On September 9, 2016, the largest known prison strike against “modern slavery” in US prisons began. Strikes emerged in about 50 different prisons, across at least 12 states including California, Florida, Texas, and Alabama. There are 24,000 prisoners participating in these strikes against overcrowding, three-strikes laws, abusive conditions, and, most of all, prison labor.
Both private and public prisons employ over 900,000 inmates in tasks such as furniture manufacturing and kitchen duties. Prison labor generates $2 billion annually, however inmates are paid as little as 12-40 cents per hour. In some cases they receive no pay at all. Large corporations profit from the prisoners’ cheap labor. The strike’s main objection is to end this form of slavery in the prison system.
The Department of Corrections has denied any work stoppages.
There are two beneficiaries of prison labor: the state and large corporations. Prisoners help run the facility in performing tasks such as cooking, maintenance, and construction. If they were to stop performing these jobs, prisons would be forced to hire additional staff. Large corporations—including Microsoft, AT&T, Walmart, and Macy’s—rely heavily on inmates’ cheap labor. One of the largest prison strikes has not received any news coverage from corporate media because the beneficiaries of prison labor sponsor them.
Alice Speri, “The Largest Prison Strike in U.S. History Enters Its Second Week,” The Intercept, September 16, 2016, https://theintercept.com/2016/09/16/the-largest-prison-strike-in-u-s-history-enters-its-second-week/.
Spencer King, “The Largest Prison Strike in History Is Being Largely Ignored by Major Media Outlets.” Paste, September 30, 2016, https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2016/09/the-largest-prison-strike-in-history-is-being-larg.html.
Kit O’Connell, “Mainstream Media Ignores Mass Hunger & Work Strike By Prisoners Nationwide” MintPress News, October 3, 2016, http://www.mintpressnews.com/mainstream-media-ignores-ongoing-hunger-work-strikes-prisoners-nationwide/221038/.
Jeff Spross, “Why No One Knows about the Largest Prison Strike in U.S. History,” The Week, October 18, 2016, http://theweek.com/articles/655609/why-no-knows-about-largest-prison-strike-history.
German Lopez, “We’re in the Midst of the Biggest Prison Strike in US History,” Vox, October 19, 2016, http://www.vox.com/identities/2016/10/19/13306178/prison-strike-protests-attica.
Student Researchers: Andrea Terrones and Mirla Gaxiola (Sonoma State University)
Faculty Evaluators: Lianna Hartmour and Robert Train (Sonoma State University)