Building on the mass hunger strike of prisoners in Pelican Bay State Prison in July of last year, several hundred prisoners across Alabama have declared that, beginning Easter Sunday, they will stop prison-mandated labor in protest of detestable living conditions.
The conditions in Alabama prisons are horrendous, packing twice as many people as the 16,000 that can be housed “humanely”, with everything from black mold, brown water, cancer causing foods, insect infestations, and general disrepair. They are also run by free slave labor, with 10,000 incarcerated people working to maintain the prisons daily, adding up to $600,000 dollars a day, or $219,000,000 a year of slave labor if inmates were paid federal minimum wage, with tens of thousands more receiving pennies a day making products for the state or private corporations.
Unpaid labor includes cooking and cleaning, production of license plates, furniture, chemicals, and linens, and farming. The slavery analogy is more than metaphorical: African-Americans comprise only 26% of Alabama’s population, but make up more than 60% of the prison population due to reactionary legislation and racist targeting of communities of color. Reports of beatings and systemic rape and sexual abuse of women inmates by guards at Tutwiler State Prison have surfaced in the media over the last year.
On the outside, labor unions and prisoners’ advocacy groups have been instrumental in helping prisoners organize themselves. The Free Alabama Movement is pushing an “Education, Rehabilitation, and Re-entry Preparedness Bill” to the Alabama legislature, while the Industrial Workers of the World labor union has vowed to provide support and assistance to the incarcerated laborers.
Melvin Ray, spokesperson for the Free Alabama Movement (FAM) said:
When we look at our situations inside of the Alabama Department of Corrections, we have no choice but to engage in this nonviolent and peaceful protest for civil and human rights. We sleep with rats and roaches. We work for free and eat slop unfit for human consumption. We serve decades in prison solely to provide free labor and without any real prospect for parole, and without any recourse to the courts for justice or redress of grievances. Our mothers, wives, and daughters must expose their breasts and panties just to visit us. This should not be acceptable to anyone. Prison is supposed to be a place where people go to work out issues and return to society. But when there is no focus on education or rehab but solely on profit margins, human suffering is inevitable. ADOC is about free labor and the new slavery no one wants to talk about. That is no longer going to work for the 30,000 of us who suffer because of it.
The Industrial Workers of the World was involved in a similar campaign in 1987, in which they organized 400 incarcerated laborers in an Ohio state prison, before the government ruled that prisoners are not legally entitled to the right to form a union - a right which all other workers enjoy.
More on the Free Alabama Movement’s strike
Honestly these people had the choice of having access to rights, which they gave up. My taxpayer money shouldn’t be making them comfortable. The more uncomfortable the experience the more likely it is to stick with them. This makes me sick.
By your logic we should treat the entire world as prisoners (and treat them as badly as possible) so they won’t commit “crimes” in the first place.
No no. Why would you take the rights away from people who cherish their rights, and are responsible with them.
Why would you?
Doesn’t really seem like a right if it can be taken away. That’s called a privilege.
It is a right until you choose to give it up. Then it becomes a privilege. It’s the choice you make that gives it this change.
You act like they had a hand in making the laws we live by. If I’m your government and I say “[insert something you like to do] is now illegal and you can’t do it” then yeah you have a choice, but it was a coerced decision.
"Why’d you choose to get arrested for possessing weed?"
"I didn’t. I chose to get weed; they chose to arrest me".
"You are free to do as I tell you".
Just because you have a choice doesn’t mean you’re free, because the alternative option was chosen for you.
If a person is dying of hunger and steals food from a grocery store, then they broke the law, right. They chose to feed themselves, they chose to break the law, and they chose….to go to jail for it? No, humans are human and they deserved to be treated as such.
Plus, you aren’t taking into account ‘fear of punishment’ although it seems you might be at least partially.
"England, as well as other countries, used to punish not only murders but scores of lesser crimes with death. Yet it did not deter others from committing the same crimes. People were then executed publicly in order to to inspire greater fear. Yet even the most fearful punishment failed to prevent or diminish crime." - Alexander Berkman, "Reformers and Politicians"
So not only would treating prisoners worse have the result you don’t intend, it would only perpetuate crime. People are products of environment, if you try and solve moral deviance (crime) with fear of punishment alone then you are creating an environment that shows that those in power use violence and domination to solve problems, so you should too, thus creating a criminal.
So if you still think you’re free then next time you notice you are going 5 over the speed limit slow down and turn yourself in to the police, because you chose to not pay full and adequate attention to your speed, you chose to break the law, now you have to pay the consequences. Or is it only a choice if you get caught?
Saturday, April 5, 2014 with 481,417 notes
I am grade 12 student who has just recently graduated. You might call me accomplished, and in a way, I am, but not in the way you’d think. 12 years of pouring over text books and being lined up to be judged in front of my peers has not made me any more intelligent. I can tell you the first 45 digits of Pi and I can explain to you the difference between an acid and a base, I can recite the Pythagorean Theorem in my sleep, I will recite lines out of a textbook like they are a religion. But I cannot tell you the value of security, or of kindness. The distinct contrast between personal health and personal gain. I can tell you in grade 10 four of my classmates attempted to take their own lives before finals. I can tell you our counsellors office is always booked. I can tell you how when I didn’t understand something in AP Chemistry my teacher asked me to leave if I could not participate in his class. I merely asked him to explain a question. Instead of doing his job and teaching, he told me to leave. Told me I was not good enough to be there. Mistakes are viewed as failure in these hallways. A wrong answer is a sin you must atone to, not a human error, but a flaw so grand it defines your entire life course. There is no “average” here. We all must exceed expectations. Do your parents know that a grade that is considered average is a “C”? When I got a C in fourth grade my parents grounded me for a month. They said I was lazy and stupid and incompetent and that I’d better smarten up and stop fooling around. I never fooled around. I am driven by a deep need to impress others. I never fool around. I worked and worked and worked, with a deep hollow of anxiety in my chest. I have never been good at History, but I worked and worked and I attained at best a low B. It was not good enough. It is not said but we are expected to put our education before our personal health. It is not asked of us, but it is what we must do to achieve what we are asked to achieve. Our teachers will tell you, “Oh, I only give them one hour of homework each night.” Which is essentially true, each of my five teachers only gives me one to two hours of homework each night. Hmm, that adds up to 5-10 hours of homework, and overdue classwork, and projects. Say goodbye to sleep, say goodbye to feeling calm. I’ve developed a deep rooted anxiety disorder due to school and perfectionistic tendencies. Even when you get 100 percent on an assignment they still criticize you, it is never good enough. One slip, and you are in deep deep trouble. I can tell you that 90 percent of us try our hardest, and our teachers and parents stand in the sidelines, screaming, “You can do better than that!”
— Why I say our education system is flawed (via perfect-delusions)
Sunday, March 30, 2014 with 269,812 notes