Inmate work stoppage at Alabama prison comes on 45th anniversary of deadly Attica riot

ATMORE, Ala. (WIAT) — On the 45th anniversary of the deadly Attica prison riot, a group of inmates at one Alabama prison are refusing to work.

The William C. Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore reports 10 inmates didn’t show up early Friday morning to make breakfast, then 35 other inmates assigned to the prison’s tag plant that makes Alabama license plates joined in the work stoppage.

CBS reports “what may be the largest prison strike yet” is happening across the nation as inmates refuse to work Friday. According to CBS, strikers elsewhere in America are calling for an end to forced labor, what they call “prison labor.”

We reached out to the Alabama Department of Corrections about the work stoppage at Holman.

“While no inmate has explicitly stated the work stoppage is related to the 45th anniversary of the Attica riots, it is to be assumed,” ADOC spokesperson Bob Horton told us. Horton says he believes the internet is to blame for educating and encouraging inmates about the Attica riots anniversary.

The associate director of the Human Rights Defense Center Alex Friedmann tells CBS the national issue is much deeper. He explains that prison labor is akin to slave labor because of the 13th amendment, which outlawed slavery in 1865, but includes one exception: people who are “duly convicted” of a crime.

“That’s why none of these protections, such as worker protections, apply to prisoners,” said Friedmann, the managing editor of Prison Legal News. “So under the 13th Amendment, they’re basically worked as slaves, and if they don’t work, they’re punished.”

The inmates in Holman Correctional Facility have been peaceful, and have not presented a list of demands, Horton says. The ADOC says there are no reports of inmates at any of the other 27 state correctional facilities participating in the work stoppage. The ADOC says they have a contingency plan in case the work stoppage continues past Friday, and will assign inmates from a nearby work release center in Atmore to operate the tag plant.

CBS News contributed to this report

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