September 6, 2018: The Legal Action Center and its National H.I.R.E. Network stand in support of and in solidarity with the incarcerated activists taking part in the Nationwide Prison Strike. On August 21st, thousands of incarcerated people commenced a 20-day Prison Labor Strike to peacefully highlight and challenge the inhumane prison conditions and labor practices that are akin to slavery, servitude, and forced labor in many U.S. prisons. Incarcerated individuals are regularly exploited and poorly paid—if at all—for their labor, and their physical and mental health needs are often neglected. Fighting to end modern day slavery and inhumane treatment of incarcerated people is everyone’s problem.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, at least 95% of all state prisoners will be released from prison at some point; nearly 80% will be released to parole supervision. As a nation that prides itself on being just, we should be committed to treating all members of society with human dignity, ensuring the health and well-being of incarcerated people, and making certain that there are good opportunities for formerly incarcerated people to be active participants in our workforce and contributing members of society.
The Nationwide Prison Strike is due to end on September 9th, which is also a day of reflection for Legal Action Center. September 9th is the anniversary of the 1971 Attica prison uprising in upstate New York. Sadly, the demands of the strikers today are similar to those put forward 47 years ago. We are especially committed to the plight of these activists not only because it is our mission to fight to ensure people are treated with dignity and have equal opportunities to succeed, but because it was the vision established in 1972 by our founding board chair, Arthur Liman, who was the general counsel and lead author of the report of the investigation of the Attica uprising that opened the door for deeper examination of the U.S. corrections system and its abuses.
The dignity of work cannot be understated and adequate pay for work is absolutely necessary. All workers, including those who are incarcerated, should earn prevailing wages, have health and safety protections, and experience other fundamental labor rights and employment opportunities upon release.