People tend to forget—if they ever knew at all—that the 13th Amendment did not, in fact, completely abolish slavery in the United States. It reads:
“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
See, for example: The South’s Shocking Hidden History: Thousands of Blacks Forced Into Slavery Until WW2. Blackmon, D. A., Alternet (Jan. 2013) (“The horrifying, little-known story of how hundreds of thousands of blacks worked in brutal bondage right up to the middle of the 20th century.”)
Exclusive: Inmates to strike in Alabama, declare prison is “running a slave empire”
Breaking: Reached in his cell, Free Alabama Movement leader tells Salon inmates will refuse work to end free labor
Inmates at an Alabama prison plan to stage a work stoppage this weekend and hope to spur an escalating strike wave, a leader of the effort told Salon in a Thursday phone call from his jail cell.
“We decided that the only weapon or strategy … that we have is our labor, because that’s the only reason that we’re here,” said Melvin Ray, an inmate at the St. Clair correctional facility and founder of the prison-based group Free Alabama Movement. “They’re incarcerating people for the free labor.” Spokespeople for Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and his Department of Corrections did not respond to midday inquiries Thursday. Jobs done by inmates include kitchen and laundry work, chemical and license plate production, and furniture-making. In 2011, Alabama’s Department of Agriculture reportedly discussed using inmates to replace immigrants for agricultural work; in 2012, the state Senate passed a bill to let private businesses employ prison labor.
I guess this has something to do with the vaunted “free market” I’ve heard so much about.
Ray said the strikers are out to secure educational programming and true rehabilitation, and to end overcrowding, life sentences without parole, and “the free labor system.” “There is not even the pretense of doing anything about ‘corrections,’” he argued. Rather, “they’re running a slave empire.”
Read the whole thing. And please consider getting involved with Stop Mass Incarceration Network‘s Month of Resistance in October. The prison-industrial complex is an abomination—and it ain’t just Alabama.