Prisons Are Big Business In The United States

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Could that be the reason why the United States has the most people in prison per capita than any other nation of the world? Read why this is such a profitable big business.

From Privacy World's January 2015 Newsletter

How Some Prisoners Are America's Most Exploited Workers The wages
paid to prisoners for labor inside prisons have declined over the
past three decades.

Prisons employ and exploit the ideal worker. Prisoners do not receive
benefits or pensions. They are not paid overtime. They are forbidden
to organize and strike. They must show up on time. They are not paid
for sick days or granted vacations. They cannot formally complain
about working conditions or safety hazards. If they are disobedient,
or attempt to protest their pitiful wages, they lose their jobs
and can be sent to isolation cells. The roughly 1 million prisoners
who work for corporations and government industries in the American
prison system are models for what the corporate state expects us all
to become. And corporations have no intention of permitting prison
reforms that would reduce the size of their bonded workforce. In
fact, they are seeking to replicate these conditions throughout
the society.

States, in the name of austerity, have stopped providing prisoners
with essential items including shoes, extra blankets and even
toilet paper, while starting to charge them for electricity and
room and board. Most prisoners and the families that struggle to
support them are chronically short of money. Prisons are company
towns. Scrip, rather than money, was once paid to coal miners,
and it could be used only at the company store. Prisoners are in a
similar condition. When they go broke-and being broke is a frequent
occurrence in prison-prisoners must take out prison loans to pay for
medications, legal and medical fees and basic commissary items such
as soap and deodorant. Debt peonage inside prison is as prevalent
as it is outside prison.

States impose an array of fees on prisoners. For example, there
is a 10 percent charge imposed by New Jersey on every commissary
purchase. Stamps have a 10 percent surcharge. Prisoners must pay the
state for a 15-minute deathbed visit to an immediate family member
or a 15-minute visit to a funeral home to view the deceased. New
Jersey, like most other states, forces a prisoner to reimburse the
system for overtime wages paid to the two guards who accompany him
or her, plus mileage cost. The charge can be as high as $945.04. It
can take years to pay off a visit with a dying father or mother.

Fines, often in the thousands of dollars, are assessed against many
prisoners when they are sentenced. There are 22 fines that can be
imposed in New Jersey, including the Violent Crime Compensation
Assessment (VCCB), the Law Enforcement Officers Training & Equipment
Fund (LEOT) and Extradition Costs (EXTRA). The state takes a
percentage each month out of prison pay to pay down the fines, a
process that can take decades. If a prisoner who is fined $10,000
at sentencing must rely solely on a prison salary he or she will
owe about $4,000 after making payments for 25 years. Prisoners can
leave prison in debt to the state. And if they cannot continue to
make regular payments-difficult because of high unemployment-they
are sent back to prison. High recidivism is part of the design.

Corporations have privatized most of the prison functions once
handled by governments. They run prison commissaries and, since the
prisoners have nowhere else to shop, often jack up prices by as much
as 100 percent. Corporations have taken over the phone systems and
charge exorbitant fees to prisoners and their families. They grossly
overcharge for money transfers from families to prisoners. And these
corporations, some of the nation's largest, pay little more than
a dollar a day to prison laborers who work in for-profit prison
industries. Food and merchandise vendors, construction companies,
laundry services, uniforms companies, prison equipment vendors,
cafeteria services, manufacturers of pepper spray, body armor and
the array of medieval instruments used for the physical control of
prisoners, and a host of other contractors feed like jackals off
prisons. Prisons, in America, are a hugely profitable business.

Our prison-industrial complex, which holds 2.3 million prisoners,
or 25 percent of the world's prison population, makes money by
keeping prisons full. It demands bodies, regardless of color,
gender or ethnicity. As the system drains the pool of black bodies,
it has begun to incarcerate others. Women-the fastest-growing
segment of the prison population-are swelling prisons, as are
poor whites in general, Hispanics and immigrants. Prisons are no
longer a black-white issue. Prisons are a grotesque manifestation
of corporate capitalism. Slavery is legal in prisons under the 13th
Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It reads: "Neither slavery nor
involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the
party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United
States. …" And the massive U.S. prison industry functions like
the forced labor camps that have existed in all totalitarian states.

Corporate investors, who have poured billions into the business
of mass incarceration, expect long-term returns. And they will
get them. It is their lobbyists who write the draconian laws that
demand absurdly long sentences, deny paroles, determine immigrant
detention laws and impose minimum-sentence and three-strikes-out
laws (mandating life sentences after three felony convictions). The
politicians and the courts, subservient to corporate power, can be
counted on to protect corporate interests.
Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest owner of
for-profit prisons and immigration detention facilities in the
country, had revenues of $1.7 billion in 2013 and profits of $300
million. CCA holds an average of 81,384 inmates in its facilities on
any one day. Aramark Holdings Corp., a Philadelphia-based company
that contracts through Aramark Correctional Services to provide
food to 600 correctional institutions across the United States,
was acquired in 2007 for $8.3 billion by investors that included
Goldman Sachs.

The three top for-profit prison corporations spent an estimated $45
million over a recent 10-year period for lobbying that is keeping
the prison business flush. The resource center In the Public Interest
documented in its report "Criminal: How Lockup Quotas and 'Low-Crime
Taxes' Guarantee Profits for Private Prison Corporations" that
private prison companies often sign state contracts that guarantee
prison occupancy rates of 90 percent. If states fail to meet the
quota they have to pay the corporations for the empty beds.

CCA in 2011 gave $710,300 in political contributions to candidates
for federal or state office, political parties and so-called 527
groups (PACs and super PACs), the American Civil Liberties Union
reported. The corporation also spent $1.07 million lobbying federal
officials plus undisclosed sums to lobby state officials, according
to the ACLU. CCA, through the American Legislative Exchange Council
(ALEC), also lobbies legislators to impose harsher detention laws
at the state and federal levels. The ALEC helped draft Arizona's
cruel anti-immigrant lawSB 1070.

The United States, from 1970 to 2005, increased its prison population
by about 700 percent, according to statistics gathered by the
ACLU. The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, the ACLU report
notes, says for-profit companies presently control about 18 percent
of federal prisoners and 6.7 percent of all state prisoners. Private
prisons account for nearly all newly built prisons. And nearly half
of all immigrants detained by the federal government are shipped
to for-profit prisons, according to Detention Watch Network.

But corporate profit is not limited to building and administering
prisons. Whole industries now rely almost exclusively on prison
labor. Federal prisoners, who are among the highest paid in
the U.S. system, making as much as $1.25 an hour, produce the
military's helmets, uniforms, pants, shirts, ammunition belts,
ID tags and tents. Prisoners work, often through subcontractors,
for major corporations such as Chevron, Bank of America, IBM,
Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T, Starbucks, Nintendo, Victoria's Secret,
J.C. Penney, Sears, Wal-Mart, Kmart, Eddie Bauer, Wendy's, Procter &
Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Fruit of the Loom, Motorola, Caterpillar,
Sara Lee, Quaker Oats, Mary Kay, Microsoft, Texas Instruments,
Dell, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard, Nortel, Nordstrom's, Revlon,
Macy's, Pierre Cardin and Target. Prisoners in some states run
dairy farms, staff call centers, take hotel reservations or work
in slaughterhouses. And prisoners are used to carry out public
services such as collecting highway trash in states such as Ohio.

States, with shrinking budgets, share in the corporate
exploitation. They get kickbacks of as much as 40 percent from
corporations that prey on prisoners. This kickback money is often
supposed to go into "inmate welfare funds," but prisoners say
they rarely see any purchases made by the funds to improve life
inside prison.

The wages paid to prisoners for labor inside prisons have remained
stagnant and in real terms have declined over the past three
decades. In New Jersey a prisoner made $1.20 for eight hours of
work-yes, eight hours of work-in 1980 and today makes $1.30 for
a day's labor. Prisoners earn, on average, $28 a month. Those
incarcerated in for-profit prisons earn as little as 17 cents
an hour.

However, items for sale in prison commissaries have risen in price
over the past two decades by as much as 100 percent. And new rules
in some prisons, including those in New Jersey, prohibit families to
send packages to prisoners, forcing prisoners to rely exclusively on
prison vendors. This is as much a psychological blow as a material
one; it leaves families feeling powerless to help loved ones trapped
in the system.

A bar of Dove soap in 1996 cost New Jersey prisoners 97 cents. Today
it costs $1.95, an increase of 101 percent. A tube of Crest
toothpaste cost $2.35 in 1996 and today costs $3.49, an increase of
48 percent. AA batteries have risen by 184 percent, and a stick of
deodorant has risen by 95 percent. The only two items I found that
remained the same in price from 1996 were frosted flake cereal and
cups of noodles, but these items in prisons have been switched from
recognizable brand names to generic products. The white Reebok shoes
that most prisoners wear, shoes that lasts about six months, costs
about $45 a pair. Those who cannot afford the Reebok brand must buy,
for $20, shoddy shoes with soles that shred easily. In addition,
prisoners are charged for visits to the infirmary and the dentist
and for medications.

Keefe Supply Co., which runs commissaries for an estimated half
a million prisoners in states including Florida and Maryland,
is notorious for price gouging. It sells a single No. 10 white
envelope for 15 cents-$15 per 100 envelopes. The typical retail
cost outside prison for a box of 100 of these envelopes is $7. The
company marks up a 3-ounce packet of noodle soup, one of the most
popular commissary items, to 45 cents from 26 cents.

Global Tel Link, a private phone company, jacks up phone rates in
New Jersey to 15 cents a minute, although some states, such as New
York, have relieved the economic load on families by reducing the
charge to 4 cents a minute. The Federal Communications Commission
has determined that a fair rate for a 15-minute interstate call by
a prisoner is $1.80 for debit and $2.10 for collect. The high phone
rates imposed on prisoners, who do not have a choice of carriers
and must call either collect or by using debit accounts that hold
prepaid deposits made by them or their families, are especially
damaging to the 2 million children with a parent behind bars. The
phone is a lifeline for the children of the incarcerated.

Monopolistic telephone contracts give to the states kickbacks
amounting, on average, to 42 percent of gross revenues from prisoner
phone calls, according to Prison Legal News. The companies with
exclusive prison phone contracts not only charge higher phone rates
but add to the phone charges the cost of the kickbacks, called
"commissions" by state agencies, according to research conducted
in 2011 by John E. Dannenberg for Prison Legal News. Dannenberg
found that the phone market in state prison systems generates an
estimated $362 million annually in gross revenues for the states
and costs prisoners' families, who put money into phone accounts,
some $143 million a year.

When strong family ties are retained, there are lower rates of
recidivism and fewer parole violations. But that is not what the
corporate architects of prisons want: High recidivism, now at over
60 percent, keeps the cages full. This is one reason, I suspect,
why prisons make visitations humiliating and difficult. It is not
uncommon for prisoners to tell their families-especially those
that include small children traumatized by the security screening,
long waits, body searches, clanging metal doors and verbal abuse by
guards-not to visit. Prisoners with life sentences frequently urge
loved ones to sever all ties with them and consider them as dead.

The rise of what Marie Gottschalk, the author of "Caught: The Prison
State and the Lockdown of American Politics," calls "the carceral
state" is ominous. It will not be reformed through elections or
by appealing to political elites or the courts. Prisons are not,
finally, about race, although poor people of color suffer the
most. They are not even about being poor. They are prototypes for the
future. They are emblematic of the disempowerment and exploitation
that corporations seek to inflict on all workers. If corporate power
continues to disembowel the country, if it is not impeded by mass
protests and revolt, life outside prison will soon resemble life
in prison.

The above by Chris Hedges.

Until our next issue, stay cool and remain low profile!

Privacy World
  • Profile picture of the author PeterLarson
    The trend of over-criminalization of people is now starting early in grade school.
    Click on this link: http://www.warriorforum.com/off-topic-forum/1035350-fastest-growing-nation-criminals.html

    "Overcriminalization describes the trend to use the criminal law rather than the civil law to solve every problem, to punish every mistake, and to compel compliance with regulatory objectives. Criminal law should be used only if a person intentionally flouts the law or engages in conduct that is morally blameworthy or dangerous." The above quote was taken from the heritage dot org web site.
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  • Profile picture of the author HeySal
    It sure is. Prison moguls are one of the most ardent supporters of pot prohibition and other victimless crimes. It's one of the factions screaming about the NYPD refusing to enforce victimless crimes, which are unconstitutional and the Admin can't legally enforce, but are one of today's major factors in the war on the police state. The police state, in turns, gains way too much force when so many regulations make almost everyone a criminal.

    I worked in a company that hired prison slave labor. They were worked 15 hours a day, 6 days a week and if they said "no", they were in deep shyte at the institution that was slaving them out for the horrendous crimes of things like not being able to afford insurance or smoking a little pot on their own private time.

    Billions of dollars of our own tax money goes to propaganda to make people think victimless criminals are dangerous to them some way and need to be incarcerated. Their propaganda is starting to wear thin as cops become more and more violent and laws become more and more oppressive. It can be hoped that sooner, rather than later, this situation can be remediated. It wont be easy, though. The prison mogules and legislators that are getting kickbacks from them are not wanting to give up their money.
    Signature

    Sal
    When the Roads and Paths end, learn to guide yourself through the wilderness
    Beyond the Path

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  • Profile picture of the author yukon
    Banned
    You forgot to mention prisons can sometimes keep crazies off the streets.
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    • Profile picture of the author HeySal
      Originally Posted by yukon View Post

      You forgot to mention prisons can sometimes keep crazies off the streets.

      They don't need to be corporate to do that. Corporate prisons will do and back anything that gets them money, while a "public" prison system will only worry about criminals who create victims. Public prison systems would also discourage writing laws just to incarcerate people to use as slave labor.
      Signature

      Sal
      When the Roads and Paths end, learn to guide yourself through the wilderness
      Beyond the Path

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      • Profile picture of the author yukon
        Banned
        Originally Posted by HeySal View Post

        They don't need to be corporate to do that. Corporate prisons will do and back anything that gets them money, while a "public" prison system will only worry about criminals who create victims. Public prison systems would also discourage writing laws just to incarcerate people to use as slave labor.
        I doubt a victim cares either way as long as an offender is locked up.
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        • Profile picture of the author HeySal
          Originally Posted by yukon View Post

          I doubt a victim cares either way as long as an offender is locked up.
          Yeah, but a lot of us mind that pot smokers are locked up for 20 years just to make 50 cents an hour while being worked 60 and 80 hours a week just for smoking a plant or not being able to pay insurance. Everyone should care about that - because when laws are written for money and slavery alone - you never know when one of your own harmless habits or survival necessities will become illegal and land you in a slave labor camp.
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          Sal
          When the Roads and Paths end, learn to guide yourself through the wilderness
          Beyond the Path

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          • Profile picture of the author seasoned
            Originally Posted by HeySal View Post

            Yeah, but a lot of us mind that pot smokers are locked up for 20 years just to make 50 cents an hour while being worked 60 and 80 hours a week just for smoking a plant or not being able to pay insurance. Everyone should care about that - because when laws are written for money and slavery alone - you never know when one of your own harmless habits or survival necessities will become illegal and land you in a slave labor camp.
            I DOUBT that not having insurance will get you locked up for years. And the public prisons are NOT as nice and decent as you make them out to be. REMEMBER, THOSE people depend on criminals ALSO!

            Steve
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    • Profile picture of the author BigFrank
      Banned
      Originally Posted by yukon View Post

      You forgot to mention prisons can sometimes keep crazies off the streets.
      Unfortunately, they get out - and without treatment, which is nonexistent, they wind up even crazier.

      Cheers. - Frank
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  • Profile picture of the author WalkingCarpet
    Banned
    Prisoners deserve the worst possible treatment. This'll scare them into not committing more crime when they do get out.
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    • Profile picture of the author BigFrank
      Banned
      Originally Posted by WalkingCarpet View Post

      Prisoners deserve the worst possible treatment. This'll scare them into not committing more crime when they do get out.
      And the Humanitarian of the Year Award goes to . . . . . .

      Cheers. - Frank
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  • Profile picture of the author TLTheLiberator
    Not much screams vulture capitalism like private prisons.


    IMHO prisons should be a function of the govs, local, state and/or feds - not for profit private corporations.
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    • Profile picture of the author HeySal
      Originally Posted by TLTheLiberator View Post

      Not much screams vulture capitalism like private prisons.


      IMHO prisons should be a function of the govs, local, state and/or feds - not for profit private corporations.
      I never thought I'd see you and I with the same opinion against most of the people in the thread.

      I see a very large surge in "they deserve what they get" opinions in this country these days. People do not understand the issue of "victimless" crimes, I don't think. They also don't understand the danger of supporting incarceration for them because a lot of people think that they are above having to worry about them. People even supported the BLM militia being sent against a family that had taken the gov to court over a property/tax dispute.

      Serious - a militia for a financial dispute that was already in court where it belonged, and they were calling the citizens that went in to protect them from another Wako names, and cheering for the BLM.

      It shows me that most people just don't understand what's going on in the upper levels right now. I just hope enough understand that it doesn't develop the way things have historically developed from this point.
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      Sal
      When the Roads and Paths end, learn to guide yourself through the wilderness
      Beyond the Path

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