Prisoners nationwide went on strike Friday in over 20 states, reported Mother Jones. In a statement, the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee said the "nationally coordinated prisoner workstoppage" beginning on Sept. 9 was an action to put an "end to prison slavery." The strike begins on the same day as the Attica prison uprising did 45 years ago.
"...We will begin an action to shut down prisons all across this country. We will not only demand the end to prison slavery, we will end it ourselves by ceasing to be slaves," the IWOC said.
Part of the statement reads:
"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.
"Slavery is alive and well in the prison system, but by the end of this year, it won't be anymore. This is a call to end slavery in America. This call goes directly to the slaves themselves. We are not making demands or requests of our captors, we are calling ourselves to action. To every prisoner in every state and federal institution across this land, we call on you to stop being a slave, to let the crops rot in the plantation fields, to go on strike and cease reproducing the institutions of your confinement."
The statement notes how the 13th amendment allows for "slavery" to exist as a form of punishment for a crime. The work is likened to slavery because inmates are required to work making 12 to 40 cents an hour working jobs such as in food service or plumbing. Arkansas, Georgia, and Texas, don't pay prisoners for their labor, reported Mother Jones. Phillip Ruiz, an organizer with IWOC who was previously in prison for 10 years, said he made nine cents a month baking bread. Meanwhile, supplies like ramen and soda cost $1 and $2 respectively. "You have to save up for six months just to buy some food products," Ruiz said. "It reminds me of a sweatshop on a huge, much larger level."
Prison reform has become a big initiative in President Barack Obama's second term. His last stretch in office has seen him, among other things, commute sentences. The Justice Department has taken measures to decrease the U.S. prison population such as announcing it would stop using private prisons, which an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Prisons found are less safe for inmates.
You can read more about the national strike here.