The largest prison strike in United States history is now midway through the third week, and still no one is talking about it. According to Democrazy Now, there are at least 20, and up to 46 prisons located in 11 states that have reported their inmate population is striking. Inmates are protesting work requirements which they are calling “modern day slavery.”
At the peak of the prison strike, the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee reported that as many as 20,000 inmates were taking part in the protest, but numbers may be winding down now due to measures taken by each location to stop inmates from organizing.
Largest Prison Strike in U.S. History Enters Third Week https://t.co/b4wZRs53te
— Democracy Now! (@democracynow) September 21, 2016
While prison strikes are nothing new and a few have even taken place over the past year, this is the largest recorded organized strike to date. Mother Jones reported that this event is one of only a few prison strikes to be organized among multiple facilities and across several states including Alabama, California, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, and Washington.
The nationwide strike began on September 9, which also happened to be the 45th anniversary of the Attica prison uprising. A call to action from those organizing the event read, “This is a call to end slavery. They cannot run these facilities without us.”
Prisoners involved in the strike say that they are fed up with this “modern day slavery” in which the prisons are profiting from their hard work and they are not being paid. Many agree that employment while incarcerated is a good thing, it builds skill sets and keeps idle hands busy. However, they also believe that prisoners should be compensated for their efforts. After all, if the prisons were forced to hire staff to perform those duties, it would come out of a budget. Since some of the jobs being performed actually turn a profit for these facilities, they believe that they too should be paid.
— Adam H. Johnson (@adamjohnsonNYC) September 19, 2016
Of course, prison strikes are not permitted, and those who have participated are being punished. There are reports that those prisons that have taken part in this large strike have been put into lockdown and phone calls have been stopped, keeping inmates from communicating with their friends and family, unable to spread information about what is going on inside the prison walls. Further, those who have been pinpointed as the strike organizers have reportedly been put in solitary confinement.
There have also been reports of guard retaliation against those who have decided to take part in the strike. Officers have reportedly been using riot gear and tear gas to get prisoners in line
While some prisons actually do compensate prisoners for their efforts, depending on the facility, wages run anywhere from 12- to 40-cents per hour. Prison employment is not compensated in Arkansas, Georgia, and Texas. Those who do get paid for their time while doing time are able to use the low wages to purchase items from the commissary. Inmates have complained that it often takes months of saving up their paychecks in order to buy just a few food items.
— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) September 17, 2016
Shadow Proof reported that Holman Correctional Facility in Alabama is where the original organizers of this current prison strike are located. The coordinated strike was reportedly planned using a network of inmates, contraband cell phones, and family and friends to get the word out and spread information throughout multiple prisons in many states.
Although inmates and advocacy groups are working to get the word out to the media about their efforts to reform this “modern day slavery” and win fair pay for those forced to work while incarcerated, information is still very limited and most facilities have made an effort to keep much of the large prison strike quiet in an effort to make it go away. So far, major outlets have failed to report on the current situation, much to the frustration of those hoping to force change within the prison system.
[Featured Image by Eric Risberg/AP Images]