Prison strikes justified, need more attention

Camille Frink, Staff Writer [email protected]

This is an opinion article and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo.

For about three months, an organized movement of prison strikes has been underway. The protests’ purpose is to demand much-needed improvement in pay and working conditions for prisoners in a country with one of the highest rates of incarceration.

While prison jobs may help the incarcerated learn valuable skills and train them for the workplace, forcing them to work is unjust.

The protests, which are estimated to involve more than 24,000 prisoners in roughly 29 prisons across 12 states, began on Sept. 9. This date marked the 45th anniversary of the infamous Attica Prison riot.

By refusing to work, the participating inmates risk solitary confinement, loss of visitation rights and effects on their parole. Most Americans behind bars are required to work and, though the national average maximum wage for inmates is $4.25 per hour, some states, like Georgia and Texas, do not pay prisoners anything. Despite these low wages, most prisoners are still required to pay taxes.

Requiring the incarcerated to work for little to no wage is legally justified by the 13th Amendment. While the 13th Amendment bans slavery, an exception exists for convicted criminals, a clause that protesters demand courts repeal.

In response to the protests, prison officials have refuted the claims of injustice by stating that prison jobs help prevent recidivism, give job training and offer opportunities.

Revoking prisoners’ right to see their family members and putting them in solitary confinement, which has been shown to be psychologically damaging, is a violation of fundamental human rights.

No person should be forced against their will to work for little to no pay, regardless of whether they are convicted of a crime.

The demands of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee and those protesting, which have received relatively little media coverage, are valid and important. Though issues facing the incarcerated go largely ignored by most the population, the incarcerated are still people deserving of civil liberties, and their demands for human rights must not go ignored.

Camille is a sophomore at Newcomb-Tulane College. She can be reached at [email protected]