Ending Prison Slavery: Prisoners organize to protest involuntary servitude

in #politics4 years ago (edited)

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First, have a look at the words in the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.[1]

Where are we today? Prisoners are trying to organize to protest involuntary labor

In a quote from the article titled "How to Organize the Largest US Prison Strike Ever … From Inside Prison"

Phillip Ruiz, a former inmate who works with the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, spent nine out of ten years of his sentence in solitary confinement as punishment for repeatedly organizing work stoppages, hunger strikes, and sit-downs strikes while incarcerated. Organizing a strike beyond an individual prison’s walls adds another layer of difficulty. “Unless it’s to an attorney, outside communications like letters and phone calls can be read, reviewed, or supervised,” says Donald Specter, executive director of the Prison Law Office. That can seriously hinder an inmate’s ability to organize.

But modern technology has afforded them new, more private avenues for communication. Visitors and prison guards smuggle in cell phones, a brisk trade that prison authorities are constantly working on trying to stop or at least discourage by deadening phone signals. But those efforts haven’t worked. “Contraband cellphones make it into facilities all the time,” says Electronic Frontier Foundation investigative researcher Dave Maass.

Is Internet access a human right?

If it is, then prisoners have just as much of a right to it as anyone. On the other hand the United States Constitution provides authority to allow involuntary servitude and this loophole is being abused. Private prisoners now seek to profit from prison labor, and this is a sort of exploit to produce cheap labor. If immigration is reduced, such as if a wall is built at the border, what impact might it have on the private prison industry. Cheap labor will still be in demand so where will it come from?


There will remain a demand for cheap labor, whether the United States gets it from prisoners, or illegal immigrants, and loopholes in the law will be exploited for profit if it is legal for private prisons to exist and corporations to use them. In my opinion, prisoners should have Internet access and the right to vote, as they are still United States Citizens and are still human beings. But I don't make the laws, and I also don't know if it's possible to change the words in the Constitution which enable private prisons to create involuntary servants, because it's a clear loophole which with over a million prisoners, the United States is clearly exploiting by numbers.

But just pointing out the existence of an inmate’s social media account usually isn’t enough to warrant its removal. Facebook is a private company. It can remove or not remove accounts as it pleases. But after facing criticism for undue censorship (which continues to this day), Facebook has become a bit more lenient when it comes to prisons: in the last six months of 2015, the social media platform took down 53 US inmates’ accounts and 74 inmate accounts in the UK. The reasoning? According to a Facebook spokesperson, disabling inmate accounts can happen a few different ways. Facebook will disable accounts when prisons prove that they have the authority make that call, which only applies in places like Alabama, which has a law specifically forbidding inmate access to social media.

Suppose for sake of argument that prisoners found a way to post on Steemit? Would Steemit be a good place for people in prison to write, blog, and tell their stories, and be rewarded with upvotes?


  1. https://www.wired.com/2016/09/endprisonslavery/
  2. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jim-wallis/slavery-never-ended-it-ju_b_8837844.html

I love this post! I think that labor SHOULD be an option for prisoners. They can help with society. I think they should be paid fairly for it. Then it will reduce the strain on the commensary that the families are paying, So the prisoner can be comfortable.
I loved that you brought up internet access. I have mixed feelings on this.
I feel like they could do illegal activity if they have access to the online world. But I know from personal experience that having internet access, and heck giving prisoners a kindle would be a great thing for them. They have limited choices with books in prison. Maybe the inmates that behave can have access to the internet? This would encourage them to behave more, and put less tension on the officers watching them. I feel like many prisoners act out because they are simply bored.

Allowing them to earn stuff like Kindles, books, art supplies. Could be a great thing for the prisons. They also could write books about their experiences to help youth stay OUT of prison

They can monitor the Internet access, using a filtering system. This way prisoners will be detected if they do illegal activity just like the rest of us. I do get that some people are too dangerous to be released, but that is not the majority of prisoners. Most prisoners are going to be released some day, and even prisoners who have life in prison should have Internet, because they can write letters now and receive letters, so if they can communicate like that, why not let them have Internet access?

Sure, it could be a privilege, it could be to get access they have to keep a good reputation, and not be violent, but this would give prisoners a reason to be good.

Yes and no.
The problem isn't so much free speech as it is engaging in a criminal enterprise. Most high level offenders can get into HUGE trouble when friends or family post status updates from the prisoner's facebook account.

The reason is that a few bad apples spoil it for the bunch. Planing assisnations, retributions or running other illegal enterprises.

Many prisons are adopting "internet terminals" to replace the classic "payphone" and the funds are deducted from the prisoner's commissary account.

This does give the prisoner some ability to communicate via email, visit some approved sites etc, but can run as high as $10 per minute.

However the fact remains it's got to be hard for someone with an @club.fed email address to find work or do the other things they need to do in order to reintegrate into society.

To my mind prison is a really bad idea. The bulk of prisoners suffer from severe mental illness and drug addiction issues and the prison system isn't a way to get them treated.

If we don't want to rehab these people then we as a society should grow a spine and put them down.

Even a vicious animal gets to be euthanized rather than spend it's natural life confined.

Otherwise we should find a better way of dealing with crimes than prison. I don't know the answer for certain, but considering the demographics of most inmates I have to believe this starts really young and ensuring that children are raised to be accountable for their actions. The ones that cannot be taught to be accountable to other, should be treated medically before they become society's problem.

That same argument you present could be used on non-criminals. Because some people are terrorists, we have to remove rights of all people because someone might abuse it?

The reason is that a few bad apples spoil it for the bunch. Planing assisnations, retributions or running other illegal enterprises.

Even in China there is Internet access, even if it's filtered behind a great firewall. So why can't prisoners have Internet access? And honestly when released what do we expect them to do if they can't for example be a blogger, computer programmer, or some other high tech job while in prison? And how can we expect people in prison to adapt to a fast changing society if they don't have any experiences?

It creates a completely different culture for prisoners and only makes rehabilitation harder.

You're preaching to the choir.

I'm not supporting it, I'm explaining it.
Prison is censorship. Society has determined that people are not worth re-integrating or treating.
These people have no possible future because of some event or events in their lives. Some probably many of these events were within their control. But issues like addiction and mental health problems were not.

I'm saying if you really feel that way, that we need prisons (jail terms of greater than 5 years is prison),
then bullets are cheaper than food. Why keep them alive in the first place? It's just a form of torture to remove someone's freedom for more than a few years. There is literally nothing they can do in those years to be productive and, contribute back and make amends.
If you keep them longer than 7 years there isn't a single cell in their body that existed prior to confinement. This person was now "born to prison" and their recidivism rate if released will be damned near 100%.

This is all assuming perfect convictions for real crimes. I read a study that found 1:4 people would be factually innocent of the crime they pleaded to. But faced with the prospect of our so called justice system they choose to take a plea in order to eventually have a chance at life again.

Wish I could find the paper though.

You do realize, prisoners might love themselves and want to be kept alive? Also people might love them and want them to be left alive? And people can be quite useful to each other, even to complete strangers. To use euthanasia would be extremely wasteful as if prison isn't wasteful enough.

If you find a person is too dangerous to be reintroduced to society, it is torture to keep them alive. If love wasn't enough to fix them before they entered, while they were in, etc it isn't going to fix them when they get out.

Prison is wrong. It is reprehensible. There is no crime that should result in a life time of confinement. You people who don't have the courage to stand up and get your own justice, force the rest of society to pay for your fears. So we're all stuck feeding, clothing and caring for these people who literally have no value and are a clear and present danger should they ever be released. There is a point beyond which they will never be able to re-integrate because they were quite literally born in prison.

But if we as a society believe these people are too dangerous to be released in say 7 years, then there isn't any point in keeping them alive longer than that.

My dog loves me. I love my dog. If my dog gets rabies that's on me for failing to vaccinate. If my dog bites my kid, giving them rabies, that's not on the dog, that's on me.

So my dog gets rabies, I'm going to shoot it.
Doesn't mean I don't love it, in fact it means I do.

Why don't we afford long term prisoners and the society they burden the same courtesy?

The other side of the coin would be to look to countries that have no recidivism and find out what they are doing differently.

You know what you find? That they invest in their mental healthcare and early intervention systems. They cap prison sentences to a fraction of what they are in countries like the USA and while the person is in prison they are engaged in learning and bettering themselves and coming to terms with the fact that they harmed a person.

They are a person not a crime.

Someone killed your sister in cold blood. Is that person a murderer, or are they someone who murdered someone close to you? The answer to that determines the recidivism rates of a society.

It's the dehumanizing people that's the problem. We use the term "prisoner", but the fact is they are "people we have paid to have confined for up to and including life".

So my real question, is why keep paying?

For you it is torture.

replying over here because comment depth limits...
It's not torture for me. It's torture for the prisoner and torture for society.

For the prisoner, there's no chance or hope of redemption even after release, once a certain amount of time has passed. The recidivism rate is very close to 100%. Frankly if it were me and I were given the option I'd ask to be ended or to be given the tools to do it myself.

Up to you how you feel about it though.
I don't have a dog in this fight.
If it were up to me I wouldn't allow it stand though. Either fix them or don't, but don't waste resources taken from people at the point of a gun. If they're people treat them like people and address the issues that got them there and the ones that keep them there.

Suppose for sake of argument that prisoners found a way to post on Steemit?

Well I agree some ( say with X reputation ) must have access to the internet if they are to be equipped for reintroduction to society as most are unprepared for the world they will eventually re-enter. But you must remember that there are also some who should not be communicating with the outside world. They are purposely Isolated for a good reason ( just sayin because I lost a loved one for a murderer). Also remember the internet has two faces. Will that action create more problems and therefore more prisoners?

But I am eagerly waiting Ross Ulbricht's first post eagerly (doesn't matter if it is via his mom). :)

Why should they not be allowed to communicate with the outside world? Is it because they are a risk to national security?

The vast majority of criminals/prisoners aren't endangering national security.

National Security, I dont like the expression but yes.

How about serial killers? I think some should not.

I would be happy to see 2 million US prisoners get connected. Then again there is question of speech. As we know life in prisons much like in the military is dont ask dont tell. How far will you monitor?

What if the serial killer is the best writer and programmer in the country? As long as he can't kill anyone from prison then what difference does it make?