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On this episode, Roqayah and Kumars interview several organizers affiliated with the prison labor stike currently happening at dozens of facilities across the country. The strike began on September 9th, the 45th anniversary of the Attica prison rebellion, and continues to grow despite severe repression by prison guards and administrators.
First, we speak to Azzurra Crispino, media co-chair for the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC), a branch of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). She is also an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Austin Community College and Co-Founder of Prison Abolition Prisoner Solidarity, an organization dedicated to supporting prisoners and prison abolition efforts. She gives us some background on the recent history of prisoner resistance, from Attica to today. She discusses the many demands of strikers, including changing the 13th amendment to completely outlaw slavery, including for incarcerated people. She gives her thoughts on what brings us to the current moment, where we are seeing the largest prison strike in US history, with as many as 24,000 prisoners refusing to work and more joining daily. She also talks about the companies that profit off of prison slave labor, and what we can do to stop them.
Next, we speak to Cole Dorsey. Cole was incarcerated for three years in Michigan on drug charges. Shortly after his release, he joined the IWW as an organizer in 2004, where he has been ever since. He is currently an organizer with the Oakland IWOC and Bay Area IWW. We talk to Cole about his life before, during, and after prison, and how his experiences have shaped his organizing work. We discuss strategies for organizing both inside and outside of prison, and the role that IWOC plays in supporting and connecting on-the-ground struggles across the country. Cole tells us about the tactics used by prison administrators to hinder organizing efforts. We also discuss ways the average person can get involved to support striking prisoners.
Finally, Kumars speaks to "D", a strike organizer at a correctional institution in South Carolina. D spoke to us on a cellphone that was smuggled into the prison and he has to maintain a level of anonymity to avoid retribution for his organizing work. He tells Kumars about what is happening where he is, with close to 350 prisoners participating in the work stoppage there. He explains that more are expected to join the strike in the coming days, even as prisoners face serious consequences for refusing to work. He also tells Kumars that what prisoners want most from supporters on the outside is to not let the public's attention dissipate, because once it does, prisoners will face serious repercussions. He also discusses the importance of writing letters to prisoners, as well as donating to groups like IWOC that support prisoner commissary funds.
If you want to learn more or get involved:
Donate to IWOC to support striking prisoners
Write letters to incarcerated strike leaders facing repression
Boycott products made with prison slave labor
Call prisons to tell them to meet prisoner demands and halt repression
Bail out arrested prison strike supporters
Prison strike timeline and other useful information
Strike tracking state-by-state
Also, email email@example.com to get involved with an IWOC chapter near you!
Follow Azzurra Crispino on twitter at @LibertyHerbert and IWOC at @IWW_IWOC.