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!