SVSP

Inside the hallways of Salinas Valley State Prison in Soledad.

While he has spent much of the past two years in solitary confinement, Melvin Ray is still eager to talk about what he sees as a growing national movement that touches Salinas Valley State Prison in Soledad.

On Friday, Sept. 9, the 45th anniversary of the Attica Prison riot in New York that spurred reform nationally, inmates across the country plan to go on strike to protest what they describe as forced labor, draconian drug laws and mass incarceration.

“We want people to know the 13th Amendment never abolished slavery,” Ray says from the Donaldson Correctional Facility in Bessemer, Alabama.

“People are profiting off forced prison labor,” Ray continues. “When we stop working these jobs, when we stop buying things from the commissary, we hit the economic heart of the prison system.”

At 45, Ray is serving life without parole for a murder he claims not to have committed. He is a leader in the Free Alabama Movement that orchestrated a prison strike in 2014 and spurred prisoners in other states to organize.

All told, inmates in 20 states are planning to strike on Sept. 9, including more than 800 in California prisons and 20 at Salinas Valley State Prison, according to Cole Dorsey, an Oakland-based organizer with Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee.

IWOC, an offshoot of the radical union Industrial Worker of the World, was created in 2014 to help coordinate national efforts for prison strikes and reform in the prison system.

Inmates in Salinas Valley State Prison perform various jobs at the prison, from food prep in dining halls and selling goods in the commissary, to maintenance and laundry.

“No one is forced to work,” says Matthew Atchley, assistant warden at the Correctional Training Facility, also in Soledad. “In most cases, inmates are happy to work. Most jobs have waiting lists.”

Keep Informed

  • - Opinionated insiders news
  • - Foodie news
  • - Events calendar
  • - E-edition and comics
Your email is never shared.

Become a Member Today

YOU ENJOY READING US. LET’S KEEP IT THAT WAY.
PLEASE HELP KEEP YOUR INDEPENDENT MEDIA HERE FOR GOOD.

It takes a huge effort for Monterey County Weekly to stay independent and deliver the quality news, arts & entertainment you’ve come to depend on. We’re inviting our readers to join our new membership program, a new way to support independent, local media.

Learn more.

Recommended for you

(1) comment

Brian Burleson

Here's a possible solution to stop "mass incarceration", try following the damned law. That works for nearly every other law-abiding citizen.

"At 45, Ray is serving life without parole for a murder he claims not to have committed...."

"Claims to not have committed". *LMAO*

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.