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“This was about unity”: A Wave of Protest Spreads Through the Michigan Prison System

foodOver the last month, thousands of prisoners at three different prisons in Michigan have taken part in mass protests against the conditions of their confinement and as a demonstration of their collective strength. Prisoners at Kinross Correctional Facility began the wave of protests on March 20th and 21st with 1,000 of the prison’s 1,300 prisoners refusing meals. The strike then spread to Chippewa Correctional Facility, also in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, on March 26th through 28th where at least 800 prisoners refused meals for the entire weekend. Then, on April 12th, prisoners at a third facility, the Cotton Correctional Facility, joined in with about 660 prisoners refusing meals. According to the media, the protests are sparked by problems with food quality, but according to the prisoner whose reportback is below, “this was about unity.”

According to the Detroit Free Press:

Both protests were characterized by extremely high participation rates among inmates, which disturbed Michigan Corrections Organization officials and also got the attention of the prisons’ administration, Gautz said. “It’s definitely something the facilities took seriously,” Gautz said. “It is unusual in a high school or a prison, because there are different groups or cliques that form, to have everybody on the same page. It takes some coordination.”

When the strike spread to a third facility, The Detroit Free press reported that the MDOC suspects that “the protest at Cotton may have been instigated by a prisoner who was transferred there for assaulting a prisoner who chose to go to the chow hall during an earlier food protest at Kinross Correctional Facility in the UP, Gautz said.” On March 20th, as at least 1,000 prisoners at Kinross were refusing meals, the MDOC had this to say:

These protests are happening simultaneously with work strikes in Texas prisons as well as ongoing resistance in Alabama prisons, which recently saw a series of riots at Holman Correctional and where prisoners are currently calling for a work stoppage on May 1st. All of this is happening in the lead up to a call by prisoners across the country for a national prison strike on September 9th, the anniversary of the Attica Rebellion. Continue reading