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September 9, 2016 Prison Labor Strike: Strike Resources

A guide to help with researching and provide information regarding the national prison labor strike that took place starting September 9, 2016

Organizers & Previous Strikes

This strike started on September 9, 2016, the anniversary of the Attica Riots. The demands of people who are incarcerated as similar to those of from the Attica Riots in 1971. While the organizers are allowing each facility to put forth its own demands, they all relate to labor conditions, living conditions and treatment. By linking this strike with Attica, it shows how the conditions have not changed since 1971.

The strike was organized by three major groups - The Free Alabama MovementSupport Prisoners Resistance, and The Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee. The IWOC is part of the Industrial Workers of the World. 

Free Alabama Movement also documents the conditions in the prison on contraband cell phones and uploads the videos to YouTube. Additional information can be found on their sites https://freealabamamovement.wordpress.com or http://freealabamamovement.com

 

The strike that occurred on September 9th did not happen without the inspiration of previous strikes that have taken place in separate states and prison systems over the last few years. 

From Think Progress "Protests Planned In Over 20 States to Expose 'Slave-Like' Conditions in U.S. Prisons" by Laurel Raymond covers the timeline of various strikes over the last few years. 

From The Intercept "Prisoners in Multiple States Call for Strikes to Protest Forced Labor" covers the strike that started in Texas earlier in 2016. (press release for strike below) 

Below are press releases and other resources about previous strikes. 

  • May Day Strike press release from the Free Alabama Movement
  • Press Release from Protestors in Texas Prisons
    This is the statement from people who are incarcerated in Texas Prisons regarding their protest of labor conditions in the prisons.

UN Assessment of Prisons in the United States

Since 2006 all UN Member States must undergo a Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The UPR exists under the Human Rights Council. It reviews human rights issues in each member state and recommends areas that the member state should focus on. The member state can then respond with what they have done to improve these areas. Since 2006 the United States of America has undergone two reviews, the last one in 2015. 

One of the areas that the UPR drew attention to with Human Rights in the USA was the prison system with calls to revise facilities to meet the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners as laid out by the UN. 

Prison Conditions

Prisons are run on state levels, and reporting on prison conditions is mostly a local issue. Below are links to articles from local papers that highlight the conditions of prisons that where people are striking. 

  • Hundreds of Inmates Riot at Florida Prison
    This article highlights the conditions in Florida prisons that have contributed to the strike. It has links to the series of stories the Miami Herald has published documenting unexplained deaths and use of force in the prisons.
  • Texas Prisoners Sue Over 'Cruel' Conditions Citing Extreme Heat
    Six people who are incarcerated are suing the Texas Department of Criminal Justice over excessive heat in the facilities in the summer.
  • The Marshall Project is a nonprofit organization that focuses on journalism about criminal reform. While it publishes tends to publish articles about national criminal reform, it also runs a "Life on the Inside Series" as well sends a daily newsletter with their picks of criminal justice news from news services across the nation. 

NGOs

NGOs with information about strike conditions

Confirming or understanding the conditions in prisons can be tricky. Sometimes the best resources are cases that are brought against the facility. These cases are often brought by NGOs on behalf of people who are incarcerated. 

The American Civil Liberties Union has chapters in all 50 states. The state chapters file cases and reports on their state prison systems. They also compile a nationwide Prisoners' Assistance Directory for people who are incarcerated and their families. 

  • Equal Justice Initiative Reports on Prison Conditions
    EJI has investigated conditions in several prisons. Some of the investigations lead to EJI filing class action lawsuits against the facilities, others have lead to complaints filed with the Department of Justice over abuses perpetuated at prisons.
  • Southern Poverty Law Center
    SPLC filed a class action lawsuit against the Alabama Department of Corrections for abuse of inmates through improper medical care. The lawsuit stemmed from a report that SPLC and Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program the detailed inadequate medical care provided to people who are incarcerated.
  • Prison Justice League
    Prison Justice League works with people who are incarcerated in Texas. They are co-plaintiffs in a case against the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for failing to address the excessive heat in prisons

Articles

"Why Prisoners Across the Country Have Gone on Strike" by Kanyakrit Vongkiatkajorn discusses the benefits and criticisms of prison labor. 

"A Primer on the Nationwide Prisoners' Strike" by Beth Schwartzapfel lays out the how the strike began, the workers' demands, and how it is difficult to confirm how many states/people participated.

"What the Infamous Attica Riots Teach Us About Prisons Today" from The Takeaway interviews Heather Ann Thompson author of Blood in The Water on how the legacy of Attica lives in the conditions of modern day prisons. 

Media Coverage of the Strike

The purpose of the strike was to draw media attention to the conditions that those who are incarcerated face. Organizers felt the only way to have their voices heard was through a work stoppage. However getting information to the outside world and media can be difficult. 

  • On The Media Podcast about the Strike
    On The Media interviewed Azzurra Crispino from Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, or IWOC, one of the groups behind the work strike.
  • The Takeaway Podcast
    The Takeaway talks with Beth Schwartzapfel about the ongoing strike, and the Correction Officers that have joined the strike
  • Striking Prisoners Say Their Guards Have Joined In by Cora Lewis
    This article highlights two important issues that happen within prisons and with the coverage of prisons. People who are incarcerated are not the only ones affected by the conditions in prisons, the Corrections Officers are concerned about overcrowding and inadequate services as this affects how they do their jobs. The second issues is confirming information from prison systems. Often stories that come from the inside take a long time to receive official confirmation.
  • Al Jazeera held a "round table" discussion with administrators of prisons and one person who is currently incarcerated to discuss the labor strike.