Corporate Greed and Private Prisons
"When there are no more jobs in town, one's only choice is
being a prison guard or a prisoner."
This article originally appeared in FinalCall.com.
The Prison Industrial Complex is a growing industry
comprised of a number of American corporations which develop household and
business products, but human rights groups condemn them for netting profits
which roll off the backs of prison inmates they claim are unjustly paid cents
on the dollar.
At issue, they charge, is a criminal justice system which
herds primarily Black youth into the hands of private prison enterprises to
work illegally under a modern-day slave system called "involuntary servitude,"
disguised as prison work release programs.
According to a 2006 Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin,
approximately 8 percent of Black males between 25 and 29 were incarcerated in
2005, compared to 2.2 percent Latinos and 1.1 percent Whites. Black males in
general accounted for nearly 550,000 of the 1.4 million federal and state
prison inmate population, and Black females almost 30,000.
Overall, the 2005 prison labor pool derived from the more
than 2.3 million people incarcerated in the U.S., which included federal, state
and territorial prisons; local jails; immigration, customs enforcement and
military facilities; Indian Country jails; and juvenile facilities.
Because of this herding, private companies like
Tennessee-based Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) (New York Stock
Exchange symbol: CXW) - one of the nation's largest prison builders, owners and
operators - reaps major benefits. In 2006, CCA earned $1.3 billion and its 2006
Annual Report indicates these numbers will increase based upon the Pew Charitable
Trusts' "Public Safety,
Public Spending - Forecasting America's Prison Population 2007-2011"
report, which anticipates that by 2011, federal and state prison populations
will climb by more than 192,000 new inmates.
"Approximately 8 percent of Black males between 25 and 29
were incarcerated in 2005, compared to 2.2 percent Latinos and 1.1 percent
CCA's 67 facilities are concentrated throughout Texas,
Arizona, Florida, Tennessee, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Georgia,
Washington, D.C., Montana, Mississippi, New Jersey, Kansas, Kentucky, Indiana,
Ohio and Louisiana.
Other companies which utilize prison labor, according to The
Mandala Project's 2001 web
posting, "U.S. Prison Labor at Home and Abroad," include: MicroJet, Nike,
Lockhart Technologies, Inc., TWA, Dell Computers, Microsoft, Eddie Bauer,
Planet Hollywood, Wilson Sporting Goods, J.C. Penney, Victoria's Secret, Best
Western Hotels, Honda, K-Mart, Target, McDonald's, Burger King, "Prison Blues"
jeans line, New York, New York Hotel/Casino, Imperial Palace Hotel/Casino, "No
Fear" Clothing Line, C.M.T. Blues, Konica, Allstate, Merrill Lynch, Shearson
Lehman, Louisiana Pacific, Parke-Davis and Upjohn.
In 1934, Congress established the Federal Prison Industries
(FPI), trade named UNICOR, to employ and provide job training to inmates within
the Federal Bureau of Prisons, requiring those medically able to work for 12 to
40 cents per hour for institution work assignments, and 23 cents to $1.15 for
work in UNICOR factories.
In 2005, it generated $765 million in sales from its 106
factories. And as of last September, its highest net sales in electronics at
$233.2 million, derived from 3,348 inmate workers throughout Texas,
Connecticut, New Jersey, California, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Tennessee, New
York, Wisconsin, Arizona and Minnesota.
UNICOR's customers include the Department of Defense,
General Services Administration, Federal Bureau of Prisons, Social Security
Administration, Department of Justice, United States Postal Service, Department
of Transportation, Department of the Treasury, Department of Agriculture, and
the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Minister Abdullah Muhammad, Nation of Islam National
Prison Reform Minister, noted that some companies which use prison labor deny
released inmates the very jobs that they hold behind bars due to felony
convictions, or stigmas of imprisonment. He said that the Honorable Minister
Louis Farrakhan's warnings of government conspiracies to herd them there are in
"Some companies which use prison labor deny released
inmates the very jobs that they hold behind bars."
During his Easter Sunday lecture on Apr. 8, entitled "The War
of Armageddon: How strong is the Foundation; can we survive?" Min. Farrakhan
specifically stated why Blacks must consider separation as the only solution to
their problem. "...the Constitution of the United States, the 13th Amendment -
it lets us out of chattel slavery, but it says if we are guilty of a criminal
offense, we can be put back into involuntary servitude and right now, they are
herding our young people into a life of crime," he stated.
Min. Farrakhan continued that the lack of jobs foster drug
selling or other illegal ventures that draw arrests and felony charges, which
lead to coerced guilty pleas and felony convictions. "There are 55 jobs that
you can't have with a felony, and the most important thing is you will not be
allowed to vote so that your power is diminished and it's done on purpose," he
said, continuing that separation must be seriously considered. "We must go to
the government and say ‘We've given you 150 years up from slavery and you have
not done right by us. So, in order to preserve or protect a future for us, we
have to leave you - but we want a good send off. If we're united, don't you
think you can't get what God Himself has already ordered?"
Pratap Chatterjee, Program Director and Managing Editor of CorpWatch, an organization which
investigates and exposes corporate violations of human rights, environmental
crimes, fraud and corruption around the world, positions that the problem is
corporate greed, not prison labor.
"In my opinion, it's not a bad thing that prisoners get
work, whether it's from government or private corporations; but what is
outrageous is that they are paid incredibly poor wages, less than you would in
third world countries. These people are doing an honest day's work and however
you may judge them, they should still be paid for their labor's worth," he
Mr. Chatterjee said that government permits the menial
wages, thereby fostering a negative economic impact to society. "The less jobs
there are, the more crime you're going to have, and the more prisons you're
going to need, but that's not really solving problems, because prison jobs are
pennies on the dollar, which is outrageous; when there are no more jobs in
town, one's only choice is being a prison guard or a prisoner," he added.
"What is outrageous is that they are paid incredibly poor
wages, less than you would in third world countries."
Paul Wright, spokesperson of Prison Legal News, an independent
publication which highlights prisoners' human rights, labeled corporations'
profits from prison workers slavery labor at the hands of a vulnerable
population. He insists that a lack of employment, which drives crime, coupled
with the formation of private prisons, present a perverse incentive for
government to lock people up and would hinder any chance of halting mass
"What if every person was a factory and generating money;
what's the incentive to cut people loose, to not criminalize and to
rehabilitate behavior?" he said.
Attorney Elizabeth Alexander, Director of the National Prison Project for
the American Civil Liberties Union, said that the corrections system is out of
control and its political and economical effects on the country as a whole is
"If people in corrections were a city, it would be the
fourth largest one in the country," she said.
This is why the call of the Honorable Minister Louis
Farrakhan to establish the Nine Ministries at the 10th Anniversary
Commemoration of the Million Man March/Millions More Movement on October 15,
2005 was so timely. He urged the Movement to establish a Ministry of Justice
(which includes Prison Reform) to see that the Black, poor and Indigenous
communities are not deprived of justice. The Prison Industrial Complex, with
its emerging privatized prison business that denies inmates a fair wage and
protection of their constitutional rights, must be corrected.
We must get busy.
Charlene Muhammad can be
contacted through Final Call.com.