Varsity holds National Prison Strike awareness event

By Austin Phelps, Staff Reporter

The Varsity Center is hosting an event to raise awareness for the National Prison Strike. The event will take place on Sept. 4 at 7 p.m. and the doors open at 6:30 p.m.

“Slavery is still very much real and existent in the prison systems,” Matthew Stearns, an organizer for the Carbondale event, said. “The National Prison Strike is an attempt to call notice to this problem.”

The event will be showing a documentary, titled “Visions of Abolition,” that will analyze the prison system as well as offer alternatives to replace the system, Stearns said. There will be discussion after the film in a question and answer style format.


“Go ahead and come out,” Stearns said. “You’re probably going to learn something you didn’t know about the modern day prison system.”

The National Prison Strike started on Aug. 21 and will continue until Sept. 9.

“The prison workers are not working right now,” Stearns said.

Stearns said many prison workers are participating in hunger strikes and sit-ins instead of working.

The National Prison Strike is calling for a list of ten demands, Stearns said. Among the list are a request for access to healthcare, an end to prison slavery and the right to vote.

“They’re not demanding immediate release or anything,” Stearns said. “They’re demanding things like ‘we want our phone calls, we don’t want to have to do forced labor.’”

According to the United States Bureau of Justice Statistics, over 2.2 million people are incarcerated in the United States.


“While we [only] make up a couple percentage points of the world’s population we make up 25% of the imprisoned population,” Stearns said. “A lot of those people are in because they can’t pay fines, they [basically can’t pay] penalties for being poor.”

The prison system is flawed and failing, Nick Smaligo, an organizer for the Carbondale event, said.

“Prison abolition begins from the recognition that ever since prisons were created they have never accomplished any of the things that they were supposed to accomplish,” Smaligo said.

“If we really want to talk about creating a better society we have to think beyond prison as a way to do that.”

Aside from the event, the biggest thing activists can do is inform others and stay involved locally, Stearns said.

“Getting information out, making sure to be responsive to the information that we’re hearing,” Stearns said. “There’s a lot of things we can do locally to help those people to not be targets of violence and oppression.”

For information on more events like this one, visit the Flyover Social Center’s facebook page.

Staff reporter Austin Phelps can be reached at or on Twitter at @austinphelps96.

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