Prisoners in 21 American cities started their 19-day strike yesterday, on the anniversary of the killing of George Jackson, a jailed African-American activist.

Inmates are describing their prison conditions as "modern day slavery" and they have outlined 10 national demands on the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee website for immediate improvements. Some of these demands include being paid the minimum wage in their state for prison labor, voting rights for ex-felons to be reinstated, and “over-sentencing and parole denials of Black and brown humans.”

The strikes are being facilitated by Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, a network of imprisoned peoples rights activists based out of Lee Correctional Institution in South Carolina, where seven inmates died in April of this year during a riot. During their strike prisoners are refusing to work, organizing sit-ins, putting a pause on their commissary spending, and refusing to eat food in some instances.

Lea Johnson, professor of law at University of Florida's Levin College of Law, told USA Today, “If the strike is widespread enough, it could be effective. These circumstances like poor labor conditions, poor prison conditions, unpaid labor, and lack of access to mental health treatment exist seemingly behind closed doors. By going on a national strike, you pull back the curtain and it can force legislators to act."

United States cities that are confirmed to be participating include: Seattle; Portland; Sacramento; San Jose; Corona; Los Angeles; Phoenix; Omaha; San Antonio; Asheville; Black Mountain; Atlanta; Fort Lauderdale; Des Moines; Chicago; Columbus; Minneapolis; Philadelphia; Boston; and Brooklyn, New York.

The protests are set to run until September 9th, the 47-year anniversary of the massacre that left 40 dead at Attica Correctional Facility.

[via NY Post]