In the largest such demonstration in the history of the country, thousands of inmates are going on strike to point out the injustice of the system that leans on them for cheap, if not free, labor.
In a public statement released earlier this year, members of the Free Alabama Movement called out the blatant connections between the use of prison labor with slavery and indentured servitude.
Prisoners are forced to work for little or no pay. That is slavery. The 13th amendment to the US constitution maintains a legal exception for continued slavery in US prisons. It states “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.” Overseers watch over our every move, and if we do not perform our appointed tasks to their liking, we are punished. They may have replaced the whip with pepper spray, but many of the other torments remain: isolation, restraint positions, stripping off our clothes and investigating our bodies as though we are animals.
After the call was made, prisoners across the country started to act, according to CityLab. More than 400 inmates started an uprising in Florida, according to the Miami Herald. To take matters even further,“all inmates at Holman Prison refused to report to their prison jobs without incident. With the rising of the sun came an eerie silence as the men at Holman laid on their racks reading or sleeping. Officers are performing all tasks.”
These uprisings and demonstrations have apparently been going on all year across the country, starting back in April. According to Wired, there are 2.4 million prisoners on the United States and more than 900,000 of them work. If this movement could grow to even greater heights, it could completely transform a system that currently allows prisoners to work for literal cents an hour.