Lake Butler Work Camp, Fla., Jan. 16 — There is one place in the U.S. where slavery is still constitutionally legal: in prisons. The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, passed in 1864, abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime.
But prisoners held in this enslavement are organizing resistance. Brave prisoners within the Florida state prison system have organized themselves into a month-long work strike called Operation Push. It began on Jan. 15, Martin Luther King Day. In a phone interview, an anonymous prisoner-activist specifically linked the strike to King’s legacy of protest against racism and economic injustice. (tinyurl.com/yafoh75p)
The following call is an excerpt from the full call to action, initially posted online via SPARC (Supporting Prisoners and Real Change):
“We are currently forming a network agency within [Florida] Department of Corrections. We are asking all prisoners within the DOC to take a stand by “laying down” starting Jan. 15, 2018, until the injustice we see facing prisoners within the Florida system is resolved. We are calling on all organized groups, as well as religious systems, to come together on the same page. We will be taking a stand for:
- Payment for our labor, rather than our current slave arrangement
- Ending outrageous canteen prices
- Reintroducing parole incentives to lifers and those with ‘Buck Rogers’ dates.
“Along with these primary demands, we are also expressing our support for the following goals: 1) Stop the overcrowding and acts of brutality committed by officers through the FDOC. 2) Expose the environmental conditions we face including extreme temperatures, mold, contaminated water, and being placed next to toxic sites. 3) Honor the moratorium on state executions. 4) Restore voting rights as a basic human right to all.”
On Jan. 15 demonstrations in support of the Florida prisoners’ strike took place across the state and country. The strike actions have been endorsed by over 100 organizations.