UPDATE: The prison strikes raging across the country are about more than just slave labor practices. Prisoners are also taking action against other abuses they face, such as the lack of adequate medical and mental healthcare.
On Friday morning, Free Alabama Movement’s Kinetik Justice Amun posted a video to Twitter, which provides a rare and chilling glimpse into the situation for those in need of treatment.
— FREEDOM FOR KINETIK (@for_kinetic) September 30, 2016
“Somebody need to do something. I don’t know, the brother could die around now,” Justice says in the recording as a prisoner can be heard in the background banging repeatedly on their cell door. “I don’t know what his problem is or what his ailment is, but I know he’s been kicking on the door going on 40 minutes and it got to be serious.”
“But he’s not gonna get no help, not here tonight. Maybe at 2:30 when they do pill call. So he got maybe 45 more minutes of kicking and banging before he actually sees an officer,” he continues.
“Craziness. The Alabama Department of Corrections—it’s what we dealing with. When y’all gonna step up and make them understand that enough is enough? Close Holman down and let my people go. Peace.”
Holman Correctional Facility is where some of the first calls originated for a national coordinated prison labor strike, which began on September 9. Now entering its fourth week on Friday, prisoners at Holman are reportedly contemplating further action.
On September 28, Alabama news outlet AL.com reported Warden Carter F. Davenport resigned from the Holman Correctional Facility earlier this year, making his replacement the third warden at the prison in the past nine months.
In a statement to reporters, a spokesperson for the Alabama Department of Corrections “did not say why Davenport decided to retire or whether his record of presiding over high levels of violence at prisons, where he has been warden, played a role in the corrections veteran’s departure.”
Prisoners organized as the Free Alabama Movement called for Davenport to be removed from warden positions multiple times over the years.
Davenport and other corrections officers have been stabbed during uprisings, and one corrections officer recently died from stabbing injuries. The warden had a violent reputation and once punched an inmate in the head while warden at the St. Clair Correctional Facility. (AL.com noted this is “a violation of prison policy that in Alabama is not considered a crime.”)
He also was blamed for increases in violence at other prisons where he was the warden.
Nine corrections officers failed to report to work amid rumors that guards were joining inmates by going on strike themselves, protesting staffing and safety issues they say prison administrators have neglected.
The Alabama Department of Corrections downplayed claims of a guard strike, but a message on the Facebook page of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee tells a different story:
“Just confirmed by Officers ~4 more CO’s turned their uniforms in and quit,” the message reads. “The remaining CO’s are planning a collective action. KEEP YOUR EYES ON HOLMAN, HISTORY IS ABOUT TO BE MADE.”
Additionally, prisoner Kinetik Justice Amun, a member of the Free Alabama Movement, posted an image to Twitter of a notice he says he received from prison officials. Under a section titled “Amnesty Period,” prisoners are notified they have until October 1 to “turn in any weapon to the Population Shift Office without disciplinary action.”
HOLMAN Admin. giving prisoners until 10/1 to turn knives in. Guess the HOLMAN PROJECT IS OVER pic.twitter.com/LHYIr9d1be
— FREEDOM FOR KINETIK (@for_kinetic) September 29, 2016
Information about the strikes still remains elusive as prison officials deny uprisings and acts of retaliation reported by those in contact with prisoners. Mask Magazine and It’s Going Down continue to update their liveblogs, and social media accounts for members of the Free Alabama Movement and the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee offer a steady stream of updates on daily events.
The work of this grassroots support network is proving to be valuable. Prisoners in South Carolina’s Broad River Correctional Facility say phone calls from outside supporters led to prisoners finally getting showers and hot meals. Others say the phone calls can provide protection from retaliation and help the morale of striking prisoners.
Attention from the outside is vitally important. Without it, prison officials are allowed to act with impunity. A Twitter account reportedly operated by South Carolina prisoners claims news media have ignored the killing of an inmate at South Carolina’s McCormick Correctional Institution.
Fucked up prison polices and directives gets prisoner killed in South Carolina! No one hears us!
— Prison slavery (@Prisonslavery1) September 26, 2016
The account reported the entire state system may be on lockdown ‘due to disturbance.’ “Two guards that were constantly harassing, has been stab [sic] by prisoners,” @Prisonslavery1 tweeted. “Active rebellion at [Turbeville Correctional Institution] S.C. State patrol/[police] called in.”
It’s Going Down interviewed a prisoner in South Carolina about what happened at Turbeville. “Tough guard got mad because prisoners didn’t obey a command,” the prisoner said. “When the guard reached for their mace, they were surrounded and beat up.”
“When the other guards arrived like they were going to jump on the prisoners, everyone stood up and ran them out of dorm,” they explained.
“The strike news got us holding some long overdue conversations. The spirit of Attica is in the air.” the prisoner said. “Help us by standing up for us in places we can’t go! I’m here for the people, the most oppressed…all the prisoners that feel as I do.”