Convicts go on 'strike' to protest 'modern day slavery'

Convicts in prisons around the country say they have gone on "strike" for two weeks to protest living conditions and what they are referring to as "modern day slavery."

The demonstrations will last until September 9, which is the anniversary of the bloody inmate riot at Attica prison in New York that resulted in 40 deaths.

The Hill:

Prisoners who are leading the protests say the strike has the goal of ending what they call "modern day slavery," according to USA Today.  The newspaper notes that inmates have lamented that they get paid pennies on the dollar for their labor. 

The protests are being led by Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, which is a network of prisoner rights advocates.  The network is based in Lee Correctional Institution in South Carolina and is supported by the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC).

In addition to ending "modern day slavery," IWOC has a list of 10 demands related to the protest, according to its website.

"Immediate improvements to the conditions of prisons and prison policies that recognize the humanity of imprisoned men and women," one demand reads. 

Prison inmates taking part in the protests will refuse to report to assigned jobs, engage in sit-ins and begin hunger strikes for the two-week period. 

The strike comes as a response to an April riot at Lee Correctional Institution in which seven inmates died, according to organizers.

The IWOC claims "prison officials turned their backs on a riot they provoked."

When you have hundreds, or even thousands of anti-social criminals crammed into cells, the result is, indeed, going to be "dehumanizing."  Congress – backed by Donald Trump – is currently considering several reforms of the justice system, including prison reform.  Some reforms are ridiculous.  Some are necessary. 

We need more modern prisons.  And the complaints about pay are justified, considering that inmates have to pay for a lot of their own stuff.  The bottom line is that taxpayers are going to have to pony up to fix the worst facilities.  There is no alternative, given the growing prison population.

This doesn't mean making prisons luxury resorts.  It means having minimum standards enforced by the Bureau of Prisons.  No overcrowding, better training for guards – both for their safety and the safety of inmates – and some rational attempt to address the recidivism issue.  Throwing money at the problem is not the answer, and neither is ignoring it.  Education, real job training, drug and alcohol counseling – these are things that work to one degree or another in turning lives around and preparing inmates for release back into society.

Some inmates are not savable.  Agitation to release the worst of the worst in our prison system defeats the purpose of reform, and for those inmates incapable of functioning in normal society without preying on others, there needs to be more thought given to how to protect society from psychopaths.

Prison reform is not popular among Republicans, although many, including the president, reluctantly see the need for it.  Coming up with a bill that can satisfy enough members on both sides of the aisle – and the president – will be a challenge.

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