We are of course big fans of Labor and there is hardly a strike I won’t support, even those of “Millionaire” atheletes.
Starting today Convict Workers, who are shamefully abused in a variety of ways, are refusing to participate in Prison Industry.
I’ve had the opportunity to meet some of these guys in connection with a few projects I’ve been involved with that required lots of landscaping- fencing, putting up tents and floral displays, etc. They were there from “light enough that you can’t run away easy” to “not so dark they can’t see you.” Their food and water was one step away from Cool Hand Luke and they used their own equipment which was well worn and strictly inventoried as opposed to the other volunteers who were hydrated and ate stuff that was supposed to be franchise (McDonald’s) quality though it never failed to make me sick as a dog, and expensed anything they needed which they let lay around to rust at night and stole at the end because who wants to pack all that anyway, we’ll buy more next year.
At that most of the ones I met were happy to have the gig (unless the weather was really oppressive) saying, “Well, it’s something different and you do get outside.”
Prisoners across the United States are set to go on strike today in a mass mobilization demanding improved living conditions, greater access to resources and the end of what they call “modern day slavery.” Prisoners in at least 17 states are expected to participate in the strike, coordinating sit-ins, hunger strikes, work stoppages, commissary boycotts, from today until September 9th—the 47th anniversary of the deadly Attica prison uprising here in New York.
Prisoners first called for the strike in April, after a bloody altercation broke out at the Lee Correctional Institution in South Carolina, leaving seven prisoners dead and 17 others seriously injured. It was the deadliest prison riot in the United States in a quarter of a century. Six of the seven prisoners killed were African-American. The violence was allowed to continue for hours. One witness described bodies of dead prisoners, quote, “literally stacked on top of each other.” No guards were hurt.
The riot became the rallying cry for a movement. In the weeks after that, prison advocacy network Jailhouse Lawyers Speak issued a list of 10 demands, among them greater sentencing reform, more access to rehabilitation programs, the right to vote and the end of “prison slave labor,” what they called “prison slave labor.”
(T)he choice of August 21st, which was the death of George Jackson, is also significant, because it was really indicative, then in 1971 and today, that part of being sentenced to time in prison in this country is to risk death, to risk death at the hands of guards, to risk death because of the brutal system, the lack of medical care. So, I think the choice to begin this nationwide resistance to the conditions inside being George Jackson’s death was deeply significant. And I think that also tying it to the Attica rebellion is so important, because, of course, the Attica brothers, back 47 years ago, even though they were in New York and George Jackson was killed in California, they heard about it immediately and were moved to stand together to resist the conditions, that were brutal then and have gotten even more so in the subsequent decades.