Sept. 9, 2016, was the start of the largest prison strike in U.S. history. Over 72,000 incarcerated workers in 22 states refused to provide their labor to profit the prison industrial complex. California forces 5,588 incarcerated workers to labor in exchange for little or no compensation. Another 4,000 earn $2 a day fighting Californian wildfires with inadequate training and equipment. The prison system in California reaped $207 million in revenue and $58 million in profit from forced labor in 2014-15.
I come before you with the first of what may be a series of speed bumps and roadblocks in our path towards accomplishing the initial goals set forth: the five core demands. The other small demands being met are just a distraction to appease those of the prison masses long enough. Don’t be fooled! When the smoke clears, those small demands granted will be once again revoked.
“Slavery 400 years ago, slavery today. It’s the same, but with a new name. They’re practicing slavery under color of law,” writes Ruchell Cinque Magee. America’s history of prison labor began before slavery ended. After the Civil War, private companies leased prisoners and sold their products for profit. Laws criminalizing harmless activities dramatically increased the number of Blacks in Southern prisons. This set the pattern that today has the prison industry rated #6 of the top 10 fastest growing industries in the U.S.