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Fri Jun 22, 2012, 10:54 AM

 

Is forced prison labor 'slavery' under color of the law?

A thread on DU asked whether Repigs would bring back slavery if they gained full control of all 3 branches of government.

http://www.democraticunderground.com/1002841902

Several DUers responding to that thread argued that the current prison system with forced labor constitutes a new version of slavery (under color of the law).

This is an issue that I don't know much about, probably out of only having so many hours in the day and only so much capacity for outrage. But I would like to get a sense of the broad DU community's thoughts on the issue.

I remember asking someone awhile back what happens if you refuse to work and apparently the prison authorities can then put you in 23-hour-a-day lockdown.

I will attempt to reply to all serious responses to this OP.

Thanks in advance.

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Reply Is forced prison labor 'slavery' under color of the law? (Original post)
coalition_unwilling Jun 2012 OP
Huey P. Long Jun 2012 #1
coalition_unwilling Jun 2012 #3
nanabugg Jun 2012 #50
OffWithTheirHeads Jun 2012 #2
coalition_unwilling Jun 2012 #4
Uncle Joe Jun 2012 #15
obamanut2012 Jun 2012 #5
coalition_unwilling Jun 2012 #7
FarCenter Jun 2012 #6
coalition_unwilling Jun 2012 #8
FarCenter Jun 2012 #16
coalition_unwilling Jun 2012 #21
FarCenter Jun 2012 #25
coalition_unwilling Jun 2012 #26
FarCenter Jun 2012 #28
coalition_unwilling Jun 2012 #31
FarCenter Jun 2012 #34
Go Vols Jun 2012 #39
hifiguy Jun 2012 #9
coalition_unwilling Jun 2012 #10
antigone382 Jun 2012 #22
coalition_unwilling Jun 2012 #27
antigone382 Jun 2012 #32
Sirveri Jun 2012 #46
prisonslavery1 Jun 2012 #52
Aerows Jun 2012 #11
coalition_unwilling Jun 2012 #14
aikoaiko Jun 2012 #12
coalition_unwilling Jun 2012 #13
aikoaiko Jun 2012 #19
Aerows Jun 2012 #17
Solly Mack Jun 2012 #18
Starry Messenger Jun 2012 #20
cthulu2016 Jun 2012 #23
coalition_unwilling Jun 2012 #24
backscatter712 Jun 2012 #29
coalition_unwilling Jun 2012 #30
Blue_Tires Jun 2012 #33
FarCenter Jun 2012 #35
Blue_Tires Jun 2012 #36
Sirveri Jun 2012 #47
sad sally Jun 2012 #37
coalition_unwilling Jun 2012 #41
One_Life_To_Give Jun 2012 #38
coalition_unwilling Jun 2012 #40
haele Jun 2012 #42
coalition_unwilling Jun 2012 #43
prisonslavery1 Jun 2012 #44
coalition_unwilling Jun 2012 #45
Nevernose Jun 2012 #48
prisonslavery1 Jun 2012 #49
prisonslavery1 Jun 2012 #51

Response to coalition_unwilling (Original post)

Fri Jun 22, 2012, 10:55 AM

1. Color of law is now 'green' (as in money). Corporations OWN this fucking place. -eom

 

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Response to Huey P. Long (Reply #1)

Fri Jun 22, 2012, 10:57 AM

3. So has 'slavery' slipped back in through the prison system, in your opinion?

 

I'm trying to get a sense of how concerned I should be getting over this issue but am so un-educated on it that I'm flailing about.

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Response to coalition_unwilling (Reply #3)

Sat Jun 23, 2012, 10:29 PM

50. Yes. And taken lots of jobs with it. More heads of households could be employed if

 

prisoners were not being used by states to carry out many jobs.

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Response to coalition_unwilling (Original post)

Fri Jun 22, 2012, 10:57 AM

2. Prison labor is also used to supress wages in the "free" market.

 

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Response to OffWithTheirHeads (Reply #2)

Fri Jun 22, 2012, 10:58 AM

4. Good point. Is your sense that 'slavery' has returned to the USA

 

through the prison system?

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Response to OffWithTheirHeads (Reply #2)

Fri Jun 22, 2012, 11:39 AM

15. Precisely it's not just the inmates that have become captives of the system,

the same holds true for "free" society in general as labor prices are continually driven down by a private for profit prison system or 21st century version of slavery.

Furthermore make no mistake about it as that captured labor for profit industry grows in power and wealth increased sums of money will be flowing back toward the politicians; willing to sell out their constituencies and the system will become ever more corrupted as the nation skips along on the road to Perdition.

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Response to coalition_unwilling (Original post)

Fri Jun 22, 2012, 11:00 AM

5. I believe it morally and ethically is

I know prisoners vie to be allowed out to cut grass and pick up trash on the roads, because they like to get out of prison and get outside and be a bit "free." That's different -- they volunteer.

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Response to obamanut2012 (Reply #5)

Fri Jun 22, 2012, 11:06 AM

7. There's so much to be outraged about in America these days and this

 

seems like yet another issue to add to a very long list.

There was a sense in the other DU thread that there are a lot of inmates doing a lot of excessive time and working for little or no wages. Refusal to work resulted in some pretty draconian treatement.

Does that combination rise to the level of 'involuntary servitude'?

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Response to coalition_unwilling (Original post)

Fri Jun 22, 2012, 11:05 AM

6. Yes it is, and it is permitted by the constitution per the 13th ammendment

 

Amendment 13
1. 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.

2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate
legislation.

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Response to FarCenter (Reply #6)

Fri Jun 22, 2012, 11:08 AM

8. I wonder how many Americans know that the Constitution

 

allows for slavery under certain conditions.

I didn't until now. Still trying to process my thoughts and feelings around this.

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Response to coalition_unwilling (Reply #8)

Fri Jun 22, 2012, 11:40 AM

16. Traditionally, convicts received sentences of "N years at hard labor"

 

I'm not sure whether current sentencing language is "hard labor" or "confinement".

It may vary by jurisdiction.

You've never heard of chain gangs? "What we have here, is a failure to communicate".

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Response to FarCenter (Reply #16)

Fri Jun 22, 2012, 12:21 PM

21. I've heard of chain gangs, but thought they were a distant relic of

 

a bygone era. According to a couple responders on this thread, they still occur in Arizona and elsewhere.

I'm a relative newbie to the entire topic, so am just now starting to engage with it.

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Response to coalition_unwilling (Reply #21)

Fri Jun 22, 2012, 12:34 PM

25. One theory of prisons is that they should be so unpleasant that no one wants to come back

 

So you give prisoners sledge hammers and a pile of large rocks which they must break into small rocks.

In the hot sun.

That would be "hard labor".

But generally, wouldn't it be better for prisoners to have something useful to do? They used to make license plates for the DMV back in the day.

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Response to FarCenter (Reply #25)

Fri Jun 22, 2012, 12:40 PM

26. Oh, I get the deterrent principle behind 'hard labor' but it should be tied to

 

relativey short sentences, imo, for it to have much practical chance of succeeding in its intent. If forced 'hard labor' is tied to excessively long sentences, then you are losing deterrent value at the margins.

I do not knwo whether it is better for prisoners to have something useful to do. A part of me says that maybe they should have nothing but enforced idleness, so as to give them time to contemplate their actions. Again, though, that should be tied to shorter as opposed to longer sentences.

I am so new to this though, that I feel I am stumbling around in the dark with only a candle nub to light my way. It seems to me deterrence\rehabilitation are at odds with mandatory lengthy sentences.

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Response to coalition_unwilling (Reply #26)

Fri Jun 22, 2012, 12:50 PM

28. I think that historically prison stays were short; you got out quickly dead or alive.

 

Punishment such as stocks or whipping, etc. were the usual punishments for minor crimes. Execution was liberally used for severe crimes. Prison or deportation to the colonies was used for those in the middle.

A long prison term might result for someone that was too important to execute, but too dangerous to the government to release.

The model of using prisons to rehabilitate criminals was begun by Quakers. The theory was that by putting convicts in a monastic cell with a bible, they would be led by the Word to see the error of their ways, repent, and amend their lives.

Its not clear that there has ever been much clarity among the goals of punishment, deterance, rehabilitation, and protecting society by long term incarceration to separate the criminal from society. The balance seems to have tipped towards long term incarceration late in the 20th century.

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Response to FarCenter (Reply #28)

Fri Jun 22, 2012, 01:14 PM

31. Any idea why the balance tipped in that direction?

 

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Response to coalition_unwilling (Reply #31)

Fri Jun 22, 2012, 01:51 PM

34. It was due to high recidivism rates and the need to "get criminals off the streets"

 

Locking someone up for a few years and then releasing them back into the environment where they committed the crime did not do much to keep ex-cons from committing more crimes and eventually returning to prison. I think this was particularly true for criminals incarcerated for drug crimes; they just returned to their associations with drug using and dealing communities.

So the "three strikes" concept of life imprisonment for the third offense was implemented in order to permanently separate criminals from society.

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Response to coalition_unwilling (Reply #21)

Fri Jun 22, 2012, 02:41 PM

39. 80 years of hard labor for weed in Lousiana.

Louisiana Marijuana Laws


More Information on Illegal Drug Laws
Code Section §4061, et seq.
Possession Up to 6 mos. in parish jail and/or up to $500; Second conviction of this amount: up to 5 yrs. and/or up to $2000; Subsequent convictions: up to 20 yrs; 60-2000 lbs.: 10-60 yrs. hard labor and $50,000 to $100,000; 2000-10,000 lbs.: 20-80 yrs. hard labor and $100,000 to $400,000; Over 10,000 lbs.: 50-80 yrs. hard labor and $400,000 to $1,000,000
Sale -
Trafficking -


http://law.findlaw.com/state-laws/marijuana/louisiana/

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Response to FarCenter (Reply #6)

Fri Jun 22, 2012, 11:13 AM

9. +1

 

Exactly. It is constitutionall permissible to enslave prisoners.

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Response to hifiguy (Reply #9)

Fri Jun 22, 2012, 11:21 AM

10. This makes me very sad. If the prison system

 

becomes corrupted, then slavery can make a wholesale comeback and yet be considered 'legal' and 'constitutional.'

That somehow does not seem very American to me.

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Response to coalition_unwilling (Reply #10)

Fri Jun 22, 2012, 12:28 PM

22. I don't know that there's much of an "if" anymore...

My local area is dominated by a private university that caters to the very wealthy. They have a system of banning local working class men from campus by trumping up more or less bogus arrests (the local police are deputized employees of the university). Those people can no longer work at any of the jobs on campus, and they usually end up stuck in the gears of the justice system, saddled with fines, probation, and a record, all of which make it more likely that they'll end up back in jail again. It's hard to guess what's going on when you see orange jump suits doing landscaping that could command $15-$20 per hour (which is about the best pay you can get around there).

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Response to antigone382 (Reply #22)

Fri Jun 22, 2012, 12:44 PM

27. What area\university (if it's not prying unduly)? Your description

 

again makes me very sad.

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Response to coalition_unwilling (Reply #27)

Fri Jun 22, 2012, 01:14 PM

32. Southern middle Tennessee.

Just above the Alabama/Georgia border. I leave the rest to your research.

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Response to FarCenter (Reply #6)

Sat Jun 23, 2012, 08:47 PM

46. Actually, I'm not sure the exemption is legal.

Slavery shall NOT EXIST

Except here.
If there is an exception, then slavery exists. Shall not exist is an exclusivity clause, so in order to satisfy it you can't use the exemption.

Also there was never really any clarification about if prisons are allowed to simply force people to work, or if it requires a specific order from a judge. If you are sentenced to imprisonment, that is not a sentence to hard labor, or to a chain gang, unless that is also specified.

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Response to Sirveri (Reply #46)

Sat Jun 23, 2012, 11:23 PM

52. Citizenship, Labor, and Human Rights are denied to Slaves of the State, see Ruffin...

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Response to coalition_unwilling (Original post)

Fri Jun 22, 2012, 11:27 AM

11. Basically, yes

 

Considering that if they don't work, they lose privileges, get moved to disciplinary housing (not sure what that means) and serve more time.

http://www.alternet.org/world/151732/21st-century_slaves%3A_how_corporations_exploit_prison_labor/?page=entire

That article discusses it. On top of it all, for every worker, these private prisons get tax credits.

The US has 25% of the ENTIRE WORLD's prison population, yet we are only 5% of the population. That should tell you something. This is also why they don't want to legalize marijuana and other drugs - they would lose that valuable pool of labor, prison companies would make less money, and of course the DEA would lose funding.

So yeah, there are probably plenty of manufacturing jobs out there, it's just instead of them being done by American workers at minimum wage and up, they are done by people for 15 or 20 cents an hour, and those people don't get benefits of any kind. Could you imagine if suddenly there was a demand for 1 million manufacturing jobs to be filled by non incarcerated people? The economy would be a whole lot better for the people, but the corporations would have to actually pay people.

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Response to Aerows (Reply #11)

Fri Jun 22, 2012, 11:35 AM

14. First of all, thank you for the link.Will read later today. Your points and stats

 

are also well noted. Another way of thinking about it is to ask what the unemployment rate would look like if prison inmates were counted as being in the labor force but unemployed. I'm not a policy wonk (yet), nor a heavy stats\graph person (yet), so just starting to consider the implications.

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Response to coalition_unwilling (Original post)

Fri Jun 22, 2012, 11:28 AM

12. I will admit some ignorance, but I thought work programs in prisons were voluntary

What are the current examples of actual forced labor prison?

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Response to aikoaiko (Reply #12)

Fri Jun 22, 2012, 11:32 AM

13. You and I both (on the "some ignorance" front), but I have heard and

 

read that inmates who refuse to work face either solitary confinement or a 23-hour-a-day lockdown.

So 'voluntary' is a loaded term in this context, I think.

Someone upthread noted that the 13th Amendment banning slavery carves out an explicit exception for those 'duly convicted.' I had no idea that forced prison labor receives some Constitutional sanction.

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Response to coalition_unwilling (Reply #13)

Fri Jun 22, 2012, 11:43 AM

19. Yes, I think it voluntary and coercion is sometimes fuzzy.


On the positive side, convicts received and continue to receive due process for their situation (just like non-convicts) which pre-13th amendment slaves did not have.

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Response to aikoaiko (Reply #12)

Fri Jun 22, 2012, 11:40 AM

17. Read that article I linked above

 

They have a choice. Work 7 days a week (this is in Arizona under Arpaio) or stay in lockdown 4 to a 8x12 cell 23 hours a day. He has women in chain gangs. There's a link in there where they get up at 6am, are locked in irons, and are then bused out to do things like bury indigents. He even brags that he has meals down to .40 per inmate, while the dogs are at 1.15 per meal.

It's sad.

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Response to coalition_unwilling (Original post)

Fri Jun 22, 2012, 11:43 AM

18. It is. It's allowed legally.




Some papers and articles worth reading.

http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2012/03/02/18708582.php
http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/gilmoreprisonslavery.html


http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/database/article_display.cfm?HHID=214

Convict leasing began in Alabama in 1846 and lasted until July 1, 1928, when Herbert Hoover was vying for the White House. In 1883, about 10 percent of Alabama's total revenue was derived from convict leasing. In 1898, nearly 73 percent of total revenue came from this same source. Death rates among leased convicts were approximately 10 times higher than the death rates of prisoners in non-lease states. In 1873, for example, 25 percent of all black leased convicts died. Possibly, the greatest impetus to the continued use of convict labor in Alabama was the attempt to depress the union movement.

Convicts were invariably leased to prominent and wealthy Georgian families who worked them on railroads and in coal mining. Arkansas actually paid companies to work their prisoners for much of the time the system was in place. No state official was empowered to oversee the plight of the prisoners, and businesses had complete autonomy in the disposition and working conditions of convict laborers. Mines and plantations that used convict laborers commonly had secret graveyards containing the bodies of prisoners who had been beaten and/or tortured to death. Convicts would be made to fight each other, sometimes to the death, for the amusement of the guards and wardens.

Unlike the other Southern states, only half of Texas inmates were black. Blacks were sent to sugar plantations.

The Southern states were generally broke and could not afford either the cost of building or maintaining prisons. The economic but morally weak and incorrect solution was to use convicts as a source of revenue, at least, to prevent them from draining the fragile financial positions of the states. The abolition of the system was also motivated mostly by economic realities. While reformers brought the shocking truths and abuses of this notorious system before the eyes of the world, the real truth was far different. In every state, the evils of convict labor and abuses were in newspapers and journals within two years of implementation and were generally repeated during every election cycle.

The convict leasing system was not abolished but merely transformed. Prisoners, who labored for private companies and businesses increasing their profits, now labored for the public sector. The chain gang replaced plantation labor.

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Response to coalition_unwilling (Original post)

Fri Jun 22, 2012, 11:57 AM

20. What everyone else said.

Also, we have a history of this--convict leasing:

http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/database/article_display.cfm?HHID=214



Convicts were invariably leased to prominent and wealthy Georgian families who worked them on railroads and in coal mining. Arkansas actually paid companies to work their prisoners for much of the time the system was in place. No state official was empowered to oversee the plight of the prisoners, and businesses had complete autonomy in the disposition and working conditions of convict laborers. Mines and plantations that used convict laborers commonly had secret graveyards containing the bodies of prisoners who had been beaten and/or tortured to death. Convicts would be made to fight each other, sometimes to the death, for the amusement of the guards and wardens.

Unlike the other Southern states, only half of Texas inmates were black. Blacks were sent to sugar plantations.

The Southern states were generally broke and could not afford either the cost of building or maintaining prisons. The economic but morally weak and incorrect solution was to use convicts as a source of revenue, at least, to prevent them from draining the fragile financial positions of the states. The abolition of the system was also motivated mostly by economic realities. While reformers brought the shocking truths and abuses of this notorious system before the eyes of the world, the real truth was far different. In every state, the evils of convict labor and abuses were in newspapers and journals within two years of implementation and were generally repeated during every election cycle.

The convict leasing system was not abolished but merely transformed. Prisoners, who labored for private companies and businesses increasing their profits, now labored for the public sector. The chain gang replaced plantation labor.



There is simply no other reason why our prisons have the most people in them in the world. The prison-industrial complex is itself so profitable now, that is a form of slavery too.

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1998/12/the-prison-industrial-complex/4669/?single_page=true



The private-prison building spree in Texas—backed by investors such as Allstate, Merrill Lynch, Shearson Lehman, and American Express—soon faced an unanticipated problem. The State of Texas, under the auspices of a liberal Democratic governor, Ann Richards, began to carry out an ambitious prison-construction plan of its own in 1991, employing inmate labor and adding almost 100,000 new beds in just a few years. In effect the state flooded the market. Private firms turned to "bed brokers" for help, hoping to recruit prisoners from out of state. By the mid-1990s thousands of inmates from across the United States were being transported from overcrowded prison systems to "rent-a-cell" facilities in small Texas towns. The distances involved in this huge migration at times made it reminiscent of the eighteenth-century transport schemes that shipped British convicts and debtors to Australia. In 1996 the Newton County Correctional Center, in Newton, Texas, operated by a company called the Bobby Ross Group, became the State of Hawaii's third largest prison.

The private-prison industry usually charges its customers a daily rate for each inmate; the success or failure of a private prison is determined by the number of "man-days" it can generate. In a typical rent-a-cell arrangement a state with a surplus of inmates will contact a well-established bed broker, such as Dominion Management, of Edmond, Oklahoma. The broker will search for a facility with empty beds at the right price. The cost per man-day can range from $25 to $60, depending on the kind of facility and its level of occupancy. The more crowded a private prison becomes, the less it charges for each additional inmate. Facilities with individual cells are more expensive than those with dormitories. Bed brokers earn a commission of $2.50 to $5.50 per man-day, depending on how tight the market for prison cells is at the time. The county—which does not operate the prison but simply gives it legal status—sometimes gets a fee of as much as $1.50 a night for each prisoner. When every bed is filled, the private-prison company, the bed broker, and the county can do quite well.

<snip>

The U.S. Corrections Corporation, for years the nation's third largest private-prison company, has encountered legal difficulties even more serious than those of the Bobby Ross Group. In 1993 an investigation by the Louisville Courier-Journal discovered that the company was using unpaid prison labor in Kentucky. Inmates were being forced to perform a variety of jobs, including construction work on nine small buildings at the Lee County prison; construction work on one church and renovation work on three others attended by company employees; renovation work on a company employee's game-room business; painting and maintenance at a country club; and painting at a private school attended by a prison warden's daughter. The Courier-Journal concluded that "U.S. Corrections has repeatedly profited financially from its misuse of inmate labor." Although the state Department of Corrections confirmed these findings, it took no action against the company. A year later J. Clifford Todd, the chairman of U.S. Corrections, pleaded guilty to a federal charge of mail fraud, admitting that he had paid a total of roughly $200,000 to a county correctional official in Kentucky. In return for monthly payments, which for four years were laundered through a California company, the official sent inmates to U.S. Corrections. Todd cooperated fully with an FBI investigation, but later became embittered when a federal judge denied his request for a term of house arrest. The head of the nation's third largest private-prison company was sentenced to fifteen months in a federal prison.



That article is from 1998, but I have no reason to believe that many of these conditions were improved under several years of Bush being in office. Oh wait, it hasn't:

http://www.alternet.org/world/151732/21st-century_slaves%3A_how_corporations_exploit_prison_labor/?page=entire



Some of the largest and most powerful corporations have a stake in the expansion of the prison labor market, including but not limited to IBM, Boeing, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T, Wireless, Texas Instrument, Dell, Compaq, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard, Nortel, Lucent Technologies, 3Com, Intel, Northern Telecom, TWA, Nordstrom's, Revlon, Macy's, Pierre Cardin, Target Stores, and many more. Between 1980 and 1994 alone, profits went up from $392 million to $1.31 billion. Since the prison labor force has likely grown since then, it is safe to assume that the profits accrued from the use of prison labor have reached even higher levels.

In an article for Mother Jones, Caroline Winter details a number of mega-corporations that have profited off of inmates:

“In the 1990s, subcontractor Third Generation hired 35 female South Carolina inmates to sew lingerie and leisure wear for Victoria's Secret and JCPenney. 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.'"

<snip>

Oil companies have been known to exploit prison labor as well. Following the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig that killed 11 workers and irreparably damaged the Gulf of Mexico for generations to come, BP elected to hire Louisiana prison inmates to clean up its mess. Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate of any state in the nation, 70 percent of which are African-American men. Coastal residents desperate for work, whose livelihoods had been destroyed by BP’s negligence, were outraged at BP’s use of free prison labor.






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Response to coalition_unwilling (Original post)

Fri Jun 22, 2012, 12:31 PM

23. Only if you're serving life without parole

otherwise I'd call it indentured servitude -- de facto slavery for a period of time

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Response to cthulu2016 (Reply #23)

Fri Jun 22, 2012, 12:32 PM

24. Excellent distinction and one that bears repeating. Thanks - n/t

 

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Response to coalition_unwilling (Original post)

Fri Jun 22, 2012, 12:59 PM

29. The 13th Amendment explicitly exempts forced labor as punishment upon conviction of a crime.

Sad to say, the courts will rule prison labor to be constitutional.

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Response to backscatter712 (Reply #29)

Fri Jun 22, 2012, 01:13 PM

30. It may be constitutional, but there was a time before passage of the

 

13th amendment, when slavery itself was 'constitutional.'

It strikes me that great injustices are occurring behind the prison walls and that the next great civil rights battle may happen within the bowels of the prison system. But other of my dark prophecies have failed thus far to transpire, so I place no great stock in my powers of presentiment.

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Response to coalition_unwilling (Original post)

Fri Jun 22, 2012, 01:24 PM

33. Technically, the prisoners get "paid"

so they're "employees" and not "slaves" under state laws, iirc...

And the dirty secret is states love the forced labor pool, so they are in no hurry to rule it illegal or unconstitutional

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Response to Blue_Tires (Reply #33)

Fri Jun 22, 2012, 01:53 PM

35. A small cash wage, plus they get room, board, and clothing

 

Overall, their compensation is probably above $50,000 / year, which is the approximate cost of housing inmates.

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Response to FarCenter (Reply #35)

Fri Jun 22, 2012, 02:12 PM

36. but private prisons get housing costs reimbursed by the federal gov't

so it's all profit to them...

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Response to Blue_Tires (Reply #33)

Sat Jun 23, 2012, 08:59 PM

47. Slavery (involuntary peonage) is defined by ability to quit.

If you have the ability to NOT work without being compelled by threat of force, then you are not under involuntary peonage.

But if you're required to work under threat of reprisal by the state, then you're a slave.

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Response to coalition_unwilling (Original post)

Fri Jun 22, 2012, 02:29 PM

37. May be a little off topic, but your comment on 23-hour-a-day lock down is something Senator

Durbin's judiciary subcommittee on Human and Civil Rights held a hearing on June 19 on this subject.

It's reported there are over 80,000 people locked up in solitary confinement every day in America's prisons - many of them are mentally ill (and if not entirely "crazy," believe it would be easy for many of us to slip over that edge if we were subjected to a 6x6 concrete cell with a concrete bed with no human contact).

This is not to say there aren't some really bad people, but it has the markings of being sadistic.

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Response to sad sally (Reply #37)

Fri Jun 22, 2012, 06:19 PM

41. Not off topic at all, espeically if the penalty for refusing to work

 

for slave wages is that 23-hr.-a-day lockdown or solitary confinement.

Abu Ghraib marked for me a turning point in how I view authority's power to incarcerate. I remember in the immediate aftermath of AG many informed sources here on DU and elsewhere reporting that what happened at AG was par for the course in the American gulag.

Hence your mention of 'sadistic' brought back some sharp memories for me of DU of yore.

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Response to coalition_unwilling (Original post)

Fri Jun 22, 2012, 02:31 PM

38. Is a Fine slavery?

Is there a difference between ordering a convicted person to pay a fine vs ordering them to perform some work/service?

Does it matter if the work is done for profit, public service or for no purpose at all?

The world is rarely black and white.
We expect a prisoner to make their own bed in the morning. Not to wait for the maid service to come in and clean the room each day and provide fresh shampoo and conditioner along with the fresh towels.
And we also need to recognize that doing even pointless work be it making little rocks or linen napkins has benefits from helping to pass the time to teaching skills.
On the other hand we do not expect a private employer to make extra profit because they are using prison labor. However when each inmate costs the state $40,000 per year to incarcerate. The public benefit of offsetting 10 or 15 thousand by shifting from making little rocks to making Levi's causes confusion on where the line is drawn.

I think there is a very fine line in there between offsetting public expenditures and turning punishment into slavery.

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Response to One_Life_To_Give (Reply #38)

Fri Jun 22, 2012, 06:14 PM

40. Interesting points you raise. Up thread you will find a sub-thread between

 

me and FarCenter as to why prison sentences are so lengthy and possible alternatives.

I actually have a problem with the fine structure as administered in the U.S. because often it seems to me to function as a de facto regressive tax (hitting everyone equally regardless of his or her ability to pay). But I think most people would distinguish between a monetary 'fine' and 'slavery,' the latter being forced labor as a condition of incarceration.

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Response to coalition_unwilling (Original post)

Fri Jun 22, 2012, 06:59 PM

42. Another issue with prison labor that isn't discussed often -

Once they are out, they have to find a job and hope to be working for 15 - 20 years afterwards, as they don't get Social Security consideration for the labor they were doing in prison.

So, in places like Alabama, you have a 27 or30 year old get sentenced to 20-40 years for "drug trafficking" when they confiscate his personal weekly stash of MJ. He's got some mechanical aptitude, so they gave him training (same classes as are part of the local Youth-Works program to train high school grads) and have him working finishing fabrication and testing on a manufacturing line for a supplier to the local Honda plant 6 days a week. This work used to be done in Florida in a factory with workers making $13 to $17 an hour in the late 1990s. He gets $2.00 a day, to save or spend in the prison canteen - which isn't cheap; $1.00 for a candy bar, $1.50 for travel-sized toothpaste or mouthwash - those sorts of prices. After 10 years, he might get a pay raise of $4 or $5 a day, depending on his level of responsibility and "trust".

He's not paying into Social Security. He's barely getting enough money to save, because he has to keep a stock of some of the canteen items for barter or "payments" to other prisoners who might just decide he's easy pickings.

He gets out after 12 years, at the age of 40 or 45 on "good behavior" - but -who's going to hire a convict at a decent starting wage, even if it was just for a trumped-up drug bust. The Honda plant? No, they don't hire convicts, especially not those who had drug convictions. His old job? With a huge gap in his resume and rusty skills, who would want to hire him at anything other than an entry level, if they would have agreed to hire a convict at all? His future is pretty much shot; his prime earning years were spent behind bars. He will have no retirement to look for except for what he might inherit or become dependent to (as in, marry), and what he might be getting from Social Security, if he completes his quarters for eligibility. And if he had a problem in prison and served his entire sentence, or got caught up in an "in and out" recidivism loop, he finally gets out right at retirement age. With perhaps only 5 or six years of payments into Social Security made before he got in. He might as well have stayed in prison for the rest of his life at that point.

Our petty drug offender will become dependent on the taxpayer system for pretty much his entire life, all because of draconian drug laws encouraged by greedy manufacturing and service corporations and their political pets who don't want to pay their workforce, and found the "social good" profit loophole by which they make money from pretending to do a service for society and "rehabilitating" these non-violent criminals. And they get all sorts of subsidies to make this sacrifice, too!

Haele

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Response to haele (Reply #42)

Fri Jun 22, 2012, 07:09 PM

43. This is a deeply moving response and I hope you will

 

consider fashioning it into an OP at some point.

OT but make sure you read Tom Wolfe's novel "A Man in Full." Wolfe is quite a conservative, near as I can tell, but he's fashioned out of Edmund Burke type conservatism and this novel shows how the twists and turns of cruel fate can beset even the most decent of men.

Back to the matter at hand - it seems to me like my question about 'prison slave labor' cannot even really be addressed without first placing it in the larger context of the prison system in this country. While I am glad I asked the question and have found many of the responses deeply profound and thougt-provoking, I am also sadder than I was this morning.

Thought you might enjoy this quote by Nietzsche: "What really raises one's indignation against suffering is not suffering intrinsically, but the senselessness of suffering." (From "The Genealogy of Morals"

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Response to coalition_unwilling (Original post)

Sat Jun 23, 2012, 05:21 PM

44. What is to be done?

Prison Slavery in the North (1787) ran concurrently with Chattel slavery in the South. When Chattel slavery was prohibited throughout the country, Prison Slavery simply replaced it. So, the question about slavery returning is mute. It has, for all intense purposes, been here, and here it remains. It is ironic, however, that Confederate styled Republicans can be so much further advanced in this arena of consciousness than are so-called freedom loving Democrats.
Abolition of this EXCEPTION for slavery, of this disgrace to a nation of savages, must become a vanguard struggle among freedom loving people because it is more viral than perceived.
The discussion here has been strong, and inspiring, with multiple loose end speculations and observations about what would happen if - the Repug Confederates gain more power, if prisoner workers replaced outside workers, and how frightening it might be.
You can put all those hypotheticals away. It’s not a theory, not a hypothesis, not a “what if” – it is a reality, and Democrats are currently out-flanked, and out maneuvered via multiple Republican Slavocracy Network territory expansions.
It’s in front of all reading this, and some will understand academically, while others will have a life changing epiphany – ‘Oh, wow! It all makes sense now! There’s an ESXCEPTION FOR SLAVERY in the very amendment we were taught in Junior High School ABOLISHED ALL SLAVERY. DAMN, we were lied to! The reality is that it’s not merely speculation!
It’s a real deal, Lucile! Look at the Slave Territory Expansions:
1. Prisons and prison populations have grown by 800 to 1200% since 1980.
2. Massive financial gains have been made by Repug Confederates.
3. Massive new Crimes passed on fed and state levels.
4. States have sold their prisons to, and/or given contracts to right wing for profit prison corporations.
5. Children in Pennsylvania were literally bought and sold into prisons; and this is now happening in viral fashion across the country.
6. Is it any wonder that outside union and state jobs are now going to private for profit corporations with contracts going inside to prison slave workers.
7. There are massive examples of how liberal democrats have been hood-winked, and how slave territory has been expanded…
Now, what is to be done?
http://books.google.com/books?id=zbTU7QxA7qoC&pg=PP6&lpg=PP6&dq=prison+slavery+book&source=bl&ots=uICyD1W1JU&sig=WP7My6kIZxtS3DOk8D35fhAZjs0&hl=en&ei=rsXJTuPQKtGrsAK12exi&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=5&ved=0CEYQ6AEwBA#v=snippet&q=Barbara%20Esposito&f=false

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Response to prisonslavery1 (Reply #44)

Sat Jun 23, 2012, 05:31 PM

45. Thank you for your contribution and welcome to DU! I have been

 

pondering your question (with its echo of V.I. Lenin) for the past couple days.

I am sorry to say that, as yet, I have no answers other than from the realm of a purely Walter Mitty-esque fantasy wherein I willingly enter the gulag with the express intent of organizing inmates from within. (Seems to me I did read about a general strike among Georgia prison inmates across multiple facilities about 6 months ago. Never heard anything more about it.)

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Response to coalition_unwilling (Original post)

Sat Jun 23, 2012, 09:04 PM

48. Even wothout forced labor, private prisons are legalized slavery

Prisoners being forced to work on public works projects, like building trails and cleaning road sides, doesn't boer me all that much. Private corporations profiting on the imprisonment of poor people, however, bugs the holy living SHIT out of me.

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Response to coalition_unwilling (Original post)

Sat Jun 23, 2012, 10:20 PM

49. Thanks #45 CU,

Certainly, in the pits-of-hell that's what one does, Organize. However, your organizing value in support of those inside is multiplied x 100+ outside, more if focused, more if within a prisoners support org.; and ultimate value if you can organize to right/correct history with abolition of Constitutional authority provisos for "...slavery...as a punishment...", and for appropriate statutes prohibiting multiple negative conditions of prison slavery. Of course, there's more, however, that's good for starters.

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Response to coalition_unwilling (Original post)

Sat Jun 23, 2012, 11:11 PM

51. Nevernose,

Absolute agreement on opposing the punishment of poor people in for-profit prisons. Another consideration is that 99.999% of those inside are poor. The rich only go to prison after stealing from the rich. They never go to prison for stealing from or harming the poor. Their Slavocracy law and their prisons are there to protect and make them rich, and definitely not to punish them. We are considered their property.

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