On August 21, inmates in South Carolina and Alabama called for a nationwide prison strike to protest inmate slave labor, and for humane living conditions. The inmates via contraband cell phones and outside volunteers planned their strike using social media to spread their call for a national strike.
The idea to strike came after 7 inmates died in a South Carolina prison riot this past April. The strike began with the Twitter video of 26-year-old Folsom Prison inmate Heriberto Garcia refusing food. With the video, word spread to prisons in at least 15- 17 states.
The strike organizers, a group of imprisoned activists, known as Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, (supported by Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee), issued 10 demands. The most important demand called for an end to “Prison Slave Labor,”where inmates are paid pennies per hour for their work.
For example, inmates at Louisiana’s Angola prison, (ironically, located on a former slave plantation), work for as little as four cents an hour. This exploitation of inmates–slave labor varies from state to state. At the same time, many prison commissaries charge inmates and their families, exorbitant prices for food, and hygiene items.
Organizers reported strike actions in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. Sixty immigrants held at the Northwest Detention Center also held a hunger strike to protest terrible living conditions. Protesting prisoners in Nova Scotia joined the U.S. prison strike, and issued a statement that prisoners were “warehoused as inmates, not treated as human beings.”
Ten inmates have died in Mississippi this month. Strike activists and family members are demanding answers for the sudden major increase in inmate’s deaths. The IWW’s Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee tweeted about the Mississippi deaths, “Why #prisonstrike? Because at this point it’s about survival.”
“Prison Slave Labor”, and inhumane prison conditions defy rehabilitation and increase recidivism.