Activists from across Florida, including GJEP’s own GE Trees campaigner Ruddy Turnstone (who is operating the megaphone in the video below), attended a demonstration Sept. 9, focused on calling attention to the modern-day slavery conditions, rampant abuse and toxic conditions that occur in prisons around the country. The address of FCC Coleman is 846 NE 54th Terrace, in Wildwood, located half-way between Orlando and Tampa.
The event occurred as part of a nationwide strike on Sept. 9, the anniversary of the Attica prison uprising in New York, was initially announced earlier this year by prisoners in various states, including Alabama, Ohio, Virginia, Texas. It is still unknown how many prisons had people participating in the strike, but over 50 events and demonstrations were planned outside prisons in dozens of cities and rural towns across the U.S.
Riots, work refusal and administrative lockdowns of entire facilities in Florida have already been reported. Other state and federal facilities have reported similar situations around the country.
The Coleman prison complex houses over 7,000 prisoners and is home to the largest prison factory in the entire country, primarily producing material goods such as furniture for government agencies nationwide.
Federal Prison Industries, also known as UNICOR, has over $34 million in contract obligation coming out of Bureau of Prison (BOP) facilities in Florida. This is three times higher than any other state in the country.
These workers are subjected to slave conditions based on the 13th Amendment of the US Constitution, which exempts prisoners of protection from slavery.
Over the past 10 years, UNICOR facilities have repeatedly been cited for unsafe working conditions and environmental hazards across the nation.
Additionally, FCC Coleman is surrounded by an industrial waste land of rock mines and their water storage pits, which have been known tocontaminate regional water supplies in other areas of the state. Tainted water is a common problem in prisons around the country as well.
“Prisons all over the country are coupled with environmentally hazardous land uses that threaten the health of prisoners and local ecosystems,” said Panagioti Tsolkas, an organizer with the Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons. “There is no way to justify forcing people to live in these conditions.”
The event at Coleman is being organized by the Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons and the Gainesville branch of the IWW labor union.
The Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons aims to develop ties between the environmental movement and the movement against mass incarceration.
The IWW is the only labor union in the country which actively accepts prisoners as members.