National Prison Strike 2016

Featured image: A group of incarcerated people at Attica Correctional Facility raise clenched fists during the 1971 Attica Prison Uprising, following the release of their demands to the New York prison commissioner.  Source: “Attica Whistleblower.” AP Images. September 10, 1971.

The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with an incarcerated population of 2.4 million people. 900,000 of those incarcerated work in prisons. Typically paid less than a dollar an hour, incarcerated workers cook and clean for the prisons, or work for private companies like Whole Foods and Walmart. Their wages must cover rising costs for food, phone calls home, sanitary products, child support, and more.

On September 9, 2016, an estimated 24,000 incarcerated people from 29 prisons in 12 states went on strike to demand better wages, benefits, and working conditions. Led by the International Workers of the World’s Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWW-IWOC) and mostly Black, Southern leadership, the strikers worked in a long legacy of resistance by incarcerated people against a system determined to isolate and silence them.

A Call to Action Against Slavery in America,” is written by the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC). The statement equates incarcerated people’s work to slavery, and positions the ongoing prison strike within a long history of protests and strikes by incarcerated people, such as the 1971  Attica Prison Uprising. It is directly written to affirm incarcerated workers for their labor and empower them to demand their full human rights. 

“American Prison Inmates, On Strike“ is a radio interview on National Public Radio’s series On Point with Tom Ashbrook. In one clip, strike leader Siddique Abdullah Hasan responds to a concern about why incarcerated people need wages if they are being housed and fed for free by asserting that criminal legal system issues many wrongful convictions.


Further Reading

Thompson, Heather Ann. Blood in the Water: The Attica Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy. Knopf Doubleday Group, 2016. Print. <https://www.amazon.com/Blood-Water-Attica-Prison-Uprising/dp/0375423222>

Dam, Sofie Louise. “Inmates Are Planning The Largest Prison Strike in US History.” The Nib. First Look Media, 2016. Web. https://thenib.com/inmates-are-planning-the-largest-prison-strike-in-us-history

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