National prison strike

It’s been several days, and still no major Ohio news organization has reported on the national prison strike. The only Ohio piece I can find is this great reporting from Brian Sonenstein on Siddique Abdullah Hasan and ODRC suppression of speech.


When I worked at an alt-weekly, there’s no doubt that we would have been talking through local or statewide angles on the national prison strike. We’d covered human rights issues within the ODRC before, and this movement gives news organizations a chance to discuss sweeping reforms and concerning policies. If anything, it’s a great opportunity to check in on the conditions/progress in the prison system nationwide — on an annual basis! Simple editorial leadership.

Now, I can’t speak to what my former employer is up to on this story, but I can say that I’ve surveyed major news organizations in Ohio this week. Nothing’s come up. At least online, these organizations aren’t even running the scant wire reports available. (The USA Today Network, for example, was running a sort of overview piece on the story, which included mention that prison inmates in the Columbus, Ohio, area intended on participating. The paper followed up with a closer look this morning.

An excerpt (again, for a more moderate and mainstream audience)…

Created in response to a brutal prison brawl that left at least seven inmates dead earlier this year in South Carolina, the 19-day protest involves prisoners conducting labor and hunger strikes, sit-ins and commissary boycotts in at least 17 states, giving it the potential to become one of the largest such rallies in US history.

The goal of protesters is to put an end to what organizers refer to as “modern-day slavery,” a practice where inmates are paid slave wages for labor. Such is the case in California, where prisoners are assisting in efforts to fight wildfires and being paid as little as $2 per day.

“I think the outcome is likely to be greater public awareness about the difficult and inhumane conditions that many prisoners face across the country — an elevated public attention to the broad issues as well as some of the more specific concerns that prisoners themselves have raised,” said Toussaint Losier, assistant professor of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts and author of “Rethinking the American Prison Movement.”

The stories that land in each day’s newspaper or on each hour’s homepage petri dish are the stories that national editorial power sees fit to print. They’re the stories that you’re supposed to integrate into your life, into your own decision-making. The stories that aren’t chosen? Are you supposed to care? Why? Why not?

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