The power of economics: One message, one mind, one movement

Greetings to all of the freedom fighters, warriors and honorable supporters in this struggle to End Mass Incarceration and Prison Slavery. Two thousand and seventeen has been a year of incubation for the Free Alabama Movement. Many of us have been subjected to intensified repression, cast deeper into the recesses of solitary confinement, causing us to merge into a new, stronger and more powerful incarnation of the original.

Sometime last year, the ADOC (Alabama Department of Corrections) erected what amounts to a SHU (Special Handling Unit) at Limestone Correctional Facility. Brother Dhati Khalid (“Freedom or Death”) was the first freedom fighter to be transferred there from here at Donaldson Correctional Facility in approximately May 2016. Brother Kinetik Justice, who has now served approximately 40 consecutive months, was sent there late last year. These remain the only two men who have been sent to SHU-Limestone for political reasons.

As for me, I am personally on my 10th month after returning to seg (segregation, or solitary confinement), which makes 36 of the last 41 months. At present, I am being held on “isolation” status – no contact, “Walk Alone,” no phone, visitation, books, magazines etc. supposedly under INVESTIGATION for unspecified reasons. Nevertheless, life moves on.

Many of us are excited about Aug. 19, 2017. There will be an event in Montgomery, Alabama, in addition to the Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March in Washington, D.C. We MUST seize this moment in our movement.

Stokely Charmichael pointed out in his book “Ready for Revolution” the important distinction between mobilizing people versus organizing people. As organizers, it is extremely important that we seize upon the opportunity that #A19 will bring, to organize our supporters.

How do we do this?

First and foremost, we must stay on message. And what is that message? We are uniting to End Mass Incarceration and Prison Slavery. In doing so, we have to keep at the forefront of our heart, mind and spirit that slavery – which predominates over mass incarceration – is an economic enterprise system that is mathematically put together and thus capable of being scientifically taken apart.

The basic premise of this deconstructive science is simple: “There can be no slavery without the slave.” As I state in my forthcoming book, even if 1 million people do attend our events on #A19, it won’t do much good if 1 million prison workers – slaves – get right back up and continue to answer that “work call” year in and year out.

People in society are not the ones working these prison slave labor jobs, so we can’t afford to allow them to EVER entertain the impression that they can free us simply by marching. We have to put a plan in place for them to support.

The ultimate job of deconstructing slavery remains on us, the slaves. Simply stated, we have got to stop the slave labor, and our movement has to organize our supporters around our plan to launch our next round of massive strikes, whenever that date is set.

Social, political and ECONOMIC education must be ramped up

One thing I have noticed about our writings behind these walls is that, while we have written enough to fill up several universities with social and political content, we have very little material on economics. It is going to be next to impossible to build awareness around the true nature of our movement if we don’t start the process of educating on the economic factor of slavery.

Solitary confinement has its origin on the plantation as the “nigger box.” Our water has always been contaminated. As slaves, we never had health, dental or prenatal care on the plantation. Sabre Red and Cell Buster spray have merely replaced the whip.

These are but the residuals of slave plantation life. As long as there is the economic enterprise of slavery, these residuals will always exist. Furthermore, if we stopped any of them or all of them, so long as we continue to provide slave labor, slavery will remain intact.

We have to make a much more concerted effort to put the focus on the economic factors at play. When people understand how $$$ is the driver, we have to then help these same people understand how “their” money or “their” labor is what is keeping this system of slavery alive. In economic terms.

Information needs to be organized so that our loved ones can see just how their money is fueling the system; then we have to help them organize boycotts and the withholding of funds at strategic moments. For example, when our families send us commissary money, they need to know 1) how much money they are sending collectively each month, and 2) how the prison system is using this money to keep the prison system intact.

In Alabama, commissary profits are used to purchase batons, mace, handcuffs etc. When our loved ones and supporters gain awareness of this, they can better see where their power lies and how they can use it effectively.

If a prison profits $20,000 each month, that’s $240,000 each year. If they were to organize, say, rolling boycotts of every other month, that’s six months – January, March, May, June, September, November – and $120,000 that they have removed from a prison’s operating budget. These types of deficits are very disruptive to a prison budget.

When we combine these types of maneuvers with phone boycotts and incentive package boycotts, these types of tactics add up fast. These are the types of methods that we need our family members and supporters organizing year-round, non-stop.

Of course, the Great White Whale remains the workstrikes. Why? Because this is easily a $100,000,000,000 industry that WE control. That is the one thing that has to penetrate through to our consciousness: We actually control a $100 billion industry through our labor. If you don’t think that slave labor has power, just think about all of the wealth that it has created.

These are just some of the companies that we produce products for and provide services for, or who make money off of us: Abbott Laboratories, ALRT, AutoZone, Bayer, Caterpillar, Costco, John Deer, Eddie Bauer, Exxon Mobil, Fruit of the Loom, Gelco, GlaxoSmithKline, Glaxo Wellcome, International Paper, Jan Sport, J-Pay, K-Mart, Koch Industries, Mary Kay, McDonalds, Nintendo, Pfizer, Proctor & Gamble, Quaker Oats, Sarah Lee, Sprint, Starbucks, Victoria’s Secret, WalMart, Wendy’s.

There are many thousands more, and even more institutional investors. But these are just the products and services. We also have to look at the labor costs. Not including work releases, in Alabama there are approximately 10,000 laborers. This is the math on just one eight-hour workday at minimum wage:

10,000 x $8 per hour = $80,000 per hour
$80,000 per hour x 8 hours = $640,000 per day
$640,000 per day x 20 days each month = $12,800,000

So, just by going to work each day, five days a week, even at a minimum wage rate of $8 per hour, we are giving the state $12,800,00 each month in free slave labor. This is barbers, runners, kitchen, yard, road squads, infirmary workers etc.

Multiply that by 12 months, and the state is getting approximately $163,600,000 in free labor. And remember, this is just the cost of labor. These figures don’t include what that labor is producing. In Alabama, we are producing agricultural goods, tags, furniture, chemicals, beef, fish, recyclings, sand mines, print shop and more.

And these figures are before we ever get money sent by J-Pay, which transacts about $1 billion a year, and before we draw canteen, make medical co-pays, make phone calls etc. These are billion dollar entities, and we are the capital.

We have … got … to … get … these … numbers … before … the … people so that everyone can see our power. No state’s prison budget can withstand the loss of our collective economic might, but we have to put this shit in its proper context. Slavery is ECONOMICS! So the solution must be also.

I will close with this. In 2015, I drafted a document called FAM’s Six-Step Plan of Action 2015. What I consider to be the most important step in that plan is the establishing of one central detention facility jail prison in each state to serve as a “headquarters” for organizing – by our outside, free world support. Just go, set up shop, and start organizing. Collect contact info, pass out newsletters and pamphlets, set up conference calls etc.

Establish shifts around visitation days. It could start out as just one person, but don’t stop until that entire place has the message. Then, set a test date for a phone boycott. Set another for a canteen boycott, and another for a short workstrike. The plan is to organize that one institution, both inside and out. When that one is done, then reach out to the next one.

We can’t be grassroots with no boots on the ground. This is how outside support can help those on the inside organize under any circumstance. But these posts have to become permanent. More details of this plan will be forthcoming, but for now we have to get on to the discussion about economics. There truly is power in numbers, especially when it comes to economics.

Free Alabama Movement (FAM) Economic Challenge

What products are produced at your place of incarceration?

What service industry (e.g., call center) is located at your place of incarceration?

How many people provide labor at your place of incarceration?

How much money do loved ones send to prison accounts each month at your place of incarceration?

Approximately how much money is spent on canteen at your place of incarceration each month?

Approximately how much is spent on collect calls at your place of incarceration each month?

Would you be willing to participate in and/or help organize a bi-monthly phone and canteen boycott for the year 2018?

Send our brother some love and light: Melvin Ray, 163343, Donaldson CF 1-3, 100 Warrior Lane, Bessemer AL 35023. If you are responding to the FAM Economic Challenge at the end, send your response to Unheard Voices OTCJ, P.O. Box 10056, Longview, TX 75604.SF BAYVIEW


Seeing the problem, being the solution, making the sacrifice Bennu Hannibal Ra-Sun discusses the way forward for the prison movement in 2018

Last month, on Monday, Jan. 8, 2018, millions of people diverted their collective attention to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game in Atlanta, Ga. At the same time, on the other side of the country in Las Vegas, Nevada, almost 250,000 people congregated for the start of the week long CES presentation (formerly Consumer Electronics Show), the world’s largest tech trade show. On display will be the latest technological innovations that will influence and dictate the future of the world that we live in.

Unfortunately, most of us will be more in tune with the sporting spectacle – which will afford us an emotional discharge and escape from the reality of our problems – than those of us who will be focused on learning what technologies will be available for us to continue to advance our struggle towards a solution in our digital world.

The theme of the CES platform is directed towards consumers. Ultimately, though, these technologies will be refined for policing purposes and will be used to control our lives behind these walls. And just like the consumer show, corrections agencies have their own “tech” convention every year, hosted by the American Correctional Association, where they exchange ideas and shop for products.

Commissioners, wardens, officers’ union representatives etc. shop for locks, new restraint chairs, tasers, body armor, biometric devices, surveillance equipment, new prison architecture and designs, prison movement and population management software, body cameras, cell extraction gear, riot control ammunition, leg monitor systems, all the way down to the toilets, sinks and typewriters related to controlling their lucrative hundreds of billions of dollars’ prison slave industry.

Notoriously missing from this equation is us, the very people who are being controlled by these technologies. To a degree, we have been able to make effective use of social media to wage our fight to end mass incarceration and prison slavery.

In several of my articles throughout this series promoting our Campaign to Redistribute the Pain 2018 boycott, I proposed that we utilize this year-long bi-monthly February-April-June-Black August-October-December boycott to develop a national organization and put forth a national agenda and plan of action; create a digital storefront so that we can generate revenue from our talents, skill and abilities (think eBay, Amazon-type store); and most importantly, we need to get us an app created so that we can collect, organize and disseminate all of the information that is critical to us building awareness to our struggle and what people can do to join, support and share information about our movement.

Information on hunger strikes and work strikes pertaining to our movement all needs to be one click away on the app. Planned protests at prisons, state DOC headquarters or private companies that profit off of prisons, like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Nintendo, Starbucks, CoreCiv, Access Secure, J-Pay, AT&T, Canteen and Verizon, all need to be one click away on our app. Companies that contract with DOCs like the collect phone companies and their revenue and profits need to be one click away. And every product made or service provided at each individual prison needs to be one click away.

Right now, all of this data is scattered out all across the internet, in various books and in reports that people have no idea where to start looking for. According to a research study by the Institute for Advancing Justice Research and Innovation at Washington University in St. Louis, in 2016, the true cost of incarceration is estimated to be $1 trillion per year, and the researchers also found that more than half of those costs are being shouldered “directly by prisoners, their families, and their communities.” That’s a lot of information scattered around.

If we, indeed, are shouldering the burden for over half of these costs, which amounts to $500 billion, then isn’t it reasonable to expect that we should do a better job of collecting this information and tracking this money so that we can better organize our movement towards bankrupting prison slavery?

I would surmise that if we contribute over $500 billion in direct financial contributions, then the other half is probably coming directly from our labor. In Nas’ song, “N—–”, he said that in relationship to our problems, we are both the question and the answer. Well, if we are the financial pillars of this system, we are both the problem and the solution. In prison slavery, we are the slave and the master.

In the December 2017 issue of Bay View, our Brother Terrance Amen stated the following: “We all know what the problems are, but very little energy and effort are focused on the solutions. We are not the ones who put ourselves in this situation, but we are the ones who continue to stay in this situation because of the way we spend our money.”

Our Campaign to Redistribute the Pain 2018 focuses all of our energy and effort on the solution to the problems that we perpetuate from the way that we are spending our money while in prison. Invariably, solutions create issues because solutions call for sacrifice.

Talking about a problem is easy. In these prisons, even in the Bay View, we see much talk devoted to the problem. The solutions that are offered – if one can waddle through all of the talk and find one – usually deviate far and wide from any sacrifices being made. The norm usually reveals signs of the “savior complex,” where we are calling for the politicians to fix it.

But Brother Amen also said: “Politics will not solve our problems. Black economics will.” That’s why the most important aspect or feature of the Campaign 2RTP is the incorporation of our family members and others who make financial contributions to us in prison.

A lot of people in prison simply don’t want to make any sacrifices whatsoever, and have no problem exploiting the people who love them for funds. They don’t dare educate their people about this movement, our boycotts or otherwise. This Campaign 2RTP is designed for us to be able to bypass those negative elements and engage these family members directly. Getting our app created will only make this process that much easier.

Those of us on the inside know that prisons have an economy too, as well as a culture set up to exploit those just entering the system. With prisons across the country being so overcrowded and understaffed, administrators have resorted to alternative methods to control such large populations.

One of the things that wardens and officers do is select collaborators from the population to help them control the masses in much the same way that slave owners used to do. These collaborators are allowed to control the drug, liquor, cigarette, gambling and other markets.

When the youth enter the prison, they are immediately preyed upon. Those youth who have money or financial support are steered towards drugs and other vices. Those who have nothing are recruited to gangs, the “armies” that the dealers use or, lacking these, they are turned out and forced into quasi-prostitution or they become labor slaves.

Those of us who recruit them for education and self-development are targeted by the system. When we try to build our movement and open the eyes of the youth and the people to what is really going on with mass incarceration and prison slavery, we become subject to “hits” like our ancestor Hugo Pinell and so many other warriors.

The collaborators work with the police to stop the movement but they never work with the movement to stop slavery. These are dynamics that people in society don’t know about, but the Campaign 2 RTP 2018 will serve many purposes before it is done.

Once again, I strongly recommend that as many of you as possible reach out to Queen Tahiyrah of Sign o’ the Times blogtalk radio and connect your/our families to her. Queen T hosts shows where incarcerated brothers and sisters call in from prison along with family.

Our Warrior God from Free Alabama Movement, Dhati Khalid, and the rest of the F.A.M.ily are also always tuned in. Call her at 513-913-2691 or reach out to F.A.M. and Bro Dhati at P.O. Box 186, New Market, AL 35761 and let’s all get connected.

Family support in prison requires devotion of a tremendous amount of time, money, sacrifice and other resources. Those of us on the inside have a duty and obligation to make sure that their sacrifices are worth it and appreciated.

If an incarcerated person does not have a GED, then there is no legitimate reason why they should not be in GED school after six to nine months in prison. Once they complete GED, if they don’t have an employable skill or trade, they should enroll in trade school.

These accomplishments will only help with parole eligibility and other release programs. And more importantly, they will help with self-development and with returning an asset to the community instead of a liability.

Families should encourage, support and ultimately demand as much in return for their sacrifices and support. We need to make sure that these important messages are reaching everyone, because we can’t continue to fund the institution of slavery.

Family support should also set a hard budget on how much money they can afford to send into a prison and stick to it. Too many people in prison are young when they enter and, thus, have no real concept of paying bills, child care, emergencies, elderly care, unexpected repairs etc. All they know is their needs. And, the vices in prison are strong, too, and expensive.

If an incarcerated loved one can’t stick to their budget and is constantly calling home for money, pay pals and green dots, then this is a red flag and warning sign that something is wrong. Gambling, drug abuse and wasting money in prison trying to portray an image are real problems, and the opioid crisis that is claiming so many lives in America is alive and well in the prison, too.

All of this is being financed by someone or being facilitated by someone. If this someone is you, please stop it now and help us bring everyone home from prison as soon as possible, starting with the defunding effort being spearheaded by our Campaign to Redistribute the Pain 2018.

We have talked about the problem ad nauseum. We have cried enough tears to fill up many rivers. Our complaints have been noted and ruled on, and we have held on and endured for many seasons. As my Aunt Mary in Mississippi DOC would say, “Enough is enough.” Now is the time to Redistribute the Pain in 2018.

Our Campaign 2 RTP 2018 kicks off on Feb. 1, 2018, to begin Black History Month. It is time to not only celebrate Black history but to also show that we have learned from the lessons of history that is part of our heritage by using those lessons to help solve our problems.

Dare to struggle! Dare to win!

Bennu Hannibal Ra-Sun, Free Alabama Movement

Book of the month: “We Will Shoot Back: Armed Resistance in the Mississippi Freedom Movement” by Akinyele Omowale Umoja

Literature of the month: “Liberation or Gangsterism” by Russell “Maroon” Shoatz/s

Newspaper of the month: Bay View

Word of the month: Sacrifice

Send our brother some love and light: Melvin Ray, 163343, Limestone CF D-70, 28779 Nick Davis Rd, Harvest AL 35749.

We must affect the bottom line August 28, 2017 Part III: Campaign to Redistribute the Pain 2018 by Bennu Hannibal Ra-Sun, formerly known as Melvin Ray, Free Alabama Movement

While the Montgomery (Ala.) Bus Boycott is the most well-known of the economic direct action campaigns of the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements, in actuality, these boycott campaigns were far more widespread throughout the country during the Jim Crow era, especially in the South in places like Mississippi and Tennessee. In 1963, following the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church by the white terrorist group Ku Klux Klan, Dr. King called for a Boycott of Christmas Holiday to affect the economics of American capitalism as punishment for government inaction in the face of a violent opposition to Black civil and human rights.

By late 1967 and early 1968 just prior to his assassination, Dr. King had become even more engrossed in supporting the use of direct economic action campaigns to gain more rights for Black people. As we all know, Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn., while making appearances to support striking sanitation workers. A lesser known fact is that also during this time, Dr. King was working to build a Poor People’s Movement and planning a return to Washington, D.C., to demand compensation for the exploitation of Black labor.

Dr. King stated that he was returning to D.C. to “cash the cheque” that America owed Black people and that his new movement philosophy would use boycotts and other economic direct action campaigns to “redistribute the pain” to those who were oppressing Blacks for economic gain.

At the time all of this was going on, people in prison all across the nation were organized and participating in efforts to win civil and human rights. Elder Lorenzo Kom’boa Ervin was among a group of former Panthers and other revolutionaries in federal prison who were engaged in boycotts, work strikes, property destruction and straight-up ass kicking against prison authorities whose ranks were filled with KKK and other racists.

Dr. King stated that he was returning to D.C. to “cash the cheque” that America owed Black people and that his new movement philosophy would use boycotts and other economic direct action campaigns to “redistribute the pain” to those who were oppressing Blacks for economic gain.

Meanwhile Elders Richard “Mafundi” Lake, George Dobbins, Bro. Gamble and many others were organized under Inmates for Action and fighting back against an all-white corrections force that was known for murder and pick-axe killings of the incarcerated. The revolutionary group IFA’s legacy remains strong at its birthplace, Holman Correctional Facility, and multiple prisons were renamed in testament to the fact that IFA’s declaration in their manifesto, that they believed in “an eye for an eye” if one of theirs was killed, was not empty rhetoric.

The foundation of our current movement stands on the shoulders of many great men who sacrificed before us. As early as 1971, Folsom and Attica put out manifestos calling for boycotts and work strikes as fundamental components of our inside struggle. Our struggle from the inside has always been led from the inside.

Back then though, unlike today, we lacked the ability to communicate directly with each other on a national level and plan together in the ways that we can (and do) today across the many social media platforms etc. that technology now allows. Of course, we won’t always have this ability, but life is only experienced and lived in the NOW – and right now we need to seize the moment that opportunity and technology has provided to us.

As I am always known to say, the only true source of power that we have behind these walls is our labor. We must organize this labor – not as a negotiating tool for wages but as a tool for freedom.

Billions of dollars, thousands of companies and all 51 states are dependent upon our labor EVERY DAY! There are literally entire industries that would be put out of business overnight if we stopped working.

Our families’ power, which is also tremendous, derives from the billions in financial transactions that they conduct in our behalf each year. Those canteen, phone, shoe and incentive package companies only have one customer: us. Those billions of dollars go right back into state General Fund accounts, which are then re-used for prison budgets. We … are the ones paying for all of this shit.

The major prison movements of the past hardly ever received support from anyone. Not MLK, Malcolm X, NOI or the NAACPs of the world. There may have been individual support, but never to the mass construct. Then, as now, we have to be the ones who are organized for change, and this organizing MUST be rooted in economics if we are going to force the issue.

Those canteen, phone, shoe and incentive package companies only have one customer: us. Those billions of dollars go right back into state General Fund accounts, which are then re-used for prison budgets. We … are the ones paying for all of this shit.

I started writing this series and planning this Campaign to Redistribute the Pain with the intention of getting everyone’s understanding up on the importance and power of economics to our struggle. We can’t march and protest our way to freedom. Instead, we have to bankrupt the corporate enterprise that was created by the 13th Amendment by using bankruptcy attorney downey ca to help us out.

I don’t make this statement lightly: The approximately 3 million people in U.S. prisons are or represent the most powerful group of labor in this country. Why? How?

First, there are 3 million of us. Name another single company that has 3 million employees. Google? No. Apple? No. Microsoft? No. I don’t even think that the U.S. military has 3 million soldiers.

Then, what other company makes so many different types of products and provides so many different services? We run agri-farms, fisheries, textile plants, tags, firefighters, ranchers, furniture, clothes, recycling, mining, kitchens, laundries and so much more. Name any other one company that is involved in that many different industries.

Also, name another group of 3 million people whose labor and entire lives are controlled by a single law, the 13th Amendment. Finally, take account of all of the labor that is compelled by the 13th Amendment nationwide, add to that what we spend with our captors, and you see that we are in direct control of over $100 billion annually. There are many international corporations that don’t produce $100 billion each year, yet we produce that from behind prison walls each year.

The approximately 3 million people in U.S. prisons are or represent the most powerful group of labor in this country.

The firefighter program in California is a billion-dollar service that we provide. JPay transacted $1 billion for us in 2016. I promise you that there is at least $98 billion more out there from us. The scope of our power is immense.

Recently, Richard Sherman, cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks, stated that the only way that NFL players would get the type of salaries that NBA players receive would be if they went on strike. A radio host commented that he doubted that such a move would work long-term because owners are billionaires and players are millionaires.

He said players lived extravagant lifestyles, didn’t save and, therefore, couldn’t hold out long enough to make the owners cave. Again, because we are in prison, this works to our advantage as well. How?

NFL players have to buy groceries, pay property taxes, buy gas, pay utility bills, and have other ordinary expenses each month. For those of us in prisons, we don’t have these problems. The state has to pay our bills no matter what. The prison system currently pays those bills off of our labor and the money we spend with them.

If NFL players strike for, say, 18 months and one can’t pay his bills after 10 months, his services get disconnected and he gets evicted. What do you think would happen if 3 million people all woke up one morning and told their boss, “We ain’t working no more and we ain’t spending no more.”

A slave plantation only works one way, and a slave has no value aside from his or her labor. We have all seen the same slave movies. We ain’t never seen one where a slave master bought 50 slaves, put them all up in a cabin, and just fed and clothed them for years with nothing required in return. That labor is essential.

Many of us have fallen for the deception out there that the U.S. taxpayer spends approximately $80 billion annually in prison budgets nationwide. One has to be a real fool (I used to be) to fall for this word play.

Taxpayers ain’t paying shit. Prison labor produces products and provides services, in addition to the money we spend; all of the money that is collected is deposited into whatever state fund is used for prison budgets. Work-release deductions and all of that goes into this fund too. Profits are then used to fund other state agencies etc. In business, this is called return on investment (ROI).

These are capitalists that we are talking about. They spend money to make more money. You can best believe that that $80 billion is accumulated profits.

We keep calling it slavery. Well, we have to define slavery as an economic enterprise designed to make money. That $80 billion is being spent to make a profit. There is a return on investment. If there was no return, we wouldn’t have so many investors, this is why people who invest on Acorns tend to come back for more all the time. Drug dealers don’t spend $17,500 a key to make $15,000. Instead, he spends $17,500 to make $25,000. Return … on … investment.

A civil war was fought and concluded in a compromise called the 13th Amendment, which allowed slavery to be managed by each state’s prison department. They are now investing $80 billion on that venture and our labor and contributions are producing a return that they continue to like.

In Part II of this series I showed where Parchman Prison reported a profit less than one year after it was built. In 1878, just 13 years after the 13th Amendment was ratified, the state of Alabama generated 73 percent of its total statewide operating budget from prison labor.

Let that sink in for a second … What that means, in effect, is that prison labor was the government. The courts, schools, judges, governor etc. all depended on convict leasing for their salaries, with the remaining 27 percent presumably coming from taxes, fees etc.

A civil war was fought and concluded in a compromise called the 13th Amendment, which allowed slavery to be managed by each state’s prison department.

But it’s safe to say that the prisons paid for themselves, with the surplus going towards funding the rest of the government. Do you think that these people would alter an industry this lucrative, especially when that is exactly what it was created for in the first place?

Alabama’s current prison budget is somewhere around $400 million. The state’s total budget is around $3 billion. (I don’t have up-to-date figures at the moment.) So, how is this $400 million being generated, and what percentage of the approximately $3 billion coming from prison labor? Let’s take a look …

  • Work release deductions
  • Court costs and restitution
  • ACI (Alabama Corrections Industries)
  • Canteen, snack line, incentive packages
  • Phone
  • Medical co-pays
  • Visitation vending and picture tickets
  • Money sending services
  • In-house labor (kitchen, laundry, maintenance, etc.)
  • Work camps, road squads, city-county labor

1) Work releases: Recently, Alabama Sen. Cam Ward pushed through a so-called “prison reform” bill in 2014-15, SB67. Embedded within this bill was a provision that increased the amount that the ADOC can deduct from an individual’s cheque to 60 percent. The math on this speaks for itself. We work; they get paid 60 percent of what we earn. Freedom ain’t free.

2) Court costs and restitution: Most of this is money taken directly from the funds that our family members try to send us. The courthouse has to have lights, too, so that when we are brought in for the slaughter we can watch our step on our way out.

3) ACI: Every state and the federal government has one. This is the golden goose and cash cow of the entire slave plantation enterprise. All of the national and multinational corporations have built every conceivable factory known to capitalism inside of a prison.

The few tax dollars that are spent in prison are those that these corporations conspire with government officials and politicians used to build their factories so they can use the new Smart Measurement tools for the best results in their factories. The taxpayer is told that they are building a new prison, but the blueprints reveal that most of the space is for industry. This is the sector that is the most lucrative of them all … and this is where we will ultimately have to go to seriously redistribute the pain.

4) Canteen, snack line, incentive packages: These ventures sell stale products, for usurious and jacked-up prices, to a captive group of customers who have no other option. The company that runs the incentive packages function in almost every state, so a coordinated Campaign to Redistribute the Pain could put these thieves out of business. They are a kick-back company, meaning they pay a percentage of sales back to each prison department for the exclusive contract. Their prices are criminal. The canteens are controlled by the prisons and they use these profits to purchase things like mace, batons and handcuffs. We pay for our own ass whoopings.

5) Phone call (collect): The best campaign on challenging this industry was waged by the people who run Prison Legal News. The curious thing about their campaign, though, is that they never called for or attempted to organize a phone boycott. I mean, damn, at some point we have to sacrifice to get our point across. Wreak havoc on their bottom line for a while and MFs start listening to you.

What the phone companies are doing so closely parallels what the bus companies were doing in Montgomery, Alabama, in the Jim Crow era that the solution should resemble the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Ms. Roberta Franklin showed us this over a decade ago when she organized a 30-day phone boycott here in Alabama. Instead of trying to reduce costs for a call, let’s put them out of business.

6) Medical co-pay: These companies already get contracts to provide the service. Where is the co-pay money coming from? Our families. Where is the money going? Investors. They are getting our money in every way imaginable.

7) Visitation vending and picture tickets: When you boycott a business, you have to boycott all of its venues. Ain’t no better way to send a message that we are ready to go home than to give up all privileges, including visits.

8) Money transfer companies: Prison Legal News reported in 2016 that money transfer company JPay reported transfers totaling $1,000,000,000 (billion) in 2015, with net profits of $50,000,000 (million). This is on less than 30 states. Do we really need our families sending $1 billion to us in prison to spend on phone, canteen and BS?

What about that $50 million profit that JPay makes just to send an email (smh). If we include city and county jails, plus all 51 states, we are probably talking $4-5 billion. That’s a lot of pain we can redistribute. I bet they start talking with more respect to our families when we show our collective economic power. We have to organize this power and put it into action.

9) In-house labor: Next to the corrections industries programs, in-house labor is the No. 2 industry in the prison slavery enterprise. Unlike the corrections industries, which generate revenue, the in-house labor provides services that save the states billions of dollars in costs while guaranteeing that the plantation runs like a sewing machine.

The kitchens prepare the food that keeps the slaves fed. Maintenance keeps the engines running, doors rolling etc. Yard crews keep the place clean and garbage crews keep the health department away. The mops and brooms help pass inspection. If we don’t do this work – for free no less – then the prisons have to pay free-world janitors, cooks, lawn care companies, electricians etc. to do these jobs.

Just one kitchen at a 1,300-man prison utilizes approximately $1 million worth of labor each year just to operate. Alabama has 17 prisons, not including work camps, work releases and pre-release centers. Laundry workers, runners, on and on. These places just aren’t economically sustainable without us. We are doing this to ourselves.

States are not like the federal government in that they can’t acquire debt. States have fixed budgets, so they can’t just borrow money. The only way that they can create new sources of income is to raise taxes, and that will never happen to fund prisons because the slaves ain’t working.

The damage from a strike or boycott begins on day one. Because when officers immediately go to overtime to start cooking and cleaning, as they eat through that year’s fixed budget, the next year’s budget is being impacted by the lack of money being made in the corrections industries. The longer we strike or boycott, the worse their problems are. The Montgomery Bus Boycott lasted 381 days.

10) Work camps, road squads, city-county labor: Someone has to pick up trash off of the side of the road. Sanitation departments can lay off workers who make $40,000 and replace them with prison labor. Trustee camps in Alabama work everywhere: State Trooper’s office, Health Department, Forestry Commission, police station cleanup, city and county street departments, state house. A lot of bodies moving for free. All of this work still has to be done. The question is, how much longer will we do it for free?


We are our own worst enemy in this situation. By Dec. 6, we should have completed enough research so that we can create flyers, newsletters, conference calls etc. to start preparing for Phase 1 of the Campaign to Redistribute the Pain 2018, beginning with a nationwide, coordinated boycott – not work strikes – of all prison canteens, phones, visitation vending, incentive packages, on a bi-monthly basis for the entire year of 2018.

A stroke is called the “silent killer.” Well, economic boycotts are silent killers too. Our family members feel hopeless in their ability to help us. We have to show them that they have power too.

On the inside, these are sacrifices that we have to make if we intend to advance our struggle. When we cut off the money and stop investing in the system, there is no return on investment. This Campaign to Redistribute the Pain is designed to build collective unity amongst our families in a way that will highlight their economic strength while at the same time inflicting intense pain on those who seek to profit off of our misery.

Bennu Hannibal Ra-Sun, Free Alabama Movement

Remember: Boycott months are February, April, June, August, October and December 2018.

Send our brother some love and light: Melvin Ray, 163343, Limestone CF D-70, 28779 Nick Davis Rd., Harvest AL 35749.

On Dec. 6, 1865, Black bodies were nationalized – and our prison movement was born August 1, 2017 Part II: Campaign to Redistribute the Pain 2018 by Bennu Hannibal Ra-Sun, formerly known as Melvin Ray, Free Alabama Movement

On Dec. 6, 1865, Black bodies were nationalized – and our prison movement was born 

As I write this article, I am not sure what day the Civil War began or what day it ended. The facts that I do know about the Civil War are not worth repeating here, as that story already occupies plenty of space in American text. My muse, instead, is about the particular vestige of slavery that the Civil War bequeathed to us on Dec. 6, 1865, that now forms the basis of our struggle to end mass incarceration and prison slavery in 2017.

On Dec. 6, 1865, the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified. This is the date that the struggle to end slavery repositioned itself, by virtue of the 13th Amendment, to the prison systems of America.

As we all now know or should know, the 13th Amendment did not abolish slavery; it nationalized it. We must keep in mind that the great deception and myth that the 13th Amendment abolished slavery was aided by the fact that in 1865, very few Black people in this country were allowed to see a copy of the Constitution. Textbooks in Black schools post-Civil War either didn’t have the Constitution in them to begin with, or it was removed before the books were passed to Black schools.

The fact that so few people ever actually saw a copy of the Constitution has been instrumental in the perpetuation of the lie about what the 13th Amendment did and didn’t do. When the nationwide Sept. 9, 2016, demonstrations were taking place, I fielded approximately 50-100 media requests for interviews. After about 10-15 interviews in, I noticed that a distinct pattern had emerged; the journalists were always either commenting on the fact of, or asking the question, why do we refer to slavery in our statements?

When I would ask them had they ever read the 13th Amendment or had they read it in the last two years, the answer was predominantly, “No.” At that point, I made it a prerequisite that every journalist I spoke to for an interview had to read the 13th Amendment before I would be willing to be interviewed.

We have a tall order before us in undoing assumptions and mistaken beliefs about this amendment. A deliberate lie that was told for over 150 years takes a lot of effort to correct.

The government, the beneficiary of this lie, has been able to institutionalize concepts about people, prisons and their criminal justice system under the guise of crime and punishment, which has allowed them to maintain the enterprise of slavery without interruption. As I stated above, the 13th Amendment allowed the government to nationalize Black bodies as a natural resource or capital.

Nationalize: 1. to make national in character. 2. to transfer ownership or control of (land, resources, industries, etc.) to the nation’s government.

As we all know, prior to the Civil War and ratification of the 13th Amendment, private citizens were the “owners” of slaves. The slave worked for and enriched the master. The government received very little, if anything, from this arrangement. The 13th Amendment was designed, in part, to remedy that.

The 13th Amendment allowed the government to nationalize Black bodies as a natural resource or capital.

Nationalization is something that we all experience and interact with on a daily basis, yet most of us are probably not aware of it. In the Ruby Ridge and Standing Rock standoffs, we saw it in effect. Oil is also a natural resource that is nationalized and controlled by the government. In foreign countries, we see resources like diamonds nationalized. What this means is that in order for private citizens to enter into these industries, they have to get consent from the government. Consent usually comes in the form of a drilling or mining license or a lease.

For example, in attempting to allow ranchers access to “federal” land for cattle grazing, the government has agencies like the Bureau of Land Management. After the 13th Amendment was ratified, state and federal governments established or modified departments of corrections to manage the prison slave industry.

Thus, after Dec. 6, 1865, if a private citizen wanted access to slave labor, he had to pay a fee to the government. This process gave birth to the phrase “convict leasing.” This quickly became a lucrative enterprise for many state and federal governments, with some states funding large portions of their entire budgets off of these leases.

Of course, as with any capitalistic enterprise, profits are stimulated by demand, which, in turn, calls for increasing the supply. In this sense, supply meant more slaves, which gave rise to the first instances of arbitrary laws being passed that helped fuel the first edition of mass incarceration and prison slavery: Black Codes, vagrancy laws etc. What we are experiencing today with the “war on drugs,” mandatory minimums, habitual offender laws etc. are mere modernized versions of the management protocols of the slave enterprise that was moved to the prisons in 1865.

What we must keep in mind is that from its inception, these prison plantations were formulated to maintain the continuance of an economic enterprise, so far as it concerns Black people. Prior to the 13th Amendment, few, in fact, hardly any Black people were even in prison.

Why? Because, for one, the plantation was our prison. Two, we did not have enough freedom to commit any crimes. Attempting to leave the plantation was criminal. A Black person could not just go downtown or stroll in the park. We were banished from society, so our presence had to be explained in a defined way.

After the 13th Amendment was ratified, whole new prisons and departments of corrections were erected as institutions for the control and management of Black labor in this country. The blueprint for these institutions was the plantations. Indeed, some prisons, such as Angola in Louisiana and many in Texas, were built on actual slave plantations.

These were places of enterprise, not reform. There was no health care on the plantation, and there would not be any in prison. Nutritional food: No! Education and rehab: We all know that it was illegal to educate a slave.

These businesses were designed to keep costs down while maximizing profits. These same fundamentals continue on to this day. Prisons will never afford these services because they were never designed for these purposes. And the very states of the Confederacy that fought so hard to maintain slavery are the same ones today that lead the world in incarceration rates.

True reforms are bad for business, and that’s why every prison culture around the country is the same. Negative behavior, drugs, violence, ignorance, etc. are promoted. Why? Because it ensures recidivism, which is good for business. Ask any business owner and they will tell you that the best customer is a repeat customer. Apple wants us to keep buying the iPhone. AT&T wants us to stay on their network. The prison industry wants us to keep coming back. Recidivism rates hover around 60-70%. Shit working like a sewing machine.

When confronting prison slavery, we have to keep everything in the context of economics because that’s what slavery is – an economic system. Our conditions of confinement are merely a by-product of the system that we are in. The beatings, inhumane conditions, solitary confinements, inadequate nutrition and health care are means to an end.

The infamous Willie Lynch letter showed us that they have perfected their method of creating a slave. And while the authenticity of this letter can be debated, its science cannot. A slave is made; we live daily in its process. Our challenge, our struggle is to resist the slave-making process, while implementing a plan to make the enterprise no longer profitable, thereby ending its existence.

The vanguards of our movement, those of us who are conscious of these factors, are deemed the threats. We are threats because we threaten the corporate bottom line where profit margins are reported. Absent our ability to affect the corporate bottom line, we are nothing more than philosophers, talking heads and sympathy-seeking disgruntled slaves. Just chronic complainers who can’t solve our problem.

Our challenge, our struggle is to resist the slave-making process, while implementing a plan to make the enterprise no longer profitable, thereby ending its existence.

Our kryptonite to the prison slavery enterprise is and forever remains the labor strikes and boycotts of their in-house prison enterprises. In the words of Dr. King, to strike and boycott is to “redistribute the pain.” Their great fear is that their $80 billion system will stop producing profits for them – the same fear they had in 1860.

In the book “Worse than Slavery” by David M. Oshinsky, we learn that Parchman prison had turned a profit of $185,000 less than one year after it opened. On Page 109, we find proof of the motive behind U.S. prisons:

“The [warden] was not expected to be a professional penologist. The state wanted an ‘experienced farmer’ for this position. The [warden’s] job was to make a good crop. ‘His annual report to the legislature is not of salvaged lives, a newspaper remarked. ‘It is a profit and loss statement, with an accent on profits.’”

Our ability to impact the system and to change our circumstances is unmatched by any other sector of labors. Why? Because in society, the bill collector still visits the striking worker whether they go to work or not. They still have to buy groceries, still have to buy gas, still have to pay the water, gas and electric bill. But with us in prison, this dynamic is different because the state has to provide for all of our needs whether we work and shop with them or not. The problem becomes that they – the state – no longer has the revenue that is collected from our labor and contributions that they use to pay those bills.

Our labor, which produces a wide range of products and provides all sorts of services, plus the money we spend on canteen, incentive packages, phone calls etc. is the backbone of any department of corrections. This is how their bills and salaries are paid.

On the first day of strikes and boycotts, our impact is felt immediately. The DOC starts losing that daily revenue that we spend, and officers immediately shift to overtime because they then have to start cooking the food, pulling trash etc. With each day that passes, we wreak more and more havoc on the corporate financial sheets.

We have to build our movement one step at a time, until we get to that point of critical mass where our sacrifices finally break their backs. That! … is redistributing the pain.

One final point needs expounding on. There is the great myth that prisons are funded to the tune of $80 billion nationwide by taxpayer dollars. Again, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, prisons put profits into the general fund or otherwise save states billions of dollars by using prison labor.

If we intend to be taken seriously in our observations in calling this slavery, then we have to be critical in our analysis. On any plantation, it is the crop in the field that funds the operation, not tax dollars. I showed where Parchman turned a profit in its first year of operations. In 1878, the state of Alabama generated 73 percent of its entire budget from prison labor.

Declines to the early 1870s prison population booms did not occur until convict leasing was banned in the early 1900s. Alabama was the last state to ban the practice, in 1920. Prison populations remained stable because, without the ability to generate revenue from this prison labor, states had no economic incentive to foot the bill for non-productive assets – human bodies. Prison populations were reduced in proportion to the amount of revenue that could be generated from us in order to pay the bills.

This all changed in the late ‘70s to early ‘80s. During this time, a lot of manufacturing jobs were being outsourced to places like China, where workers were paid $2 a day or less. What emerged was predictable – with China and other countries being able to produce their products for less because they didn’t have to pay things like minimum wage and vacation time, foreign manufacturers took over manufacturing industries and put a lot of U.S. manufacturers out of business. Our trade deficit exploded, and tariffs, quotas and taxes on imports could not stem the tide. The solution became our problem.

U.S. manufacturers prevailed on Congress to investigate whether these foreign companies were enjoying an unfair advantage through the use of prison labor. When this was confirmed, Congress enacted laws that once again reauthorized U.S. firms’ access to prison labor for convict leasing.

We all know the results. The “war on drugs” was declared. Education funds were removed from prisons. Mandatory minimums, habitual offender laws and the like were passed. Good-time credits were rolled back, and parole became tougher to make.

Then, the factories were built and the prison populations exploded. As I will continue to repeat, we have to analyze mass incarceration and prison slavery in financial terms if we intend to end it. The maxim that “crime don’t pay” is fool’s gold.

So, we must ask – and answer – the question: If we were and are incarcerated and enslaved so that we can be exploited for our labor and financial contributions, then why do we continue to provide them? Why are we funding our own oppression?

The guards get paid, the lights stay on, profits are made, and we suffer daily because we continue to spend on phone calls, canteen, shoe packages etc., and because we continue to go to work, produce a tag, or furniture, or glasses, or uniforms, or chemicals, or night vision goggles, or whatever, which is sold by the department of corrections on the open market for xxx dollars, and these dollars are then used to fund the government, including paying the salaries of prosecutors, judges and police.

We have to organize against these factors with a movement rooted in economics, not emotions. Our pain won’t stop until their profits stop. And the only way that this will happen is if we redistribute the pain – away from us and onto their financial bottom line.

The official launch date to announce our Campaign to Redistribute the Pain 2018 is Dec. 6, 2017. On this date, we should start promoting a bi-monthly plan to boycott canteen, phone, incentive packages, money transfer companies like J-Pay and any other venue where we are giving financial support to the system.

We have to organize with a movement rooted in economics, not emotions. Our pain won’t stop until their profits stop.

This plan should be implemented throughout the year 2018, during the months of February, April, June, August, October and December. In the meantime, help with the process of building awareness of the scope of economics as it relates to the finance and operation of prisons and the critical, fundamental role that we play in it.

We cannot ever expect to gain respect for our rights when our actions demonstrate that we are mentally chained to privileges. Before we will ever gain our freedom, we have to sacrifice all privileges. Otherwise, our captors will always have these privileges to control and manipulate us with.

It is time for us to turn up the intensity in our organizing. Our families and our children need those resources far more than the people we are turning them over to. Brothers and Sisters, don’t worry about what the naysayers say, and don’t allow a slave’s actions to dictate your own. One thing you can be sure of is that you are not alone because I, Bennu Hannibal, will be sacrificing with you here in Alabama.

Changing old habits and developing new ones takes time. That’s why this campaign is developed to stretch out for a full year. Get ready, get organized, and take action to Redistribute the Pain in 2018.

Bennu Hannibal Ra Sun, Free Alabama Movement

Send our brother some love and light: Melvin Ray, 163343, Donaldson CF Seg. Unit Q-8, 100 Warrior Lane, Bessemer AL 35023.

Help Us… So we may conitnue to help the People…

Hello, it’s me Queen Tahiyrah (Facebook LINK Queen Tahiyrah). I am a part of a group called the National Freedom & Justice Movement, an Advocate for people who are in the prison system. We work with groups like the Free Ohio Movement, Free Alabama Movement, UnHeard Voices, as well as quite a few more… We are a part of the overall movement to give a voice to those who are incarcerated, assist them with maintaining family & community ties and when requested, assist them by referring them to organizations who specialize in everything from Mental Health Services, Educational opportunities, including ordering and sending materials, Legal Assistance; to assisting those on the outside, locate their loved ones who have gotten lost in the system.
We are on a few Campaigns throughout 2018: Voice Your Vote Voter Registration Initiative This is a way for every eligible Voter to use their Vote as their Voice when they go to the polls. We also are sharing ways to register to vote, setting up tables at community events and door knocking in urban communities. Community Peace & Unity Summits Bringing together the people most effected by violence & mass incarceration, in a safe environment so that more communal conversations can be had, and bridges may be built Back to School is Cool School Supply Drive We are collecting school supplies at every opportunity, so that we may be a year-round resource for children & families when they need help throughout the school year. Just to name a few….. We are writing to you to ask for your support. Will you please make a monetary donation via our You Caring Page:
We also are requesting books, school supplies and referrals to others who share in our mission to help people and have resources to offer. Another one of our projects is the magazine Barz Beyond Barz: Voices from Behind Enemy Lines, which is a monthly, full color publication, made up of contributions and submissions from confined citizens. The first copy is available on Amazon; however, you also can make a contribution (10.00 per copy) and save yourself the shipping and handling fee and will send it to you directly. Our first issue is 40 pages! We are quite proud of it and would love for you to see first hand how talented and insightful the information is.
The last thing Id like to share is our Blog Talk Radio Broadcast called Sign o the Times. We air Tuesday through Friday from 6 to 8 pm EST. Discussions vary from Health, Education, Community Building, Asset Development, Communications, Spirituality (not religion) and overall Community Empowerment. Check us out at Please consider contributing to this as well. We will be celebrating our 5th Year on the air this July 13, 2018! And if you would like to be a Guest, please give me a call at 513-913-2691.
Thank you so much for your time today.
Queen Tahiyrah Host of Sign o the Times Blog Talk Radio, Director of the Free Ohio Movement & the National Freedom & Justice Movement, Publisher & Editor of Barz Beyond Barz & Your Sister in the Struggle

Let’s Talk About it!!! Corrections Corp and the GEO Group: Modern Slave Profiteers

Mort T. Care: “Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group owns about 75 percent of the nation private prisons”


They rely on human beings being incarcerated for their money, and both of them are multi-billion dollars enterprises that exploit free and cheap labor in a new form of slavery, exploitation, and torture to force labor.

They also lobby for touch-on-crime policies and against reforms or change to harsh sentencing practices that currently incarcerated over 1.5 black men, women, and children.

Free Alabama Movement and Free Mississippi Movement are currently protesting against the civil and human rights abuses of the companies from inside of prisons throughout America.

We need support, donations, and skilled organizers to help us organize the men and women on the inside to engage in work strikes/shutdowns so that we can destroy the economic ecosystem of corporations like these, whose existences are based on the continued enslavement of Black and other POC.