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Working on the Chain Gang in the "prisoner-industrial complex"

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  • Are you sure you want to delete this post?
    Reference: Susan Koch, Women Against Military Madness, November 2011: Working on the Chain Gang: Prison Labor in 21st Century U.S.

    Wow, this excellent article by Susan Koch blew my mind.  We have discussed in this website how the laws against marijuna use in this country have fed the private prison system...the more prisoners, the more profit.  It's why we can't seem to get the laws changed.  But Koch's article reveals that that aspect of our prison system is just the tip of the iceberg.

    Quoting Koch: "Private prison lobbies, legislative laws, the judiciary, law enforcement, and racism work together to create a system that supplies nearly free labor for the profit of private corporations. And those profiting from this system include all the major weapons manufacturers."

    "Systemic racial profiling, antidrug laws, and harsher sentences have led to a staggering number of prisoners held in U.S. prisons and jails. In fact, the U.S. is number one in the world in actual numbers of prisoners as well as percentage of population....25 percent of the world’s inmates, with roughly 2.4 million people behind bars and over seven million under “correctional supervision.”"

    And this increasing prison population acts as an available "source of the cheapest labor possible, with prisoner laborers unprotected by any health and safety regulations and few if any rights in practice that workers are supposed to have if they are employed outside the prison system."

    "Convict labor is used in the production of high-tech military weapons as well as equipment for soldiers, such as body armor. High-tech weapons parts manufacturing now involves at least 14 federal correctional facilities."  Prison workers involved in the manufacture of parts for Patriot missiles, for example, earn as little as 23 cents an hour...this is cheaper labor than you can find in China. And the cleaning and repair of weapons and equipment contaminated with highly carcinogenic depleted uranium exposes prisoners to health risks that will not come under the scrutiny of any federal agency.

    Koch goes into the history of what she describes as an ever expanding “prison-industrial complex”.."one that shows a purposeful, ALEC-driven legislative effort to have private corporations take over as many aspects of the U.S. criminal-justice system as possible, from juvenile detention to maximum security federal prisons and prisons for undocumented workers."

    Read Susan Koch's article at the link above, and thank you Susan Koch and  Women Against Military Madness for revealing "America's gulag."

    Comments invited.
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    As usual, it's all about the money. The article below is very revealing, but here's a quick summary:

    CCA (Corrections Corp. of America), the largest private prison operator in America, was  awarded $3.84 BILLION in contracts in the last decade. The 35 lobbyists employed by the company on Capitol Hill spent $17.6 million in lobbying expenses over that same time period. However, that doesn't count the 178 lobbysits in 32 states that the company has employed over the last 8 years.

    In my new home state of Arizona, Governor Jan Brewer has a VERY COZY relationship with  CCA. Hopefully, her recent attempt at gerrymandering (see below) will get her removed from office, but it will take a lot of signatures to get to that point.

    As of April of 2010, the most accurate information that I could come up with about imprisonment for marijuana possession was this:

    The United States has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world. Our country has less than 5% of the world's population, but it has 23.4% of the world's prison population. As of 2008, there were 2.4 million people behind bars, and approximately 1,000,000 of those arrests were for non-violent crime, such as marijuana possession. It is estimated that our individual states spend between $18,000 and $31,000 a year for each prisoner. If you multiply those numbers by the number of people incarcerated, our prison system costs our country between $43 and $78 BILLION a year.

    What that means for us, as taxpayers, is that we are spending an obscene amount of money each year keeping a large group of people in prison (most of whom are minorities) in order to subsidize a politically connected private prison organization.
  • Are you sure you want to delete this post?
    Thanks Arizona,

    Yes it's all about the money.  Correctional institutions should be about rehabilitation, and when you privatize them, their focus is on profits only, and they'll find all kinds of schemes to enhance that profit.  Cheap non-union prison guards with no benefits is one cost savings for the private prisons, but the lobbying fees in your article above are so huge, one has to wonder if "the prize" is much bigger than just the cost savings of private efficiency versus public bureaucracy.

    So cheap prison labor has become a source of additional revenue that is hidden in the cost analysis...the real prize to be exploited...and this breeds corruption up the line where the incentive is to incarcinate for more and more profit rather than rehabilitate.  It contaminates everyone involved in the chain...police, attorneys, judges, prison guards, etc...and of course the corporations that profit from prison labor.

    The victims are the prisoners, drug users mostly, and poor minorities that have no legal rights...nothing.  They are serfs in the American gulags.

    I've been reading some of your articles in your website.  Good analyses and thinking.  Thanks for sharing.