The Struggle Continues: Reflecting on the Past And Moving Forward, by Jason Renard Walker #1532092

Reflecting on the September 9, 2016 prison work stoppage from the perspective of a marginalized dissent, within the nucleus of this historic event, basically I’d like to show three things: 1) What brought thousands of men and wimyn to this point of resistance, or as Chris Hedges calls it: The New Slave Rebellion. 2) The success gained from our organizing, support building and resistance. 3) The positive and negative lessons we learned through trial and error, and suggestions to help us move forward.


The New Slave Rebellion

The literal perpetuation of slavery in today’s prison system (mainly in Texas) has existed since the 13th Amendments loophole legally sent slaves from the plantation to the penitentiary as commodities of the state.

For a very long time the then: Texas Department of Corrections was effectively able to hide prison slavery through leased convict labor. Even the slaves didn’t know they were being used as slaves. It was here in Texas that the racialized southern prison model (that has since drifted across Amerika) morphed out of the slave plantation. The leasing of convict labor, which had prisoners rented out to U.S. corporations, had these standards set by profiteers in Texas.

So what brought us to this point of national resistance during the post  antebellum slave era? Simply speaking, it was the consciousness of select prisoners that formed protracted mass movements like the Free Alabama; California’s hunger strikes and agreement to end all hostilities; and the End prison slavery in Texas campaign.

But these movements weren’t something that sprouted overnight. After years of prison officials’ empty promises, horrible conditions and our extensive research, we’ve finally come to realize that the system profits and operates off our exploitation, so it’s obvious that it has to be shut down at our leisure or they’ll keep exploiting us. And the only way this can be done is through a collective mass movement – with the effects being a loss of profits for the prison industrial complex (P.I.C.) and officials having to do the work that we once did. Not to mention an economical ripple effect.


The First Wave Was A Success

In April 2016, Alice Speri, a writer for the released a statement about a random multi Texas prison lockdown, which was the result of prisoners refusing to work. TDCJ media mouth piece, Jason Clark countered the claim to keep the public and prison population in the dark. Clark propagated that this mass unit lockdown was a routine one.

In effort to kill the momentum or any copy cat resistance, Clark released a statement this same month explaining that TDCj created a new rule which made it illegal to post content on social media through a social media account.

Prison officials are aware of the economic damage that can result from prisoners peacefully protesting inhumane living conditions, poor health care and unpaid forced labor. So even the slightest flash of organized resistance will draw an oppressive reaction. Their aim is to disrupt any progress, separate the most advanced elements and deter others from re-building to carry-on.

Many of us faced some of these problems during the first wave which included: sudden and unverifiable rule changes, illegal moves to solitary confinement, and official’s disregard of rules entirely. But there were also some positive things that happened – which I will now touch on.

Through this very short lived act of civil disobedience came journalists, writers, activists and concerned members of the public, who were unaware that prisoners were being subjected to such treatment. Small rallies were held, article circulated and worldwide awareness was brought to the U.S. penal system as being one that operates to profit off of forced and unpaid labor. This being done with no regards to our health and safety.

The same week of the national workstoppage campaigns, I wrote an article for the progressive website “” titled “Unpaid Labor in Texas Prisons is Modern day Slavery”. This also raised some awareness as several readers spent hours debating back and forth in the comments section on slave labor and other issues.

We must also remember that it was the resistance throughout the U.S. that marked our plight as the first to ever take place in Amerika. Without this practical attempt not many would’ve acted and aided us as much as they did.

The reason I believe the first attempt was a success is because we were able to build support in places that previously had little interest in what goes on in prison. We were also able to get confirmation that prisoners across the U.S. had a common interest in struggling to create better prison conditions.

This goes to say that we’ve created a firm platform that will help us move forward, we just need to be more firm in our standstills.


Recognizing And Correcting our Errors

Propagation tools, like news and media outlets are key to our success. They keep interested parties informed on our progress and regress. Since it is up to prisoners resisting within the belly of the beast, to convey inside info to the outside, any public supporters that choose to pass this message to prisoners in other parts of the country have to stick to the specifics. Watering down and politicizng our words can cause more harm than good.

During the climax of the past workstoppage, Paul Wright, editor of Prison Legal News and Azzurra Crispino, a former organizer with the Incarcerated Worker Organizing Committee (IWOC) blew a huge shot to inform the world about our national campaign.

During an interview on National Public Radio (NPR) both parties stated that the campaign was over. Neither explained where this info had come from, which gave the interviewer the opportunity to use bourgeois rhetoric to change the core question to: was the campaign a flop?

Wright and Crispino’s failure to clarify that we’d just begun hurt the project and insinuated that it really was over. The death punch came when Crispino claimed that a prisoner stated to someone that he wanted to know when the next prison workstoppage would occur and how he could get involved. She could’ve repaired some of the collateral damage by stating that he, or anyone, could get involved how since there was no actual stop date. But again she missed the mark.

What needs to be realized is that information in prison spreads slower than information on the outside. Most of us rely on snail mail which takes several days to send and receive, thats if the mailroom doesn’t ban it. So once we or the the public receive a message, things have changed either correspondingly or contrarily. This is why the botched radio interview caused so much harm.

I was approached by several prisoners who’d listened to the interview, that thought the campaign had ended. In my opinion this interview itself was the coup de grace to the movement here in Texas. NPR is a very popular radio station in Texas and being the only daily national news station we get here at the Clements Unit in Amarillo, Texas; We are forced to take the info at face value.

Since other odds and ends cause delays in our communicating to the outside and general struggle, I will list what I saw as errors and propose a comprehensive list which will correct these mistakes and strengthen our effort in moving forward.


List Of Errors

  1. Freelance writers and independent media correspondence circulating reports using unverified info.
  1. Multiple grassroots media outlets printing the same redundant info on workstrikes, which is already banned.
  1. Our failure to recognize and round up the most advanced writers, poets, artists, speakers, organizers, etc and making them the face of the campaign – as to build up its prestige in the public eye.
  1. Our failure to locate more versatile prison approved media correspondents that are flexible enough to communicate with more prisoners than impractical popular faces
  1. Our failure in creating a body of organizers within the belly of the beast who are used for the purpose of sending out reports at their particular prison on progress, conditions, reprisals and any problems that occur during our national struggle.
  1. Broadly propagating a start date.


Proposed List To Correct These Errors

  1. Anybody that choose to report on our progress I recommend that before publishing anything or giving interviews, you verify any critical information relayed from anywhere by contacting the prisoners or their supporters. Never rely on what prison spokesmen or the warden’s secretary say. Their aim is to restore order, not be truthful – no need to rush.
  1. Most of the info that’s relevant to prison life come from publications like the Bay View, Prison Action News, Incarcerated Worker Newsletter and Socialist Viewpoint Magazine. On a scale of cost vs benefits, the benefit of reading something that’s common knowledge i.e. the fact that a second effort is being made, doesn’t outweigh the cost of a series of publications being rejected for the exact same article. To counter this it would be wise for these media outlets to only publish content that give us new insight while redacting content that normally gets banned that we are already aware of. And give these articles names that don’t draw attention to them e.g. “Poodle Wins 5th Annual Prettiest Dog Award.” As much as I don’t agree with self censorship, its better not to print something at all, than waste resources on something we all know will be denied.
  1. During the first month of publications released that gave an update or spoke on the campaign, I noticed most of the reports I read lacked accounts from prisoners that were engaged in an actual work stoppage at their prison. To my disappointment the focus seemed to be on publishing rehashed sentiments from prisoners that weren’t actually refusing to work; but whose influence with grassroots media outlets sensationalized their input. I suggest that supporters and media correspondents that will be keeping tabs on our struggle learn who the charismatic resisters are at each participating prison and rely on them for insight, writings, data collecting etc. in order to get a comprehensive account on the general event; as opposed to academic and subjective views and analysis. Our use of media outlets should be to give each resisting prison a voice, not pick one or two prisoners then use them as the voice for the entire event; when in fact our reasons for resisting, how long we will resist and the reprisals vary from state to state, for instance, if members of the Free Alabama Movement decide to call it quits, this technique will prevent the start of rumors that the workstoppage is over, while clarifying what prison has folded or got their demands met.
  1. Another area that could use a little work is finding more dedicated prison approved media correspondents. This will give the public a chance to learn about what’s going on throughout the nation simultaneously, while giving us the liberty to send out reports that aren’t delayed or banned through mailroom censorship. Our first struggle seemed a bit slow which was probably due to mailroom scrutiny and the few media correspondents around choosing to focus on popular prisoners as opposed to those who could provide anecdotes for their articles, since these prisoners were involved.

    After correcting the censorship problem we could focus more on realizing what prisons will participate, then locate particular participants at each one to send in reports and other critical info. John Washington, who was reporting for “The Nation” magazine, released a preamble on the work stoppage; but from my knowledge he never followed through with an article on what prisons were at a standstill. I believe this was due to a lack of flexible journalism coupled with the prisoners being unorganized and unaware of when and who to send reports to. This method will also make it easier on the recipient of the reports; since it will quell the amount of redundant mail one has to scan through, relay and reply to.


  1. In our first wave the date was set on the 45th anniversary of the attica prison rebellion.

    This was a great day to do such a thing, but since it was emphasized so much; prison officials were aware of it just as much as we were. This before hand knowledge resulted in the prison I’m housed in to be put on lock-down on labor day to prevent any possible disturbances. As for the new date, it will be better if those on the inside are given the chance to circulate it, as we all know when it is. It will also be helpful if this date is redacted from literature that will be censored by the prison mailroom. Mailrooms feast on such mishaps and often obtain info that can be used against us. Just because they allow some literature concerning our event to slip in, doesn’t mean that they aren’t using the info to stay a step ahead and disrupt our plans.



Organizing against the establishment, whether it’s government officials or prison officials, isn’t easy. They hold a certain level of prestigious power which ultimately give them the ability to create rules and policies that keep us at a disadvantage. The minute we figure out a legal way to organize around their polarization, they break their own rules to keep us contained.

This is the motivation and driving force to our resistance: knowing that the politics of polarization and containment in Amerika is racialization and incarceration. It keeps us divided, at odds with each other and exploited and repressed by the penal system at the same time.

This reality is how we got to the conclusion that if we don’t come together and let the crops rot in the fields, we’ll continue to be exploited, divided, and promoted to be the masters of our own slavery and eventually the masters of our own destruction.

Dare To Struggle Dare To Win!
All Power To The People!


Jason Renard Walker #153207
Clements Unit
9601 Spur 591
Amarillo, TX 79107


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