Alabama: Power to prisoners & supporters on both sides of the wall

Dear friends, 

We wanted you to see our letter of support (below) sent by Payday and other organizations in the Global Women’s Strike network to the prisoners’ movement against slavery and cruel and unusual punishment in the US state of Alabama. 

The Alabama prisoners’ strike lasted almost a month last fall despite constant harassment and retaliation including attempts to starve them out by the political and prison establishment. And they are planning to go back on strike in March. They have been getting strong support from family and friends outside the walls – usually women, the backbone of justice work.

It has been followed by a 3-week hunger strike of hundreds of prisoners in Texas against solitary confinement that ended this week. Texas locks up more people in solitary confinement cells than 12 other US states house in their entire prison system. Texas death row inmates are now suing the state over brutal solitary confinement conditions.

Unfortunately, Texas is not the only place in the US or the world where solitary confinement is a commonplace. Payday has been working for the release from solitary confinement of Kevan Thakrar, in segregation in the UK for almost 13 years.

We encourage you to send your own messages of support. 

In Alabama, the support network can be reached at:

·       Free Alabama Movement, freealabamamovement@gmail.com

·       Both Sides of the Wall,

In Texas: Texas Prison Reform,  (US) 920-205-7716, 

Please also call Brian Collier and Oscar Mendoza of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice at (US) 512-463-9988, to ask what will be done to resolve the prisoners’ demands and bring an end to indefinite solitary confinement.  

In the UK Kevan Thakrar, A4907AE, can be emailed via in HMP Manchester

Overcrowding at Staton Correctional Facility in Elmore, Alabama

January 2023

We send greetings and solidarity to our sisters and brothers in the Alabama prison struggle, their families, and their supporters and support networks outside the prisons.  We are from the United Kingdom, Thailand, Peru, the United States and Canada, India, Ireland and friends in other countries. 

Your demand as workers who get no wages strengthens the struggle against slavery everywhere, beginning with the United States where removing the ‘slavery exception’ for prisoners from state constitutions has just been passed overwhelmingly by voters in Alabama, Oregon, Tennessee and Vermont. No doubt your strike had a positive impact.

Your 15,000 strong strike against slavery, and horrendous inhumane conditions imposed by the State of Alabama, gives leadership and education to all of us around the world.

We remember the 2010 prisoner hunger strikes in Georgia and other US prisons against solitary confinement.  This struggle, which won the release of thousands of people from solitary and from prison, was also momentous because it fomented an unprecedented unity between Black, Latino and white prisoners, including so called “gang members”. It led to the extraordinary agreement to end racial hostilities: where prisoners pledged that “we can no longer allow the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to use us against each other for their benefit.”

In that spirit you have made no distinctions between prisoners, though we cannot help but note that approximately 60% of the prison population in Alabama are people of colour, twice the percentage in the general population. We know that Alabama has a long history of plantation slavery and racism, including under the governorship of George Wallace, labelled “the most dangerous racist in America today” by Martin Luther King. In the tradition of Wallace, the present governor Kay Ivey (who has a history of public racism, for example wearing ‘blackface’) now says your demands are “unreasonable”. On the contrary, your strike has alerted us and the world that it is the prison laws and policies of Alabama which are not only unreasonable, but brutal, cruel and inhumane.

Your struggle deserves the support of working people everywhere. Just as the destruction of slavery, starting with the Haitian Revolution, and spreading throughout the Caribbean and the Southern US, led to great advances for waged workers in the north, your struggle against slavery in prisons advances the struggle of both waged and unwaged workers.  

Through your actions you have informed the world about the brutal exploitation of prison workers, paid 52 cents per hour, by rapacious corporations, which profit from the $2 billion in goods and $9 billion in prison services produced. This pattern is replicated in immigration detention where detainees are paid slave wages of $1/day. Through hunger and work strikes at North West Detention Centre in Tacoma Washington they won a court ruling that they must be paid the federal minimum wage, inspiring similar lawsuits in other states.

The Alabama prisoners’ movement has also forced the authorities to act, specifically the U.S. Federal Government which is suing the state for cruel and unusual punishment. But the delay before this case comes to court is unacceptable as prisoners in Alabama continue to be killed. 

We understand that you have paused your strike to preserve the health and life of prisoners targeted for retaliation by the prison system. As you say in your statement, “Unlike the ADOC [Alabama Department of Corrections], we value life.” 

Along with all your supporters, including your partners who founded Both Sides Of The Wall and who are doing such essential unwaged justice work alongside you, we will be building international support until slavery and inhumane conditions are ended in Alabama’s prisons and everywhere else.

Power to the movement of prisoners and their supporters on both sides of the wall!

Selma James 
The Global Women’s Strike

Sara Callaway
Women of Colour / Global Women’s Strike (UK)

Margaret Prescod
Women of Color / Global Women’s Strike (US)

Eric Gjertsen
Payday men’s network