Inmate strike leader says he's being punished for activism

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Story highlights

  • Kinetik Justice-Amun helped lead work strike in September
  • Inmates in Ohio, Mississippi and California have joined strike, group says

(CNN)Inmates in three states have joined a hunger strike that started with an Alabama prisoner nearly two weeks ago, according to an inmates rights group.

Kinetik Justice-Amun, whose given name is Robert Earl Council, began a hunger strike October 21 to protest what he calls retaliatory treatment for his activism, said Pastor Kenneth Glasgow, spokesman for the advocacy group Free Alabama Movement.
Justice is an active member of the Free Alabama Movement, the principal organizers of a national inmate strike that started September 9.
The strikers want several changes under the overarching theme of ending slavery in prisons, starting with rewriting the 13th Amendment, which banned slavery except as punishment for a crime.
Justice was convicted of murder in 1995 and sentenced to life in prison.
He was one of the first inmates to report to outside organizers that a work stoppage had begun on September 9, said Azzurra Crispino, spokeswoman for Incarcerated Workers' Organizing Committee, a prisoner rights group. After that, reports began to trickle in, and they continue.
Justice began the hunger strike after he was transferred from Holman Correctional Facility, where he spent nearly three years in solitary confinement, Glasgow said. His transfer was on the same day that he was scheduled to meet with a lawyer from the Southern Poverty Law Center about an investigation into the suicide of a prisoner in a cell next to his at Holman, Glasgow said.
Since then, he has been transferred to Limestone Correctional Facility, where officials have cut off plumbing in his cell and denied him water, Glasgow said.
"They are trying to kill him," said Glasgow, founder of The Ordinary People Society.
A spokesman for the Alabama Department of Corrections denied that Justice was not receiving water.
Medical staff at Limestone conducted an initial assessment of the inmate's condition, spokesman Bob Horton said in an email. Staff will weigh him daily, monitor his food intake and provide medical care as needed, he said.
"Prison officials state that the inmate is refusing to eat" despite concerns for his safety, Horton said.
Inmates in Ohio, Mississippi and California caught on to Justice's strike in recent days and joined in solidarity, Glasgow said.
Glasgow said the case has drawn the attention of human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative.