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Collective Action Behind Bars: Jail and Prisoner Solidarity in the U.S.

  • City College of San Francisco Mission Campus 1125 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA, 94110 United States (map)

On September 9th, the 45th anniversary of the Attica uprising, an estimated twenty-four thousand people in twenty-nine prisons across 12 states engaged in a national work strike to protest carceral slavery and the conditions in U.S. prisons. This was the latest massive expression of solidarity and resistance behind bars, but by no means the first.

A long tradition of jail solidarity—whereby arrestees act collectively to achieve common goals of minimizing legal and physical harm—has existed in the U.S. for at least a century. The most recent well-known examples of jail solidarity occurred during the Global Justice movement of the early 2000s.

Several years later, in 2010, coordinated work stoppages took place in prisons across the State of Georgia, followed by one of most successful prisoner solidarity campaigns in the country.

In 2013, more than 30,000 prisoners from across California engaged in a coordinated hunger strike and mass work stoppage organized largely by prisoners at Pelican Bay to put an end to solitary confinement.

With a growing prison abolition movement and resistance against mass incarceration on the rise in the U.S., it’s important to examine how people on the inside are acting collectively across racial and geographic lines, successfully disrupting the carceral machine.

What does solidarity among prisoners look like in an environment of brutal oppression? What solidarity tactics have worked and why? Is it important for those of us on the outside to stand in solidarity with prisoners engaged in collective action to challenge living/working conditions and, if so, what are the best ways to do that?

Join us for a discussion facilitated by PM Press author Kris Hermes, who recently wrote an article on the history of jail solidarity published in Upping the Anti.


Taeva Shefler – A Bay Area attorney with California Prison Focus will speak on solidarity tactics used to support prisoners in Pelican Bay and other detention facilities across California, as well as how the Ashker v. Brown lawsuit changed the terms of solitary confinement in the state

Cole Dorsey – Organizer with the IWW Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC), along with

Chris Lockett – Formerly incarcerated urban farmer and hip hop artist will both speak on the September 9th nationwide prisoner strike, the retaliation that continues today, and ways of supporting the ongoing resistance