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Prisoners plot strike action over mobile phones

Fag-deprived Georgia lags pull labour, refuse to shop

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Prisoners in Georgia (the US one) are striking for better conditions and pay, in an action coordinated across institutions thanks to the wonders of modern technology and poor contraband enforcement.

The prisoners, some of who were interviewed by the New York Times, reckon that about one in ten local lags is mobile-equipped, and after their fag cigarette ration was withdrawn around September they decided to take advantage of that fact to organise a protest.

Knowing that other prisons are equally well equipped, as well as knowing the value of collective action, they used numbers obtained through prisoner transfers and outside contacts to coordinate the action across institutions and demographics:

"We have to come together and set aside all differences, whites, blacks, those of us that are affiliated in gangs," said "Mike", who declined to give his full name but is apparently incarcerated in Smith State Prison. Mike went on to explain that one representative for each dormitory at each jail is keeping the various groups informed, while trying to keep the prisoners patient and discourage them from resorting to violence.

The prisoners want to be paid for the work they do, and have more access to educational resources - they probably want their cigarettes back too, though that's not on the list of formal demands. Until that happens they're refusing to shop in the prison shop, and refusing to work.

The prisons and state prison service haven't acknowledged the strike, though several of the institutions concerned are apparently "locked down", so something is going on inside. Whether the protest is genuinely a mass movement facilitated through mobile communications, or a dozen dispersed lags with an eye for good publicity, is hard to judge; but it does demonstrate how pervasive communications are and how difficult it is to control an individual's access to them. ®

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