Primary Artist: Lisa Roth, photo by Dorothea Lange
Created: San Francisco Collective, mid-1990s
Medium: Offset printed
Dimensions: 11″ x 17″
In the mid-1990s—15 years before Michelle Alexander blew the lid off the prison system with The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness—the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee fought to expose and end slave labor in California’s prisons. Prison slave labor is permitted by the 13th Amendment to the constitution. In the 1990s 70% of all prisoners were people of color, making this form of slavery frighteningly like the slave system abolished in 1865. Airlines, toy stores, breweries, and hotels were raking in profits from prison labor without paying for unemployment, health benefits, sick leave, vacation, or taxes. Companies claimed their prison workers received minimum wage, but in California 80% of the wages go directly to the state. In the 1990s that meant a prisoner who was paid $4.25 an hour actually received 84 cents per hour. This poster was part of a years-long campaign against violent and racist prison conditions in California and nationally.
Image: Photograph of an elderly Black woman sharecropper, out of which is dropped the words “STOP PRISON SLAVE LABOR!”
Words: Amendment X111: Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude except as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist in the United States , or any place subject to their jurisdiction, Prison slave labor is permitted by the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. Since 70% of all prisoners (nationally and in California) are people of color, this form of slavery is frighteningly like the slave system abolished in 1865. Airlines, toy stores, breweries and hotels are raking in profits from prison labor without paying for unemployment, health benefits, sick leave, vacation, or taxes. Folsom prisoners work for a recycling concern, a plastics manufacturer and build steel tanks for micro-breweries. San Quentin inmates do data entry for Chevron, Bank of America and Macy’s. In New Mexico prisoners take hotel reservations by phone; while Spalding golf balls are packaged by prisoners in Hawaii; … Companies boast their prison workers receive minimum wage … and in California 80% of the wage goes directly to the state … Take a stand against slavery in prisons. Call James Gomez, head of the CDC to protest.
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