Prison inmates today are protesting conditions in the nation’s prison system that amount to modern slavery. Friday was chosen because it is the 45th anniversary of the Attica prison riot that occurred at the Attica Correctional Facility in Attica, New York in 1971. During that riot, approximately 1K inmates seized the prison and held 42 guards hostage over conditions. When the uprising was over, at least 43 people were dead, including ten correctional officers and civilian employees, and 33 inmates.
Today, prisoners are complaining about many of the same things including low wages for prison labor that is also used for many major American companies. The Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC), Free Alabama Movement, Free Ohio Movement, and Free Mississippi Movement have helped to coordinate the protests, which have also been endorsed by the National Lawyers Guild.
According to the WOC, “This is a call to end slavery in America. This call goes directly to the slaves themselves. We are not making demands or requests of our captors, we are calling ourselves to action. To every prisoner in every state and federal institution across this land, we call on you to stop being a slave, to let the crops rot in the plantation fields, to go on strike and cease reproducing the institutions of your confinement… They cannot run these facilities without us.”
Prisoners in many states work for under a dollar per hour doing many tasks and in states such as Texas, Alabama, Georgia, and Arkansas, get no pay at all. The strike will be carried on by thousands of workers in 25 states. The complaints of prisoners include issues over water in state facilities that contain arsenic, moldy or spoiled food, guard abuse, and solitary confinement as a form of retaliation. There has been an increase in work stoppages by prisoners across the country, especially with the rise of privatized prisons.