Flimsy plastic knives, a single microwave, and empty popcorn bags: How 50 inmates inside a Michigan prison prepared a feast to celebrate the life of George Floyd

As global protests broke out in response to the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, Michael Thompson was feeling the way many Americans did: He wanted to gather with others to demand respect for Black personhood, pay tribute to a man’s too-short life, and condemn the unjust conditions that ended it. But as an inmate at the Muskegon Correctional Facility in Michigan, it wouldn’t be easy for Thompson to do that. At correctional facilities across the U.S., staff concerned about violence had cut prisoners’ access to media. His own facility already prohibits gatherings in order to curb gang activity. “We can’t even congregate,” he told The Counter.  …

Though Thompson wanted to include his entire unit, the event had to be capped at 50 men. Because resources were limited, he tried to stick to inmates who lacked financial support from the outside, for whom a meal of more than the standard prison fare would be extra special. Most men in the facility make about $18 a month through labor they perform on behalf of the prison, Thompson said. When inmates do spend their scant earnings in the prison commissary, they have to prioritize medicine and hygiene products, not food or soda—which cost $1.75—from the vending machine. 

“We are not allowed to protest. However, ‘food’ has a way of bringing about three words, ‘Love, Peace, and Happiness.’”

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