Prisoners at the St. Clair correctional facility in Alabama are planning to stop their work at the jail this weekend because of alleged slavery.
“We decided that the only weapon or strategy… that we have is our labor because that’s the only reason that we’re here,” St. Clair inmate Melvin Ray told Salon.com via phone.
Ray, who started the Free Alabama Movement, accused the state's prison system of "incarcerating people for the free labor.”
“There is not even the pretense of doing anything about corrections," said Ray. “They’re running a slave empire.”
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The Free Alabama Movement has posted recorded cell phone interviews of inmates online, in which the men detail the unsanitary conditions of Alabama jails (video below).
Ray claimed that prison officials have threatened the prisoners with solitary confinement if they go on strike.
“It’s a hellhole,” Ray told Salon.com. “That’s what they created these things for, to destroy men.”
“We have to get [inmates] to understand: You’re not giving up anything. You don’t have anything. And you’re going to gain your freedom right here,” added Ray.
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Prisoners at Holman, Elmore and St. Clair state jails went on a work strike back in January.
Alabama State Department of Corrections spokesman Brian Corbett told the Associated Press that only a small number of inmates refused to do work during the January strike.
However, Ray claims that almost all of the prisoners at St. Clair and Holman prisons went on strike.
“There may be some prisons we spent a lot of time organizing that don’t even go on strike [this time],” Ray told Salon.com. "The best-case scenario would be that every prison in the state of Alabama joins the Alabama movement, go on, shut down.”
The U.S. Justice Department is investigating conditions in Alabama’s prisons.
Even though Alabama prison officials claim their jails are not violating anyone's rights, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) recently said he was bringing in outside groups to “transform the landscape of our criminal justice system for the better," reported AL.com.