Building on the mass hunger strike of prisoners in Pelican Bay State Prison in July of last year, several hundred prisoners across Alabama have declared that, beginning Easter Sunday, they will stop prison-mandated labor in protest of detestable living conditions.
The conditions in Alabama prisons are horrendous, packing twice as many people as the 16,000 that can be housed “humanely”, with everything from black mold, brown water, cancer causing foods, insect infestations, and general disrepair. They are also run by free slave labor, with 10,000 incarcerated people working to maintain the prisons daily, adding up to $600,000 dollars a day, or $219,000,000 a year of slave labor if inmates were paid federal minimum wage, with tens of thousands more receiving pennies a day making products for the state or private corporations.
Unpaid labor includes cooking and cleaning, production of license plates, furniture, chemicals, and linens, and farming. The slavery analogy is more than metaphorical: African-Americans comprise only 26% of Alabama’s population, but make up more than 60% of the prison population due to reactionary legislation and racist targeting of communities of color. Reports of beatings and systemic rape and sexual abuse of women inmates by guards at Tutwiler State Prison have surfaced in the media over the last year.
On the outside, labor unions and prisoners’ advocacy groups have been instrumental in helping prisoners organize themselves. The Free Alabama Movement is pushing an “Education, Rehabilitation, and Re-entry Preparedness Bill” to the Alabama legislature, while the Industrial Workers of the World labor union has vowed to provide support and assistance to the incarcerated laborers.
Melvin Ray, spokesperson for the Free Alabama Movement (FAM) said:
When we look at our situations inside of the Alabama Department of Corrections, we have no choice but to engage in this nonviolent and peaceful protest for civil and human rights. We sleep with rats and roaches. We work for free and eat slop unfit for human consumption. We serve decades in prison solely to provide free labor and without any real prospect for parole, and without any recourse to the courts for justice or redress of grievances. Our mothers, wives, and daughters must expose their breasts and panties just to visit us. This should not be acceptable to anyone. Prison is supposed to be a place where people go to work out issues and return to society. But when there is no focus on education or rehab but solely on profit margins, human suffering is inevitable. ADOC is about free labor and the new slavery no one wants to talk about. That is no longer going to work for the 30,000 of us who suffer because of it.
The Industrial Workers of the World was involved in a similar campaign in 1987, in which they organized 400 incarcerated laborers in an Ohio state prison, before the government ruled that prisoners are not legally entitled to the right to form a union - a right which all other workers enjoy.
Hence it is self-evident that the worker is nothing other than labour-power for the duration of his whole life, and that therefore all his disposable time is by nature and by right labour-time, to be devoted to the self-valorization of capital. Time for education, for intellectual development, for the fulfillment of social functions, for social intercourse, for the free play of the vital forces of his body and his mind, even the rest time of Sunday (and that in a country of Sabbatarians!) – what foolishness! But in its blind and measureless drive, its insatiable appetite for surplus labour, capital oversteps not only the moral but even the merely physical limits of the working day. It usurps the time for growth, development and healthy maintenance of the body. It steals the time required for the consumptions of fresh air. […] It reduces the sound sleep needed for the restoration, renewal, and refreshment of the vital forces to the exact amount of torpor essential to the revival of an absolutely exhausted organism. It is not the normal maintenance of labour-power which determines the limits of the working day here, but rather the greatest possible daily expenditure of labour-power no matter how diseased, compulsory, and painful it may be, which determines the limits of the workers’ period of rest. Capital asks no questions about the length of life of labour-power. What interests it is purely and simply the maximum of labour-power that can be set in motion in a working day. It attains this objective by shortening the life of labour-power…
Hey if you want to move to Providence there’s a room opening up in my awesome apartment. JUS’ SAYIN’!
Anonymous asked: Is Andy Hurley the straight edge Jesus?
I don’t get people who think Althusser is hard to read… he is like the easiest structuralist to read ever.