The nearly 4,000 incarcerated workers who are trained to fight deadly fires across California often make less than $2 an hour and are not eligible to be hired as professional firefighters after they are released from prison. The work is physically strenuous and, in some cases, fatal. As forest fires ravage California, the state has become increasingly reliant on the program as a cost-saving measure. In July, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation tweeted that 2,000 incarcerated people, including 58 “youth offenders,” were working to fight fires. Bill Sessa, an information officer at the department, said that “all of the juvenile offenders [used to fight fires] have committed serious or violent felonies.” Adult incarcerated firefighters are often low-level, nonviolent offenders.
DE-NJ NLG Prisoners’ Legal Advocacy Network (PLAN) Mounts Legal Responses to Widespread Reports of Prisoner Abuses In The Aftermath Of The 2018 National Prison Strike
From August 21, 2018 to September 9, 2018, prisoners across the country participated in a peaceful strike to protest steadily deteriorating conditions of confinement in United States prisons. These worsening conditions, such as major cutbacks to prisoner programs, services, and safety measures have led to prison facilities that are increasingly dehumanizing and unsafe for prisoners. The April 2018 events at South Carolina’s Lee Correctional Institution, the deadliest prison incident in this country in the last 25 years, are emblematic of this sharp decline in prison conditions. Widespread reports from prisoners independently corroborated allegations that Lee Correctional prison guards turned their backs on the riot they provoked...
The First Minister has lost patience with the web giants after their failure to bring in fair working standards and pay staff the Living Wage. Nicola Sturgeon has pulled the plug on multi-million pound grants for Amazon until they pay Scottish workers the Living Wage. The Sunday Mail can reveal the First Minister has introduced new criteria for state handouts that will exclude low-wage employers. She appears to have lost patience with Amazon – owned by the world’s richest man Jeff Bezos – after he consistently refused to pay workers the £8.75 an hour rate recommended by the Living Wage Foundation to guarantee basic living standards for staff. Scottish Government ministers have met with senior managers on a number of occasions, but failed to convince them to adopt the standard at plants in Dunfermline, Fife, and Gourock, Inverclyde.
Incarcerated workers — who often make less than $1 an hour producing profits for big companies — are on strike across the country. As wildfires rage across California, some of the people risking their lives to fight them are paid only a few dollars a day. They’re part of a 2.3 million-strong underclass of American employees making sweatshop wages: incarcerated workers. Slave wages are just one of the many reasons why incarcerated people around the U.S. on strike. The strike was organized in response to deadly violence at Lee Correctional Institution in South Carolina earlier this year, a result of the prison’s abysmal living conditions. Organizers have a list of 10 demands, which include the need for prompt improvement of prison conditions and policies. They also call for the “immediate end to prison slavery,” which is legal thanks to a constitutional loophole.
Since the budget summary was written, Vermont has removed all its prisoners from the Michigan facility. In its place, Vermont used the Pennsylvania state facility at Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, where four Vermonters have died, one from untreated cancer with no palliative care. Now Vermont negotiators have reportedly agreed to a contract to send Vermont prisoners to Tallahatchie, Mississippi, to be housed in a 2,672-bed facility run by CoreCivic, Inc. (formerly known as the Corrections Corporation of America), the largest private prison company in the US (2018 second-quarter profit $42 million on revenue of $449 million). The Vermont contract is currently secret. The ACLU opposes the contract sight unseen. State and corporate officials have refused to discuss it in any detail, but promise it will be made public once the necessary parties have signed it to make it binding.
“Fundamentally, it’s a human rights issue. Prisoners understand they are being treated as animals. Prisons in America are a warzone. Every day prisoners are harmed due to conditions of confinement. For some of us it’s as if we are already dead, so what do we have to lose?” –Pre-strike statement from Jailhouse Lawyers Speak. When the 2016 US prison strike kicked off, the media barely whispered. Despite efforts by the Free Alabama Movement, an organization centered around the men inside Holman prison, to spread the message through social media and compelling video footage taken inside prisons, mainstream journalists weren’t biting. While independent media outlets covered the strike, an action that ultimately involved thousands of people in two dozen states drew virtual silence from mainstream media.
The only way to end slavery is to stop being a slave. Hundreds of men and women in prisons in some 17 states are refusing to carry out prison labor, conducting hunger strikes or boycotting for-profit commissaries in an effort to abolish the last redoubt of legalized slavery in America. The strikers are demanding to be paid the minimum wage, the right to vote, decent living conditions, educational and vocational training and an end to the death penalty and life imprisonment. These men and women know that the courts will not help them. They know the politicians, bought by the corporations that make billions in profits from the prison system, will not help them. And they know that the mainstream press, unwilling to offend major advertisers, will ignore them.
The prisoners’ strike launched in the US on August 21 might have expanded beyond the 17 States where the action was originally planned. This was revealed by Amani Sawari, a member of Jailhouse Lawyers Speak (JLS) – an anonymous prisoners’ collective providing legal support to the incarcerated – which had given the call for the strike. The strike, possibly the largest ever in US history, is expected to continue till September 9. It was launched in protest against the use of prisoners as slave labor – which is a multi-billion dollar industry serving private profits, as well as US military production. Other issues include the extortionist prices charged for prison services such as phone calls, poor living and working conditions, and racial discrimination in the implementation of laws.
By Celisa Calacal for AlterNet - When activist Sam Sinyangwe was awaiting a meeting with the governor’s office at the Louisiana state capitol building in Baton Rouge, he noticed something odd. A black man in a dark-blue jumpsuit was printing papers while a correctional guard—with a badge and gun—stood watching over him. The pair stood out against the white, middle-aged legislators populating the building. Sinyangwe said he did not know exactly what he was looking at, until he saw another black man in the same dark-blue outfit serving food at the capitol building’s cafeteria. This time, Sinyangwe noticed that the man had a patch on his chest labeling him a prisoner of the Louisiana State Department of Corrections, complete with an identification number. Sinyangwe realized that the server, the man printing papers and the other people working in the lunch line were all prisoners. Inmates working at the capitol building in Baton Rouge is a common sight. Prisoners work in the Louisiana governor’s mansion and inmates clean up after Louisiana State University football games as well. But the labor practice of having inmates work in state government buildings extends beyond Louisiana; at least six other states in the U.S. allow for this practice: Arkansas, Alabama, Missouri, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Georgia.
By André Campos for Mongabay - Products derived from timber extracted by workers living in conditions analogous to slave labor in Brazil are connected to a complex business network linked to the U.S. market – possibly reaching the shelves of large retailers and being used in renovation of landmarks – according to a new investigation conducted by Brazilian news outlet Repórter Brasil. After purchasing from suppliers held liable for that crime by the Brazilian government, local traders exported timber to companies like USFloors, which supplies the retail chain Lowe’s, as well as Timber Holdings, which supplied timber for construction projects at Central Park and Brooklyn Bridge in New York.
By April M. Short for AlterNet - As many as 60,000 immigrants detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement could play a role in a class-action lawsuit accusing a private prison company of violating federal anti-slavery laws. The lawsuit alleges that detained immigrants awaiting court dates were forced to work for $1 per day or for free, on threat of solitary. The suit was initially filed on behalf of nine immigrant plaintiffs in 2014 for $5 million in damages, but was recently moved to class action status. Now, attorneys expect damages to grow substantially, maybe involving tens of thousands of plaintiffs, as Kristine Phillips reports in a March 5 Washington Post piece detailing the lawsuit.
By Richard Mellor for We Know What's Up -- US president Barack Obama has just finished a 5-day visit to East Africa with the same goal in mind. “Africa is the final frontier in the global rag trade—the last untapped continent with cheap and plentiful labor,” the Wall Street Journal wrote prior to Obama’s exploratory mission. What with Chinese workers waging successful struggles for higher wages and the Cambodians following suite, Africans are in the sights of the garment industry investors. Ethiopia is a particularly attractive location as economic growth has been pleasing Wall Street and the country has no minimum wage. Ethiopian garment workers were earning $21 a month as of last year according to the Ethiopian government. Despite lacking in infrastructure and a relatively untrained (for sewing garments) labor force, the apparel companies are “still drawn to the cheap labor and inexpensive power…” the WSJ writes. The urgency for Obama as the representative of US capitalism, is catching up with the Chinese who have been investing in Africa as well as Latin America.