Despite scant media coverage, the largest prison strike in history is entering its third week. Retaliation is rampant, both against the organizers in prison and against the Bay View for spreading the word. The Free Alabama Movement that started the prison-strikes-to-end-slavery campaign is defeating a violent divide-and-conquer scheme to turn prisoner against prisoner with a Peace Summit, reminiscent of the Agreement to End Hostilities in California, which this month is entering its fifth year of keeping the peace.
by Free Alabama Movement
This was the face of Holman Prison during the heavily reported uprising last March. Now, the Free Alabama Movement’s peaceful but powerful campaign of prison strikes to end prison slavery is getting very little media coverage. – Photo: frame from prisoners’ video
Written Sept. 25, 2016 – The Sept. 17, 2016, Peace Summit held at Holman Prison in Atmore, Alabama, has been a success thus far. Tensions and violence were at a never-seen-before high.
Men in the prison overwhelmed with the increased violence cried out for a stop to the violence in the wake of a correctional officer’s death at the hands of a 25-year-old inmate. The violence and tensions have escalated astronomically due to outrageous administrative policies being implemented on prisoners throughout the state of Alabama as well as the rest of the country.
The warehousing of prisoners, forced labor with little to no pay made legit by way of the 13th Amendment, amongst other issues, are the root causes of the hopelessness and the anger resulting in the misplaced aggression and violence.
The men went from dorm to dorm throughout the institution calling for peace and a cease to the violence. They explained that no one in here is alone in their frustrations. That violence amongst ourselves is not the answer.
It went across well with the officers who have increasingly found themselves at odds with prisoners over administrative policies that they did not implement and have no power to change.
These men transformed the spirit of the prison – going from multiple stabbings daily to almost zero acts of violence following the peace summit. Hearts were touched and the seeds of a new culture of nonviolence amongst prisoners was planted.
The Sept. 17, 2016, Peace Summit held at Holman Prison in Atmore, Alabama, has been a success thus far.
As one participant in the peace summit stated: “We effect zero change by perpetuating violence amongst us. We have to fight these laws and bring light into this dark place if we expect anyone to hear us and empathize with our cause enough to aid and assist us.
“We are not enemies. These COs have no power to change laws or effect change on the senseless administrative policies. They are not the real enemy. The laws have us oppressed.
If we behave like men of integrity and dignity, only then can we begin to demand the respect due to men of integrity and dignity. If we can change ourselves and build men of character in a system that lacks the desire to correct or edify, then together as men we can dismantle this system of involuntary servitude – slavery – utilizing the collective power of right.”
These men transformed the spirit of the prison – going from multiple stabbings daily to almost zero acts of violence following the peace summit. Hearts were touched and the seeds of a new culture of nonviolence amongst prisoners was planted. Kinetic Justice of Free Alabama Movement reports on Democracy Now!
These are excerpts from the Sept. 28 broadcast of Democracy Now, an hour-long news show carried on 1,411 television and radio stations around the country and hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan González. The segment is headlined “Alabama Guards Stage Work Strike Months After Prisoner Uprising at Overcrowded Holman Facility.”
Juan González: We begin today’s show in Alabama, where prison officials have confirmed a group of correction officers refused to report for the evening shift Saturday at the Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore. The apparent work strike comes as guards have been walking off the job amid safety concerns and overcrowding throughout the summer.
Prisoners say there are stabbings on a regular basis, and call the facility “The Slaughterhouse.” A guard stabbed by a prisoner earlier this month died last week. The warden was stabbed in March.
This is incarcerated organizer Kinetik Justice speaking from inside the Holman prison on Saturday. Listen closely.
Kinetik Justice: It’s official. At 6:00, no officers came to work. None … Right now, the commissioner is passing out trays. Warden Peterson is pulling the cart. Deputy Commissioner Culliver passed me my tray. Every cell, he’s passing out the tray. I can’t believe it. To my black sliding shoes, brown knitted pants, white tweed shirt with the collar bust open, sweating at the temples, it’s real. No officers came to work. They completely bucked on the administration. No more will they be pawns in the game.
Juan González: The events at Holman come as the largest prison work strike in U.S. history has entered its third week. Organizers report that as of last week at least 20 prisons in 11 states continued to be involved in the protest, including in Alabama, California, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, Ohio, South Carolina and Washington.
The events at Holman come as the largest prison work strike in U.S. history has entered its third week.
The Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee says at one point about 20,000 prisoners were on strike. With the protest has come punishment, however. Several facilities were put on lockdown, with prisoners kept in their cells and denied phone access both before and during the strike. Organizers were also put in solitary confinement. …
Kinetik Justice: … Earlier in this year at St. Clair Correctional Facility, the violence was out of control. Officers were being assaulted. Inmates were being stabbed every day. There were several lawsuits filed about it at St. Clair Correctional Facility. What they did is they sent all of the people who were incarcerated at St. Clair they deemed to be problems to Holman. In over a process of maybe 45 days, they sent maybe 50 to 60 people here.
In March, they had an uprising. [See “Uprising at Holman Prison in Alabama” and related Bay View stories.] The warden was stabbed, and another officer was stabbed eight times. After that, they had another uprising maybe two days later. And about a month after that, we had the May Day work strike. And that lasted for 10 days.
Immediately after that, this administration handpicked every person in this prison that they felt was influential, that was moving in the direction of the movement, and they transferred them to other institutions, while simultaneously, in the segregation unit, releasing, you know, those people who had already had assaults and stabbing cases, and they brought in others.
And they pulled the officers back and told them to step back out of the dorms, and they allowed them to sit there and stab each other up, rob each other and, you know, just a whole bunch of foolishness.
And it began to get out of control, to the point where, you know, officers were being threatened. And they were reporting this to the administration that they were being threatened, and the administration was brushing them off like it wasn’t nothing.
In March, they had an uprising. The warden was stabbed, and another officer was stabbed eight times. After that, they had another uprising maybe two days later. And about a month after that, we had the May Day work strike. And that lasted for 10 days.
So they realized that after this spilled over and Officer Bettis was killed, that they realized that their lives was in danger just as much as these people who are incarcerated here. And on Saturday, they all came together in order to force this administration to live and work in the environment that they had created for these officers, to give them a taste of their own medicine, so to speak. …
As the situation at Holman is [now], most of the security is being provided by the street organizations. In affiliation with Free Alabama Movement, we had a Peace Summit, and we agreed that the administration was not going to protect us or, you know, make sure that the elderly were being protected and so forth.
In affiliation with Free Alabama Movement, we had a Peace Summit.
So we took it upon ourselves to try to instill some type of discipline within our own structures to maintain some type of order, until we could get some help from society in the form of creating a task force to do a fact-finding mission to come up in here, to get someone like an advocate like Pastor Glasgow, an attorney like Bryan Stevenson, Sen. Vivian Figures, Sen. Hank Sanders and some reporters to actually come up in here and tell the Department of Corrections to let us see your transfer logs, let us see your segregation release logs, let us see the body charts, let us see the officer sign-in logs – let us see documentation that proves that it is what you say it is, in contrast to what you say the propaganda of the Free Alabama Movement says it is.
Juan González: Well, you mentioned Pastor Kenneth Glasgow, who’s also joining us from Montgomery. He’s the founder and national president of The Ordinary People Society. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Pastor Glasgow. Can you tell us about the situation of the prisoners in Alabama right now, what you’re seeing, as a member of a faith-based group, about the responsibility of those on the outside?
On April 9, 2016, supporters holding a rally outside Holman Prison to draw attention to Free Alabama Movement’s campaign to end prison slavery placed a banner on top of the sign identifying “W.C. Holman Correctional Facility.”
Pastor Kenneth Glasgow: Thank you for having me. And what we’re seeing is that the prisoners – first of all, they did a yeoman’s job. We want to give them all the credit and all the applause we can. They have overcame religious barriers, racial barriers, geographical barriers, and also they have overcame incarceration barriers.
And by overcoming those barriers, Free Alabama Movement and Kinetik Justice, that you have on now, they were able to organize, lead and initiate this prison strike over 24 states in 40 to 50 different prisons.
What they have done is made us on the outside, who are organizers and advocates, we have to step up, because they have proven to us that, you know, we didn’t look at, even ourselves, being the formerly incarcerated persons – we didn’t look at prison slavery and prison labor. Now, since this prison strike has happened, we on the outside are looking at who we’re going to target, who we’re going to boycott next.
Whole Foods has already put out a media blitz last year, and we’re checking on it right now to make sure that they’re not still using prison labor. We’re looking at Starbucks. We’re looking at McDonald’s. We’re looking at Victoria’s Secret. We’re looking at all the different industries and companies.
And what’s happening inside the prisons right now is that there – whenever a people comes up – Bryan Stevenson said it best: Whenever we deal with the proximity of the situation, those who are incarcerated are looking at the fact that people that have paid taxes for them to be rehabilitated, for them to be educated, for them to be trained, in order to come out into society – because 98 percent of the people in prison are coming out, 98 percent, and in order for them to come out and be able to be productive citizens, they need to have these skills and education and all.
Free Alabama Movement and Kinetik Justice were able to organize, lead and initiate this prison strike over 24 states in 40 to 50 different prisons.
What they’re looking at is that they’re just being housed. Their families are being exploited by Alabama Department of Corrections and departments of corrections in all of the different states, because their families are sending them money for commissary, sending them money for them to use the phone. And yet, the taxpayers are paying anywhere from $31,000 to $80,000 per year, depending on what state you’re in, for them to get this rehabilitation and education, and they’re not getting it.
What they’re getting is being used for free prison labor. And, you know, so most of the industries and companies that own the high-level national media, that’s supporting and paying them off, got us believing that they’re outsourcing jobs, they’re outsourcing their products, outsourcing the manufacturing, and that’s why we have an unemployment rate. But actually, they’re not outsourcing; they’re insourcing.
So what those brothers and sisters are doing inside the prison is something that we all need to look at and look at our society and say, “Wait a minute. We’re still producing slavery and still producing slaves. We’re still producing indentured servitude,” and look at the 13th Amendment and change it.
I think what they are doing is very, very necessary. And what they’re doing, in a very, very peaceful way, shows us that our departments of corrections, in no matter what state you’re in, need to be revamped, revisited and relooked at, holistically.
What those brothers and sisters are doing inside the prison is something that we all need to look at and look at our society and say, “Wait a minute. We’re still producing slavery and still producing slaves. We’re still producing indentured servitude,” and look at the 13th Amendment and change it.
Amy Goodman: Kinetik Justice, inside Holman, what does a prison work strike look like? What are people refusing to do? You’re in solitary confinement, so – is that right? So you wouldn’t be working?
Kinetik Justice: That’s absolutely correct. I am in solitary confinement, and, no, I’m not working.
But what a work strike looks like in prison is that, usually, around 12:30, 12:45 at night, they send for the kitchen workers, those who will prepare the breakfast meal. And when those people don’t report to work, they initiate a prison lockdown to do an investigation to see what’s going on.
Nine times out of 10, they already have advanced knowledge that there’s going to be a work strike, so they come around to confirm that there is a work strike, no one wants to go to work, no one is being forced not to go to work, etc. Once that happens, the warden is dispatched here, and maybe then allocating officers in the kitchen to prepare these meals.
And in the morning time, you know, the prison is locked down, because the officers are trying to feed over 600, 700 people. And it’s not something that they’re usually doing, so this is a kind of awkward and frustrating process for them.
When work call comes in the morning for the tag plant, the industry, no one reports. And that day begins just like that, with the officers on a lockdown. The officers are struggling to provide the basic necessities, such as preparing meals and trying to get the medical list done and get the sick call and so forth done.
So, it’s a slow process throughout the day for the officers as well as for the men incarcerated, because we’re forced to be in dormitories with 115 people all day long, and, you know, that can get taxing, because, you know, due to overcrowding, you’re already dealing with tensions and frustration.
So, throughout a work strike, leadership is really required, because you have to try to keep a balance inside these dormitories to keep violence from erupting, because one sign of violence inside these dormitories, the administration will use that as an excuse to bring in a CERT team and try to assert violence, or they’re trying to say that we’re having a riot or, you know, something outside of the character of what we’re actually doing on the work strike.
Contact Free Alabama Movement via National Representative Pastor Kenneth S. Glasgow of The Ordinary People’s Society, 334-791-2433 or Freealabamamovement@gmail.com.