The Industry That Trades in People's Lives

[Information is from If Everyone Knew]

There is a business in America that makes its living off the backs of common people. With the approval of most of the citizens of the country and both political parties, it works to ensure that as many lives as possible are sacrificed to its cause and that the ones already in its power are kept captive for as long as possible. Conditions are manufactured to cause unrest and violence with the purpose of creating ways of keeping their captives even longer. The people in this system are forced into labour, for basically no wage, in the manufacturing of products that are then sold for huge profit. This institution is covertly subjugating people for its own financial gain while overtly claiming to provide a service to humanity and only a minuscule percentage of the population is aware and objects to it.

I'm talking about the privately run American prison system.

Prison privatization in its current form began in 1984 as a result of the War on Drugs. While crime rates otherwise remained steady dating back to 1925, the number of arrests quickly exploded. While the War on Drugs initially had a small impact on incarceration, it was President Reagan’s Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 that kickstarted the prison boom.

Corrections Corp. of America houses over 80,000 inmates in more than 60 facilities across the US. 

From 1970 to 2005, the prison population rose 700 percent, while violent crime remained steady or declined. Between 1990 and 2009, the populations of private prisons shot up 1,600 percent.  

Today, the US has the highest incarceration rate in the world – 754 inmates per 100k residents as of 2008. This is roughly 600% that of the rest of the civilized world, with England and Wales having 148, and Australia 126 inmates per 100k residents. As of 2010, private corporations house over 99,000 inmates in 260 facilities nationwide. 

Chances are you know someone in prison right now.

Corrections Corp. of America and other private contractors became members of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a non-profit association that advocates “tough on crime” legislation. In their 2010 report to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Corrections Corp. of America discussed how drug policy reform threatens their business model:
The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by our criminal laws. For instance, any changes with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them.
As we all know, corporations as a whole are only interested in the bottom line. That means it is in the best interests of big prison business to oppose prison reform and lobby against lighter sentences for non-violent offenders. What kind of quality care can you expect when it is in their best interests to promote that which brings in new prisoners and that which allows them to keep prisoners already incarcerated for much longer periods.

Add to that the fact that most people believe you get what you deserve if you go to prison and you have the makings of a draconian system of imprisonment or at the very least a system that is in no way operating in the best interests of the humans sent into their care.

And everyone wants in on the profits. For instance, even in government-ran facilities, inmates and their families are regularly subject to price gouging by phone carriers. While the average cost of a phone call in the United States is 3 cents per minute, inmates and their families end up paying between 16 cents and $5.00 per minute. The profits are then split between the carrier and the government body who awarded the contract. 

In fact, it is not uncommon for the government body to receive a signing bonus from the carrier, like $17M in the case of Los Angeles County. Unlike the public, the Federal Communications Commission has no safeguards against price gouging when it applies to those behind bars.

To ensure those legislation favouring lighter sentences or prison refrom aren't passed, Corrections Corp. of America spent $970,000 and GEO Group spent $660,000 lobbying Congress in 2010 alone. In Corrections Corp. of America’s Feb 2011 press release, CEO Damon Hininger stated;
“...we are pleased our populations have remained strong, in excess of the 80,000 inmate milestone we surpassed late in 2010.”
With the 3.2% increase in inmate population over the previous year, Corrections Corp. of America was able to make $511.26M profit, earning their CEO over $3,000,000 in compensation.

Private prison proponents claim that private corporations are able to provide the same service more efficiently than the government. However, according to the Department of Justice’s “Emerging Issues on Privatized Prisons” report, private prisons offer at best a 1% cost savings over their government operated counterparts, while at the same time having 49% more assaults on staff and 65% more assaults on other inmates.

This is not a bad thing for them. In effect, privately run prisons are creating an atmosphere that promotes violent offenses because having time added to a prisoner's existing sentence is even more money in their pockets.

In the federal prison system, all able-bodied inmates who are not a security risk are forced to work for UNICOR or another prison job. UNICOR, also known as Federal Prison Industries, is a government-created corporation that provides many products and services, including clothing, electronics, furniture, data entry and military hardware.

UNICOR enjoys a “mandatory source clause” that according to US laws & regulations, forces all federal agencies with the exception of the Department of Defense to purchase products offered by UNICOR instead of the private sector. However, despite the Department of Defense not being required to purchase its products, many defense contractors take advantage of the cheap labor offered by prisons.

For example, inmates make as little as 23 cents an hour manufacturing components used in Patriot missiles, which then sell for $5.9 million apiece.

Despite its shortcomings, UNICOR generated $854.3M in sales for fiscal year 2008 – of which 4% went to inmate salaries. Much of this money later ends up in the hands of the local government, as the inmates use their salary to pay for phone calls home. In New York, inmates refusing work assignments have been known to be placed in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day until work is resumed. At the same time, it is illegal to import products made using prison labor into the United States.

Incarceration is one of the main forms of punishment or rehabilitation for the commission of a felony in the US. Private prisons are doing nothing less than trading in human lives and the system creates huge incentives to throw people in jail, not because prison terms work and not because it keeps criminals off the street but because it makes money.

Obviously violent offenders must be kept off the street. A person who takes a life or physically harms another forfeits his or her right to freedom. What about non-violent offenders? I have to question whether long prison terms are appropriate for non-violent offenders when so many private individuals profit personally from their extended incarceration.

In an enlightened society, keeping people safe is the purpose of putting criminals in prison. The prison system should not encouraging criminal behavior or finding new ways to incriminate people, so that certain private individuals can line their pockets. Until the public cries foul, there will be no stopping them. source

[Information for this article came mainly from here and the sources cited in that article]


Tonya said...

As you know, this is a topic that I have strong opinions on. However, as the wife of an inmate as well as a poor person in the United States, my opinion means less than nothing. To think that someone who not only has no loved ones in the correctional system AND lives outside this country gives a ripping shit about this is touching to me in a way you cannot ever begin to imagine.

Our prison is the biggest of the big businesses and it's a perfect example of capitalism in its worst incarnation. Making the rich richer off the labors of the poor. Many people don't realize the conditions in the U.S. correctional system, and they don't care. They cannot realize that most of the people who are in our prison system at this very moment will be released into our communities one day. The child-raping, grandmother-killing monsters that you think you're being protected from are few and far between. The bulk of the incarcerated in this country are only there for a few years and most of their charges are drug related.

There are now more mentally ill people in prisons in the United States than there are in mental hospitals.

If you think the prison system doesn't affect you you're wrong. Even if you and your loved ones stay out of the system, your jobs are being taken over by inmates. Inmates that may not even WANT to do those jobs. You see, the 13th amendment of our constitution makes slavery illegal, except in the case of incarceration.

"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

So, you see, prison slavery IS legal and that's why big business can pay inmates a nickel an hour and get away with it. My husband earns a penny an hour. And more and more corporations are turning to inmate labor. They have a captive labor force that they can exploit for literally pennies on the dollar.

Frimmy said...

What I found interesting is both political parties accept the way things are. How does one begin to fight this?

I give a shit about it because it's an injustice. Americans can go on all they want about Chinese convicts being used as cheap labour and boycotting the products produced by them but why? So the products produced by American convicts get bought instead? Don't jump on your anti-exploitation of people soap box when your own country is guilty of the exact same thing.

Some of the information I got for this post came from two different British articles. This prisoner situation is being noticed by everyone except Americans.

This article was about children being sent to juvenile detention centres by judges who got kick backs for sentencing kids to jail time.

Tonya said...

Frankly, this country terrifies me. I honestly see the fear that drives people into a shack in the mountains. That article was sickening. This whole situation is sickening and NOBODY gives a shit.

Our "liberal democratic party" in this country would be considered conservative in any other country. Only in the U.S. could President Obama be considered a Socialist. So, no. They don't give a fuck either. And the Republicans are getting even crazier. This whole country is turning into a bunch of Yosemite fucking Sams.

Tonya said...

See? Nobody gives a shit.


Frimmy said...

I can't believe it Tonya. I don't understand how China's prison labour gets more media attention than America's. Who the hell controls things on this continent? It seems like there's a visible framework in place to keep us fooled and behind the scenes things are so far away from what we're supposed to believe is going on it's frightening.


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