Alabama Prison Guards Stage Labor Strike Amid National Inmate Protest over Forced Labor

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prison-guard-1In the midst of a three-week protest organized by prisoners at Alabama’s William C. Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, several prison guards have reportedly joined in on the protest by staging a labor strike of their own.

The Department of Corrections confirmed Monday that a number of guards employed by the Alabama prison failed to show up for their shifts on Saturday. Rumors of an organized protest had been swirling among inmate advocacy groups, but an e-mailed statement from DOC spokesman Bob Horton proved that a strike had indeed taken place at the facility this past weekend.

“Some correctional officers assigned to William C. Holman Correctional Facility did not report for the third shift on Saturday,” Horton said in a statement to AL.com. “As a result, officers from other correctional facilities augmented Holman’s security staff. Prison officials have not reported further incidents.”

The spokesman stopped short of calling the guards’ failure to show up for work an outward act of protest because “at no time did the officers state that they were participating in a strike, nor did they express any demands or grievances.” In another statement issued on Tuesday, Horton vehemently denied any and all claims of a strike by Holman corrections officers, asserting that the DOC could only confirm they missed work.

But organizers of the prison strike, along with audio/visual accounts from a contraband cell phone inside the facility, tell a slightly different story, according to Buzzfeed. Organizers with the Free Alabama Movement, one of many groups that helped facilitate the protest, said that Holman officers had already “communicated their plans to F.A.M. members, and expressed their support for non-violent and peaceful demonstrations against the human rights conditions existent at Holman.”

The Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, another inmate advocacy group behind the protest, sent out a tweet Monday that read, “The guards are refusing to work. The warden is pushing the meal cart.”

According to Atlanta Black Star, inmates at Holman, along with prisoners in 24 other states across the country, launched a national protest on Sept. 9 to speak out against forced prison labor and deplorable living conditions. The protest’s start date marked the 45th anniversary of the prison uprising in Attica, New York, the news site reports. With the inmate strike going well into its third week now, Holman’s prison guards seemingly decided it was time to join in.

“Last night at Holman prison, an emergency situation developed as ALL of the officers assigned to the second shift waged a historic work strike for the first time in the history of the Alabama Department of Corrections,” the Free Alabama Movement stated in a press release dated Sept. 24. “Officers have complained about overcrowding and the need for a mass release, more education and rehabilitation programs, as well as issues with disease and filth.”

The organization went on to state that a DOC official and other supervisors were called to the prison to serve meals to inmates, as corrections officers weren’t around to do it. The DOC has yet to confirm these claims.

According to Buzzfeed, Holman inmate and Free Alabama Movement co-founder Kinetik Justice gave an interview to Aljazeera English Monday to discuss the strike in detail. He later released an audio message stating:

September the 24th 2016, Holman Correctional Facility, this is Kinetik Justice coming to you live. It’s official. At 6 o’clock no officers came to work. None came to work. None of the officers came to work. We have Deputy Commissioner Culliver, Warden Peterson, Sergeant Franklin from across the street… Who else? Warden Peterson from across the street, Warden Stewart, the captain, a white guy, Wilson, and one another. Those are the only ones here running the facility. Right now the commissioner is passing out trays. Warden Peterson is pulling the cart. Deputy Commissioner Culliver passing out trays. I can’t believe it. To my black sliding shoes, brown knitted pants, white tweed shirt with the collar bust open, sweating at the temples. It’s real. No officers came to work. They completely bugged on the administration. No more will they be pawns in the game. High time it’s going down.”

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