On March 18th, prisoners at Allegheny County Jail in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania began a sit-in. Eighty prisoners took part in the action to demand more case workers, better medical services and a legitimate grievance procedure. On Monday night, masked demonstrators converged on the jail in solidarity with those protesting inside.
Allegheny County Jail (ACJ) imprisons more than 2,500 people, and its population has increased by 70 percent in the last two decades. ACJ has a long history of abuse and was the subject of a 2010 FBI investigation that found officials there were covering up abuse of prisoners. Health conditions at the jail are also notoriously bad; eleven people died while incarcerated at ACJ in just 2014 and 2015.
On March 20th, protesters converged to stand in solidarity with those prisoners. Being in the age of Trump and Sessions, the police felt extremely confident in detaining every participant who were exercising their right to peacefully assemble, regardless of whether they allegedly destroyed property or not. Only a few individuals actually committed acts of vandalism. The police have hit all the prison abolition activists arrested with extremely heavy charges -- several third-degree felonies each -- with the intent of intimidating those in people’s movements challenging capitalism and the state with the threat of incarceration.
My best friend Tom was one of those arrested. One of his charges claims that he was in "possession of criminal instruments" for bringing along his hat and jacket.
Tom recently relocated to Pittsburgh to start his new life and had dreams of not just focusing on his activism, but also of pursuing his dream of being an advocate for children with autism and mental health diagnoses. The charges threaten his livelihood significantly and he can’t afford an attorney to represent him on his behalf. Any funds donated will go to securing a legal defense before his April 4th preliminary hearing date and, if necessary, to take the charges to court to get them dismissed.