Oak Park Heights, MN — Just days after prisoners at the Stillwater prison staged civil disobedience actions by refusing a staff lockdown, incarcerated workers at the nearby ‘level 5’ MCF-Oak Park Heights prison canteen have staged a work strike, according to activists who regularly stay in touch with prisoners. The use of segregation, or sending prisoners to ‘the hole,’ has increased in recent years. Oak Park Heights administrators sent prisoners there 694 times in 2018, according to state Department of Corrections (DOC) data. The Twin Cities branch of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) sent out a press release on the Oak Park Heights work stoppage.
From 2010 to 2012, Keri Blakinger was incarcerated in state and county correctional facilities for possessing a “tupperware of heroin.” Since then, she has gone on to work as a prison reporter at the Houston Chronicle, The Marshall Project and, most recently, the Los Angeles Times. In June 2022, Blakinger published Corrections in Ink, a memoir about her experience in the prison system. The book shows how Blakinger and fellow incarcerated people navigated the New York state prison system, profiling their resilience in the face of dehumanizing conditions. Since its release, Blakinger has shared notes on Twitter from people in prison who have found the book to be a tool for hope and post-carceral strength. But a few months after its publication, Blakinger learned the Florida Department of Corrections was considering permanently banning her “dangerously inflammatory” book at prisons across the state after an inmate at Okaloosa Correctional Facility requested the book through the Prison Book Program.
Washington – America’s largest arms companies are increasingly finding lucrative new ways of profiting from the prison industrial complex; in many cases, weapons of war are directly manufactured using coerced prison labor. A new MintPress News study of the 100 largest private Defense Department contractors found that 37% of them were also profiting from incarcerated Americans, either in prisons and jails, or in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) camps. This proportion rose to 16 of the top 25 largest arms manufacturers, including Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman. The complete list of top corporations profiting from mass incarceration, displayed in order of value of Department of Defense contracts received, is as follows...
Hand-made jewellery, bottles of locally produced wine and other artisanal products line the shelves of a small shop in the centre of Turin, northern Italy. Two fashionably dressed women are browsing the selection of handbags. ‘Made in Italy’ is a popular label that attracts both tourists and locals. But here the products are more specifically, and proudly, ‘made in carcere’ (the Italian word for prison). Forty co-operatives supply the shop – called Freedhome – with goods produced by around 2,000 prisoners. About half of them work on day-release outside prison: on farms, wineries or different workshops in nearby towns.
The story of Marshall “Eddie” Conway, a military veteran and former Black Panther who was imprisoned for 43 years for a crime he didn’t commit, is one that gets to the heart of systemic racism in the United States. Despite grueling conditions, in prison Conway pursued three college degrees, and was considered an “exemplary” prisoner for starting a prison literacy program and organizing the prison library. On the other hand, his efforts to organize a union among his fellow convict laborers was crushed by the authorities. After being released in 2014 following an appellate court judgment that his jury had been given improper instructions, Conway has become executive producer of The Real News Network (TRNN), a progressive media organization based in Baltimore, MD, with his own show, “Rattling the Bars” that focuses on the many social justice issues that intersect with mass incarceration in the U.S.
For months, business owners and corporate media pundits in the US have complained about a “labor shortage,” claiming that businesses are struggling to find new employees because “no one wants to work.” Rather than enticing applicants with more competitive wages and stronger benefits and protections, though, many businesses are opting to exploit prison slave labor.
In 2011, Leprino Foods, the $3 billion company that supplies all the mozzarella to Papa John’s, Pizza Hut, and Domino’s pizza chains, lost its buffalo milk supplier in India. Water buffalo milk isn’t easy to find in the United States, especially not as much as a company as big as Denver-based Leprino could use. The animals are finicky, sometimes refusing to give milk at the sight of a stranger, and they produce only a fraction of the milk that cows make. But Leprino was in luck: One of its existing suppliers, which soon became one of the largest buffalo dairies in the United States, agreed to step in, and the milk began to flow. Leprino trademarked the slogan “with a kiss of buffalo milk” for Bacio, its premium mozzarella line marketed to independent pizzerias.
President Joe Biden, by executive order, directed the Department of Justice to end its private prison use. It's a step in the right direction and a symbolic moment for this administration to say they are going to take criminal justice reform seriously. While this step decouples the federal government's relationship with private prisons, let's remember that such institutions hold just about 9% of the federal prison population — a little more than 14,000 people. Profit from incarcerated people doesn't meet the moral standards of justice. However, private prisons aren't even where the biggest profits exist. Private companies continue to profit off the labor of inmates in the public prison system, or, the "prison industrial complex." President Biden must also dismantle this repugnant practice. These corporations have monetized crime and punishment with the government's help.
EXPO is an organization of formerly incarcerated individuals and other people involved with the criminal justice system. We are a voice for people adversely affected by this system. We are an offshoot of EXPO Wisconsin, which started in 2014. In just a few years, we have made tremendous strides to address issues that reduce the quality of life for people transitioning after being incarcerated. We are leading a few campaigns now. One is Unlock the Vote, which is a fight to restore voting rights for individuals convicted of a felony and who are now on probation or parole. We hope to restore these rights because people who have had a brush with law need to be able to return to society as assets, to be able to contribute in a positive way.
By any measure, the United States has the worst human rights record among the nations called democratic or developed or advanced or “free world” or any of the other labels that rich capitalist countries use to describe themselves. The U.S. has the worst health care system in that group, the worst benefits for workers, and the worst income inequality. It also has the dubious distinction of being the world’s biggest jailer, with some 2.3 million people behind bars. This country which treats its people so terribly is also the one most likely to project its evil doing on to others. There is a method to the madness.
Four organizations are taking a stand against UF’s official food service provider to protest its use of prison labor. The Gainesville Chapter of the Dream Defenders, UF NAACP, the UF Black Student Union and the Coalition to Abolish Prison Slavery at UF launched a monetary boycott against Aramark, the food service giant, Tuesday. The goal is to pressure the university to contract a new food supplier that doesn’t use prison labor, Dream Defenders member Ava Kaplan wrote in an email. UF Graduate Assistants United also announced its support for the Reitz Union Boycott Thursday through a Facebook post. Aramark has been UF’s official food provider since 1995...
With protests erupting all over Minneapolis over the death of George Floyd, cops are attempting to arrest protesters in mass. However, some bus drivers in Minneapolis are refusing to use their buses to transport protestors to jail. “As a transit worker and union member, I refuse to transport my class and radical youth,” Minneapolis bus driver Adam Burch told Payday. “An injury to one is an injury to all. The police murdered George Floyd and the protest against is completely justified and should continue until their demands are met.” While it would be illegal for Burch’s union to call for a wildcat strike, his local union ATU Local 1005 did issue a statement of solidarity with the protestors. “In ATU, we have a saying “NOT ONE MORE” when it comes to driver assaults, which in some cases have led to members being murdered while doing their job,” said the union in a statement.
As the coronavirus spread across the country, Patrick Jones kept reporting to his job in the textile factory at the federal prison in Oakdale, Louisiana. He’d worked there for years, sewing tidy buttonholes on government uniforms. Though the highly contagious virus was creeping into prisons by mid-March, Jones and his fellow inmates were working without masks, according to interviews with family and prisoners who knew him. He collapsed on March 19 and was taken to a hospital. About a week later, he died from COVID-19. Shortly after his death, the pandemic’s first in a federal Bureau of Prisons facility, the agency announced a nationwide 14-day “lockdown,” saying inmates would be mostly kept in their cells to decrease the spread of the virus.
On January 28, an image of Cook County Jail prisoners shoveling snow went viral after it was posted on the La Villita community Facebook page and then shared by the Chicago Community Bond Fund. The city of Chicago was preparing for an arctic blast and the prisoners were seen working in cold temperatures wearing orange jumpsuits. Thousands of people shared the image and expressed concern about the well-being of the prisoners. This scenario is yet another example of how incarcerated workers—toiling for little or no pay—are on the frontlines of extreme weather.
This year in over 20 cities across the US and Canada, anarchists, abolitionists, autonomists, and other rebels took part in noise demonstrations on New Year’s Eve, as has become an ongoing tradition within the movement. Demonstrations were organized outside of a variety of facilities, jails, prisons, and detention centers, and occurred against a backdrop of not only continued struggle and action against prison slavery, migrant detention, and child separation, but also growing anger to the carceral State in general.