Prison nation, cheap labor for corporate America

Most know already that the United States has the highest incarceration rate of any nation in the world – as of 2009, 743 adults incarcerated per 100,000; as of 2010, 2,266,800 persons were incarcerated in state and federal facilities, and at end of year 2009 7,225,800 adults were under correctional supervision (probation, parole, jail, or prison).  39.4 % of the prison population is black, as opposed to 13.6 % of the U.S. population, and 20.6 % of the prison population is Hispanic, as opposed to 16.3 % of the U.S. population.

This report, from Russia Today News, details how private prison corporations have developed partnerships with private companies to profit from this massive pool of cheap labor, even producing advertisements to bring in business and land contracts, touting prison labor as a cheap alternative to outsourcing to other countries.  The report has snippets from advertisements that include soundbytes like “hard-working and reliable, inmates show up to work every day voluntarily,” and a video by founder of a textile manufacturer called “Inside Out, Inc.” who states “It’s absolutely a perfect idea . . . I have a workforce that does not have car problems or babysitting problems, etc.  They’re always here and they’re always willing to come to work.”

The report says that hundreds of private companies have used prison labor, including Microsoft, Boeing, Starbucks, and Victoria’s Secret, and that products produced include clothing, textiles, electronics, furniture, and solar panels.  A company called Unicor, which states its mission as helping prepare inmates for re-entry into society by re-training, uses prison labor to produce goods for other government agencies but also partners with private corporations for profit – last year Unicor’s revenue reached $900 million.

It doesn’t seem like a bad thing that inmates are working and possibly gaining job skills while incarcerated – why is this a problem?  Private prisons are for profit companies – they are traded on the stock exchange, and, like any corporation, their goal is to make as much money as possible.  According to the report, two of the nation’s biggest prison corporations made $3.3 billion last year alone, and America’s 3 major private prison corporations have spent approximately $45 million over the past ten years on lobbying state and federal governments in support of immigrant detention, mandatory minimum sentences, 3 strikes laws, and other legislation that results in increased prison populations.

I’d never heard of the source of the report, Russia Today, and I wonder how reliable is a news agency that is probably controlled by the Russian government?  I have no idea, but a quick google search turns up corroborating reports from the Huffington Post, CNN Business, the Centre for Global Research, the Guardian, and Fox News.  Choose your poison.

Why, again, does America have the highest incarceration rate of any nation in the world?



2 Responses to “Prison nation, cheap labor for corporate America

  • Eileen Sembrot
    7 years ago

    I’m wondering if you are familiar with the Eutawville shooting on May2, 2011 in which an unarmed middle-aged black man Bernard Bailey, was shot three times and killed by the police chief, Richard J. Combs. The Justice Dept. was investigating the case as a hate crime, but found no evidence to support the claim, so the Orangeburg County Solicitor’s office is now investigating it.

    I live in Eutawville and am an independent journalist and freelance writer. I’m staying current on the case, and plan to visit the family sometime during this week.

    I moved to SC from New Jersey, originally Philadelphia, to fight racism! I bet I just made you laugh!

    If you are familiar with this case and have any info about it, I hope you’ll respond to this post.

    Eileen M. Sembrot

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