U.S. Prison Industry: Big Business or Slavery?

U.S. Prison Industry: Big Business or Slavery?
Posted by CN Staff on March 10, 2006 at 07:03:37 PT
By Vicky Pelaez 
Source: San Francisco Bay View
USA -- 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 over 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 percent of the world’s prison population but only 5 percent 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 1 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 and 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 percent 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 percent of the entire market for equipment assembly services; 93 percent of paints and paintbrushes; 92 percent of stove assembly; 46 percent of body armor; 36 percent of home appliances; 30 percent of headphones, microphones and speakers; and 21 percent 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 UpAccording 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. 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 StatesPrison 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 percent of hired-out convicts were Black. In Alabama, 93 percent 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 generated 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 Rep. 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).” Private Prisons The prison privatization boom began in the 1980s under the governments of Ronald Reagan and George 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 Department’s 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 percent. 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 InmatesProfits 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. StatisticsNinety-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.This story, originally published in El Diario-La Prensa, New York, was reprinted in the Cuban newspaper Granma, -- http://www.granma.cuComplete Title: U.S. Prison Industry: Big Business or a New Form of Slavery?Source: San Francisco Bay View, The (CA)Author: Vicky Pelaez Published: March 8, 2006Copyright: 2006 The San Francisco Bay ViewContact: editor sfbayview.comWebsite: http://www.sfbayview.comRelated Articles & Web Site:The Sentencing Project For Profit of Every 75 U.S. Men in Prison, Report Finds American Gulag in The Making 
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #24 posted by Hope on November 29, 2008 at 07:09:27 PT
These companies...
I don't think we should just boycott them. We need to tell them why... very clearly. Letters. Lots of them.To whom it may concern: It's been brought to my attention that you use slave labor to manufacture your products....
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #23 posted by Hope on November 29, 2008 at 07:01:37 PT
Vile. Vile. Vile.
No prison for profit! No slavery!I can understand prisoners need to work. They should get, at minimum, minimum wage. Is it right to rob these people because they are incarcerated? Of course it's not.If these "entrepreneurs" want to appear to be doing something good... let them place the jobs in prisons and pay full wages! For heaven's sake... why not? There is no sane and decent reason to do anything less.The profiteers. The slavers. Going around looking all fine and good... the "Good guys"... you know? Talk about your "white washed sepulchers". The real criminals: "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.", and of course the legislators and money hungry "enablers" on every level that allow it to happen.There's a terrible sickness in our country's prison system an operation, and the legislation that feeds it. It's vile. It reeks with the stench of cruelty, greed, and pure evil. It needs to be cured. They need to be prosecuted to the max for slavery, kidnapping, fraud, and treason.
 God help us that we, our children, and neighbors have to live among the kind of people that do wretched, vile things like this and call it "good".These slavers and money mongers are robbing these prisoners and their families. They're robbing the legitimate companies competing with them and trying to pay people decent wages.I've known about Nike a long time. I've despised that logo for a long time.I spit on Nike. I despise the name.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #22 posted by observer on November 28, 2008 at 12:33:39 PT
US is now a Carceral State - Conrad Black
Jailing potheads is big business.Private prison political abuse in the news today. Another piece of the puzzle. 
Willacy County District Attorney Juan Angel Guerra spoke to two Texas television stations Wednesday night regarding his investigation of injustice within the prison systems which led to the indictment by a Texas grand jury of Vice President Dick Cheney and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, along with other officials.Cheney's stake in the Vanguard Group, which holds interests in the private prison companies that run the detention centers, was cited in the indictment. Cheney is accused of a conflict of interest and "at least misdemeanor assaults" on detainees through his ownership interest.Gonzales is accused of using his position during his time as Attorney General to block an investigation into abuses at the detention centers, located in south Texas....Guerra says he went through Cheney's financial records and the prison companies' financial records and found the connection. The three top prison companies Guerra researched were Corrections Corporation of America, GEO Group and Cornell. Those three have the Vanguard Group in common, which is an investment company that puts money into all three prison companies."We knew Vanguard was the key," said Guerra.Guerra showed us the Vice President's financial disclosure from last year and it shows he owned shares in the Vanguard Group. Guerra estimates Cheney has $85 million invested in Vanguard and in turn, into the prison companies."The problem you have is he now has a direct interest," said Guerra. And according to Guerra, it's a direct interest in making sure the prison companies stay in business. 
As Lord Conrad Black, Canadian newspaper magnate and UK House of Lords member puts it:
"The US is now a 
carceral state that imprisons eight to 12 times more 
people (2.5m) per capita than the UK, Canada, 
Australia, France, Germany or Japan. US justice has 
become a command economy based on the avarice of 
private prison companies, a gigantic prison service 
industry and politically influential correctional 
officers' unions that agitate for an unlimited increase 
in the number of prosecutions and the length of 
sentences. The entire 'war on drugs', by contrast, is a 
classic illustration of supply-side economics: a 
trillion taxpayers' dollars squandered and 1m small fry 
imprisoned at a cost of $50 billion a year; as supply 
of and demand for illegal drugs have increased, prices 
have fallen and product quality has improved."

breaking news about private prisons
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #21 posted by John Tyler on March 12, 2006 at 16:47:50 PT
"cradle to prison" plan 
In the minority community the "cradle to prison" plan for every child is well known. 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #20 posted by FoM on March 12, 2006 at 13:53:34 PT
It's good to see you. You always give such good advice.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #19 posted by whig on March 12, 2006 at 13:50:34 PT
Or I could draw you a picture...
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #18 posted by whig on March 12, 2006 at 13:49:15 PT
For those that don't know German....
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #17 posted by whig on March 12, 2006 at 13:41:28 PT
Arbeit macht frei
Labor camps.Yay.Willkommen to the KZ.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #16 posted by goneposthole on March 12, 2006 at 13:30:15 PT
The Army has plans for civilian labor camps're short on manpower. They'll need to use prisoners to stay afloat. However, the generals in Iraq have Blackwater Security personnel protecting them. They don't trust enlisted personnel.Smoke more cannabis. It's ok.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #15 posted by Max Flowers on March 10, 2006 at 17:22:29 PT
whig - Oakland
Actually Oakland is already trying to hire a bunch of new officers... saw a newspaper article in the Chronicle just the other day (may have been yesterday). They do need it, it is brutal in certain areas of the city. Since you're moving to the area, there's some advice: avoid bad parts of Oakland. Tourist/upscale areas are basically fine though.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #14 posted by FoM on March 10, 2006 at 16:54:34 PT
You're welcome. The prison industrial complex was something I was taught about in my early online days when I went to the Political Board of . 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #13 posted by Sukoi on March 10, 2006 at 16:38:16 PT
Thanks FoM...
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #12 posted by jose melendez on March 10, 2006 at 14:21:55 PT
bong hits for jesus
Sue, wheeh!
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #11 posted by observer on March 10, 2006 at 12:47:24 PT
Stop Prisoner Rape - SPR
Stop Prisoner Rape seeks to end sexual violence committed against men, women, and children in all forms of detention.
Stop Prisoner Rape - SPR
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #10 posted by whig on March 10, 2006 at 12:10:22 PT
Not exactly Prisons, but related
I saw a small flyer tacked to a phone pole in Oakland at Jack London Square, calling for a "protest at city hall" because the city of Oakland has a lower police to population ratio than the national average for other cities. No complaint about high crime rates was stated, just low police numbers. I failed to see why this should be a problem.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #9 posted by observer on March 10, 2006 at 11:33:19 PT
petition the government
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.”
Russell L. Boraas 804-674-3303, ext. 1119. russell.boraas
... petition the government for a redress of grievances ...
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #8 posted by museman on March 10, 2006 at 10:45:19 PT
The Golden Rule. Yes. I personally question the entirety of the 'Ten Commandments' because I have a different relationship with my creator than that of a fearful punishing God. I believe in the ONE commandment; Love each other as you love yourself, or better put by Y'shua; "Love each other as I have loved you."I do not beleive in the laws of man, not one of 'em. I do recognize the social dilemna of predatory behavior, whether it is thievery or violence, but though I'd rather that they were dealt with in a different way than encarcerating them in a hate and crime fostering institution, I recognize the priority of dealing with them, so in that sense I go along with the system-but only because there are no better alternatives in place at this time.To me, and in my experience, the biggest and baddest criminals are the ones who rule the world. They are guilty of unimaginable crimes against humanity, life, and the Universe. Yet they will put petty criminals (like thieves) in prison, while they rip off entire cultures and nations. I have a big problem with that.And of course the real criminals have set up their 'interpretations of the ten commandments' as a political system called a 'democracy' that is actually an old world republic, run parcel and post by liars, thieves, earth destroyers, war mongers, and aristocratic stuffed shirts.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #7 posted by FoM on March 10, 2006 at 09:51:24 PT
You're welcome. I don't do many prison articles but we need to know how our system is working now more then ever. We need prisons for violent criminals and people who steal which is one of the Ten Commandments and one to me that is very important. We have been robbed and it was devastating and my logic is if I want something I must buy it or do without. No exceptions to that rule for me.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #6 posted by museman on March 10, 2006 at 09:30:24 PT
Thank you for this. I believe that the closer we get to the source and cause of the over -all dis-ease of hatred, prejudice, bigotry, and inhumanity-which is the agenda of greed held and perpetrated by the ultra-rich and their minions, the closer we get to saying a final NO! to the cause instead of the symptom.It's all about money. Period. People all over the world believe in the power of money, much more than they believe in the power of life, or the Spirit that created it. As long as the people contintue to allow the kind of power plays represented by nearly everything the government does these days- allowing it by giving justification, and the power of their own belief to those monsters in Limosines, then those few human scum will continue to rule, and human misery will continue to escalate.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #5 posted by FoM on March 10, 2006 at 08:42:10 PT
Violent people and those who steal from others need to be behind bars. People who steal from anyone even if it is someone like Martha Stewart should have to pay for their crime but victimless crimes should be ended.Excerpt: There are over 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.” 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #4 posted by dongenero on March 10, 2006 at 08:23:41 PT
prison industry
Wow! That article is staggering.......
I cannot get over the numbers and statistics they are citing.Wow!Wake up America.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #3 posted by ekim on March 10, 2006 at 07:47:23 PT
Norm Stamper in Vegas tonight at Borders Books
 Thursday, March 9, 2006 
Pete has great story on Lies in Nevada.Do Prohibitionists Lie?... Even when their lips aren't moving.
In Nevada, where there is an initiative to legalize marijuana, people are getting push poll automated phone calls with the following message:There is a proposal to legalize marijuana. This proposal will make marijuana available in grocery stores and convenience stores similar to buying a pack of cigarettes. Do you support the proposal to legalize marijuana? Please press 1 for yes, press 2 for no, and if you're undecided, please press 3.
So what does the initiative say? Could it perhaps be vague?Sec. 21. 1. The Department may not issue a license as a retailer or wholesaler to an establishment: [...]
(b) That is engaged in business as a gas station, convenience store, grocery store, night club, dance hall or licensed gaming establishment; [...] Nope. An outright, intentional lie. Despicable. Hope they find out who's behind the calls.
Mar 10 06 Crime Control vs. Civil Liberties: The Case for Retooling American Law Enforceme 06:30 PM Norm Stamper Las Vegas Nevada USA
 Advisory Board member and speaker Norm Stamper has a discussion and book signing at Borders Bookstore, 2190 North Rainbow Boulevard. Sponsored by the Las Vegas Futurists. "
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #2 posted by FoM on March 10, 2006 at 07:29:02 PT
Related Article from The Auburn Journal
Releasing Inmates Early Not Uncommon***Federal courts ordering releases at DeWitt Center jail due to overcrowding.
 By Penne Usher, Journal Staff WriterFriday, March 10, 2006  
Hundreds of Placer County inmates are released early each year and a lack of funding is no longer to blame.Jail officials recently opened two previously closed sections of the DeWitt Center jail, but with an ever-increasing inmate population in Placer County, the jail remains at near capacity.Tanks L and M of the main jail, which has a housing capacity of 106 inmates, were opened in mid-January bringing the jail's total capacity to roughly 640 inmates, said Capt. John Fitzgerald, commander of the Placer County Jail."Once we opened it didn't take long to get to capacity," Fitzgerald said.Inmates, including recently released medical-marijuana activist Steve Kubby, can be set free based on a federal-court-ordered overcrowding release order.The jail is federally meditated to release inmates when it reaches the 90-percent capacity level. The object is to avoid 100 percent capacity.Complete Article:
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by FoM on March 10, 2006 at 07:04:49 PT
Free Jerry Sisson!
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment