It has long been surmised that the prison industrial system is a new form of slavery. Inmates across the nation work jobs that provide states with needed services and products, but they are only paid a few cents per hour. Prisoners in Alabama have had enough. Through the Free Alabama Movement, labor strikes have kicked off at Holman, Staton, and Elmore Correctional Facilities. A work stoppage was scheduled to begin at the St. Clair facility yesterday.
According to Solitary Watch:
The prisoner work stoppage is a nonviolent protest against many of the conditions in Alabama’s prisons, especially against the unpaid prison labor that makes money for private companies and the state of Alabama. During the stoppage, Alabama’s incarcerated will refuse to leave their cells to perform the jobs that they usually perform each day for little to no pay. These range from the many jobs that allow the prison to function (such as serving food) to “industry” jobs (which allow private companies to profit off of prison labor). These “industry” jobs are the only jobs in Alabama prisons that pay at all, though the pay rates are negligible, ranging from $0.17 to $0.30 an hour.
Inmates at Holman provide the state of Alabama with license plates, through its tag plant and make the pillowcases and sheets used in the state prisons in the sewing factory. Elmore’s prisoners work in a canning and recycling plant. St. Clair’s chemical plant produces $25 million worth of chemicals every year.
Furthermore, Solitary Watch reports:
Alabama’s incarcerated are regularly charged what they call “outrageous fines” and fees, despite the fact that they are paid nothing, or only a few cents an hour, for their labor. “Our mass incarceration is a form of slavery, because we’re not being paid for our work, but we’re being charged outrageous fines,” one man told Solitary Watch. Required fees include $4 for armbands, $4 for identification cards, and $31.50 for a urinalysis test. Prisoners are charged $200 to petition a court, which is their only way to file a complaint, since Alabama’s prisons have no grievance procedure.
In response to the strike, prison officials have begun “bird-feeding” inmates, meaning they have significantly reduced meal portions. Meals have reportedly been reduced by 60%. “They are trying to starve a nigga into compliance,” said one of the inmates. Another said, “The food is always garbage, but it’s usually a lot more than this.”
The inmates are also protesting against deplorable conditions in the prisons, especially in solitary confinement. “We will no longer contribute to our own oppression,” said Free Alabama Movement representative Kinetik . “We will no longer continue to work for free and be treated like this.” Dhati called the nonviolent work stoppage “an economic solution to an economic problem.”
Read the full report by Solitary Watch here.