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American prisoners launch nationwide strike, demand better living conditions, voting rights

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US prisoners on Tuesday declared a nationwide strike demanding changes to correctional institutions including living conditions , pathways to parole and voting rights restoration .
The US incarceration rate is the world ’ s highest : about 2 . 2 million people were behind bars at the end of 2016, a figure the American Civil Liberties Union says represents approximately one -fifth of the global population of prisoners .

The strike — set to continue through September 9 , according to organisers — was called in response to a deadly riot in April at a maximum security prison in South Carolina , Lee Correctional Institution .

“ Seven comrades lost their lives during a senseless uprising that could have been avoided had the prison not been so overcrowded from the greed wrought by mass incarceration , and a lack of respect for human life that is embedded in our nation’ s penal ideology, ” the group of incarcerated prison rights advocates leading the strike said.

“These men and women are demanding humane living conditions , access to rehabilitation , sentencing reform and the end of modern day slavery , ” the group , known as Jailhouse Lawyers Speak , said in a statement .

Organisers throughout the United States advised inmates to engage in peaceful sit -ins , hunger strikes and work stoppages .

Low remuneration for prisoners put to work at jobs like cooking and cleaning is high on the list of grievances released by organisers, who dubbed the practice “slavery . ”

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Udi Ofer , who leads the ACLU Campaign for Smart Justice , praised the strikers and backed their 10 demands, particularly the right to vote for felons and prisoners .

Felon enfranchisement laws vary state by state, but in many places , inmates lose voting rights for a period while incarcerated , and sometimes after release as well .

“Our country is stronger when people most marginalised and directly impacted by unjust policies raise their voices in protest and demand a different future , ” Ofer said in a statement .

“The courageous people who are bringing focused attention to America ’ s system of mass incarceration through the Nationwide Prison Strike deserve our admiration. ”

“ We urge corrections officials not to respond with retaliation , ” he added .

“Peaceful demonstrations challenging unjust conditions and practices do not merit placing participants into solitary confinement or adding time to their sentences. ”

In 2016 , inmates responded to a similar call to action , with prisoners striking in states including Florida , Alabama , Texas and South Carolina .

( AFP )

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