Slave Labor in America: The evil of the Private Prison System

With an unemployment rate of 9.1% officially and who knows how much in reality everyone seems to be looking at how to improve the job market. Moreover, all we ever hear about is that we as Americans cannot compete globally because of our standard of living and high wages. Yes, our wages are high when compared to slave labor in China or child labor in India but what if I told you that our real competitor is right here in America. Right here in America we have over 2 million people who receive no more than a DOLLAR or two a day for as much as 12 hours of work and they are not illegal immigrants!

No, you say..where is that happening in America?

IN OUR PRISONS!

Prisoners earn no more than a DOLLAR or two a day for sometimes as much as 12 hours of labor in America!

OK, OK, I can hear you right now saying “well, they ARE criminals, so why shouldn't they work for 12 hours a day and only receive 1 DOLLAR”. And you know I might just agree with you except the people who are benefiting from this slave labor are not the taxpayers, who by the way fund the prison system at $47,000 per inmate, nor is it the victims of the prisoners. NOOOO the people who benefit are wealthy CORPORATIONS like BP, IBM, Boeing, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T, Texas Instrument, Dell, Compaq, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard, Nortel, Lucent Technologies, 3Com, Intel, Northern Telecom, TWA, Nordstrom's, Revlon, Macy's Pierre Cardin, Target Stores and Chevron


to name just a few. Not only that but companies are actually closing up shop and then turning around and opening up IN PRISONS, to use PRISON labor, further exasperating our unemployment situation. Prison slave labor not only hurts prisoners and taxpayers but it also hurts our job market.


Not only do these corporations not have to pay these prisoners minimum wage, but they also don't have to worry about strikes, unemployment insurance, family problems, benefits, sick days or a high turnover rate. If the prisoners refuse to work they are not given time off of their sentence for good behavior and may even be penalized by being put into solitary confinement. It's a great deal...for the Corporations.

In addition, these corporations lobby to get longer sentences and stricter laws so that they can get even more slave labor. The existence of a private prison system naturally creates a demand for prisoners and prisons. Rather than focusing on justice it creates a profit motive to keep the prisons full, to expand prisons and to supply prisons with additional prisoners. Over 2 million people are in prison in America, more than any other country in the world. Furthermore the vast majority are not in for violent crimes and consist of mostly minorities. In California the 3 strikes your out law has contributed to the construction of more than 20 new prisons. People have been sent to prison for decades, some for life, for crimes like petty theft due that that law alone.

The corporations use the same tactics as the military industrial complex to get YOU the taxpayer to vote for laws supporting the prison industrial complex and that tactic is fear. They constantly use the media to push fear of crime so that you will vote for longer sentencing, automatic sentencing and funds for more prisons. Do you see a correlation here? The military industrial complex uses the media to push fear of terrorists and terrorism so that you will support the wars, the Patriot Act, the erosion of our constitutional rights and greater surveillance. It's the same play book and it's ruining our country.


With the national debt over 19 trillion dollars and climbing and the annual cost of corrections said to be approximately 100 billion dollars I think a better system is in order. The problem is that the prison industrial complex has become very powerful. Just as the military industrial complex is driven by corporations that make a lot of money so does the prison system. For example a pay phone at a prison can generate $18,000 dollars a year. Food companies, clothing companies and construction companies all get lucrative contracts at prison facilities and just like Halliburton and KBR, they charge an astronomical price for basic items and then stick the taxpayer or in some cases the inmate with the bill. Moreover, the advent of private prisons has contributed to this problem. Private prisons are primarily interested in the bottom line and are beholding to their stock holders. They have no incentive whatsoever to provide humane conditions or rehabilitation for their inmates. THEY DO have an incentive to keep their prisons full and to cut costs. This is no way to run a prison!

Even if you think that this system is fair because of the crimes that have been committed, there is no justification for corporations to benefit. The tax payer and the victims should benefit since the taxpayer is the one footing the bill and the taxpayer is the victim. Nevertheless, I think the entire system needs to be overhauled. There is no reason why the taxpayer should be incarcerating non-violent criminals at the cost of $47,000 plus per year, especially considering the recidivism rate. According to figures from the state Department of Corrections, there has been a 618 percent increase in the inmate population from 1980 to present.

A better system would be a system of restitution and alternative punishment for non-violent criminals.

However, as long as we allow prison slave labor and private prisons there will always be this nefarious incentive for corporations to lobby for automatic sentencing and long prison terms all the while hiding behind a “get tough on crime” excuse for blatant corporate greed.

There outta be a law! The very first thing we must advocate for is for the prohibition of prison labor by private corporations and the abolition of private prisons. The situation is further exasperated by Congressmen who collect pensions that have stock in private prisons. Can you see a conflict of interest here?

Prisoners should work, but they should work in areas that will help keep the cost of their incarceration down. Prisoners should grow their own food, make their own clothes, clean their own clothes, generate their own electricity and make a decent wage. The money that is left over should be split between restitution, cost of keep (like medical costs) and last but not least returned to the taxpayer. There is absolutely NO room for corporate profits in our prison systems!

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Comments 53 comments

IndiePharm profile image

IndiePharm 4 years ago from Niš, Serbia

Good hub. I don't know how is it possible to live with such a debt, but USA is a world power so it must be kept on without breakdown. The situation is the same in every country in the world. It's not the system's fault, but people's. Once, people said that communism is bad, but it isn't, people were bad, and now, capitalism is almost in ruins. Every system is good but there's no one who could fulfill the expectations. If everybody would mind society's interest and not their own, then world would blossom. But, it's never going to happen, then it would be called Utopia... :)


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 4 years ago from Manhattan Author

I disagree on a few points you made. Communism has failed in every country it's been implemented in. And as far as capitalism, we haven't had capitalism in this country for about 100 years now. What we have is Corporatism...BIG DIFFERENCE! If capitalism were brought back to this country it would bloom like a rose. Every system is NOT good. Was Nazism good? There are good and bad systems in the world unfortunately people have to be educated to understand that and the populace have been dumbed down to such an extent that it has become almost impossible to communicate such things anymore.


IndiePharm profile image

IndiePharm 4 years ago from Niš, Serbia

Communism is a system that tells that everybody should work, work and work and then take all the necessities according to the amount of time we've spent working. That means that the money system would not exist at all. Communism hasn't been achieved at all because the first step to it, socialism, has been done all wrong. Nazism is a system that says everything by its name, nationalistic socialism. Doing and working just for your country and not paying attention to anyone. Again, system sounded good but has failed due to Hitler's and Mussolini's eagerness for power. Capitalism is also good, but understood quite wrong. The system could always be good in our heads but not in reality because everybody's greedy. So, we shouldn't blame the system, just people who are "managing" it. All from me. :)

P.S. Marx's Kapital, is the most read book in the world and is the essential book for communism and socialism, but nothing has been taken from it. I haven't read Kapital, but I heard it's quite good. :)


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 4 years ago from Manhattan Author

NO, the Bible is the most read book in the world! In my quick search on google Kapital wasn't even listed!


IndiePharm profile image

IndiePharm 4 years ago from Niš, Serbia

Oh well, maybe it's for political books, but I think that even Quran, the Muslim book, is more read than Bible. I'm Christian, but I think that, even that almost every house has one copy of Bible, even tenth of them haven't read it at all. But, it's another topic.


mortimerjackson profile image

mortimerjackson 4 years ago from California

Wow. Surprised to find that 60% of people reading this article didn't already know about private prisons.

In response to your article, America doesn't really believe in rehabilitation. Combine a for-profit prison institution with lobbyists and PR goons, and a public that's constantly hell-bent on vengeance, and the prison system will never, and I repeat, never, be reformed.

As for IndiePharm, please learn that the world doesn't just operate on one "ism."


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 4 years ago from Manhattan Author

Mortimerjackson..the question wasn't whether they had heard of private prisons..the question was whether they knew that Corporations were using prison labor to enhance corporate profit. I think that most people are unaware of this.


mkott profile image

mkott 4 years ago from Reno, Nevada

Nice to know there are other ways that Corporations screw fellow Americans. I just read that pay here between CEO's and their average worker was 456:1. Seeing Target on your list made me even more angry since their ratio for CEO and average Target employee is 1260:1, (former Target employee). The pay difference here far exceeds most countries. Now finding that corporation's utilize the prison system for cheap labor doesn't surprise me. I thought I worked for slave wages!!

Good Hub Brie


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 4 years ago from Manhattan Author

Thanks mkott, I was pretty surprised myself that this was going on. And when you start to realize that a lot of those people don't belong in prison in the first place..well you tend to get very very angry.


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 4 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

The present system in America has major flaws. Prison labor is a symptom. As for the communism thread going on, Americans have never stood in line for toliet paper as did the Russians. Greed cannot be kept out of either system apparently.


vrajavala profile image

vrajavala 4 years ago from Port St. Lucie

Good article. I think that is why the people of Texas voted to educate the children of illegal immigrants, simply because it reduces the crime rate. Hopefully.


Barbara Kay profile image

Barbara Kay 4 years ago from USA

I didn't know this was going on. Where we live, they use the prisoners to clean parks and work like that. Working for corporations isn't fair at all. The money should be going to feed and lodge them, not to benefit corporations.

I wonder which politician got money in their pocket for allowing this.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 4 years ago from Manhattan Author

It would probably be easier to find which politicians didn't! Spread the word please.


Nan Mynatt profile image

Nan Mynatt 4 years ago from Illinois

You have opened our eyes to the corruption that is going on in the US. The Corporations are just as guilty as the ones in prison. How did they ever think of all the dirt that is going on to make outrageous salaries. It just keeps getting worst. All roads have led down for us and unless it stops they will strip the country. I marked you for for all of your hard work and research.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 4 years ago from Manhattan Author

Thanks Nan. I think the corporations are more guilty as they have brought down our country! It's heartbreaking. As for me, I have to report on these things..it's just my nature. Please spread the word about all the stuff that is going on, post the articles on your facebook and tell your friends because the ONLY hope we have is to educate the masses.


SealBeach profile image

SealBeach 4 years ago

The American media has a way of distracting the people on all other malfeasance around the world when in fact--even worse things happens here in America. Maybe what the corporations are doing is "immoral" not "illegal" as explained by the president as to why--the bankers were not prosecuted! Go figure!


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 4 years ago from Manhattan Author

Yes, that is exactly why I don't get my news from the mainstream (or Vichy) media anymore. Thanks for commenting.


Weston Grey 4 years ago

I agree with what has been said. The laws and judical system are no longer in any way functional. The current laws only protect the affluent. The government is suppose to protect us and aid us all into recovery - regardless of what the recovery is. Those that are locked away for non-violent crimes while those that commit violent acts against society walk freely sickens me. I left my job in August because I refused to commit federal crimes. I turned in the information regarding the federal crimes, and I have thus been denied unemployment benefits, social service benefits, unable to find a job thanks to the employer I left - and I am about to become homeless. All the while, the people that are commiting federal crimes which will hurt us all in time to come sit in their lavish cars and homes, and care less that they are destroying America and in the end raising the taxes we pay to fix what they are doing. These people belong in prison working for a dollar a day. In the beginning, people went to jail for crimes commited - yet they learned from their time there and there was no relapse (well not as much as now). Once upon a time, the prisioners tended to a garden to make food for themselves and others - and the lessons gained from pulling weeds and feeding those they hurt, and learning how to care for themselves stuck. America is not helping the lower class rise above their labels - America needs the scapegoat. And we all pay the price. I once believed we could change this world. I thought I lived a morally correct life - and I stood up for my beliefs. Now - my faith in this country has been shaken. I do not understand why a working class citzen may steal a loaf of bread to feed their family and then - as you state - three strikes your out - go to jail for the rest of their lives... all the while corrupt corporate America dines on rich dishes and has no fear for they are safe. The government does not help those that fight - they push us down until we cannot stand. If all I can pay is my cell phone for internet access as I live in a shelter or worse - I will. Somehow we have to voice this injustice - though I do not see hope as much as I once did.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 4 years ago from Manhattan Author

We are certainly in a sorry state Weston and I think it will get much worse before it gets better. Good luck to you.


The Scary Truth profile image

The Scary Truth 4 years ago

I have one problem with your hub. Its the phrase they ARE crimminals, the laws have become so diluted and unjust at this point, that we all are crimminals in one way or another. They ARE HUMAN. All that should be said is before writing about the prison experience stand on the other side of the bars. All people in prison arent Bad people, they are just a person who made a mistake.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 4 years ago from Manhattan Author

Well, that may be true but I do believe that people who have committed crimes should be punished. Having said that there is a big difference between raping and killing a child and not paying your taxes.


The Scary Truth profile image

The Scary Truth 4 years ago

I agree with part of that in a sense, but in your reguards to throwing children into the mix, is also taken from a very famous writter, Hitler, there are other "crimes" that are punished with stiff jail sentences. Like the guy who grew a pot plant in his closet, a man in Mass. that was charged with annoying the opposite sex, a man in New Hampshire was charged with Conspiracy to Disrupt Commerce, and your simple drug addicts that they're only crime was to themselves, another case involved a man trying to get a woman off his propertey who refused to leave he showed a firearm and he was inprisoned for 3 years. But I guess they shouldn't have the basic human rights either, they need to be punished right


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 4 years ago from Manhattan Author

I don't think that the examples you mentioned should even be in prison..but that's a whole other kettle of fish.


BobSloan 4 years ago

Brie thanks for posting this article. I just came across this and wanted to make your readers aware of the federal Prison Industry Enhancement Program (PIECP) that is used to allow access to prisoner labor by corporations. I have been researching and writing on this subject for several years and what you describe is accurate. What most are unaware of - besides the involvement of corporations in this abusive exploitation - is that it is not only condoned by the government, it is encouraged. Here is a link to a recruiting video put out by the NCIA and the US Dept. of Justice: http://web.archive.org/web/20090626152502/http://w... It takes a minute to load but worth the wait to fully understand just what kind of products are being made, for whom and why our unemployment is steadily increasing. Today many states have begun replacing private sector workers with inmates and in Georgia and Alabama, they have passed immigration laws forcing immigrants to flee the state. The authorities are now going to replace those missing workers with prison inmates assigned to do the work for minimum wage, with 80% taken for room and board and restitution.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 4 years ago from Manhattan Author

Thanks Bob..for the information. What a deplorable state our country is in.


festersporling1 profile image

festersporling1 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

Hmmmmm. I agree that anytime there is profit to be made, there are people there to take advantage. But I think people in the prisons should work hard and perhaps long at the same time. I am conflicted with this, but appreciate the info.


jfay2011 profile image

jfay2011 4 years ago

I would have to agree that not all people that are behind bars are bad people. A lot of them, could be innocent. Some have made a mistake and are probably behind bars realizing it, and want to make amends once they get out. I would have to agree with you, that I bet the bible is the most read book. I have one. I haven't read too much of it. I used to go to MOPS and many of those mothers have read the bible and strongly believe in having faith and are very religious. So I would say the majority of people have read the bible and are firm believers in god. It's a very interesting hub. I'm not heavily into politics, but found this interesting.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 4 years ago from Manhattan Author

Festersporling1: I think that they should work hard too...I just don't think that private corporations should profit from them..how about the taxpayer who is footing the bill!

Thanks Jfay2011


The Scary Truth profile image

The Scary Truth 4 years ago

Brie I do agree with you about private corporation profiting, its a very valid point. But the only cost to the taxpayer is a job is no longer available, DOC spend $44.97 to house andd inmate, most DOC programs make, convicts pay $50 per day they are housed after they are realeased and find employment. The DOC also takes the money inmates earn, 55% of income earned by the inmate in the job is taken for houseing by the DOC, and other 15% is taken for food expense, what's left over the inmate gets splits into his commisary account, and into a DOC savings account. THe savings account the intrest is taken by the DOC and the rest is returned to the inmate upon release.

One giant point I'd like to make is that I don't think the long hours or the work bother the inmates, if they have something to do for 12 hrs a day, it makes the time go faster. Idle hands are the devils playground, especially in a prison.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 4 years ago from Manhattan Author

You make it sound like the lack of jobs is no big deal?


The Scary Truth profile image

The Scary Truth 4 years ago

It is a big deal deal, but placeing the job crisis soley on the prison taking in manufacturing jobs, that would normally be filled by a temp agency, were most of the illegal imigrants go to gain employment. THe job crisis has evolved from greed, they are going to do what's cheapest, a manufacturing plant in america is not cheap. CEOs will often say why should we open a plant in america, when there are thousands of state and federal taxes, which tell them america doesn't want them here.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 4 years ago from Manhattan Author

The problem isn't solved by providing slave labor to them! The problem should be solved by low taxes and low regulations.


The Scary Truth profile image

The Scary Truth 4 years ago

Well the corperation isn't to blame for that, and its a sweatshop not slave labor. The corporation still has to follow minimum wage, and workmans comp. The money is paid to the DOC and the DOC makes the rules and takes what it wants. Lets face it, if some one wants your job, can do it just as good, they only want half what your making, Who do you think will win out? As far as costing that tax payer, there is none. A job that is normally out sourced to another country is now provided inside the boarders, money normally spent over seas are returned into the system, and pay for the houseing of the prisoners. As for the conditions the prisoners follow, you can blame the people running the prison. They make the hours, decided were the pay goes, and the conditions to keep the job. They can get away with this because, the jobs available or senority based, the longer you been in prison the better the chance you'll get the job, opening the jobs up to the people who've done the worst crimes, and if you don't like it, there are plenty of other people who wouldn't mind making $15 a week, that arent making anything. And there are no laws against prisoner labor. After all they ARE crimminals, why should they be protected. And if anybody wants to start the argument that prisoners have it good in prison, why don't you check into the gray bar hotel yourself and see how good it is.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 4 years ago from Manhattan Author

There are companies that are closing up shop and opening up in Prisons!


The Scary Truth profile image

The Scary Truth 4 years ago

Name one, since to open up shop in a state prison your not allowed to lay off outside work force.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 4 years ago from Manhattan Author

U.S. Technologies sold its electronics plant in Austin, Texas, leaving its 150 workers unemployed. Everyone figured they were moving the plant to Mexico, where they would employ workers at half the cost. But six weeks later, the electronics plant reopened in Austin in a nearby prison.

http://www.wpi.edu/News/TechNews/010327/prisonlabo...


The Scary Truth profile image

The Scary Truth 4 years ago

Well theres nothing illegal about selling a company, and there nothing illegal about a private correction facility buying it. There are 2 private Facilities near Austin surprisingly owned by the Corrections Corporation Of America. And in fact they own 12 prisons in Texas alone. The article is vague at best, they don't mention the "new" companies name, or the prison it was opened in. Not mention there are 6 other private corrections companies just out side of them. For a private company to buy anothers assets(machines) and use its own assets(prisoners) to run them, that's just smart business. That's all prisoners are, is assets to be bought, sold, and traded. Its not illegal, and if pushed the companies might just say screw you, we go to another country then. Either way its a no win situation, the only way to win against, STOP SENDING PEOPLE TO PRISON FOR FOOLISH NO VIOLENT CRIMES, people are the jury, the jury can stop the nonsense. It's called jury nulification, were the jury can nulify the law, they can even make the sentance. And stop supplieing the assets to the prison. That's how you crumble that corporation.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 4 years ago from Manhattan Author

I'm trying to do just that by writing this article!


Hillbilly Zen profile image

Hillbilly Zen 4 years ago from Kentucky

Outstanding Hub, Ms. Brie. Thank you for informing those of us who didn't know this was happening, and for showing us how to end it.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 4 years ago from Manhattan Author

You're welcome Hillbilly Zen, education is always the first step.


homesteadpatch profile image

homesteadpatch 4 years ago from Michigan

This country is in big trouble, at least on it's current path. Whether it's by design, or because everyone is too busy watching television is yet to be seen. I believe the former myself. Great hub!


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 4 years ago from Manhattan Author

Thanks, yea I'm looking around myself for another country. It makes me very sad. Thanks for commenting.


billips profile image

billips 4 years ago from Central Texas

It makes me sad that such things happen here in the U.S.A. We've got problems, for sure, that we need to address.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 4 years ago from Manhattan Author

Oh yes, we have problems...big big problems.


billips profile image

billips 4 years ago from Central Texas

It is chilling to think we have Siberian style labor camps here disguised as prisons. Shameful.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 4 years ago from Manhattan Author

Yep, between the Military Industrial Complex and the Prison Industrial Complex, debt slavery and inflation..freedom is becoming very rare in these United States.


primpo profile image

primpo 4 years ago from Ocean County New Jersey

Brie thanks for opening my eyes, I was so afraid of the FEMA camps, I never even thought about this, the problem is what happens next? This is all a vast plan, it's scary as hell. America is going to be one big prison. I didn't realize they were putting children, whole families in prison yet. I guess it is the next step. I think there are FEMA facilities for the families too already in use. Very imformative hub. What can we do as a people? Our freedoms are slipping away. I'll keep reading your research..


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 4 years ago from Manhattan Author

Yes, it's very scary. I've considered leaving the country because other countries don't have this. Ireland, for example is the 5th least violent country in the world, they don't have the military like we do and they don't have 1 out of every 100 persons in prison. It's a difficult thing to consider (leaving your country) but I am very worried, not only for myself but also for my son and his future.


primpo profile image

primpo 4 years ago from Ocean County New Jersey

what about political stuff? I mean, I should finish school and plan something


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 4 years ago from Manhattan Author

I don't understand your question. Are you asking me if the political stuff will change things? Are you asking me if I think you should finish school?


American Romance profile image

American Romance 4 years ago from America

.......sounds to me like folks should avoid going to prison?.......is avoiding prison as hard it seems according to others? No one in my family has even been to jail? that would include all my cousins etc.? .................after careful consideration I guess I don't care how unfairly they are treated! Now to your slave labor, I understand it is a treat to get to get out of ones cell and work outdoors or in a shop, so a buck is great, ......I would have to see more proof of the big companies simply getting to use them, also lobbying for longer sentences doesn't sound right, our prisons are over crowded and have been for many years so there is no lack of man power!


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 4 years ago from Manhattan Author

There are so many inequities in our prison system and so many innocent people behind bars..I think that your response is very simplistic.


SanXuary 15 months ago

If you think the prison system is bad you should check out the child support system.

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