Picture of Lewis Prison by CBS-5 News
Inmates throughout prisons in the United States planned a national strike starting on September 9th. Inmates in 24 states and almost 50 prisons had pledged to strike against prison slave labor. As of September 16, inmates in 12 states and 29 prisons were continuing their strike. The strikers picked September 9th to start the strike because it is the 45th anniversary of the Attica prison riot of 1971.The Attica riot was based upon inmate’s demands for better living conditions and political rights.
The strikers have called for the following:
Alabama inmates, part of the Free Alabama Movement, an organization that helped launch the strike, called for the end of free labor from prisoners.
South Carolina inmates have requested fair wages, restarting GED classes, and effective rehabilitation programs.
Prisoners at the Kinross Correctional Facility in Michigan, would not report for kitchen work. Four hundred prisoners marched peacefully in the yard for several hours. Around 150 prisoners who were considered strike organizers are being transferred to other prisons in the state.
Some of the prisons have reacted to the strike by placing their facility on “lock down”–no movement in the prison. Inmates are confined to their cells 24/7.
The activists have organized this first national strike to combat prison labor conditions. They have called present conditions, “modern-day slavery.” The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution abolished slavery, but left an exception for people who have been convicted of crimes. This means that prisoners can legally be put to work for little to no pay. The pay is often between 12 to 40 cents an hour.
At the same time, the inmates are confronted with excessive charges for commissary food, high phone call charges, and sometimes unsafe working conditions. Many inmates, since their families do not have the funds, rely on their insufficient wages to call home and purchase food–hygiene items from the commissary.
Inadequate medical care has resulted in inmates working, although they were not medically able to work. The prison private health care companies do not want issues with the prison administration and have designating inmates to work, although medically unfit.
At the end of the day–The question is whether inmates have any human rights? For those who say no, keep in mind that most inmates are released after serving less than five years in prison. Do we want returning citizens or the opposite.
By: Bradley Schwartz
Founder of prisonpath.com