In 1971, a prison riot broke out in New York’s Attica prison. Prisoners were frustrated with the living conditions in the prison and their lack of basic human rights (we’re talking one roll of toilet paper per month and one shower per week).
On the 45th anniversary of the Attica prison riot, inmates in prisons from across the country went on strike by refusing to report to work. They coordinated their efforts during visits from friend and family and through cell phones that were smuggled into the prison. (It’s like a script from a movie, we know!) But why strike in the first place?
Inmates wanted to draw attention to the poor conditions of the prisons and unfair labor practices — things that they believe are basic human rights, criminal or not. Inmates have called their strike a strike against “prison slavery.”The exact number of inmates who have gone on strike isn’t clear, but what is certain is that dozens of prisons in over 22 states have experienced some form of the strike. Prisons have responded by placing their inmates on lockdown (or keeping inmates in their cells to control movement in the prison) to prevent any additional coordinated strike efforts, but even that hasn’t prevented the hunger strikes that are still happening.