Operation PUSH
January 15, 2018 9:45 AM   Subscribe

Flordia’s prisoners are going on strike. “...For no less than one month, they will refuse to work in the kitchen, the laundry, on farms, in maintenance, or in other jobs upon which the prisons depend to function. They will boycott products and services, forgo phone calls and the canteen, and engage in other activities to disrupt the prison economy.”

In addition to demands for higher wages, the reinstatement of parole, ending canteen price gouging, restoration of voting rights, and Stopping unpaid work for hurricane cleanup, inmates are also demanding a end to the overcrowded and deteriorating conditions of Florida prisons “There are so many unexplained deaths,” Lisa Graybill, deputy legal director for criminal justice reform at the Southern Poverty Law Center, told The Intercept. “They’re just appalling.
posted by The Whelk (19 comments total) 64 users marked this as a favorite
Following the Civil War, the Southern economy was in shambles and the slaves were emancipated. A cheap labour source was needed, and the convict lease system was invented. States leased out their convicts to industrialists and planters to work in locations such as railroads, coal mines and plantations, and entrepreneurs bought and sold these leases.

With little capital investment required and no need to care for the health of the prisoners, the system of economic exploitation became highly profitable for businesses and states and even cheaper than slavery. For example, in 1883 convict leasing provided Alabama with 10 percent of its revenue, 73 percent in 1898. Leased convicts were treated abysmally, with death rates 10 times higher than prisoners in states that did not employ leased convict labour. Secret graveyards contained the bodies of prisoners who had been tortured and beaten to death.

The viability of the convict lease system required that black people be returned to their former status as a source of labour. Hence, the Black Codes were enacted to suppress the rights of the recently emancipated African Americans, and criminalise them for minor offences such as vagrancy. Under the vagrancy laws, any black person under the protection of a white person could be swept up by the system for simply loitering, as black people were rounded up in this manner to provide a source of nearly free labour.

It should be illegal in any form.
posted by leotrotsky at 10:07 AM on January 15, 2018 [30 favorites]

this is amazing. i'm not well-off at all - how can i help?
posted by j_curiouser at 10:13 AM on January 15, 2018 [4 favorites]

Slavery by any other name...
posted by adept256 at 10:20 AM on January 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'd love to read about the legislative history of that line.

Few records of the committee's deliberations during the drafting of the Thirteenth Amendment survived, and the debate in both Congress and the state legislatures that followed featured almost no discussion of this provision. It was apparently considered noncontroversial at the time, or at least legislators gave it little thought.[123] There does exist records of the reason for this exemption, albeit more removed in time; the drafters based the amendment's phrasing on the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which features an identical exception.[123] Thomas Jefferson authored an early version of that ordinance's anti-slavery clause, including the exception of punishment for a crime, and also sought to prohibit slavery in general after 1800. Jefferson was an admirer of the works of Italian criminologist Cesare Beccaria.[123] Beccaria's On Crimes and Punishments suggested that the death penalty should be abolished and replaced with a lifetime of enslavement for the worst criminals; Jefferson likely included the clause due to his agreement with Beccaria. Beccaria, while attempting to reduce "legal barbarism" of the 1700s, considered forced labor one of the few harsh punishments acceptable; for example, he advocated slave labor as a just punishment for robbery, so that the thief's labor could be used to pay recompense to their victims and to society.
posted by rhizome at 10:56 AM on January 15, 2018 [4 favorites]

We have slavery, thanks to our police state.

Are you sure it's not the other way around?
posted by swr at 12:34 PM on January 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

What happens to striking prisoners? I can't imagine this will be allowed to go on or be successful.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 12:34 PM on January 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Any time i hear about prisoners striking I am so in awe of their courage. So few people will be on their side, and so much power of the state is arrayed against them.

80 cats, it's not clear that there are often positive outcomes for prison strikes, but maybe when you're desperate enough that doesn't matter.
posted by emjaybee at 12:58 PM on January 15, 2018 [7 favorites]

Florida is currently looking at having a vote on an ammendment that would restore ex-cons' voting rights. I have to believe our legislature will somehow use this strike as an excuse to say prisoner's voting rights should not be restored.
posted by wittgenstein at 1:08 PM on January 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

I highly recommend the documentary 13th, available on Netflix, which draws a straight line from slavery to the police state to private prisons to prison labor. It's a hard watch - it made me sob - but it should be required viewing for every non-Black American.
posted by AFABulous at 2:22 PM on January 15, 2018 [19 favorites]

Thanks for the film rec, AFABulous. Putting it in the queue.
posted by greermahoney at 5:46 PM on January 15, 2018

"What happens to striking prisoners?"

Solitary confinement and/or loss of privileges like yard time, TV time, books, visitation, phone calls, hot meals, etc. That's not counting any "unauthorized" abuses that can happen if a corrections officer "takes matters into their own hands." Prison is bad enough but the sad truth is it can get a lot worse in ways limited only by the imagination of the guards.
posted by Hiding From Goro at 7:27 PM on January 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

I wish them success (and safety!).

I do think, though, that we haven't always been rigorous enough in considering some of the economic implications of the constellation of systems often identified as the prison-industrial complex. Convict labor is ethically fraught for all kinds of reasons, but it's not at all clear that it's (in itself) an important part of our present-day economy (I don't think you have to accept the rejection of the notion of a PIC altogether to see the empirical limits of claims relating to one strand, the economic value of convict labor).
posted by praemunire at 10:45 PM on January 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Is there anyway for outsiders to keep track of who is striking and their health? They're all being brave, but I really just fear the next we hear of them will be a line in a report about who died in prison for the year.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 7:14 AM on January 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

From the IWW_IWOC Twitter

Day 5 of #OperationPUSH

Getting MUCH more mail from the inside. Strike activity reported in:

Santa Rosa
Avon Park
Hamilton Reception and Medical Center
Florida State Prison

They’re calling for a mass call in on Monday, details and script
posted by The Whelk at 1:34 PM on January 19, 2018 [4 favorites]

posted by The Whelk at 9:11 PM on January 20, 2018 [3 favorites]

“it's weird to say this in 2018, but it would be very great if democrats pushed for legislation that banned slave labor in the us“
posted by The Whelk at 8:13 PM on January 25, 2018 [3 favorites]

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