Surprising Modern Day Slavery: The USA Prison System

Slavery in the USA Prison System

DID YOU KNOW? Privately held prisons and privately-run immigration detention facilities are on the STOCK MARKET? I learned a lot about this while campaigning with Farouk for Governor in TX. Corporate stockholders who make money off prisoners’ work for lobby for longer sentences, in order to expand their workforce. The prison industry is one of the fastest-growing in the USA and its investors are on Wall Street. And it gets even worse: the 340% increase in Americans behind bars was funded, in part, by corporations looking for cheap labor. Dozens of respected companies funded the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which passed the “Prison Industries Act” to expand inmate labor.

Today, even the federal government brags about the “business opportunities” at dozens of federal prison factories across the country.

Republican Oregon State Representative
Kevin Mannix

DID YOU KNOW???
Republican Oregon State Representative Kevin Mannix 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.”

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.

WHO IS INVESTING?????
At least 37 states have legalized the contracting of prison labor by private corporations that mount their operations inside state prisons. Under the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC), employers receive a tax credit of $2,400 for every work-release inmate they employ as a reward for hiring “risky target groups.” The list of such companies contains the cream of U.S. corporate society: McDonalds uses prison labor to make its uniforms. Starbucks used them in the past to package holiday coffee. Revlon, Macy’s, Verizon and Sprint. For a complete list https://is.gd/16kvMM.

Just between 1980 and 1994, profits went up from $392 million to $1.31 billion. Inmates in state penitentiaries like Texas do not receive any compensation and are allowed to work up to 12 hours per day. In Colorado, they get about $2 per hour.

Thanks to prison labor, the USA is once again an attractive location for investment in work that was designed for 3rd 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.

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 Core Civic Inc. 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.

DID YOU KNOW???
On average our country is spending $100,000 per inmate and less than $10,000/year is being spent per student. There are approximately 2 million inmates in state, federal and private prisons throughout the country.

The USA has locked up more people than any other country: a half million more than China, which has a population 5 times greater than U.S. USA 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. Profit potential for those who invest in the prison industry complex are jailing persons convicted of non-violent crimes, and long prison sentences for possession of microscopic quantities of illegal drugs.

A guard watches as detainees fold clothes at an immigration detention center run by the private corrections corporation GEO Group in Bakersfield.
(Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)

DID YOU KNOW???
The prison privatization boom began in the 1980s, under the governments of Ronald Reagan and Bush Sr., but reached its height in the 1990s under the Clinton administration when Wall Street stocks were selling like hotcakes.

Clinton’s program for 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 Core Civic Inc. and the GEO Group, which together control 75%.

Private prisons receive a guaranteed amount of money for each prisoner, independent of what it costs to maintain each one.

Core Civic Inc. used to be CCA

In Core Civic Inc. prisons, inmates may get their sentences reduced for “good behavior,” but for any infraction, they get 30 days added – which means more profits for Core Civic Inc. These inmates lose good behavior time at a rate of 8 times higher than those in state prisons.

DID YOU KNOW???
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, Core Civic Inc. signed contracts with sheriffs in poor counties to build and run new jails and share the profits.

Investors from Merrill-Lynch, Shearson-Lehman, American Express and Allstate, and the operation was scattered all over rural Texas. That state’s governor, Democrat Ann Richards, followed the example of Democrat Mario Cuomo in New York and built so many state prisons that the market became flooded, cutting into the 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 Core Civic Inc. 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.

DID YOU KNOW???
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.

DID YOU KNOW???
97% 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. 2/3 of the one million state prisoners have committed non-violent offenses. 16% of the country’s 2 million prisoners suffer from mental illness.

California Governor Gavin Newsom

In California, our Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill that will end the use of private prisons and privately-run immigration detention facilities.

Under the new law, California will phase out the use of these for-profit, private detention facilities by 2028. The state will be prohibited from renewing contracts or signing new contracts with a private prison company after January 1, 2020

The Trump administration sued the state of California, asserting that a new state law that bans for-profit prison contracts unconstitutionally interferes with the federal prison and immigration detention systems.

In December 2019, Federal officials signed nearly $6.5 billion in contracts with private prison companies for immigration detention centers.

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