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  • Alabama prison inmates crush limestone rocks with a sledgehammer outside the Limestone Correctional Facility.

    Alabama prison inmates crush limestone rocks with a sledgehammer outside the Limestone Correctional Facility. | Photo: Reuters

Published 13 October 2016
Opinion

The inmate, who goes by the name Kinetik Justice, helped organize ongoing strikes in Alabama that drew the attention of the Department of Justice last week.

A U.S. inmate who helped organize the historic prison strike launched last month was transferred from the Alabama prison where he was being held in solitary confinement to a maximum security “bully camp.”

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Robert Earl Council, who goes by the name Kinetik Justice, had been held in solitary confinement for over two years in retaliation for organizing fellow inmates. The group he co-founded, the Free Alabama Movement, released a statement Thursday claiming that he was transferred Wednesday “after being harassed and threatened” by officials from the Alabama Department of Corrections “to silence the movement.”

“Kilby is our bully camp,” said an unnamed prisoner to Shadowproof, a press organization that exposes government abuses. “That’s where inmates go who they deem to be problems that they have to iron out with brutality. You understand what I’m saying? When they send you to Kilby, that’s where they break your arms and break your legs.”

Kinetik Justice was taken to the Kilby Correctional Facility, which hosted Alabama’s electric chair until it was moved to Holman, where he was previously held. The Department of Justice announced last week that it will investigate conditions in Alabama prisons as well as protection from sexual and physical assault.

Guards joined in the strike at Holman, many of them demanding Kinetik Justice’s release. Before the guards’ action, the prison retaliated against strikers by releasing individuals from solitary confinement “in order to foment violence and break the strike," said Azzurra Crispino, media co-chair at the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee — which helped organize the strike — to teleSUR. One inmate was later stabbed in the eye and one guard was killed.

The guards on strike were replaced with riot squads, said the inmate to Shadowproof.

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Members of the Free Alabama Movement and Unheard Voices, also fighting against the Alabama prison system, said in the statement that, “these actions can only make Kinetic’s voice that much louder, and we expected such a move.”

The prison strike, which began on the 45th anniversary of the Attica prison riot on Sept. 9, 1971, is said to be the largest coordinated strike against prison labor in U.S. history. Almost one million prisoners in the U.S. work for pennies an hour, and in some cases nothing, for a variety of multinationals and face harsh repercussions for refusing to work.

"We know that slavery is legal in America," said a Holman inmate, quoted in an IWOC tweet. "Anything that is legal has the right to be functional."

Participating inmates faced retaliation in various forms, from physical abuse to restricted visitations, some of which are continuing.

Charles Lee Johnson, who was held at Kinross prison in Michigan, died Wednesday of unknown causes after medical staff showed up 15 minutes late to a health emergency, tweeted the IWOC. Other inmates had complained about inadequate care, and the IWOC cited inmates who were suspicious of the cause of death.

Shortly before his death, a rebellion was supressed by dozens of armed officers and pepper spray.

After actions last month, Crispino told teleSUR that a riot team “dragged men seen as instigators out of showers and beds” and locked them out in the yard, hands tied, for five or six hours in the rain. Some had tear gas sprayed directly into their eyes in retaliation for organizing the strike.

Last week, Siddique Hasan, an inmate at the Ohio State Penitentiary facing the death penalty for helping organize an uprising in 1993, was denied phone and email communication for two months after giving a 15-minute interview to NPR.

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