A group of guards at an Alabama prison went on strike this weekend, out of solidarity with inmates protesting overcrowding and unjust labor practices. Strikes and work stoppages have rolled through the nation’s prisons following the 45th anniversary of the Attica uprising earlier this month.
On September 9th, inmates at the William C. Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore went on strike for at least 24 hours, refusing to show up for their work assignments. Activists argue that prison labor is a form of slavery, as permitted by the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which bans slavery and servitude “except as a punishment for crime.” Prisoners at Holman earlier went on strike for 10 days in May, and the warden and a guard were stabbed during a riot in March.
On Saturday, “some correctional officers” assigned to the third shift at the prison did not report to work, the Alabama Department of Corrections confirmed, and Assistant Commissioner Grantt Culliver was reportedly called upon to help serve meals. According to Kinetik Justice, an incarcerated organizer who has spent over two years in solitary confinement at Holman, the warden himself was pushing the food cart.
“It’s official,” Kinetik Justice said in an audio recording released by IWW-IWOC. “At 6:00, no officers came to work. None came to work. None of the officers came to work. Deputy Commissioner Culliver passed me my tray. Every cell, he’s passing out the tray. No officers came to work. They completely bucked on the administration. No more will they be pawns in the game. Nighttime is going down.”
The Free Alabama Movement, a prison abolition group, described the weekend’s events in a statement:
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.
Assistant Commissioner Grantt Culliver was dispatched to the prison, where he then had to order supervisors from another prison, Atmore CF, to report to Holman prison just to be able to serve meals. The officers at Holman, who have been defying ADOC policy and speaking publicly to the media, had 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.
Officers have also complained about overcrowding and the need for a mass release, more education and rehabilitation programs, as well as issues with disease and filth. Officers reserved their harshest criticism towards the Commissioner’s officer and what they perceive as a lack leadership from Commissioner Dunno and Culliver.
Neither the Alabama Department of Corrections nor the Free Alabama Movement immediately responded to a request for comment from Jezebel.