State prison inmates plan a work strike Saturday in conjunction with a march in Washington to protest corporate food giant Aramark, which provides meals at more than 500 correctional facilities. Their means of organizing: social media. Planning for Saturday’s protest duplicates how inmates in 24 states used Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube in September to stage a work strike on the 45th anniversary of the Attica prison uprising to protest prison conditions, which they called “modern-day slavery,” reports Stateline.
“We connected from our social media platforms,” Bennu Hannibal, an inmate serving a life sentence for murder in Alabama, told Vice News, using a smuggled cellphone to conduct the interview. “All those platforms allowed us to connect with different people and different organizers from around the world.” In most states, prison officials want to prevent inmates from having easy access to the outside world via social media. They fear prisoners could use social media to stalk a former victim, run crime rings, threaten a witness, arrange contraband drops or find out personal information about prison guards and officials. “Social media is a problem,” said Bryan Stirling, director of the South Carolina Department of Corrections. “It should concern everybody across the country that this is happening. It’s the unfettered communication to the outside world that should scare everybody.” Prisoner advocates and civil libertarians disagree. They argue that bans on social media further alienate inmates already cut off from society and make a successful return more difficult.