Tipping point in Texas prison strikes? The history of slavery is at stake

by the IWW Incarcerated Workers’ Organizing Committee (IWOC)

Texas-art-by-Kevin-Rashid-Johnson-web, Tipping point in Texas prison strikes? The history of slavery is at stake, Behind Enemy Lines
“Texas” – Art: Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, 1859887, Clements Unit, 9601 Spur 591, Amarillo TX 79107

April 16, 2016, Texas – Since April 4, prisoners in at least four Texas prisons have been on strike for better conditions and an end to slavery and human rights abuses. This strike is but the latest in a nationwide mass movement inside prisons for dignity and freedom.

Minimum wage in Texas prisons is zero dollars per hour. Access to medical care requires a $100 medical copay.

“My son and others are literally sitting down to say, ‘Stop killing us. Stop enslaving us. We are human. This has got to stop,’” said Judy, whose son’s prison is on lockdown. “I think the strike should spread. I believe prisoners and families together have the power to collapse this system.”

Striking prisons have been put on lockdown in an attempt to “conceal the strike,” and the battle of wills is being daily tested by the inhumanity of the administration. No lights, two peanut butter sandwiches a day, no phone, mail or visitation from the outside world. And likely far worse.

Since the strike’s inception, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) has been trying to contain the strike and paint the strikers as causing harm to inmates and families. They threaten additional lockdowns, forced transfers, violence – even a statewide lockdown.

“I know we with family inside are hurting when we are cut off from our loved ones – when we hear rumors of additional lockdowns, when they threaten locking us all out,” said Ann, whose husband is in Robertson and who lives in Fort Worth, Texas. “But don’t blame the brave souls standing up. Blame TDCJ. Blame those willing to torture families rather than give us justice.”

Stand-with-striking-prisoners-prison-slavery-protest-Austin-TX-040916-by-IWOC, Tipping point in Texas prison strikes? The history of slavery is at stake, Behind Enemy Lines
“Texas is running a slave plantation. They work with companies to take advantage of slave wages, and keep expenses as low as possible by forcing people into inhuman conditions. But prisons can’t run without inmate labor. Change is coming because prisoners are growing a mass movement in prisons, one that won’t stop until prison slavery is abolished,” says Nicholas Onwukwe, former prisoner and co-chair of the Incarcerated Workers’ Organizing Committee, which is organizing of support protests, including this one on April 9 in Austin, Texas.

IWOC believes TDCJ’s actions to be an intentional, routine tactic. “They are trying to change who the enemy is,” said Nick Onwukwe, co-chair of IWOC and a former prisoner. “Trying to get you to believe the enemy isn’t the slave master; it’s the slave who sits down and says, ‘Enough!’”

Increasingly, lockdowns are becoming reality. Already there are additional lockdowns at Jester III, Dalhart and Beto, partial lockdowns at Coffield and Allred, and a confirmed order for lockdown at Michael for this morning, April 16. Is the strike spreading? Will TCDJ’s tactics backfire? We may be at a tipping point.

“This is not a time to watch,” said Brianna Peril, IWOC co-chair and former prisoner. “Gather your family and loved ones. Start a chapter. Go outside the nearest prison and make enough noise that those inside know the free world is with them. The history of slavery in the United States is at stake.”

Get ready!

The movement to end prison slavery is growing. Prisoners in Alabama have recently confirmed their commitment to striking this May, while prisoners across the country are calling for nationally coordinated prison shutdowns on the 45th anniversary of Attica this September.

Like all futures, it will be decided by those who show up. Get involved. Call. Donate. This is our time.

Contact IWW Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee at iwoc@riseup.net or 816-866-3808.

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