Inmates Strike USA Prisons–The Unknown News Story
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
Peaceful protest and I agree it’s like slave labor pay them something cause the warden is getting rich off them.
Great article. thank you for sharing.
Bradley Schwartz ,Thanks Zech, always nice to have positive feedback.
Why should humans work for free? Everyone deserves a wage. Slave labor why would that be taking place in 2016! or Is it?
Prison reformers who are slim flamed either can’t see or refuse to see the REAL truth about today’s prisons. The Bureau of Justice Statistics manages the Deaths in Custody Reporting Program (DCRP). Records show that between 1980 and 2002 the state prison homicide rate dropped from 54.0 per 100,000 inmates to an astounding 5.7 per 100,000. Better architectural design of facilities has also made Attica type uprisings virtually a thing of the past. Between 1983 and 2002 jail suicide rates dropped 64 percent. State prison suicide rates, historically much lower than the rate in jails, dropped from 34 per 100,000… Read more »
Good to see you posted Bradley’s article. This strike has not gotten much press. The conditions in some prisons and other facilities is not good. The phones and commissary and fines are burdens that can be a extreme hardship. The unpaid or near slave labor is an embarrassment for a free nation with a history of slavery and that goes out in the world and preaches human rights. I agree the reformers need to work with the people employed in the systems to help improve the systems that people in live and work in – and to reduce the number… Read more »
Gretchen– I think more prisons should do rehabilitation programs GED classes. They should do more programs to help change them. Not all jobs refuse felonies. We tired of the prisoners constantly going in and out. Especially for same crime.
Better Late than Never..
I Was Expecting This Year’s Ago
Woodbury- As a supervisor of education I work hard to provide inmates with job skills, soft or people skills as well as practical skills. Higher education on top of GEDs, money management and anger management skills. But, even when my students are paid, and my inmate tutors are paid – they leave because they can make 10 or 50 cents more an hour picking up trash on the highway. And Chi Keung Kan makes a point because everybody is required to program (education, behavioral health, or work) unless there are serious mental or physical limitation involved. What salary would you… Read more »
This is nonsense. Yes, I go to work and I get wages. Those wages go to bills, food, clothing, transportation, medical costs and other necessary expenses. VERY little of it goes to entertainment or extras. Then I come home and I do NOT get paid to clean my house, care for my garden, mow the lawn, care for animals and all the other necessary things in life. These inmates ARE getting fair wages. They are just being docked all their living expenses ahead of time. They pay NOTHING for the things we work hard for, and this is their punishment… Read more »
With all due respect, there are differences in the comparison because of unsafe working conditions, forced to work although medically unfit, and then exorbitant prices at the prison commissary. Many inmates have not committed violent crimes, but we’re imprisoned for nonviolent offenses.
Sherri– Bradley Schwartz First, I was commenting ONLY on the wages aspect. I cannot comment on the rest since I am sure different prisons do things in different ways. I am not about to make sweeping comments across the board on these subjects. In the prison I work at, commissary is about the same price as if you went to a convenience store for something – sometimes cheaper – and no one here works in unsafe conditions or is ALLOWED to work if they are medically unfit.
Sherri– Bradley Schwartz Secondly, the idea that most inmates are in for non-violent drugs offences is an urban myth. Unfortunately, a recent poll showed at the large percentage of American believes it. In reality, over HALF the prison populations are in for violent crimes. Most of the rest are in for crimes that are extremely damaging to society such as being a repeat OIU offender, breaking and entering or fraud. Sure, these are not violent crimes, but they have the potential to harm someone’s loved one, they take away someone’s security in their own home and they destroy people’s hard-earned… Read more »
Bradley– Sherri, the statistics show that 50–60% of inmates have addiction issues. They should be receiving drug treatment and not prison. In fact, some states like New Jersey have recognized the problem and have introduced drug court with alternatives to prison. A substantial number of inmates have mental health issues and should be receiving mental health care. In fact, many local jails have complained that they have become the health care warehouse for individuals with mental health issues.
“We’ve, frankly, criminalized the mentally ill, and used local jails as de facto mental health institutions,” said Alex Briscoe, the health director for Alameda County in northern California. See-http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/numbers-mental-illness-behind-bars/
Bradley Schwartz You just moved from talking about prisons to talking about jails. They are two different institutions used for to different purposes. This article references prisons specifically. Changing the institution to fit your point of view is not a valid debate.
Bradley—- All points that I have discussed are applicable to both. Have a great day!
If people commit a violent crime, whether they have a drug addition or not should not be a valid reason for letting them avoid incarceration. If their crime was ONLY related to their addiction I agree with you, however those people are almost exclusively in jails, not prisons. The same applies to mental health issues. Stating that people in prisons “have mental health issues” gives a very misleading impression of that person. First, many people develop depression or anxiety issues that develop BEACAUSE they are in jail/prison. There is also an enormous difference between SMI (serious mental illness) which might… Read more »
James — I agree with paying inmates an adequate wage for the work they do. We have inmates who work hard and do a good job and I wouldn’t have a problem fairly compensating them for it. However I also agree with charging them adequate rent, having them pay for their share of the utilities, pay for their own meals, and pay for their clothing. Oh and don’t forget to pay taxes. If we want to prepare them to be productive in the real world post incarceration then lets do it. I don’t agree with making anyone work in unsafe… Read more »