Prisons have always been a place for punishment, justice and for many rehabilitation, but recently they have quietly morphed into a state sanctioned stable of cheap confined labour.
The lines have quietly blurred in the United States surrounding the use of inmates for labour. For decades the state and federal prison system used inmate labour to produce food, and products for the state. These prison industries were well known and socially accepted, people had few quibbles about convicted felons making license plates or desks for schools, as this was seen as a way to, allow the state to produce items that the state and municipalities within the state to procure reasonably priced products. This was also seen as something of rehabilitation and a way to teach trades to inmates who eventually would return to society. Also federal law prohibits state prisons selling products outside of their respective state.
Maine As A Model of Prison Industry and Inmate Labour
Take Maine for instance, Maine is a small state with a small prison population, yet they run a large Prison Industry. Inmates in Maine Department of Corrections make a insane variety of goods for sale ranging from Furniture some of which is actually beautiful, to Ship Models and Bird Feeders. Hell they even make clothing like these “Property of Shawshank” Tees. Maine’s DOC manufacturing allows inmates to pay of their debt to the state and victims by working at a higher wage than most inmates in other states. The Maine DOC program is profitable averaging 1.5 Million a annually and is often referred to as unique to the country. This kind of prison labour is hard to argue against and not only provides a outlet for inmates to pay their debt but also learn a trade and have the self esteem that comes from working a honest job. Maine is the exception, as the truth and trends in prison labour gets much darker and weaves a greasy graft filled stink in the nation’s criminal justice system. This dark exploitive trade in humans run through some of the highest place in government and corporate board rooms across the US.
“Dealing In Humans” Lobbying & Legislation Inmate Labour
In 1984 the US passed the Comprehensive Crime Control Act, touted as “Getting Tough on Crime” from then POTUS Lord Regan, the CCCA opened the door to basically use inmates as cheap labour for private industry . Soon mandatory minimum laws were being passed nation wide and the population of prisoners exploded. As more and more non violent offenders were sentenced to mandatory minimum terms in the poky companies began to see a way to exploit these laws for their profits and create a shadow slave trade that was not only legal but wrapped up in a nice tough on crime package that Americans who had grown tired of the insane crime rate of the 70′s and early 80′s would never second guess.
Interestingly the same year Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) got it’s first contracts to run both Federal and State detention centers. CCA was founded a year earlier as a corporation and the planning started years before and was helped by the Comprehensive Crime Control Act. This was not dumb luck.
CCA was founded by Tom Beasley, Doctor Robert Crants and T. Don Hutto. Tom Beasley is the former chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party, he even once lived in the then Gov of Tennessee’s home. Now Dr. Robert Crants who was Beasley’s college roommate but that is not the weird part. He is not a doctor, not a MD or PHD, his first name is “Doctor”. His mother was poor and afraid of her son’s future so named him Doctor. What kind of woman would do that? And what kind of man would embrace that name and use it for personal gains? Well a man who has no problem dealing in humans as cattle that is who.
CCA today is one of the nations fastest growing companies and is traded on NYSE it now houses almost 90,000 inmates and has used it’s power to lobby state and federal politicians and mostly the GOP to change old laws and make new laws which will lead to more incarcerations of non violent offenders as to create cheap labour for it’s expansion and contracts to run correctional facilities. It also benefits from the increase in inmate population by having more people to pay an average of 32 cents to manufacture goods and contract to other privately own and publicly traded companies. Because why pay free employees min wage when you can use a captive slave labour.
CCA markets inmates like some 20th century slave auction to companies looking to lower labour costs, one of these companies are Walmart.
Wal-Mart uses ALEC’s Prison Industries Act. Under federal legislation, private companies have access to prisoners as a workforce. Thousands of products are made for consumers; from produce to aftermarket auto parts, the list is endless. This allows companies to attach labels reading “Made in USA.” Wal-Mart has tried to hide their use of prison labor for more than two decades by using sub-contractors and cut-outs.
Since 1991, Wal-Mart has been buying produce from a corporation out of Arizona, Martori Farms.
A recent Huffington Post article clearly documents how Martori Farms has been using female prisoners from Arizona’s state prisons as farm workers – for the past 20 years.
“Martori Farms pays its imprisoned laborers two dollars per hour, not including the travel time to and from the farm.” Women from the Arizona state prison complex at Perryville Unit are assigned to work at Martori Farms … These women are “forced” to labor long hours in the blazing sun sometimes without sunscreen, water or adequate food …”
This policy, and the conditions and involvement of Wal-Mart in this kind of slave labor operation is reprehensible and should be criminal. Criminal in that Wal-Mart helped write the laws allowing this kind of exploitation possible. They helped ALEC pass legislation now being used in states that are turning to prisoners to solve labor shortages stemming from the Right to Work and immigration laws. They’ve created a new form of legalized slavery in the U.S.
In several states, such as Georgia, Alabama, Colorado, and Washigton, use prisoners to replace workers.
In Arizona, Lbj Farms uses male inmates to harvest watermelons and perform other farm chores. Again, inmates working for Lbj are paid $2.00 per hour.
This is so shocking, that U.S. farmers and Wal-Mart would take advantage of prisoners, especially women, and do it in such a clearly abusive manner by forcing them to work under “slave-like” conditions.
Worse yet, both Martori and Lbj are recipients of federal subsidies. ($7,136,972 to Martori and $558,543 to Lbj Farms).
In 2005, Wal-Mart was taking advantage of a different kind of prison labor – using prisoners in place of private sector workers in Wisconsin as they built a huge distribution center in Beaver Dam.
Fear of Brown People and other Asshattery to Partake in Legal Human Trafficking
Laws from Arizona’s controversial “Papers Please” law to newer tougher sentencing for weed and other non violent crime are almost exclusively financed by the private prison industry. CCA spent millions in Arizona and other states which they have facilities and contracts in to expand more aggressive sentencing. These laws have little or nothing to do with Immigration and have everything to do with cheap, controlled and exploited prison labour. Hell why pay a migrant worker or High School drop out minimum wage when you can pay an inmate 34 cents a hour? CCA operates 6 private prisons in Arizona alone, and other states like Alabama, Louisiana and others which are passing new immigration laws and stricter sentencing by Republican Tebagger elected officials who open their pockets to these slave traders.
The Private prison industry made over $9 Billion dollars last year alone, shareholders got rich, politicians got elected and humans were incarcerated for their profits and bottom line. This is the most disgusting side of Capitalism run amok and un checked. This is part of fallout of the Citizen’s united case, this is slavery and destruction of human lives with record profits. These companies have no problems destroying the lives of people who are marginalized so they can buy another faction home.
Slavery is alive and well folks, it is wrapped up nice and pretty and washed with lies about crime and punishment.