Probably you thought the days of inmates working in cotton fields, with an overseer on horseback, were all gone. Wrong. And it gets worse.
The Constitution’s 13th Amendment bans slavery and involuntary servitude, “except as a punishment for crime” — meaning that the U.S. has approximately 2.3 million disenfranchised slaves in what is today a multi-billion dollar a year industry.
Should prisons require inmates to work? Should work be optional? Should prisons pay inmates for that work? How much? If that work competes with local businesses who cannot sell/manufacture to compete with the low costs of inmate goods, should the prison stop that work?
On September 6, prisons across the country plan a work stoppage to draw attention to these questions. This week, Texas inmates are already involved in a planned work stoppage–so TDC is locking the inmates in their cells. TDC insists these lock-ins are normal, scheduled, and not punitive. I sure hope that’s correct.
Mostly I fear for the inmates’ safety. Prisons are never thrilled to have a protest, even a sit-down work stoppage. They realize that movements created publicity, and publicity opens the light into the secret world inside prisons. How many lives will be lost this time? How many will be injured? And what will we, as citizens, do to man-up to their exposed misery? I hope we stand a ring the bells, scream in the legislative hallways, write letters and email s to prison officials, march outside the prison walls.
Are you as ready as they are to make a sacrifice of an hour, a trip, a phone call?