Prisoner Marroon

DEFEND PRISONERS

Especially since 2008, Payday has supported many collective and individual campaigns by prisoners. We have joined with many organisations to oppose death penalty, miscarriage of justice (including Joint Enterprise), prison conditions, prisoners economic exploitation (often working at $1/day) and above all solitary confinement a policy used to punish rebellious inmates.

Women – partners, mothers, sisters, daughters of prisoners – have been the most resolute campaigners against prison injustices, always supporting their loved ones inside. We therefore have constantly worked with women and women’s organisations in those campaigns. And whenever we could, we have campaigned internationally, opposing the prison systems in the US, the UK and elsewhere.

Mumia Maroon Pinkney and Troy Davis

In 2008, Payday joined the movement to stop the killing of Troy Davis, an innocent man on death row for the 1989 murder of a police officer in Georgia, USA. No physical evidence linked him to the crime and 7 out of 9 non-police witnesses later changed their testimony, some citing police intimidation. His sister Martina led a campaign that gathered 700k signatures and international support including from the European Union. Troy was executed in 2011, but became a cause célèbre against the death penalty. See our appeal with Women of Colour Global Women’s Strike.

For many years, Payday has supported Mumia Abu Jamal, an award-winning journalist wrongly convicted of killing a police officer in 1982 in a trial ‘drenched with racism’. Mumia has never stopped fighting injustices inside and outside the prison walls. While pressure got Mumia off death row, the fight continues to keep him alive and free him. We have acted both side of the Atlantic, including helping co-organising a protest in London in 2018 with our sisters in Women of Colour GWS and Legal Action for Women.

Black Panthers member Russell Maroon Shoatz was jailed in 1972 in connection with the death of a police officer. He spent 29 years in solitary confinement (22 consecutive), but never stopped opposing injustices inside and outside prison. In 2012, with the GWS we supported the launch of an international campaign to free Maroon, a struggle his daughter Theresa and other family members have waged for years. Two years after, he was released from solitary. In 2021, Maroon was finally released from prison, and died of cancer surrounded by loved one two months after his release.

In 2014, Reverend Edward Pinkney, grassroots leader of the Black Autonomy Network Community Organization (BANCO) was jailed ‘without evidence’, accused of altering a recall petition against the then Benton Harbor Mayor who was supporting local Whirlpool Corporation’s tax evasion. Rev, Pinkney spent 30 months in jail. In 2015, we supported his fight by circulating a call for support jointly with the GWS.

Payday has been supporting refuseniks - soldiers who refuse to go to war - who very often ended up in prison for their refusal. Eric Gjertsen, from Payday speaks of the need for the anti-war and anti-prisons movements to join forces at the Anticapitalism Behind Bars workshop at the Left Forum, NYC, on 17 March 2012.

In 2010, six African American prisoners at SCI Dallas staged a peaceful protest to blow the whistle on the torture inflicted by the guards on inmates of all races. For their stand, they were viciously beaten and charged with riot. Thanks to an international campaign by a coalition of organisations (which Payday was part of) led by one of the accused's mother Shandre Delaney, the Dallas 6 were found not guilty in 2017, and eventually all released from prison.

Pelican prison strike
Support protest (photo Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times)

On 8 July 2013, 30,000 prisoners across California stopped eating and went on work strike to end long-term solitary confinement (called Secure Housing Units or SHU). We publicised this movement, especially the historic Agreement to end hostilities agreed by inmates across racial divisions the previous year and which made the 2013 strikes so successful, as well as an account of the support campaign by our sister Margaret Prescod from Women of Colour GWS. By 2015, California prisoners were no longer sent to the SHU based on allegations of gang affiliation, but only if they had committed a serious offense, and many had been released from solitary.

Kevan Thakrar was wrongly convicted of murder and attempted murder in 2008 under “joint enterprise”, the legal rule by which a member of a group can be convicted of a crime even if he/she didn’t commit it. In 2010, he was found not guilty of attacking guards (he acted in self defence), yet was put in solitary confinement in Close Supervision Centres (CSC), locked in his cell 23 h/day. With other organisations, especially Legal Action for Women and Women of Colour GWS, we have supported him and, at his demand, have challenged the Royal College of Psychiatrists for giving an award of “Enabling Environments” to the CSCs. Click here for more info. And show support by writing to Kevan Thakrar A4907E HMP Belmarsh, Western Way Thamesmead London SE28 0EB or via email www.emailaprisoner.com

Protest at Yarls Wood

For decades Payday has campaigned to close down immigration detention centres and opposed the unjust and racist imprisonment of people who have committed no crime. On the 15 June 2015 international day of action, we joined the All African Women’s Group, Women of Colour GWS and others to picket Yarls Wood detention centre.

In 2018, we picketed the US embassy in London to oppose the threat of deportation of immigration rights activist Maru Mora Villalpando who has spearheaded the fight against the North West Detention Centre near Tacoma in the US. And she won thanks to international protests! Three years later, she helped detainees, who do a lot of work in detention, to win an historic ruling by which they should be paid minimum wage and not $1/day.