Prisoners nationwide go on strike to protest ‘modern-day slavery’
by Dalvin Brown
Prison inmates nationwide, seeking to put pressure on the country’s penal system, began a two-week strike on Tuesday.
The strike was timed to begin on the anniversary of the killing of jailed African American activist George Jackson. He was killed by a guard in 1971 after taking guards and two inmates hostage in a bid to escape from San Quentin State Prison in California.
The final day of the strike — Sept. 9 — also carries symbolism. That’s the day in 1971 that the Attica Prison riots began in New York, eventually leaving more than 40 people dead when police stormed in to re-take the facility.
Prisoners leading the protests say the strike is aimed at ending what they call “modern-day slavery.” Inmates complain they are paid pennies on the dollar per hour for labor.
This is made legal by an exemption in the 13th Amendment which allows involuntary servitude for those who convicted of crimes in the United States.
The event is spearheaded by Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, a network of imprisoned prisoner rights advocates based out of Lee Correctional Institution in South Carolina and supported by the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC), a prisoner-led trade group.