*Interview With a Prisoner’s Mother*
Life As A Slave: Conditions and Pre-Emptive Retaliation, McConnell Unit Texas
CONTACT: IWW Incarcerated Workers’ Organizing Committee (IWOC): 406-599-2463, email jdd [at] iww.org
April 18th, 2016
Since April 4th, prisoners in at least 4 Texas prisons have been on strike for better conditions and an end to slavery and human rights abuses. This strike is but the latest in a nationwide mass movement inside prisons for dignity and freedom. Minimum wage in Texas prisons is 0.00/hr. Access to medical care requires a $100 medical copay. “Good time” is rarely applied to reduce the sentences of those inside.
Here is a first person interview with a mother of a person inside McConnell Unit, a prison in Beeville Texas. She details daily life and retaliation prisoners are facing for considering joining the strike.
While other prisons are reported to be on lockdown due to prisoners striking, the McConnell prison is preemptively retaliating against prisoners who consider withholding their labor. Work taken from them for $0.00/hour. From cutting off people’s mail, threats of legal changes and violence, we see a little picture of slave life in 21st Century America.
Prisoners in Texas are told that if they refuse to work for free, they will “catch a major case if they refuse to go to work,” says the mom of one prisoner. When prisoners work, they are supposedly compensated for their labor with an accumulation of “good time”. Though the prisoners know they will likely never be granted the good time that they are guaranteed, the threat of taking it away is a strong threat because they have so little to hope for. And there is a need for hope.
In McConnell unit the water is “undrinkable” and “stinking”. Despite families and prisoners raising this issue, nothing is changed. Some prisoners just buy bottled water. Prisoners food too, is horrific, often spoiled, with vermin crawling in and out of the facility.
Slavery is alive and well. It is time for it to end. This is why we need you.
The movement to end prison slavery is growing. Prisoners in Alabama have recently confirmed their commitment to striking this May, while prisoners across the country are calling for nationally coordinated prison shutdowns on the 45th Anniversary of Attica this September.
Like all futures it will be decided by those who show up. Get involved. Call. Donate.
Here’s an east way you can help right now!!
As of Monday, April 18th, prisoners in Texas have been on rolling labor strikes for two weeks. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) is retaliating by locking the prisons down and depriving prisoners of even the standard abysmal human necessities they are forced to provide. Retaliation against people who refuse to work for free is one of the tools prison administrators use to assure that prisoners can continue to be exploited in today’s modern day slave system.
If you have a minute, please call the following administrators and read the scripts below:
*Brad Livingston, Executive Director, TDCJ, (936) 437-2101 or (512) 463-9988
*Bryan Collier, Deputy Executive Director, TDCJ, (936) 437-6251 or (512) 463-9988
*Jay Eason, Deputy Director, TDCJ, (936) 437-6318 or (512) 463-9988
*TDJC Ombudsman Office (936) 437-4927 email@example.com
*TDJC Office of the Inspector General (936) 437-5030 firstname.lastname@example.org
*TDCJ Executive Director (512) 463-9988 email@example.com
EASY Script: “Hi I’m calling in support of striking prisoners in Texas and their demands for good time, an end to $100 medical copay, an independent grievance procedure and an end to human rights abuses. Stop enslaving our brothers and sisters and assure that your staff is not retaliating against striking workers by giving them write ups, eyes on Texas!”
CHALLENGING Script: “Hi I heard about the prisoners labor strike and I’m calling to find out what sort of progress you are making toward meeting the prisoners demands.” Here is the list of demands for you to discuss.
If you have a little more time and want to have an even more significant impact we need help determining which prisoners are being retaliated against on any given day. Which prisons are on lockdown seems to change every couple of days.
There are nearly 100 prisons on this list of prisons and administrator phone numbers. Please add comments to the list so that we are better able to track what is happening and hopefully get at least a couple of calls in to every facility.
Script: “Hello, I’m calling to see if this facility is on lockdown right now.”
If they say no, say “I have heard that some prisons in Texas are on lockdown because of a labor strike associated with a list of demands from the prisoners”. Then start reading them this list of demands and letter from a prisoner.
If they say yes, they are on lockdown, ask them about the conditions the prisoners are facing and also ask them what directives they are relying on to guide their actions in this matter. Here are some of the reported conditions:
– Workers are threatened with major infractions for withholding their labor. These infractions could result in good time being taken away. Although good time seems to rarely be applied to anyone’s sentence, the threat of losing it is highly coersive.
– The locked down prisoners are not receiving the hot meals. This means hundreds or thousands of prisoners have had nothing to eat but bologna or peanut butter sandwiches since April 4th.
– Mailroom staff is delaying or interfering with the delivery of inmate mail.
– There are reports of lights being left on during the night or left off during the day, other examples of petty harassment from trifling guards and threats that the lockdown treatment will extend for weeks or even months.
– Interfering with the prisoner’s access to basic necessities like food, sleep and connection with their families and the outside world is inhumane.
– Please stop punishing the prisoners for asserting their basic humanity, if you want them to come off the workstoppage, you should meet their demands.
The prisoners need sustained pressure on these institutions, so please call on Monday and then make plans to follow up at least once more later in the week, if not every day. Thank you!!!
Also, Looking ahead to May 1st, we are asking people to carry the prisoners voices with them to whatever May Day events they may be planning or attending. Alabama prisoners have called for a month-long workstoppage starting on May 1st. If you’re already getting rowdy May Day, please also consider throwing a jail demo or a protest at the public face of a prison-labor exploiting corporation.