The prison industry in the United States: big business or a new form of slavery?
HUMAN rights organizations, as well as political and social ones, are condemning what they are calling a new form of inhumane exploitation in the United States, where they say a prison population of up to 2 million – mostly Black and Hispanic – are working for various industries for a pittance. For the tycoons who have invested in the prison industry, it has been like finding a pot of gold. They don’t have to worry about strikes or paying unemployment insurance, vacations or comp time. All of their workers are full-time, and never arrive late or are absent because of family problems; moreover, if they don’t like the pay of 25 cents an hour and refuse to work, they are locked up in isolation cells.
There are approximately 2 million inmates in state, federal and private prisons throughout the country. According to California Prison Focus, “no other society in human history has imprisoned so many of its own citizens.” The figures show that the United States has locked up more people than any other country: a half million more than China, which has a population five times greater than the U.S. Statistics reveal that the United States holds 25% of the world’s prison population, but only 5% of the world’s people. From less than 300,000 inmates in 1972, the jail population grew to 2 million by the year 2000. In 1990 it was one million. Ten years ago there were only five private prisons in the country, with a population of 2,000 inmates; now, there are 100, with 62,000 inmates. It is expected that by the coming decade, the number will hit 360,000, according to reports.
What has happened over the last 10 years? Why are there so many prisoners?
“The private contracting of prisoners for work fosters incentives to lock people up. Prisons depend on this income. Corporate stockholders who make money off prisoners’ work lobby for longer sentences, in order to expand their workforce. The system feeds itself,” says a study by the Progressive Labor Party, which accuses the prison industry of being “an imitation of Nazi Germany with respect to forced slave labor and concentration camps.”
The prison industry complex is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States and its investors are on Wall Street. “This multimillion-dollar industry has its own trade exhibitions, conventions, websites, and mail-order/Internet catalogs. It also has direct advertising campaigns, architecture companies, construction companies, investment houses on Wall Street, plumbing supply companies, food supply companies, armed security, and padded cells in a large variety of colors.”
According to the Left Business Observer, the federal prison industry produces 100% of all military helmets, ammunition belts, bullet-proof vests, ID tags, shirts, pants, tents, bags, and canteens. Along with war supplies, prison workers supply 98% of the entire market for equipment assembly services; 93% of paints and paintbrushes; 92% of stove assembly; 46% of body armor; 36% of home appliances; 30% of headphones/microphones/speakers; and 21% of office furniture. Airplane parts, medical supplies, and much more: prisoners are even raising seeing-eye dogs for blind people.
CRIME GOES DOWN, JAIL POPULATION GOES UP
According to reports by human rights organizations, these are the factors that increase the profit potential for those who invest in the prison industry complex:
• Jailing persons convicted of non-violent crimes, and long prison sentences for possession of microscopic quantities of illegal drugs. Federal law stipulates five years’ imprisonment without possibility of parole for possession of 5 grams of crack or 3.5 ounces of heroin, and 10 years for possession of less than 2 ounces of rock-cocaine or crack. A sentence of 5 years for cocaine powder requires possession of 500 grams – 100 times more than the quantity of rock cocaine for the same sentence. Most of those who use cocaine powder are white, middle-class or rich people, while mostly Blacks and Latinos use rock cocaine. In Texas, a person may be sentenced for up to two years’ imprisonment for possessing 4 ounces of marijuana. Here in New York, the 1973 Nelson Rockefeller anti-drug law provides for a mandatory prison sentence of 15 years to life for possession of 4 ounces of any illegal drug.
• The passage in 13 states of the “three strikes” laws (life in prison after being convicted of three felonies), made it necessary to build 20 new federal prisons. One of the most disturbing cases resulting from this measure was that of a prisoner who for stealing a car and two bicycles received three 25-year sentences.
• Longer sentences.
• The passage of laws that require minimum sentencing, without regard for circumstances.
• A large expansion of work by prisoners creating profits that motivate the incarceration of more people for longer periods of time.
• More punishment of prisoners, so as to lengthen their sentences.
HISTORY OF PRISON LABOR IN THE UNITED STATES
Prison labor has its roots in slavery. After the 1861-1865 Civil War, a system of “hiring out prisoners” was introduced in order to continue the slavery tradition. Freed slaves were charged with not carrying out their sharecropping commitments (cultivating someone else’s land in exchange for part of the harvest) or petty thievery – which were almost never proven – and were then “hired out” for cotton picking, working in mines and building railroads. From 1870 until 1910 in the state of Georgia, 88% of hired-out convicts were Black. In Alabama, 93% of “hired-out” miners were Black. In Mississippi, a huge prison farm similar to the old slave plantations replaced the system of hiring out convicts. The notorious Parchman plantation existed until 1972.
During the post-Civil War period, Jim Crow racial segregation laws were imposed on every state, with legal segregation in schools, housing, marriages and many other aspects of daily life. “Today, a new set of markedly racist laws is imposing slave labor and sweatshops on the criminal justice system, now known as the prison industry complex,” comments the Left Business Observer.
Who is investing? At least 37 states have legalized the contracting of prison labor by private corporations that mount their operations inside state prisons. The list of such companies contains the cream of U.S. corporate society: IBM, Boeing, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T, Wireless, 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 many more. All of these businesses are excited about the economic boom generation by prison labor. Just between 1980 and 1994, profits went up from $392 million to $1.31 billion. Inmates in state penitentiaries generally receive the minimum wage for their work, but not all; in Colorado, they get about $2 per hour, well under the minimum. And in privately-run prisons, they receive as little as 17 cents per hour for a maximum of six hours a day, the equivalent of $20 per month. The highest-paying private prison is CCA in Tennessee, where prisoners receive 50 cents per hour for what they call “highly skilled positions.” At those rates, it is no surprise that inmates find the pay in federal prisons to be very generous. There, they can earn $1.25 an hour and work eight hours a day, and sometimes overtime. They can send home $200-$300 per month.
Thanks to prison labor, the United States is once again an attractive location for investment in work that was designed for Third World labor markets. A company that operated a maquiladora (assembly plant in Mexico near the border) closed down its operations there and relocated to San Quentin State Prison in California. In Texas, a factory fired its 150 workers and contracted the services of prisoner-workers from the private Lockhart Texas prison, where circuit boards are assembled for companies like IBM and Compaq.
Oregon State Representative Kevin Mannix recently urged Nike to cut its production in Indonesia and bring it to his state, telling the shoe manufacturer that “there won’t be any transportation costs; we’re offering you competitive prison labor (here).”
The prison privatization boom began in the 1980s, under the governments of Ronald Reagan and Bush Sr., but reached its height in 1990 under William Clinton, when Wall Street stocks were selling like hotcakes. Clinton’s program for cutting the cutting the federal workforce resulted in the Justice Departments contracting of private prison corporations for the incarceration of undocumented workers and high-security inmates.
Private prisons are the biggest business in the prison industry complex. About 18 corporations guard 10,000 prisoners in 27 states. The two largest are Correctional Corporation of America (CCA) and Wackenhut, which together control 75%. Private prisons receive a guaranteed amount of money for each prisoner, independent of what it costs to maintain each one. According to Russell Boraas, a private prison administrator in Virginia, “the secret to low operating costs is having a minimal number of guards for the maximum number of prisoners.” The CCA has an ultra-modern prison in Lawrenceville, Virginia, where five guards on dayshift and two at night watch over 750 prisoners. In these prisons, inmates may get their sentences reduced for “good behavior,” but for any infraction, they get 30 days added – which means more profits for CCA. According to a study of New Mexico prisons, it was found that CCA inmates lost “good behavior time” at a rate eight times higher than those in state prisons.
IMPORTING AND EXPORTING INMATES
Profits are so good that now there is a new business: importing inmates with long sentences, meaning the worst criminals. When a federal judge ruled that overcrowding in Texas prisons was cruel and unusual punishment, the CCA signed contracts with sheriffs in poor counties to build and run new jails and share the profits. According to a December 1998 Atlantic Monthly magazine article, this program was backed by investors from Merrill-Lynch, Shearson-Lehman, American Express and Allstate, and the operation was scattered all over rural Texas. That state’s governor, Ann Richards, followed the example of Mario Cuomo in New York and built so many state prisons that the market became flooded, cutting into private prison profits.
After a law signed by Clinton in 1996 – ending court supervision and decisions – caused overcrowding and violent, unsafe conditions in federal prisons, private prison corporations in Texas began to contact other states whose prisons were overcrowded, offering “rent-a-cell” services in the CCA prisons located in small towns in Texas. The commission for a rent-a-cell salesman is $2.50 to $5.50 per day per bed. The county gets $1.50 for each prisoner.
Ninety-seven percent of 125,000 federal inmates have been convicted of non-violent crimes. It is believed that more than half of the 623,000 inmates in municipal or county jails are innocent of the crimes they are accused of. Of these, the majority are awaiting trial. Two-thirds of the one million state prisoners have committed non-violent offenses. Sixteen percent of the country’s 2 million prisoners suffer from mental illness.
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My guess is who has the biggest “chest” Lady Gaga or Madonna will win over this one because the average person, even those now on ATS for the most part don’t see that old train coming……………and it’s labeled “Slaughterhouse”.
They are putting people in prison for cheap labor that are selling small amounts of that green plant / drug we cannot name (When our government is linked to some of the drug trade itself)
Steal a loaf of bread or sell a couple ounces of that green plant we cannot name and you may find yourself in jail.
Steal someone’s pension or house and you may find yourself rich and promoted to head CEO or Bank Manager.
Reply posted on 8-3-2012 @ 05:52 PM by Ladysophiaofsandoz
Sadly in America it comes down to how much justice can you AFFORD. The poor get public defenders and well, you get what you pay for. They figure it keeps the poor off the streets and keeps them from rallying together in the parks. As a bonus once you convict them they loose the right to vote and thus loose the ability to change things. Just like cows in the corals at the slaughter house all rounded up and numbered for easy processing. I have heard that one in three American youths have been in the system by the age of 23. Wow American kids must be the most dangerous children in the world. [[[ Mention the contractor collusion that high prison populations enrich more . . . ]]]
reply posted on 8-3-2012 @ 06:22 PM by Witness2008
reply to post by ofhumandescent
This practice has been gaining momentum for a long time. Most county and municipal jails have been using private contractors to manage the population for a few years. It’s cheaper that way. Personally I think it has become a necessary evil as more and more states are loosing their tax base that helped support jails and prisons. D.A’s along with the various, federal agencies are all about being tough on crime, blindly so, while boosting their own careers and turning us all into criminals. Thanks to all the new and improved laws now on the books, we’ll be seeing farmers, anti-immunizing parents and kids with a bad attitude added to the growing number of prison inmates. It seems that we are attacking the wrong end of this problem.
reply posted on 8-3-2012 @ 07:28 PM by TKDRL
The whole justice system is a joke, and for profit. They speak their own convoluted languages, so as to force you to hire a liar. The judges are all ex liars, sitting on the bench after proving themselves really good liars. The judges keep the sham going for future liars. There should be few laws, in language even a fifth grader understands, get rid of all the ritual crap, and secret languages. A person should not have to pay 4 grand to a liar to fight a bogus speeding ticket…. Ever had to defend yourself against bogus charges in criminal court? The money liars make for defending you should be a crime!
edit on Thu, 08 Mar 2012 19:29:31 -0600 by TKDRL because: (no reason given)
Private prisons wants government to maintain a 90% occupancy rate., page 1
Yet again private business is looking for new way to take advantage of the crisis facing governments and to maximizing profits.
At a time when states are struggling to reduce bloated prison populations and tight budgets, a private prison management company is offering to buy prisons in exchange for various considerations, including a controversial guarantee that the governments maintain a 90% occupancy rate for at least 20 years.
How can anyone guarantee how full a prison is going to be.are the courts going to have targets to hit to keep the prision population up so it wont drop below 90%. There are some in the local goverment who even think this is going to far.
Roger Werholtz, former Kansas secretary of corrections, said states may be tempted by the “quick infusion of cash,” but he would recommend against such a deal. “My concern would be that our state would be obligated to maintain these (occupancy) rates and subtle pressure would be applied to make sentencing laws more severe with a clear intent to drive up the population,” Werholtz said.
If you go to prision it should be because your guilty and nothing else.
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Look here just drop the prison paradigm. Read the ‘better judgments‘ category on this blog. There really isn’t alot of need for prisons . . .
Dean of Texas Senate rejects CCA prison purchase proposal
Yesterday, Frank wrote that the ACLU, Presbyterian Criminal Justice Network, and a broad coalition of civil rights and faith leaders were opposing CCA’s recent offer to buy state prisons in return for states maintaining 90% occupancy at these facilities.
Now, these groups are being joined by Texas State Senator John Whitmire, the Dean of the Senate and long-time chair of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. Whitmire, speaking to USA Today (“Private purchasing of prisons locks in occupancy rates,” March 8th), had this to say:
“You don’t want a prison system operating with the goal of maximizing profits,” says Texas state Sen. John Whitmire, a Houston Democrat and advocate for reducing prison populations through less costly diversion programs. “The only thing worse is that this seeks to take advantage of some states’ troubled financial position.”
Former Kansas Secretary of Corrections Roger Werholtz also warned against the temptation of a “quick infusion of cash” saying
“♣My♣ concern would be that our state would be obligated to maintain these (occupancy) rates and subtle pressure would be applied to make sentencing laws more severe with a clear intent to drive up the population.”
Im happy that someone in my state legislature is saying no to this.
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At least there are some voices of reason. Being Capitalism oriented is not very American, Human Rights and freedom of religion (not specifically freedom to be Protestant . . . ) is much more American. It would be best if the Five Civilised Tribes of Native Red Ameri-Indians had a Governor each out of USA’s 52 states and that a Native Red Ameri-Indian Chieftain’s post be created for the ceremonial Presidential role, with perhaps the current President’s powers be shifted partially to the Chieftain as well. Remember that Native America was the territory of the Native Red Ameri-Indians before the white colonists and their slave trading behaviour brought African Americans to America. USA looks like a Business outfit without a proper tradition and culture, which should be that of the Native Red Ameri-Indians’.
Congress ‘criminalizing’ First Amendment – ‘No longer need to be conspiracy theorist’ to worry about police state Published: 5 days ago – by Bob UnruhEmail
Bob Unruh joined WND in 2006 after spending nearly three decades writing on a wide range of issues for several Upper Midwest newspapers and the Associated Press. Sports, tornadoes, homicidal survivalists, and legislative battles all fell within his bailiwick. His scenic photography has been used commercially, and he sometimes plays in a church worship band.More ?
In a plan that started out as a knee-jerk reaction to a crazed assailant’s attack on U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords a year ago, Congress has approved and sent to President Obama legislation that critics say essentially guts the First Amendment.
“The bill’s language is so overly broad as to put an end to free speech, political protest and the right to peaceably assembly in all areas where government officials happen to be present,” wrote John Whitehead of The Rutherford Institute about H.R. 347.
It was approved by Congress and awaits only Obama’s signature. While garnering significant enthusiasm in Congress, one member, Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., said he couldn’t support it.
“Current law makes it illegal to enter or remain in an area where certain government officials (more particularly, those with Secret Service protection) will be visiting temporarily if and only if the person knows it’s illegal to enter the restricted area but does so anyway,” he said. “The bill expands current law to make it a crime to enter or remain in an area where an official is visiting even if the person does not know it’s illegal to be in that area and has no reason to suspect it’s illegal.
“Some government officials may need extraordinary protection to ensure their safety. But criminalizing legitimate First Amendment activity – even if that activity is annoying to those government officials – violates our rights,” he said.
The bill states, “Whoever knowingly enters or remains in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority to do so; knowingly, and with intent to impede or disrupt the orderly conduct of government business or official functions, engages in disorderly or disruptive conduct in, or within such proximity to, any restricted building or grounds when, or so that, such conduct, in fact, impedes or disrupts the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions; knowingly, and with the intent to impede or disrupt the orderly conduct of government business or official functions, obstructs or impedes ingress or egress to or from any restricted building or grounds; or knowingly engages in any act of physical violence against any person or property in any restricted building or grounds; attempts or conspires to do so, shall be punished…”
What happens when the government itself refuses to follow the Constitution? Judge Andrew Napolitano explains in “A Nation of Sheep.”
Significantly, though, the definition of “restricted buildings” is anywhere where someone protected by the Secret Service “will be temporarily visiting.”
“A person eating in a diner while a presidential candidate is trying to score political points with the locals could be arrested if government agents determine that he is acting ‘disorderly.’ Mind you, depending on who’s making the assessment, anything can be considered disorderly, including someone exercising his right to free speech by muttering to himself about a government official. And if that person happens to have a pocketknife or nail clippers in his possession (or any other innocuous item that could be interpreted by the police as ‘dangerous’), he could face up to 10 years in prison,” Whitehead warned.
“Given that the Secret Service not only protects the president but all past sitting presidents, members of Congress, foreign dignitaries, presidential candidates, and anyone who the president determines needs protection, anywhere these officials happen to be becomes a zone where the First Amendment is effectively off-limits,” he said.
At the Examiner, Philadelphia columnist Tim McCown concluded: “Defenders and apologists for mainly Democrats and Obama supporters claim this act is completely innocent and all of us who believe differently have drunk Ron Paul’s Kool-Aid again. But a post on George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley’s blog page notes that the imprecise language, just as in the NDAA, creates risks and can most definitely be seen as a threat to our First Amendment right to Free Speech, Freedom of Assembly, and Freedom to Petition our government. None of that is very comforting in light of the Patriot Act and surveillance of and wire tapping of Americans.”
He continued, “Tonight you no longer need to be a conspiracy theorist to have real questions about whether we are becoming a police state.”
On Paul’s website was this: “Just when you thought the government couldn’t ruin the First Amendment any further: The House of Representatives approved a bill on Monday that outlaws protests in instances where some government officials are nearby, whether or not you even know it.”
Whitehead noted that members of Congress, feeling the wrath of Americans pummeled by rising fuel prices, a tanking economy and unpopular war efforts, “Have been working hard to keep their unhappy constituents at a distance – avoiding town-hall meetings, making minimal public appearances while at home in their districts, only appearing at events in controlled settings where they’re the only ones talking, and if they must interact with constituents, doing so via telephone town meetings or impromptu visits to local businesses where the chances of being accosted by angry voters are greatly minimized.
“While the Trespass Bill may have started out with the best of intentions, it has ended up as the government’s declaration of zero tolerance for individuals exercising their First Amendment rights,” he said.
“If these types of laws had been in effect during the Civil Rights movement, there would have been no march on Washington. Martin Luther King Jr. and his fellow activists would have been rendered criminals. And King’s call for ‘militant nonviolent resistance’ would have been silenced by police in riot gear,” he said.
He also criticized so-called “First Amendment zones” or areas.
“Free speech zones have become commonplace at political rallies and the national conventions of both major political parties,” he said. “One of the most infamous free speech zones was erected at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. Not so much a zone of free expression as a cage, it was a space enclosed by chain link fences, Jersey walls, and razor wire. Judge Douglas Woodlock, who toured the free speech cage before the convention, noted, ‘One cannot conceive of other elements put in place to make a space more of an affront to the idea of free expression than the designated demonstration zone.’
“Bubble zones and free speech zones, in essence, destroy the very purpose of the First Amendment, which assures us of the right to peaceably assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances,” he said.
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That Orwellian streak surely comes from England, and unless the Blue Coat, Red Coat dichotomy (Donkey or Ass – which is why the nation specific/aware Continental Europeans look down the mixed pedigree of Americans, and are in turn snubbed at by USA for being communal) though American has grown much due to the War of Independence and Bluecoats, Elephant – alluding to colonial India perhaps?) Obama shouldn’t play up the England link too much due to thes historical factors (how could Obama say USA shares a history with England?!?) which de-Americanises the sense of Liberty, rather Obama should in all fair treatment of the colonized peoples and his own cruelly ‘imported’ peoples hand the stage to the Red Native Ameri-Indians instead of the Orwellian Tory RED COAT, WHITE Monarch led England. Louisiana
(French) and the Confederate states (Spanish) might as well be mentioned instead making up 2/3rds of USA.
Corporatocracy as a colony of England is terrible and relegates America to a symbol of Commonwealth-Colonial vassalship rather than a super power. USA is at a weak point now, and with the abuses of England (few hundred years worth) still uncorrected, USA should distance itself from England (which is quite worthless militarily in terms of assets) but foster friendship on an equal basis with the EU instead. Guess why?
EU could almost crush England and has half a mind to all the time. USA should choose the guys who fetted the Blue Coats – Remember the Statue of Liberty? The cult trappings of the English Mason/Illuminist/NWO or what not stand for nothing against ‘real politic’ . . . and real politic as not often played up by the EU (who are unfortunately too gentrified and struggling internally with tha PC exceptionalism to make any impression) easily shows that USA is sliding back into colony mentality by the sheer pathos of jolly England. USA forgot, it was England who wanted to crush USA and France (i.e. Europe) who HELPED USA become independent.
Cameron and Obama praising their states’ unique partnership – Oye! Times
Missed opportunity for a citizen’s arrest and a war crimes tribunal?
Half the stones in the Royal Jewels were taken in hostile military occupations, from Muslims (Abu Said’s Black Ruby), Indians (Eye of Brahma, Star of India during colonial era mining), African (Star of Africa, Cullinan Diamond), and Persian (some doubtless from the Peacock Throne), Chinese jewels and artifacts etc. etc.
China to study British Museum for looted artefacts
Now why would USA want to associate with a nation which tried to subjugate USA and trashed half the world and even turned on their own homeland Germany in WW2? The pathos of Royalty and perhaps secret societies has dazzled Pres.O . . . show us all Ole Massah has to pay for them flayings . . .
What was the War of Independence about again? Well hear this!
Misplaced adoration by Pres. O . . . Too Damn Toff! Hey USA, while reconsidering what American means, crush a few strategically and politically negligible 3rd world minded countries with the Green Card meanwhile, just too cumbersome to get those from where some of us are! ( . . . Lol-American – can haz Grencard . . . seriously terrible in the 3rd world . . . )