Protesters object to prison tours that treat the incarcerated as zoo animals
“This is in line with the huge history of treating Black people like animals on display in a zoo,” ,” said Russell Jones, a member of Direct Action for Rights and Equality’s Behind the Walls Committee.
Over two dozen people drove though the Adult Correctional Institutions (ACI), in Cranston on Thursday to protest the lockdown imposed on incarcerated persons for the purpose of a four day correctional officer celebration that included tours of prison facilities for families.
“Over 300 incarcerated people have organized a hunger strike in the men’s maximum security facility demanding an end to the lockdown which has limited their access to showers, phones, video calls [and] outdoor and rec time,” said Russell Jones, a member of Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE)’s Behind the Walls Committee. “We’re here in solidarity demanding immediate restoration of these rights.”
As the Rhode Island ACLU and Center for Justice pointed out in a recent letter objecting to the lockdown, “The U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that while prisoners “lose many rights when they are lawfully confined . . . [they] retain certain fundamental rights of privacy; they are not like animals in a zoo.”
This point was not lost of Jones. “This is in line with the huge history of treating Black people like animals on display in a zoo,” he said.
Especially during Covid, allowing tours through the prison is alarming and unwise, noted out the activists, who pointed out that at one point the maximum security facility had a 100% positivity rate for the disease and several deaths.
The protest was originally intended as a disruption of the tours, but the Rhode Island Brotherhood of Correctional Officers revised their agenda and cancelled them. Undeterred, protesters drove a caravan of automobiles through the facility after the speak out, honking horns and signaling to prison officials their objections to the celebration.
The correctional officer union has also denied that there was a hunger strike – though DARE has heard directly from incarcerated people on the inside saying that there is.