Most of us think of slavery as a degrading, immoral institution that existed in the southern states prior to the Civil War. When we hear about slavery, we think of abducted Africans who were forced to work on the plantations under the watchful eye of a cruel task master. Most of us may be surprised to learn that this nefarious practice has crept back into our "modern, enlightened" society under the full protection of the law.
In the late 1980's, Warren Berger, then Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, said in a speech before the American Bar Association that prisons in the U.S. should be turned into "houses of industry" where prisoners are engaged in productive labor. A civil liberties group voiced their objection to the idea which briefly made the newspapers and was then forgotten. It wasn't forgotten by those who administer and profit from the prison business, however, and since then Justice Berger's suggestion has been slowly but steadily implemented across the nation.
Any prison warden will affirm the need to keep his charges occupied. Anyone who thinks rationally will tell you that useful work is an essential part of rehabilitation, especially if that work enables someone to "pay their way", so to speak. Work has traditionally been part of prison life, in one form or another.
The prison work of today, however, has subtly shifted its focus from rehabilitation to profit. In March, 1996, the Florida Department of Corrections hosted a Prison Industry Enhancement (PIE) conference which was attended "by legislative committee staff, Department of Corrections staff, business leaders, representatives from several Chambers of Commerce and other interested stake holders." Included in the conference statement is the following: "The Commission strongly believes that the old paradigm, a system that looked to the 'outside' for funding should be reevaluated. The Commission believes that inmates should be considered as a valuable human resource from which can be provided valuable educational, vocational and work experiences and which can also provide essential funds to defray the cost of incarceration and indirect costs incurred such as welfare for an inmate's dependents."
What are the ramifications of this new paradigm mentioned in the PIE statement? Could it indicate a change in the policy of protecting society and rehabilitating the offender, to a policy of profit and forced labor? This new policy might not be considered objectionable to those frightened by burgeoning crime statistics. An iron fist may seem to be the appropriate response until more statistics are considered, facts not trumpeted on the evening news.
On May 12th, 1994, the Wall Street Journal featured an article entitled, "Making Crime Pay-Triangle of Interest Created Infrastructure To Fight Lawlessness - Cities See Jobs; Politicians Sense a Popular Issue and Business Cash-In - The Cold War of the 90's."
Prisons are big business. Due in large to a wave of tough anti-drug laws, the number of state and federal prisoners have more than tripled since 1980. By 1994, more than 1 million people lived in America's prisons. Another 3.7 million were on probation or parole, and half a million were confined in local county jails. The total comes to more than 5.2 million adults (445 out of 100,000 people in 1992) under some form of correctional supervision. (Bureau of Justice Statistics). This number is greater than the entire population of Wisconsin.
In 1975, the local, state and federal government spent $4 billion on their prison systems. In 1994 that figure had reached $30 billion. In 1990 the U.S. had a greater percentage of its population in prison than its erstwhile enemy-- the Soviet Union or Apartheid South Africa.
The state of Texas plans to open one new facility a week for 18 months, and California estimates it will need to open 20 new prisons to keep up with the "three strikes" law. California now spends more on its prison system than it does on its colleges and universities.
As ominous as the incarceration numbers are, they become even more disconcerting when one considers the number of prisoners who are forced to work in factories that have located their operations to the prison environment. Under the guise of giving the prisoner a chance to pay his way, big business is exploiting this captive pool of cheap human labor.
By 1998, prisoners will be turning out over $9 billion worth of products replacing 400,000 jobs from the main work force. Prisoners in Illinois alone are producing over 280 different products.
Some Oregon and California prisons are the home of garment factories. Prisoners are paid the minimum wage, but after federal and state taxes, FICA, the deduction the prison takes for room and board, and a "victim's compensation" deduction, the prisoner may see $60.00 after a month of nine hour days. If a prisoner refuses to work, he is sent to disciplinary housing, loses canteen and other privileges and even faces solitary confinement. What's more, the prisoner loses time off for good behavior and faces a longer prison stay.
Federal law prohibits the domestic sale of prison made goods unless the prisoners are paid the prevailing wage, so prison industries export those items abroad, which is permitted under the law. Many of these garments are sold in Asian countries.
It is interesting to note that the U.S. has sharply criticized China for exporting prison made goods. The truth that the U.S. is engaging in the same kind of slave labor may explain why it extended China's "most favored nation" status.
In an article entitled "Prison Labor: Workin' For The Man" by Reese Erlich, the warden at the Shanghai, China maximum security jail was quoted as saying that the reason prisoners were used in prison factories was because "we want prisoners to learn a working skill." He also admitted that prisoners are forced to work, facing solitary confinement if they refuse.
Ironically, black men make up 48 percent of the U.S. prison population, yet only 12.5 percent of the general population is black. The "War on Drugs" has contributed to the already high incarceration rate of blacks, with the strictest sentences being handed out for those arrested for "crack" possession.
In light of the increasing evidence of federal government culpability in the massive influx of crack into South-Central Los Angeles and other major cities, some compelling questions must arise. Is the trend of crime and imprisonment in the U.S. really a war against the poor? Are the proliferation of drugs, as well as the media campaign supporting the "war on drugs", part of a concerted effort to imprison a segment of the population and force them into slave labor?
The concept of slavery may seem far-fetched until one considers that it is legal and constitutional in the United States. The 13th amendment of the U.S. Constitution abolished involuntary servitude and chattel slavery of Africans, but an exception clause exists for those who have been convicted of a crime. This exemption has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court on more than one occasion. Those convicted of a crime can be forced into slavery under the law, and big business is taking advantage of this "human resource".
Even faster than the growing number of prisoners is the growing number of state and federal prisons that are run by private, for-profit corporations. Enter Wackenhut Corrections Corporation, a global security company that runs prisons for both states and the federal government. One such prison exists outside of Lockhart, Texas. So far, Wackenhut has contracted with three companies who employ prisoners at their Lockhart facility. Leonard Hill relocated his company, Lockhart Technologies, Inc., from Austin to Wackenhut's prison, and he describes the benefits of prison labor in glowing terms. "'Normally when you work in the free world', says Hill, 'you have people call in sick, they have car problems, they have family problems. We don't have that here.' Hill says the state pays for workers' compensation and medical care. And, he notes, inmates 'don't go on vacations'". (Prison Labor: Workin' for the Man). Wackenhut doesn't do too bad either. After the government pays them $31.00 a day per prisoner, they garnish 80 percent of the inmates' wages for room and board.
There is nothing far-fetched about the existence of the prison industrial complex. Indeed, many of the companies that manufactured arms as part of the military industrial complex are now building prisons and security equipment.
An essential part of the new "Iron Triangle" is the news media that creates the opinions and forms the consciousness of the general public. News services carry sensational stories that create a demand for tougher measures against criminals. In the created environment of fear and anxiety over crime, politicians sense a popular issue and jump to pass"lock 'em up and throw away the key" measures such as "three strikes and you're out." An example of politicians making political hay over crime is the way presidential candidates from both parties frequently appear in public with uniformed police officers as a backdrop.
The Wall Street article said, "...according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, more than 70% of those surveyed support longer prison terms for violent offenders.... Meanwhile, a recent Justice Department study shows that 21% of all federal prisoners are guilty of low-level, non-violent offenses, such as possession of small quantities of illegal drugs, but are serving lengthy sentences under mandatory minimums set by Congress." In the hysteria created by high profile violent crimes, laws were passed that determined specific sentences for drug offenses that are generally longer than when the judge was permitted to use his discretion.
The old criminal justice paradigm is the model of first protecting the public from the offender, providing a deterrent through punishment, and then providing an environment for the rehabilitation of the offender. This was done at considerable cost, but with the understanding that there would be long- range collateral benefits to society.
As the New World Order stepped into the open and the economies of the world merged into one globalized economy, the paradigm of crime and punishment evolved into a system so cruel and Orwellian as to defy the imagination of most of us. The new criminal justice model is one that maximizes profit for those investing in the prison growth industry, as well as providing a large infrastructure for the confinement of restive populations. Rehabilitation can no longer be considered a genuine goal.
As more crimes are added to the books and more people fail to keep up with the pace of today's globalized economy, more and more people will end up behind bars, forced into indentured servitude. Jim Gondles, Chairman of the American Correctional Association was quoted in the Dayton Voice article as saying, "We are going to see more citizens interested in jails and prisons. The rate of incarceration is becoming so high that we are going to reach a point where everyone knows someone who is in jail or prison."
Money has become the governing factor in society, with power the ultimate goal. The institutions such as hospitals and prisons that were once in the public domain and operated for the public good, have become tools for those who would profit from human misery.
This world has become one vast prison house and all of humanity its inmates. How well you perform for the international bankers who profit off of human capital will determine in which part of this multi-leveled prison you may live. If you perform well, you may get a car and a house for which they will deduct a monthly payment. If you need encouragement, they will put you in more confining circumstances and force you to work and give you occasional access to the canteen.
There is no question that the United States is filled with crime and violence. It is true that lawbreaking should be punished. It is also true that those who are in prison are there because of choices that they themselves made.
What many may fail to realize is that all those who have contributed to the social and economic factors that have helped create the "criminal", and who profit from the imprisonment and enslavement of human chattel, will also pay a very severe penalty.
Anyone whose pension fund or investment portfolio invests in prison construction bonds or who profits, either directly or indirectly, from the operation of prisons for profit, or who profits from the crime paranoia in general, will also be held strictly accountable. The crimes committed by those in prison are small compared to those who are profiting from the crime business.
Few people understand the degrading nature of prison life and the rage that is confined within prison walls. In the coming cataclysm, prison doors will open and society will feel the rage of those they locked up and discarded.
"Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered? But thus saith the Lord, even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered." Isaiah 49:24,25.
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