By David Le
Inmates at dozens of prisons across the county were on strike calling for reform to end the practice of slavery in prison, The Intercept reported.
“There are probably 20,000 prisoners on strike right now, at least, which is the biggest prison strike in history, but the information is really sketchy and spotty,” said Ben Turk, in September 2016. Turk represents the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, who helped coordinate the inmate-led strikes on the outside.
The incarcerated strikers are hoping that their strikes will repeal the exception in the 13th Amendment that authorizes the “involuntary servitude” of incarcerated people, The Intercept said.
According to The Intercept, the issue that unified the protesters is a $2 billion a year prison labor industry. The industry employs about 900,000 incarcerated people, paying inmates from nothing to pennies on the hour in some states.
Inmates across 11 states and 20 prisons joined the protest. Across 24 states, 40 to 50 more prisons pledged to join in the strikes, said Pastor Kenneth Glasgow, a former inmate and supporter of the strike demonstration.
According to the Wall Street Journal, some 400 inmates staged a peaceful protest in a Michigan prison, and 150 inmates suspected of being the “ringleaders” of the protest were transferred to other prisons.
The details of the prison strikes are obscured due to prison security, which makes it difficult to obtain information.
“What people have to realize is that these men and women inside prison — they expected to be retaliated against, but they sacrificed,” Glasgow explained.
While outside supporters in many U.S. cities coordinated demonstrations in support of the inmate-led strikes, the strikes gained little attention from mainstream media, The Intercept said.
“A nation that imprisons one percent of its population has an obligation to know what’s happening to those 2.4 million people,” Ethan Zuckerman, the director of the Center for Civic Media at MIT said. “And right now, we don’t know.”