On Jan. 18, Florida prisoners began a month-long strike—called Operation PUSH—to demand an end to unpaid labor and price gouging in canteens, and the restoration of parole. The strike is the third mass action by inmates over the course of a year in protest of inhumane conditions in Florida prisons.
At 99,000, Florida’s overcrowded prison population is the third-highest in the country after Texas and California, due in part to the elimination of parole for non-capital offenses in 1984. Many of these thousands of prisoners work without pay in prisons, saving the state of Florida $38 million in 2017.
“Our goal is to make the governor realize that it will cost the state of Florida millions of dollars daily to contract outside companies to come and cook, clean and handle the maintenance,” the prisoners wrote in a statement. “This will cause a total BREAK DOWN.”
The overcrowding, combined with understaffing, has fostered a culture where violence is routine and sanctioned, according to a year-long investigation by the Miami Herald. Among the horrific incidents the paper uncovered was the 2012 death of Darren Rainey, who was placed for two hours in a shower so hot that it stripped the skin from his body.
The Florida Department of Corrections is adamant no work-stoppage has occurred. Yet prisoner-rights groups said in a Jan. 19 memo they’re received letters from prisoners in 16 different facilities who said they either participated in a strike or were preemptively punished for trying to do so.
“This idea that they’re being retaliated against, it’s the lingo they’re using to keep perpetuating that this event is happening,” FDOC spokesperson Michelle Glady told the Miami New Times. “There is no retaliation happening at any of our institutions.”
In an op-ed for the Washington Post, Dan Berger, author of “Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights Era,” wrote that the lack of information or clarity from the FDOC is designed to keep both prisoners and the public in the dark.
“It is not just people who are locked up, but information itself,” he wrote.
Though Operation PUSH is intended to be a month-long strike, prisoners may strike indefinitely until they’re heard.
“This is our chance to establish UNITY and SOLIDARITY,” the prisoners wrote. “This is the strategy of Operation PUSH! A voice locked up is not a voice unheard!”
By Molly Minta
If the bomb cyclone up north or the snow coating Florida’s palm trees this winter shocked Sen. James “Jim” Inhofe, R-Okla., he hasn’t shown it.
Sen. Inhofe, after all, is infamous for bringing a snowball in a plastic bag to the Senate floor on an “unseasonably cold” February morning just three years ago. In the dead of winter, he held the snowball up as proof that anthropogenic climate change must be a hoax.
Perhaps Sen. Inhofe is unaware scientists have asserted for years that climate change meant more than just rising overall temperatures, but also more severe and unpredictable weather.
Walt Meier, a senior research scientist specializing in climate change at NASA, explained that as the arctic rapidly heats, jet streams surrounding the arctic warp, carrying extreme heat and cold to regions that don’t typically experience them.
“If you look at the jet stream, you’ll see these big dips,” Meier said. “So you get more extreme heat waves, more extreme storms, more extreme cold.”
Despite an overwhelming scientific consensus, Sen. Inhofe has yet to warm up to the idea of anthropogenic climate change. That could have something to do with the hundreds of thousands of dollars he has received from his top contributors at Koch Industries, Murray Energy and other fossil fuel miners—fuels whose consumption are directly linked to anthropogenic climate change.
You would think that a senator from Oklahoma, one of the country’s most natural disaster-prone states, would be more concerned about potential extreme weather. Yet Sen. Inhofe prefers to meet climate change with jest, like when he built an igloo with his family on the National Mall and adorned it with a sign reading: “AL GORE’S NEW HOME.”
Still, Sen. Inhofe is a ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee—even after writing a book titled “The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future.”
Maybe someday, right-wing politicians like Sen. Inhofe will come to agree with 97 percent of climate scientists—but probably not until we’ve all become fossils ourselves.
By Jordanne Laurito