By Noor al Haqiqa
The USA criminal justice system is a "3 strikes legal system based on the game of Baseball. Isn’t that great and just! If someone has had two offenses in their life (no matter how small), the third offense will get them a life sentence ~ no matter how trivial.
Most inmates leave prison with no money and few prospects. They may get $25 and a bus ticket home if they are lucky. Studies have found that within a year of release, 60% of ex-inmates remain unemployed. Several states have barred parolees from working in various professions, including real estate, medicine, nursing, engineering, education and dentistry.
Starbucks subcontractor Signature Packaging Solutions has hired Washington prisoners to package holiday coffees (as well as Nintendo Game Boys). Confronted by a reporter in 2001, a Starbucks rep called the setup "entirely consistent with our mission statement."
In the mid-1990s, Washington prisoners shrink-wrapped software and up to 20,000 Microsoft mouses for subcontractor Exmark (other reported clients: Costco and JanSport). "We don't see this as a negative," a Microsoft spokesman said at the time. Dell used federal prisoners for PC recycling in 2003, but stopped after a watchdog group warned that it might expose inmates to toxins.
California’s correctional system has become a one-stop-hiring hall for corporations: San Quentin inmates do data entry for Chevron, Macy's and Bank-America; Folsum inmates work for both a plastics manufacturer and a brass faucet maker; and Aveala inmates run an ostrich-slaughtering facility for an exporter that ships the meat to Europe.
Each month, California inmates process more than 680,000 pounds of beef, 400,000 pounds of chicken products, 450,000 gallons of milk, 280,000 loaves of bread, and 2.9 million eggs (from 160,000 inmate-raised hens).
At California's prison dental laboratory, inmates produce a complete prosthesis selection, including custom trays, try-ins, bite blocks, and dentures.
In the 1990s, subcontractor Third Generation hired 35 female South Carolina inmates to sew lingerie and leisure wear for Victoria's Secret and JCPenney
Ohio prisoners have produced car parts for Honda; prison labourers in Oregon make uniforms for McDonalds
Venturainmates take telephone reservations for TWA (yes, this does mean callers are unwittingly giving their credit card numbers to criminals, and, yes, there have been "incidents"
Kmart, and Eddie Bauer are getting such products as jeans, sweatshirts, and toys made by prisoners in Tennessee and Washington State
Prisoners in for burglary, battery, drug and gun charges, and escape helped build a Wal-Mart distribution center in Wisconsin in 2005, until community uproar halted the program. (Company policy says, "Forced or prison labor will not be tolerated by Wal-Mart.")
In Texas, prisoners make officers' duty belts, handcuff cases, and prison-cell accessories. California convicts make gun containers, creepers (to peek under vehicles), and human-silhouette targets.
Texas and California inmates make dorm furniture and lockers, diploma covers, binders, logbooks, library book carts, locker room benches, and juice boxes.
Texas inmates produce brooms and brushes, bedding and mattresses, toilets, sinks, showers, and bullwhips. Bullwhips?
Honda has had car parts made in Ohio prisons, AT&T has hired telemarketers in Colorado prisons, and Spalding gets golf balls packed in Hawaii prisons
Prison slave laborers produce: most of the military needs ~ helmets, bags, badges etc.; 93% of domestically produced paints; 36% of home appliances; 21% of office furniture; and much more.
Federal Prison Industries, a.k.a. Unicor, says that in addition to soldiers' uniforms, bedding, shoes, helmets, and flak vests, inmates have "produced missile cables (including those used on the Patriot missiles during the Gulf War)" and "wiring harnesses for jets and tanks." In 1997, according to Prison Legal News, Boeing subcontractor MicroJet had prisoners cutting airplane components, paying $7 an hour for work that paid union wages of $30 on the outside.
In 1997, a California prison put two men in solitary
for telling journalists they were ordered
to replace "Made in Honduras" labels on garments
with "Made in the USA."
"We have a captive labour force, a group of men who are dedicated, who want to work. That makes the whole business profitable."
That, plus the fact that California taxpayers also give Tessler a 10% tax credit on the first $2000 of each inmate's wages. Cheap prison labour and a subsidy ~ if that won't restore your faith in the working of the free market, nothing will! It is such a steal of a deal that Tessler has shut down his operation in Mexico, moving his data processing work inside San Quentin.
"Here we don't have a problem with the language, we have better control of our work and, because it's local, we have a quicker turnaround time."
while they often put inmates to work producing products that states or federal agencies need ~ producing machine-made furniture, for example ~ the work does not provide the workers with skills, such as carpentry and plumbing, that are applicable to widely available jobs. Such programmes, he says, do not fulfill their primary mission.
The researchers found that prisoners lined up for the chance to work at a pay scale ranging from 30¢ ~ 95¢ per hour. But critics point to the tax dollars used to prop up such systems as proof that the economic impact of these programs is not what proponents make it out to be.