#EndPrisonSlavery: National Inmate Work Strike Begins on Anniversary of 1971 Attica Prison Uprising

Attica prison uprising in 1971

Answering the call of those locked up in Alabama and Texas prisons, incarcerated people in 40 prisons in 24 states across the U.S. have initiated a work strike to coincide with the 45th anniversary of the Attica prison uprising.

On Sept. 9, 1971, 29 inmates and 10 hostages were killed by police while fighting for humane conditions, including food and medical care.


Learn more about the Attica prison uprising below:


“The criminal-justice system is a continuation of slavery,” said Robert Earl Council. Also known as Kinetik Justice, Council is a leader in the Free Alabama Movement, or FAM, a network of incarcerated people spanning several prisons in Alabama. “The 13th Amendment freed the slaves and then put them to work in prisons.”

The prisoners who issued the call-to-resistance are part of the Industrial Workers of the World’s Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee. They issued the following statement:

On September 9th of 1971 prisoners took over and shut down Attica, New York State’s most notorious prison. On September 9th of 2016, we will begin an action to shut down prisons all across this country. We will not only demand the end to prison slavery, we will end it ourselves by ceasing to be slaves.

To achieve this goal, we need support from people on the outside. A prison is an easy-lockdown environment, a place of control and confinement where repression is built into every stone wall and chain link, every gesture and routine. When we stand up to these authorities, they come down on us, and the only protection we have is solidarity from the outside … When we stand up and refuse on September 9th, 2016, we need to know our friends, families and allies on the outside will have our backs. This spring and summer will be seasons of organizing, of spreading the word, building the networks of solidarity and showing that we’re serious and what we’re capable of.


Though the demands are specific to each state, they are clear and they are unified. In South Carolina, incarcerated people are calling for “comprehensive mental health programs, GED programs, vocational training, drug treatment options, affordable commissary, in­person doctor visits instead of telemedicine, changes to disciplinary policies, and legislative changes to eliminate habitual offender sentencing, among other reforms.”

“Until we see these changes, we will resist,” said a prisoner in Lee Correctional Institution, identified simply as SJ.


As reported by The Nation, there were inmate strikes in “seven Texas state prisons striking in April. Alabama inmates engaged in a work strike and protest in May, and since then there have been work strikes and hunger strikes in Mississippi, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, Nevada, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania.”

In addition to inhumane conditions, such as inedible food and substandard health care, inmates are also fighting for decent wages.


Make no mistake: The prison-industrial complex is nothing more than repackaged slavery, as evidenced by the fact that Mississippi and Louisiana have two of the highest (for-profit) prison populations in the world. According to the ACLU, the United States has more than 20 percent of the world’s prison population, and the carceral state—which has expanded dramatically under a racist so-called war on drugs—severely affects black and Latinx communities.

See just a few of the stats below:

  • 1 in every 106 white males age 18 or older are incarcerated; 1 in every 36 Hispanic males age 18 or older are incarcerated; 1 in every 15 black males age 18 or older are incarcerated.
  • African-American women are three times more likely than white women to be incarcerated, while Hispanic women are 69 percent more likely than white women to be incarcerated.
  • Marijuana use is roughly equal among blacks and whites, yet blacks are 3.73 times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession.
  • Despite using and selling drugs at rates similar to those of their white counterparts, African Americans and Latinos make up 62 percent of those in state prisons for drug offenses and 72 percent of those sentenced for federal drug-trafficking offenses.
  • Despite making up only 15 percent of the juvenile population, black juveniles are arrested two times more often than their white counterparts.
  • African Americans serve virtually as much time in prison (pdf) for a drug offense (58.7 months) as whites do for a violent offense (61.7 months).

When those who believe in freedom speak of the war on drugs really being a war on the most marginalized black and brown communities in this country, this is why.

Social media has been flooded with supportive messages:


To join the movement to end prison slavery, get involved here.

Follow The Root, #PrisonStrike#EndPrisonSlavery and #IncarceratedLivesMatter to stay informed.

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