News Flash:

Striking Prisoners in Alabama Say "We Will No Longer Contribute to Our Own Oppression"

May 9, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper |


On May 1, a coordinated labor strike began involving prisoners in as many as five Alabama prisons. A communication released by the striking prisoners said:

Let us be clear, this is not just about the deplorable conditions of confinement, but more so about the 13th Amendment, the Alabama Constitution of 1901, and the Statutory Laws discriminatorily enacted from both. The laws that create and maintain the denial of our Human Rights and perpetuation of our Economical Exploitation. From Wrongful Convictions, Exceedingly Excessive sentences and Mandatory Life without Parole, Alabama's prisons are literally Warehouses of Men stacked on top of one another, and due to an Arbitrary and Biased Parole Board System, thousands of Men eligible to be released are stopped up in a broken and dangerous system.

Kinetik, Dhati, and Brother M, three prisoners in solitary confinement, and members of the Free Alabama Movement (a “National Movement Against Mass Incarceration and Prison Slavery”), helped organize the strike, which began at Alabama’s Holman, Staton, and Elmore Correctional Facilities. Prisoners at St. Clair, Donaldson, and other correctional facilities also plan to join the strike, which is planned for up to 30 days. Kinetik told Solitary Watch, “We will no longer contribute to our own oppression... We will no longer continue to work for free and be treated like this.”

Prisoners report that in retaliation, guards have been giving them smaller meal portions, putting pressure on them through forced malnourishment. And, in an act of collective punishment, the entire population of Alabama’s striking prisons—including the general prison population—has been placed on “lockdown with limited inmate movement.”

Prisoners are paid 17 to 30 cents an hour to do different jobs, some that generate revenue for the prison from for-profit companies. Prisoners describe inhumane conditions: lack of access to reading material, dangerous living conditions, tainted food and water, negligent treatment of prisoners in solitary, and poor health services. At Holman, prisoners make license plates and sew sheets and pillowcases for the state’s prisons. Elmore prison has a canning and recycling plant and St. Clair contains a vehicle restoration and chemical plant that, according to the Free Alabama Movement, produces more than $25 million worth of chemicals a year. In their statement the striking prisoners liken their conditions to slavery saying, “In theory, the 13th Amendment put an end to and forever abolished slavery, at least that is what we’ve been taught in schools. However, in actual practice, the 13th Amendment merely changed the name, method and rationale for keeping African Americans in a state of perpetual servitude. As the 13th Amendment explicitly permits ‘Involuntary Servitude’— an euphemism for Slavery—as punishment for ‘duly convicted criminals.’”


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