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.

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT CANCELS NEGOTIATIONS WITH SHERIFF JOE ARPAIO’S OFFICE OVER CIVIL RIGHTS ALLEGATIONS

THE HISPANIC BLOG IS THE LATEST HISPANIC NEWS BY JESSICA MARIE GUTIERREZ

The Justice Department says it is canceling negotiations with Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s office over civil rights allegations against him — claiming the sheriff refuses to include a court-appointed monitor in the process.

An agency spokeswoman said the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office knew the monitor was “a non-negotiable requirement of a settlement” and that the refusal has led to the cancellation of talks.

The move was expected, with the Justice Department saying Tuesday evening that Arpaio had initially agreed to the monitor, then failed to negotiate “in good faith” by changing his mind that morning.

“We believe that you are wasting time,” the agency said in a letter to Arpaio’s lawyer. “Your tactics have required DOJ to squander valuable time and resources.”

Arpaio, the self-proclaimed America’s toughest sheriff, has said he never agreed to the monitor because that would mean every policy decision would have to be cleared through an observer and would nullify his authority as the elected sheriff.

“I am the constitutionally and legitimately elected sheriff, and I absolutely refuse to surrender my responsibility to the federal government,” Arpaio said, accusing the Obama administration of trying to “strong arm” him.

The Justice Department said both sides met at least once in February and that the letter marks the second time negotiations were called off, which means the agency will go forward with a lawsuit.

Photo: Flickr user barb.howe.

The agency has accused Arpaio’s office of racially profiling Latinos, basing immigration patrols on racially-charged citizen complaints that did not allege crimes and punishing Hispanic jail inmates for speaking Spanish. It also accused the sheriff of having a culture of disregard for basic constitutional rights.

The sheriff’s office has denied allegations of systematic discriminatory policing and told news reporters that it will insist the Justice Department provide facts to prove its allegations.

The agency said a 22-page letter that it sent Arpaio’s office in December provides the facts of the allegations and that giving further information would delay the settlement.

The federal agency said an Arpaio lawyer acknowledged in earlier settlement talks that negotiations would go forward without the Justice Department providing additional information since that information would be necessary only as part of a lawsuit.

The agency also said in Tuesday’s letter that it has found additional information to support its allegation that Arpaio’s office failed to adequately investigate a large number of sex-crimes cases. The Justice Department is seeking an agreement that would require the sheriff’s office to train officers in how to make constitutional traffic stops, collect data on people arrested in traffic stops and reach out to Latinos to ensure them that the department is there to also protect them.

Earlier in the three-year investigation, the agency filed a 2010 lawsuit against the sheriff, alleging that his office refused to fully cooperate with a request for records and access to jails and employees. The case was settled last summer after the sheriff’s office handed over records and gave access to employees and jails.

Read more: FOX NEWS

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JUSTICE DEPARTMENT GIVES TEXAS JUSTICE AND BLOCKS THE VOTER ID BILL

THE HISPANIC BLOG IS THE LATEST HISPANIC NEWS BY JESSICA MARIE GUTIERREZ

Attorney General Greg Abbott took the dispute over Texas’ maps to federal court in Washington. Photo: Harry Cabluck, AP / HC

The Justice Department’s civil rights division on Monday blocked Texas from enforcing a new law requiring voters to present photo identification at the polls, contending that the rule would disproportionately suppress turnout among eligible Hispanic voters.

The decision, which follows a similar move in December blocking a law in South Carolina, brought the Obama administration deeper into the politically and racially charged fight over a wave of new voting restrictions, enacted largely by Republicans in the name of combating voter fraud.

In a letter to the Texas state governmentThomas E. Perez, the assistant attorney general for civil rights, said the state had failed to meet its requirement, under the Voting Rights Act, to show that the measure would not disproportionately disenfranchise registered minority voters.

“Even using the data most favorable to the state, Hispanics disproportionately lack either a driver’s license or a personal identification card,” Mr. Perez wrote, “and that disparity is statistically significant.”

Texas has roughly 12.8 million registered voters, of whom about 2.8 million are Hispanic. The state had supplied two sets of data comparing its voter rolls to a list of people who had valid state-issued photo identification cards — one for September and the other in January — showing that Hispanic voters were 46.5 percent to 120 percent more likely to lack such identification.

PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY TODD WISEMAN / TEXAS TRIBUNE

Under the Voting Rights Act, certain jurisdictions that have a history of suppressing minority voting — like Texas — must show that any proposed change to voting rules would not have a disproportionate effect on minority voters, even if there is no evidence of discriminatory intent. Such “preclearance” can be granted either by the Justice Department or by a panel of federal judges.

Texas officials had argued that they would take sufficient steps to mitigate any impact of the law, including giving free identification cards to voters who lacked them. But the Justice Department said the proposed efforts were not enough, citing the cost of obtaining birth certificates or other documents necessary to get the cards and the bureaucratic difficulties of that process.

In anticipation that the Obama administration might not clear the law, Texas officials had already asked a panel of judges to allow them to enforce the law. A hearing in that case is scheduled for this week, and the Justice Department filed a copy of its letter before the court.

The offices of Gov. Rick Perry and Attorney General Greg Abbott did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But Representative Lamar Smith, the Texas Republican who is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, criticized the Justice Department, saying that “the people of Texas overwhelmingly supported” the law to prevent fraudulently cast votes from canceling out legitimate ones.

“This is an abuse of executive authority and an affront to the citizens of Texas,” Mr. Smith said in a statement. “It’s time for the Obama administration to learn not to mess with Texas.”

Under the state’s existing system, voters are issued certificates when they register that enable them to vote. But last year, Mr. Perry signed a law that would replace that system with one requiring voters to present one of several photographic cards at their polling station. The approved documents include a state-issued driver’s license or identification, a federal military card, a passport, a citizenship certificate or a concealed gun license issued by Texas. Other forms of identification, like student identification cards, would not count.

The measure was part of a wave of new voting restrictions passed in states around the country, mostly by Republicans following their sweeping victories in the 2010 elections.

Supporters argue that the restrictions are necessary to prevent fraud. Critics say there is no evidence of significant amounts of in-person voter impersonation fraud — the kind addressed by photo identification requirements — and contend the restrictions are a veiled effort to suppress turnout by legitimate voters who tend to vote disproportionally for Democrats.

READ MORE: THE NEW YORK TIMES

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