Friday, April 27, 2012

21st Century Chain Gangs

via Salon

Sweatshop labor is back with a vengeance. It can be found across broad stretches of the American economy and around the world.  Penitentiaries have become a niche market for such work.  The privatization of prisons in recent years has meant the creation of a small army of workers too coerced and right-less to complain.

Prisoners, whose ranks increasingly consist of those for whom the legitimate economy has found no use, now make up a virtual brigade within the reserve army of the unemployed whose ranks have ballooned along with the U.S. incarceration rate.  The Corrections Corporation of America and G4S (formerly Wackenhut), two prison privatizers, sell inmate labor at subminimum wages to Fortune 500 corporations like Chevron, Bank of America, AT&T and IBM.

These companies can, in most states, lease factories in prisons or prisoners to work on the outside.  All told, nearly a million prisoners are now making office furniture, working in call centers, fabricating body armor, taking hotel reservations, working in slaughterhouses or manufacturing textiles, shoes and clothing, while getting paid somewhere between 93 cents and $4.73 per day.
I suppose the death penalty lovers and all the those who disparage criminals as goblins and scumbags will have no problem with this. But, what do you others think?

Is this an indication of even deeper problems ahead of us with the private prison business? Wouldn't this kind of slave-labor damage the already fragile economy and increase the unemployment figures even further?

What do you think?  Please leave a comment.

10 comments:

  1. Mike,

    I am one of those pro-weapon types and I am against prison labor and the privatization of the penal process. I think America has too many rules and tougher sentences and more prisons only delay the problem. There are way too many jails/prisons in America. Convicted felons are not scumbags or goblins - they are men and women.

    A solution to the ills that plague America and the world is hard to come by. We need "soft power" and not another gov. program to help make things better. Something better needs to guide men's hearts and minds. There is no substitute for a moral society; without one, you have band aid solutions at best.

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  2. I think they wear monogrammed jumpsuits too.

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  3. This is just one sign of deeper issues within our society. Why is the world's larget prison, in LA County, in a "free" country; you would think China would have that honor. Why do we need armies of "law enforcement" to enforce just laws on a moral society? Why is an "elected" government afraid of it's "free" citizens being armed? I have no moral issue with those who have taken from society giving back to society while they are incarcerated, but why are so many denied their right to freedom? Is that large a portion of our population really too dangerous to be set free? If so, to whom are they too dangerous? If a private company can operate a prison cheaper and more efficiently that should be a good thing, but I sense a conflict of interest here...

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  4. I oppose private prisons. No corporation should have the ability to deny anyone any rights. We also put far too many people in prison who have done nothing fundamentally wrong. I would support a program that requires financial criminals and non-violent thieves to work off their debt to society. That leaves violent criminals. About them, I feel not the slightest concern.

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    1. That makes sense, now to figure out exactly how we have them work of their debt to society...

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    2. Financial criminals often have some ability in the field. Put them in heavily supervised work investing money for the victims. After selling off all the criminals' assets, of course.

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  5. If I were king, besides initiating all my gun control ideas, I'd release from prison all drug possession and drug use people as well as all but the very worst of the white collar criminals.

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    1. If you were king, I'd support revolution.

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