Florida Prisoners Demand End To Slave Labor, Prepared To Strike

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The prisoners demanded officials abandon “the current slave arrangement" and begin paying a wage to inmates.

Prisoners in Florida called for a strike to take place Monday, which marks the third time in the span of a year that inmates have protested inhumane conditions including unpaid labor.

Detainees in at least eight prisons have declared their intention to stop all work on Monday — Martin Luther King Jr. Day — to demand an end to unpaid labor and price gouging in prison commissaries, as well as the restoration of parole, among other requests.

Coordinated, nonviolent prison protests as well as spontaneous uprisings amid deteriorating conditions have escalated in recent years both nationwide and in Florida, which has the third largest prison system in the country.

In a statement delineating their concerns, the prisoners demanded officials abandon “the current slave arrangement" and begin paying a wage to inmates.

“We want to be paid for the work we do, so that somebody doesn’t end up spending 10, 15, 20 years not being paid, and sent home with a bus ticket and a $50 check,” the prisoner speaking in the recording said. “We want to create an environment where someone can do their time, be rehabilitated, and enter into society with some type of hope.”

Florida prisoners work both inside the prisons — doing laundry, cooking, maintaining the facilities, and growing food — and on outside “community work squads.” According to the corrections department, in 2017 the latter group alone performed 3.15 million hours of work valued at more than $38 million statewide, including cleanup work after Hurricane Irma.

Other issues prisoners demand the state of Florida address:

  • 'Outrageous' canteen prices
  • Reintroduction of parole
  • Overcrowding and brutality at the hands of corrections officers
  • Deal with environmental issues - extreme temperatures, mold, contaminated water, being near toxic sites
  • Honor moratorium on state executions
  • Restore voting rights

“What the prisoners are asking for is not only completely reasonable, but should be the bare minimum of how we treat an individual that the state is in charge of caring for,” said Azis. “I would hope that whatever the DOC’s response is, it is an ethical and responsible way of addressing these real concerns.”