Category Archives: Prison Corruption

On 1st Anniversary of Largest U.S. Prison Strike, New Interviews Shed Light on Protest & Retaliation

Saturday marked the first anniversary of the largest prison work strike in U.S. history. On September 9, 2016, prisoners launched a nationwide work strike that spread across 29 prisons to include more than 24,000 prisoners. Last year’s strike, launched on the anniversary of the 1971 Attica prison uprising, sparked widespread retaliation by prison guards, including in Michigan’s Kinross Correctional Facility. This is prisoner, poet and abolitionist Fred Williams, speaking about the strike and the retaliation in an interview just released by Rustbelt Abolition Radio.

Fred Williams: “They decided that they were going to stand out and protest—protest the food, protest health service, protest the ventilation, protest the living conditions overall. And so, these few guys stood outside, walking in circles, protesting, chanting, you know, ‘Equal work, equal pay,’ chanting. And they were also calling for other guys inside the housing units to come out and stand with them in solidarity. And it worked. They walked in circles in the common area, chanting, and the crowd just grew larger and larger and larger, until the point where, when I looked out the window, it looked like it was maybe 500-600 guys out there. And so, the ERT was called in; the emergency response team was called in. It took four or five hours. And from what I understand, this is either the first or second time the government allowed for live ammunition to be entered onto the prison compound in Michigan.”

That was prisoner Fred Williams at Michigan’s Kinross Correctional Facility in an audio archive just released because some prisoners were isolated in solitary confinement as retaliation for the strike for nearly a year.

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Slavery in the US prison system

Today marks one year since the largest prison labour strike in US history. More than 24,000 prisoners across 29 prisons in 12 states protested against inhumane conditions, timing it around the anniversary of the Attica Prison uprising, a prisoner strike now 46 years old.

Slavery persists by another name today. Young men and women of colour toil away in 21st-century fields, sow in hand. And Corporate America is cracking the whip.

Influenced by enormous corporate lobbying, the United States Congress enacted the Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program in 1979 which permitted US companies to use prison labour. Coupled with the drastic increase in the prison population during this period, profits for participating companies and revenue for the government and its private contractors soared. The Federal Bureau of Prisons now runs a programme called Federal Prison Industries (UNICOR) that pays inmates under one dollar an hour. The programme generated $500m in sales in 2016 with little of that cash being passed down to prison workers. Stateside, where much of the US addiction to mass incarceration lies, is no different. California’s prison labour programme is expected to produce some $232m in sales in 2017.

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