which anarchist solidarity may prove strategic. Historically speaking, successful prison uprisings have often been the result of a degrading prison system (incompetence, understaffing, weak administration) in combination with a high level of prisoner-unity and the development of a strong political subculture within the prison that supports and encourages acts of resistance. These conditions shift the balance of power between prisoners and their captors and allow prisoners more latitude to take bold action. Prison rebels in Alabama report that guards often refuse to enter the cell blocks for months at a time out of fear of attacks. The conditions for rebellion are ripe in the Alabama prison system.
The connections that Alabama prison rebels and anarchists outside of prisons have cultivated over years have created a situation in which expressions of solidarity from anarchists may have an impact. There is a great possibility that news of solidarity actions will reach prisoners there and that those actions will make sense to these rebels.
Another way in which anarchist solidarity may prove uniquely valuable in this and other situations of prison rebellion is in our capacity to relate to these uprisings outside the framework of reform that the media, the state and the left will inevitably push them toward. We are already hearing the rhetoric of those outside Holman turning immediately toward reform, appeals to legitimacy in hopes of reaching journalists and liberals, and framing the riots as a ‘last resort’ after non-violent methods failed.
What we propose instead is direct affirmation, through action, of prisoners’ own revolt. In this, our solidarity is equally with those demanding better living conditions and those who say, quite simply, “they need to let us free up out this bitch” and “there’s only one way to deal with it: tear the prison down.”
In the spirit of diversity of tactics, It’s Going Down have compiled a list of some ways to act in solidarity with prison rebels in Alabama. The intention of this list is to find ways to act in solidarity with the many, often contradictory, desires of the many different rebels involved in the uprising.