Whenever an inmate and a guard get into an altercation, Melvin Ray sees an opportunity to connect and educate. After stepping in and trying to de-escalate the situation, he’ll talk to his fellow inmate and ask him how he got here. Not just “here,” in the sense of an altercation stemming from the emotional stresses of being incarcerated. Or “here,” in terms of the conviction that sent him to prison in the first place. Ray, ultimately, presses a larger point: “You’re not here because of that crime. You’re here because someone has figured out a way to make money off of you.”These sorts of one-on-one conversations are critical for organizing incarcerated people, and Ray — who also goes by Bennu Hannibal Ra-Sun — knows this better than anyone. He is one of the founders of the Free Alabama Movement, or FAM — a prisoner-led human rights group that is organizing what could become the largest nationwide prison work stoppage, starting September 9, the 45th anniversary of the Attica Prison uprising.
Along with Support Prisoner Resistance and the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, or IWOC, of the IWW labor union, FAM issued a call to action earlier this summer, with an estimated 40 prisons in 24 states expected to participate. Much like the inmates who took over New York’s infamous correctional facility in 1971, today’s prisoners are fighting against the conditions of their imprisonment, especially the conditions under which they are forced to work, which many describe as slavery.
Although some states allow prisoners to get paid for their labor, the pay is often less than a dollar per hour, and sometimes absolutely nothing. Half of those wages, in federal institutions at least, are withheld for room and board, victim’s programs and family support. Whatever remains goes toward buying the necessary commissary items for making life in prison tolerable. Essentials like toilet paper, deodorant, menstrual products and laundry detergent can each cost multiple days’ wages. Continue reading →
September 9-13 mark the 45th anniversary of the Attica Rebellion. This massive prison takeover by hundreds of inmates and the callous repression and murders by the state of New York are part of a unique moment in US history. The legacy of Attica and the fight for human rights is carried on in the prisons of Georgia, Ohio, California and wherever people are caged for years on end.
Across 24 states, inmates are sick of poisoned water, solitary confinement, and forced labor.
This September 9, we may witness the largest prison strike in US history. Potentially thousands of inmates across both state and federal prisons in as many as 24 states plan to engage in a coordinated strike and protest in an attempt to bring attention to the daily injustice of their lives. The strikers are calling for an end to “slave-like” working conditions, illegal reprisals, and inhumane living conditions.
Planned for the 45th anniversary of the Attica Prison uprising, the actions of September 9 will shed light on the often decrepit conditions suffered by the 2.4 million people in what is the largest carceral system in the world. They will also mark a new point in the fight against mass incarceration, and likely stand as a harbinger for further actions and strikes to come. Malik Washington, an inmate in the H. H. Coffield Unit in Texas and the chief spokesperson for the End Prison Slavery in Texas movement, wrote to me in a letter: “Prisoners in Amerikan prisons are sick and tired of being degraded, dehumanized, and exploited.”
Building a Movement Behind Bars
The September action didn’t come out of nowhere. Siddique Abdullah Hasan, an inmate in Ohio State Penitentiary and a member of the Free Ohio Movement, describes it as just the latest part of “an ongoing resistance movement” that has seen increasing numbers of work strikes, hunger strikes, and protests hitting prisons across the country in the past decade. Back in 2010, inmates in at least six different state prisons in Georgia staged a labor strike, protesting prison conditions and lack of remuneration for their forced labor. Continue reading →
On September 9th, prisoners across the United States will begin a strike that will be a general work stoppage against prison slavery. In short, prisoners will refuse to work; they will refuse to keep the prisons running by their own labors. Prisoners are striking not just for better conditions or changes in parole rules, but against prison slavery. Prisoners state that under the 13th Amendment which abolished racial slavery, at the same time it allowed human beings to be worked for free or next to nothing as long as they were prisoners.
Prisoners see the current system of prison slavery to thus be a continuation of racial slavery, which is a system that generates billions of dollars in profits each year for major corporations in key industries such as fossil fuels, fast food, banking, and the US military.
Soon after the passing of the 13th Amendment, many former slaves were soon locked up in prisons on petty offenses, quickly returned to their former roles as slaves. Over a century later, the Drug War sought to deal with the growing unemployment rate brought on by changes in the economy (outsourcing, financialization, deregulation, etc), as well as the threat of black insurrection which grew in the 1960s and 70s, by throwing more and more people in prison. At the same time, the state and corporations continued to look towards prison labor as a source to generate massive profits. Continue reading →
ON FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 9TH, we are calling on people across Rhode Island to converge in Downtown Providence to hold a rally and march in solidarity with the US-wide prisoner work-strike against prison slavery.
Slavery is legal in America. Written into the 13th Amendment, it is legal to work someone that is incarcerated for free or almost free. Since the civil war, tens of millions of people – most arrested for non-violent offenses – have been used as slaves for the sake of generating massive profits for multi-national corporations and the US government. Today, prison labor is a multi-billion dollar industry which helps generate enormous wealth for key industries such as fossil fuels, fast food, telecommunications, technology, the US military, and everyday house hold products.
The strike, which starts officially on September 9th, the 45th anniversary of the Attica Uprising, is historic. The strike is being led by groups such as the Free Alabama Movement, Free Texas Movement, Free Ohio Movement, Free Virginia Movement, Free Mississippi Movement, and many more. Prisoners have asked that supporters hold noise demonstrations outside jails and prisons, protest, disrupt, and demonstrate outside of corporations that profit from prison labor, and also support the strike that is happening across the US. Continue reading →
This is a challenge to anyone who is supportive of the September 9th prisoners’ strike but who has remained on the sidelines until now.
In order for this strike to not be snuffed out by a handful of prison censors and violent guards, it needs to spread uncontrollably beyond their reach. And because prisons strictly forbid communication between prisoners, it is our responsibility on the outside to facilitate this contagion.
The first obvious step is to begin sending in word of the strike, immediately. If people on the inside are to be able to meaningfully act, they are going to need some time to begin spreading the word to their friends and formulating a plan. To that end, we are suggesting that outside accomplices begin printing the strike announcements (below) and mailing them inside en masse.
On September 10 movement supporters will gather outside of Federal Correctional Complex Coleman (846 NE 54th Terrace, Wildwood, Florida) from 10 am to 12 pm to stand in solidarity with prison strikers across the nation.
Bring signs, banners and drums to let the Bureau of Prisons know we are watching.
Several cities around FL are planning local events in and around their communities on Sept 9, then coming out for this on Sept 10.
One suggestion is a Friday demo at your closest jail or prisons, perhaps coupled with a potluck, letter-writing session and/or film showing about prisons, Attica, etc.
Check back on this page for further details and updates on the event.
Sept 9th is the 45th anniversary of the Attica Uprising in New York, where national attention was drawn to the problem of prisons in this country. This year there will public demonstrations in support of prisoners who have a called for a coordinated national work strike in response to extreme abuses they face, including toxic environments, discrimination and literal slavery based on the 13th Amendment which wrote prison slave labor into the U.S. Constitution. Continue reading →
On Saturday, September 10th, people across the Bay Area and Northern California will converge in Downtown Oakland in solidarity with the US wide prison work strike against prison slavery and white supremacy. Our goal is a mass showing of support with the growing prison rebellion in the US and to also march on the corporations in the Downtown area that make massive profits off of prisoner enslavement.
The strike that will begin on September 9th is not a symbolic one. It is a mass collective refusal to keep the machine of confinement running. It is the continuation of resistance to racialized slavery that began before the creation of the United States and will ultimately end in the revolutionary overthrow of this system of domination and apartheid. It is up to us on the outside to show our solidarity and to act in kind. The bay area has a rich history of both prison rebellion and support for those rebels. We hope to aid in this strike and prepare ourselves to support it not only in the early days of September, but in the weeks that proceed it as repression and lock-downs are sure to follow.
The expanding radical prison labor movement also shows us how connected our struggles truly are, as prison labor generates literally billions for various industries destroying the planet, attacking workers, and occupying entire countries. This includes corporate food giants, the US military, the banking system, and the fossil fuel industry. From fast food workers fighting back against poverty wages to the battles raging in indigenous territory against oil pipelines – regardless of what struggles we are in, we all need to stand with our comrades on the inside who courageously are going on strike. Continue reading →