For 20 days in August and September, thousands of inmates across the United States were on strike. In 17 states they protested horrific conditions by refusing to work, organizing sit-ins, and going on hunger strikes. Their ten, well-publicized demands included an immediate end to racist overcharging and sentencing, and parole denials, and a call for genuine rehabilitation services.
Prisoners in both public and private jails were joined in solidarity by immigrants caged in U.S. detention centers. And they got international endorsement from Palestinians fighting Israeli jail atrocities.
Gutsy inmates crossed racial and ethnic lines to demand an end to increasing slave labor. In California, where prisoners make up almost half of the firefighting forces, they combat wildfires for $2 a day. Their labor will save California $100 million this year. Strikers rightly demand prevailing wages.
This historic strike has unmasked a prison industrial complex that allows big businesses such as Whole Foods, Victoria’s Secret, Microsoft, Walmart, AT&T, and Macy’s to pay prisoners less than a dollar a day to grow food, staff call centers, and more. They make millions by paying pennies.
Hats off to these courageous strikers! They have exposed and fought the biggest jailer in the world — the USA.