Updated: Sept. 28, 2016
by Mattie Boyd
September 26, 2016
Prison inmates around the country launched the first nationally coordinated work stoppage on Sept. 9. In their own words, these heroic inmates have gone on strike “not only [to] demand the end to prison slavery, [but to] end it ourselves by ceasing to be slaves.” (iwoc.noblogs.org, April 1)
In facilities across the country, inmates, who are disproportionately Black, Latinx or Indigenous, are forced to labor for only a fraction of the legal minimum wage. In many state facilities, prisoners are not paid at all for their labor.
The superprofits generated by this slave labor have fueled the mass incarceration epidemic, prolonging the imprisonment and enslavement of millions.
Despite a near total suppression of the story by the corporate media, the strike spread to at least 46 state and federal prisons. The actual number of affected prisons is likely much higher, as this number only reflects reports received from inmates who are able to send out updates amidst prison repression.
Prison officials in at least 31 facilities instituted total lockdowns in apparent retaliation for the strike. Based on the inmate populations of these 31 locked-down facilities, no fewer than 57,000 incarcerated workers withheld labor or were otherwise prevented from working due to the strike. (iwoc.noblogs.org, Sept. 14)
An inmate at Alabama’s Holman Correctional Facility relayed this message:
“12:01 Sept 9th, all inmates at Holman Prison refused to report to their prison jobs without incident. With the rising of the sun came an eerie silence as the men at Holman laid on their racks reading or sleeping. Officers are performing all tasks.” (supportprisonerresistance.noblogs.org, Sept. 9)
Florida prisons join strike
Inmates in at least five Florida prisons joined the strike. (miamiherald.com, Sept. 13) More than 400 inmates at Holmes Correctional Facility participated in a righteous uprising Sept. 7, briefly taking control of the prison.
According to a guard at Holmes, “[Prison guards] would get one dorm under control and then it would start in another dorm. It was every dorm, as if it was planned.” (miamiherald.com, Sept. 8) By Sept. 9, inmates had begun a series of sit-ins, refusing to perform any labor for the prison. (chipleypaper.com, Sept. 9)
According to an anonymous source at Washington (state) Corrections Center for Women, at least three inmates refused to report for work at the prison library on Sept. 9. For this they were each sentenced to 20 days in solitary confinement. (supportprisonerresistance.noblogs.org, Sept. 21)
When a group of inmates at South Carolina’s maximum security Perry Correctional Institution refused to return to their cells Sept. 9, guards initiated a total lockdown, confining approximately 1,000 prisoners to their cells throughout the weekend and preventing any inmate labor from being performed. (wyff4.com, Sept. 12)
An anonymous report from a prisoner inside South Carolina’s Broad River Correctional Facility described the guards’ retaliation against strikers:
“Prison pigs here at Broad RV Corr, hit us with everything they got after we exposed these inhumane living conditions. They even bought and came through with new phone detectors. These pigs telling us if we do it again, report anything, we will be searched and locked down for longer periods. Does this not place you in the mind the time when slaves were punished for learning to read or write?” (facebook.com/BlkJailhouselawyer, Sept. 22)
Due to the mainstream media whiteout, heightened repression by prison guards and the refusal of prison staff to respond to independent media inquiries, it is impossible to determine the full extent of the strike. But based on what little information is available, it is clear that the Sept. 9 strike has been the largest coordinated prisoner action ever to take place in the United States.
Whether the strike continues to spread or whether business as usual is temporarily restored in the prison system, it is undeniable that the solidarity in action both within and outside the prisons has propelled the movement forward by leaps and bounds.
Organizers and people of conscience on the outside can help further advance the struggle by writing letters to inmates and forming prison solidarity networks among communities most affected by mass incarceration.
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Nationwide Prison Strike Launches in 24 States and 40 Facilities over Conditions & Forced Labor
Democracy Now! on Sep 9, 2016
http://democracynow.org – Today prisoners in at least 24 states are set to participate in a nationally coordinated strike that comes on the 45th anniversary of the prison uprising at Attica. Much like the prisoners who took over New York’s infamous correctional facility in 1971, today’s prisoners are protesting long-term isolation, inadequate healthcare, overcrowding, violent attacks and slave labor. We feature an excerpt from our interview in May with one of the organizers, Kinetik Justice, who joined us by phone from solitary confinement in Holman Correctional Facility. He is co-founder of the Free Alabama Movement. He was serving his 28th month in solitary for organizing a similar protest in 2014.
Nationwide prison strike enters second week
RT America on Sep 20, 2016
Across the country, inmates, often paid little or nothing for their labor, are going on strike demanding better treatment, pay, housing conditions and medical care. The strikes began on the 45th anniversary of the 1971 Attica Prison uprising in New York. RT America has coverage of the strikes with RT’s Ashlee Banks, Brigida Santos, and Marina Portnaya reporting on what the inmates want to see changed in prisons across the country. Then RT America’s Simone Del Rosario talks with Azzurra Crispino of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, who says private corporations are the ones that benefit from the prison labor industry.
Work Stoppage Prison Strike Continues in 11 US States
TheRealNews on Sep 20, 2016
This is a revolt against inhuman conditions of incarceration and the use of free prison labor by many major US corporations, says Pastor Kenneth Glasgow.
Updated: Sept. 28, 2016
Alabama Guards Stage Work Strike Months After Prisoner Uprising at Overcrowded Holman Facility
Democracy Now! on Sep 28, 2016
http://democracynow.org – Prison officials in Alabama have confirmed a group of correction officers refused to report for the evening shift Saturday at the Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore. The apparent work strike comes as guards have been walking off the job amid safety concerns and overcrowding throughout the summer. Prisoners say there are stabbings on a regular basis, and call the facility “The Slaughterhouse.” We speak to incarcerated organizer Kinetik Justice and Pastor Kenneth Glasgow, founder and national president of The Ordinary People Society.
Hunger Strikes, Marches & Work Stoppages: Unprecedented National Prison Strike Enters Third Week
Democracy Now! on Sep 28, 2016
http://democracynow.org – The largest prison work strike in U.S. history has entered its third week. Organizers report that as of last week at least 20 prisons in 11 states continued to protest, including in Alabama, California, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, Ohio, South Carolina and Washington. The Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee says at one point about 20,000 prisoners were on strike. With protest has come punishment. Several facilities have been put on lockdown, with prisoners kept in their cells and denied phone access both before and during the strike. Organizers have also been put in solitary confinement.
No ‘solidarity’ with prison guards By Mattie Boyd
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