Slavery is Legal in the U.S., did you know that?

The 13th Amendment states: “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.”

An increasing number of prisons in the U.S. are run by corporations, using their prisoners as workers and selling their labor to corporations. Federal safety and health standards do not protect prison labor, nor do the National Labor Relations Board policies. The corporations do not even have to pay minimum wage.

“J.C. Penney, Victoria’s Secret, IBM, Toys R Us and TWA are among the US corporations that have profited by employing prisoners. Put together long mandatory sentences for minor drug offences, a strong racial bias, prisons run by corporations for profit, the sale of convict labor to corporations, and a charge for prison room and board and you have a modern system of bonded labor – a social condition otherwise known as slavery.” [from Take It Personally: How to Make Conscious Choices to Change the World edited by Anita Roddick, p.75]

I’m trying to find out if Victoria’s Secret or their subcontractors still use prison labor and plan to cut my “Victoria’s Secret Angel” credit card in pieces – inside one of their stores – if they do. I will not support slavery.

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Dinah from Kabalor

Author. Discardian. GM. Current project: creating an inclusive indie fantasy ttrpg https://www.patreon.com/kabalor

67 thoughts on “Slavery is Legal in the U.S., did you know that?”

  1. Kevin and I were chatting about this last night and he’s since raised some interesting questions via email. Anyone know any answers to these?
    – Who is getting the profit from a) operating prisons and b) using prisoner’s labor?
    – Is this work compelled or are prisoners given a choice of doing it?
    Note, however, that even if it’s “by choice” it’s an unnatural one; they are remarkably constrained in their choices by virtue of being imprisoned. If we could say in all confidence that only those who should be imprisoned are imprisoned, this might not matter so much, but the racial and social differences in arrests, prosecutions and sentencing are shocking evidence that justice is not being uniformly dealt out.
    I do think having prisoners work is a good thing and I do think they should be allowed to market those goods. It is my understanding that this is being done to make a profit for someone and that that profit can be increased by increasing the number of people incarcerated and made to work without the normal protections of labor law that makes it reprehensible to me. Capitalism tends to conflict with humanitarianism; I don’t think companies are the best ones to have pulling the strings in our justice system.

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  2. I randomly came across this page when I was searching for something, but I figured I’d reply, even if it is late…
    First, Victoria’s Secret still uses prison labor. Victoria’s Secret underwear will generally say it is made in one of two places: the U.S.A. or Israel. If they’re made in the USA, they are made by prisoners, and that’s that. If they say “Made in Israel”, they weren’t. The US has a very unique trade agreement with Israel. See, GENERALLY a label must say what country the garment was actually ASSEMBLED in. So, if (and this happens a lot) the material is cut in Country1 and shipped to Country2 to be stitched together, then the label must say “Made in Country2.” HOWEVER this is not so under our agreement with Israel. You look at that label, you think “Made in Israel. Well, they have pretty good labor conditions and a fairly well-off population, so labor conditions can’t be that bad there.” Well, sure, they probably aren’t that bad. But that underwear was not made in Israel. Under this agreement, material can be cut in Israel and shipped elsewhere (to any of the impoverished 3rd world nations near Israel) to be assembled, and it can still say “Made in Israel.” So regardless of where your Vickie’s underwear says it was made, you know people were exploited.
    Now for the questions –
    In response to the first question, about who profits.
    Well, there are 3 parties that will potentially profit, and the prisoner tends to not be one of those parties.
    1) the company utilizing prison labor. Companies such as TWA (the airline) have used prison labor to undercut their free (not imprisoned) labor force. Whereas they may have to pay one of their free workers $10 per hour (i made that number up) they can pay half that for prison labor.
    2) private prison companies. prisons are being privatized, and the largest prison company in america is the Corrections Corporation of America. states may build the prisons and then teh CCA will take over and run and profit from them, or the CCA may build the prison and the staet will pay the CCA to keep the prisoners. the way the prison companies profit from prison labor is that they are given a slice of the wages. either a company will lease prisoners from the CCA and pay, say $500 per month (another made up number) for use of the prisoners’ labor, and the prisoners get little or nothing, or the company will pay the prisoners minimum wage or less, BUT the paycheck will go to the prison (owned by CCA) and the prison will deduct a majority of the paycheck for service fees, room and board, etc. This practice often leaves prisoners working for as little as 4 cents per hour in some very dangerous jobs.
    3) the state. the state profits if it’s a public prison. they profit in two ways. first, they can form their own company and the prisoners can work in it and the company/prison will sell the products. this happens in Maryland under the State Use Industries corp, a company of the Maryland Department of Corrections. They make furniture, license plates, clothing, etc. This also happens in Texas, where prisoners tame wild horses and the prison sells them at a HUGE profit.
    as for the second question, about choice.
    it depends on the prisoner. two scenerios:
    1. the prisoner is forced. no ifs ands or butts. most private prisons and many public state-run prisons are forcing prisoners to pay rent (and too much, at that. they pay more than they would for similar space on the outside). if the prisoner cannot afford to pay this, the prisoner must earn his (most prisoners are “he”s) keep. most prisons also force prisoners to pay for healthcare.
    2. the prisoner is not forced, and instead is coerced. in this instance, Dinah was right on the button. there are a few reasons prisoners would be compelled to do prison labor, despite the shitty pay:
    a. prison is boring. you either work a shitty job that pays nothing or you sit in your cell and you state at the wall and go crazy. which would you choose?
    b. early release (“good behavior”) is often dependent on prison labor — if you work, you get good behavior and get released early. if you don’t, you get written up as being a bad prisoner because you’re not being a model prisoner, and you stay the full time or longer.
    c. it pays a tiny bit. prison food sucks. not only does it suck, but in general it does not have the nutrients to keep prisoners healthy and alive and functional. so they must supliment their meager meals with chocolate and Ramen from the commissary, which is sort of like a prison gift shop. the commissary also profits from prisoners’ misery, so it charges WAY too much money, much more than you’d pay for the same food on the outside. so prisoners must work to make money to eat.

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  3. My comments are about Texas prisons. In Texas you get no pay regardless of the work you do. Paper money is not allowed. Only commissary money sent from family and friends.. Texas also has this little rule that makes them immnune from following guide lines for the first 2 years of a Prisoners sentence, transfer unit do some research on that one you will be suprised! No means for education, no way to get a transfer, because you are in transfer, but Texas can keep you there for 24 months. If you choose to file a writ during your transfer period, after you go to court your transfer time is lost and you start over. So say you got a reduction in your sentence by going back to court, well you will be in transfer for another 2 years. Transfer units make the rules as they go. I know for a fact that a lot of transfer facilities won’t even give a prisoner 5 minutes to eat, turn off water during lock down, refuse visits to people on the prisoners list. Well need I say more, slavery would be better than the conditions and mind set of most of the the people in power in TDCJ. You are so right about drug dealers getting more time than killers, rapist and child molesters. I was present in the court room when my son was given 2 10 year sentences for cocain and the guy after him was there for improper behavior with his little girl for the second time, he got deferred and the child was released to his custody.

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  4. It may also be worth considering that non-criminal slavery continues to exist as well. Legally speaking, corporations are persons, and thanks to a 1886 supreme court decision, are protected under the 14th ammendment (http://www.ratical.org/corporations/SCvSPR1886.html). However, corporations are permitted to be owned and sold, making them slaves.
    Can you imagine what would happen if lawyers brought a class action suit against all entities that owned corporations as violating the 13th ammendment? The rabbit hole goes very deep…..

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  5. Actually, since the world was FORCED into needing money over the centuries, that means that no one is free, & everyone is still a slave, until we eliminate money worldwide. To do that we must end the wage because it is also slavery but no one knew it. ANd we must give EVERY PERSON on earth a GUARANTEED INCOME (shut up & think of helping starving CHIDLREN worldwide) to eliminate money. Oddly, yes, a GI for every person will eliminate money, but that’s the way it is, or will be, when we do it.
    Because employees are slaves, & so are masters.

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  6. i agree the prison system is slightly flawed especially in the way of nonviolent criminal. But you have to give some thought to this prison is meant to be just that “Prison” as a human being i know the law my free will allows me the choice to live within the law or as an outlaw. i choose to live with in the law. if i were to break the law and be placed in the jail or prison- all the rights i had prior would be stripped away. i beleive that prisoner should be treated humanely but they are there to serve time for a crime and must earn their keep. while we as tax payers are ultimately paying for the cost of them to be there (only nowadays because used to they were in tents- no plumbing, light bills, and as far as food they had to cultivate it in order to remain alive) they should be doing things such as a service to their community. mowing grass, and landscaping for the area in which they serve. They should be doing way more than what we make them do…

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  7. I think it is very good for prisoners to have to give back to the communities where they are incarcerated or to be productive in ways that give to society as a whole. However, I am highly dubious that employing prisoners as extremely cheap labor for private corporate endeavors is a wise long-term choice. Companies have an interest in having cheap labor. That seems to me to run counter to an overall societal goal of having less crime and fewer incarcerated citizens.

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  8. From what I have seen here most of you must be lib’s. to daxe who is going to pay everyone in the world a gi? w/o the companys you are running down there would be no pay! you can’t blame the co I started my own co & was making money the first month. I started this co with only 10k & now I can do about anything I want. the people in prsion are there because they broke the law not because of there color. I have good friends of many colors. justice is blind! I also know some people who were in prison the con’s are given a choice of working if they work they get two for one. so for every day they work they get two days off there time so it’s a good deal for them also. the only time a con can’t keep there money is if there is a fine or if they owe there victom money.please remember for every crime there is a victom! working the prisoners also teaches them how to live productive lives. we are trying to change them into good people not just lock them up. as far as yall fussing about drug dealers I think they should rot in prison after the first time. remember the money for the 9 11 atacks came from drug money!!! if you don’t belive that how about the people (mostly kids) killed by bad drugs or overdoses? I geuss they don’t count. the way the law for murder reads if you do something to cause a death even if you didn’t mean to you have to pay! I started working as a bagboy in high school, realy liked working on cars went on to work at a car dealer they paid me to go to school & paid for the school. now I own my own shop with people working for me. yes they make me money they also get to keep 50% of what they make & don’t have a shop payment or light bill to pay so I think they have it good. the cons in prison could have done the same thing. Just because your born in a hog pen don’t mean you have to stay there. as far as food in prisons when I was a bag boy I had to carry food to our jail from our store I know that they ate well. also the state has regulations the prisons have to go by. did I tell yall my brother in law is a prison gaurd the prisoners need to go back to the days of hard labor then they would not be so ready to do something to go back! if you act like a animal you should be treated like one! just my two cents as far as workers over seas please strike the NAFTA law that bill cliton signed. that would bring back about 1500 job in my small town. billy c. ran every thing that Ronald Reagan & George Bush#41 done. now some one is goin to say the usa had more money under b/c than R/R & Bush#41 well let me explain that if you put say 200 hundred grand in the bank it takes time for it to make money ie if you draw the intrest off in one month you would not have much but left in after 12 years you would have a good bit to draw out. now in comes b/c it only took him 8 years to mess up what R/R & Bush#41 had built up & don’t blame “W”. b/c had a recession for 6 months before “W” took over. now we have the lowest interst rates in decades, any one remember the 21% rates of jimmy carter?that was fun times. no one had money & I think crime rates were through the roof. by the way I used 12 years because that is how long R/R & G/B 41 was in office. & yes I know I have used caps for R/R & G/B & lower case for b/c & j/c. j/c was the worst pres. in the history of the US & b/c turned the white house into a whore house. he sould have went to a hotel! even then the pres. should keep his pants up! I’ll go now hope I shead some light & helped some one please check my facts you will find them true. to all the blue state people please keep your head burried in the sand it not only helps us red state people win. it also keeps yalls backside up for easy kicking.

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  9. should have put sandy where I put daxe sorry I did not know the names went under the comment but sounds like daxe is just as left. in case you havn’t geussed I make Rush Linbaugh look like a centrist!!! bye agian
    7

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  10. Mike, I respect your right to disagree, but I think you might want to study up a little on the deficit and the spending behavior of different presidents. The Republican attitude seems to be “charge it” and that doesn’t work any better for a country than it does for an individual.
    As for Bill Clinton, frankly, I don’t care what the president does with his sex life. I care about how his policies affect average people. If the rich just keep getting richer and the country gets poorer while the debt grows and the business profits get taken overseas, something is majorly wrong.
    How someone like you can defend W and his fatcat Enron buddies, I just don’t see.

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  11. I don’t understand the problem here… The 13th Amendment states: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, *except as a punishment for crime* whereof the party shall have been duly convicted” – if someone is in prison, it is because they have been duly convicted of a crime under the judicial system, regardless of how unfair you might percieve that system to be. Granted, the system is imperfect, often appears racist and the innocent are sometimes convicted and sometimes the guilty go free, so we must continue to fine-tune and perfect that system and fight for fairness within that system, but using prisoners to perform productive work per se is not in violation of the Constitution as I read it, and I’m very adamant about the rights protected by that document. I’m more concerned about the possibly upcoming military DRAFT that is looming on our horizon, as it more closely parallels the definition of slavery, as does the current extension of tours of duty as this is applied to those not even *accused*, let alone duly convicted of any crime.
    Pick your fights carefully – and while I’m in disagreement with the exhorbitantly long sentences for relatively minor drug offenses, we must remember that crimes, even minor ones, carry consequences which must be suffered by those who commmit them. Productive work at least stimulates the mind better than simply being warehoused in a cage and is therefore better for the prisoner as well as the public at large due to the instillment of a work ethic by a reward system. Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.

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  12. Consider the following scenario: Organ harvesting from death-sentenced criminals.
    Do you think for a moment that supply won’t be maniuplated to keep up with demand? We will wind up with people being murdered for their organs for ‘crimes’ like jaywalking.
    Similarly, slave labor will also rise up to meet the demand.

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  13. Has there been any study of ownership of prisons? Can judges own stock in prisons? Police officers?
    Is there any conflict of interest barrier to a judge sentencing people to prison knowing that the prisonsers will be slaved-out to a corporation or company owned — at least in part — by the judge?

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  14. Actually Mike you are wrong. The companies are to blame. The prison industry has been the fastest growing industry for while now because they play the supply and demand game that Kevin mentioned. These private prison companies are the ones that have been the loudest supporters of mandatory minimum sentences and introducing prison time for crimes which do not warrent such. The have a financial investment in unjustly turning people into slaves. It is their lifeblood. What could be more sadistic than that?
    On a side note Prisons now and days are extremely screwed up. Are you aware that the majority of rapes in the US are forced upon men in prison, where they are surrounded by guards. Doesn’t it seem like if you are surrounded by police and security guards that that place should be safer than anywhere else in the US? You would think but that also assuming police are interested in upholding the law and protecting people.
    I think prisons should be like a big walled in camp site. Prisoners are given their own plot of land, running water, seeds and books. You want to instill responsibility in people force them to support themselves. There can even be a communal area where non-violent prisoners can work togather and help each other. the main problem with prison is that it mentally scars people from the violence, teaches them that violence is what makes the world go round (and it might be…cry) Gives them no job skills, no budgeting skills and no way to redeem themselves from the hole they made because of mistakes. If prisons created a situation of easy transition into the free world there would be far fewer return prisoners.
    Why is it when students fail schools are fined, but when ex-cons fail the prison gets to make more money? Not to say that it could not be reduced beyond a certain point (10-50%) but we are no where near that level now.

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  15. “Why is it when students fail schools are fined, but when ex-cons fail the prison gets to make more money? Not to say that it could not be reduced beyond a certain point (10-50%) but we are no where near that level now.”
    Pastor M, that is one of the most productive ideas I’ve heard in a long time. I’m going to pass it around and see what fruits could be born of such a gem.

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  16. I for one believe that harsher punishments for reoffenders regardless of degree or count. If the united states is offering jobs of and coarse to a prisoner or a parolee then that is a good thing. Think of all the unemployed people out here that can not get jobs and then they are out there gang banging and or selling drugs to our CHILDREN or helping them get in to gangs. I for one know how hard it is to find work and have felony as the monkey on my back. I started my own company to make a living and some times I wish that there was a way to continue to rehabilitate our community.

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  17. You freakin’ idiots!! You are all slaves by usury – because the “federal” “reserve” is neither “federal” and “reserves” nothing. Every single “dollar” (they’re not really dollars, but officially, obligations of the United States ie “federal” “reserve” “notes”) is BORROWED AT INTEREST into circulation by the Congress from the PRIVATELY OWNED “federal” “reserve”.
    Slavery by Usury is a condition that existed in Biblical times. It was offsett by the Jewish Holiday called “the Jubilee” in which event, all debts were remitted and all slaves set free.
    Proverbs 22 – The Rich ruleth over the poor and the BORROWER (US GOVERNMENT) IS SLAVE TO THE LENDER (“federal reserve”).
    This is direct contravention of the US Constitution which EXPLICITY OUTLAWS the EXACT money system established by the Satanists from Europe.

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  18. Being a prison guard for many years and private prisons always wanting to get into my state, I did a lot of research on CCA. They have more than 27 prisons overseas and at one time one of their CEO worked in the FBI under George Bush senior. Another worked with Dick Cheney, the largest food service for prisons was provided by Lauren Bush (who can’t be traced) and it goes on and on. The prisons that our government ships “terrorist” to are probably private prisons owned by CCA and some of their affiliates. When I addressed through emails some questions about this……everything changed quickly with no answers given. After turning in several senior supervisors in the prison for waste fraud and abuse…..I had to quit. Alas I made one mistake…I didn’t keep all the evidence of CCA and the Republican Party that worked against the workers of the prison. Our state’s speaker of the house was the brother of one of the CEOs of CCA. If any one is really interested, I will gladly try to find all the sites again for their own investigation. Also CCA seems to only minimum security prisons in the states preferring drug abuse crimes……could this be the reason for the so called “war on drugs” Also the prison population is considered “property” that is used for security for loans by the states so yes, it is slavery. Prisons are a money making program for contractors. All at the taxpayer’s expense

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  19. Mike,
    Your key words are “I don’t understand….”. When people are in prison for violations of laws that were sponsored by corporations for the benefit of corporations, and then forced to work for corporations to pay their “debt” to society it is slavery. Our prison population consists of better than 70% drug convictions, and of those 78% are for marijuana, primarily possession. The Bureau of Justice states that, “The number of persons incarcerated in prison for drug offenses increased 1195% from 1980 to 2001 (19,000 in 1980 to 246,100 in 2001).” for State prisons alone. The “racist” part of this is in the statistics which show that “At year end 2003 there were 3,405 black male prisoners per 100,000 black males in the United States in prison, compared to 1,231 Hispanic male inmates per 100,000 Hispanic males and 465 white male inmates per 100,000 white males.”
    When the Marijuana Tax Act was passed the majority of the Congressmen and Senators did not know they were talking about hemp. They certainly didn’t know that the primary purpose of the bill was to destroy the hemp industry. Furthermore, the concept that, listen very closely here, you can go to prison for growing or consuming flowers is ludicrous. “We must protect you from yourself” is what you tell the tomcat on the way to the vets.
    Prison labor for real crimes (crimes against property or persons) I have no problem with AS LONG AS that labor benefits the public. And by that I mean the labor is used to cut our tax costs. Clearing and maintaining roads, public works, etc. Not allowing private companies to increase their profits while public dollars support their workforce. More importantly, not using prisoners that should not be in prison in the first place.
    Your comment “that crimes, even minor ones, carry consequences which must be suffered by those who commit them” only works in a true Republic, where the minority are protected against the tyranny of the majority, and not in the Empire we’ve been under since Lincoln. Passing a “law” by legitimate democratic process does not make it right. Hitler’s laws against the Jews were “legitimately passed by democratic process”. That doesn’t mean they were right to do so.
    Check your history. “Moral” laws, which in most cases are passed by “Christians”, have always increased the activity they purport to stop. From the Harrison Narcotics Act, to Prohibition, to the Marijuana Tax Act: they don’t work. The only drug laws this country needs are the same ones used for alcohol and tobacco: no sales to minors, taxes to be applied to the public good, and individuals would be allowed to grow for their own consumption. Oh yeah, add laws that guarantee you get what you pay for (not adulterated).
    Then you wouldn’t have moronic officials putting a guy in prison (state) for FORTY YEARS for selling a “joint” to a minor while sending another to prison for ten years who confessed to second degree murder (Happened in Arizona). The Judge’s reasoning, “Selling that joint to the minor was the equivalent of putting a gun to his head and pulling the trigger.”
    Which just goes to prove the old question, “What do you call a lawyer with an IQ of 50? Your Honor!”

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  20. Glenn
    Tho you refer to me as ‘Mike’ rather than Kevin, 😉 you make a good argument, and some fine points that I had not considered. I still say that productive work is not bad per se, but you are correct that that work should be directed for the public good and not to increase profits for Corporate America, (some might argue that with the cheaper prison labor, prices would stay lower, therefore benefitting the public, but the same could be said for the pre-Civil War cotton business… doesn’t make it right) – Thank you for some fine input! Jesuit is also correct that we are all slaves to the Federal Reserve system… I’d just not have said it in as vitriolic a manner. Thank you for something to think about.

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  21. Sorry about that Kevin. I think I started to answer Mike’s post, reread it, and determined that arguements with the mentally challanged were non-productive. When I blanked it I didn’t scroll up far enough to remove the “Mike”.
    As to Jesuit’s “slavery to the Federal Reserve” statements he just doesn’t take it far enough. We’re slaves. Period. On a fifty State Plantation. You are only free when you can say no, own your property outright, and be left alone by your own choice. When you can refuse both “government benefits” and their demand for payment for same.
    What people should really do is understand that Republicans and Democrats are flip sides of the same coin. The only thing that could push them back into our service would be to place a majority of third party candidates into office. The ONLY third party registered in all 50 states is the Libertarian Party. Their goals should be our goals. I bet that if people just started to register (or re-register) as Libertarians en mass you would see a real side-step dance by the other two parties.
    As far as prisons and/or reforms vis-a-vis their policies goes, we have to eliminate prison terms for “victimless crimes”. We are people: not pets or farm animals. And as to slavery, well, slaves can choose to escape….
    Glenn

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  22. Since prisoners need to “earn their keep”, here’s an idea…
    Instead of taxpayers funding prison institutions to provide cheap labor for corporations, why don’t we allow the prisoners to work for regular wages in order to PAY RESTITUTION TO THE VICTIMS of their crimes. Example… If my wife gets assaulted, why should my family have to pay taxes so Victoria’s Secret and Toys R Us can make their shareholders happy?
    I’m so glad I came across this site.
    http://www.waronjunk.com/warning.htm

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  23. There is a season for every thing, and it will come a time when the state and federal gov. will pay for how they are rapeing the american people. The state gets paid about 30,000.00 per prisoner each year and not even half of that is going towards housing them. Now they are letting big companies put factories in the prisons just to make more money. And the companies are getting a profit as well. If you really think about it the american people are the real slaves. We are paying the gov. double time. first we pay taxies to house a prisoner and more then half of it goes to the gov. and then we pay taxies on the products we buy from these companies. Where is the vasoline

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  24. I like the idea of putting prisoners to work for less than minimum wage. What other way can America compete with foreign countries that have no labor laws? If corporations, American citizens and the local, state and federal government are benefiting, then what’s the issue? Slavery? Please!
    I would think even a liberal could agree that creating low paying jobs for prisoners who would otherwise be in an air-conditioned cell watching CSPAN, CNN or MSNBC would be of some civic benefit. Or…would they?
    I don’t feel sorry for people who are incarcerated for willingly committing crimes against other people. Therefore I don’t feel sorry for prisoners who are given the choice of earning less than minimum wage in return for a reduced sentence.
    I have an idea. Why don’t people that complain about the mistreatment of prisoners petition the government to let prisoners be released into their custody under a “sponsorship” program? This way the criminal can spend the remainder of their sentence in the comfort of the “sponsor’s” home in an environment of love, compassion and redirection. The only caveat would be, the “sponsor” wouldn’t get to choose who the criminal would be, or even get to see what the criminal looked like.
    Hello…hello. Hmmm…. All I hear is crickets chirping.

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  25. My point was (and it has been almost four years since I wrote the post, so it’s a bit hard to recall the full context that led to it) that as prisons become businesses, the owners of those businesses might start to be self-interested in the continued existence of prisons.
    I quite agree that it’s nicer from the prisoners point of view to be making panties, but if somebody’s making a profit off that cheap labor, they will have an interest in continually full prisons. The flow of cheap labor will make them interested in how people are sentenced for crimes and not for reasons of justice.

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  26. Practically speaking, having jails and prisons is necessary because there are people who have committed crimes and will continue to do damage to others if not physically restrained. A snap judgement might be that miserable jail conditions will deter crime, but historically it doesn’t seem to work that way; miserable conditions mean released prisoners are in a degraded and angry state which leads to more crime, not less. The prospect of being locked up is in and of itself a sufficient deterrent to those ready to make rational choices (if you think not, you likely haven’t spent much time imprisoned).
    The major costs of jails are in construction (it has to be very resistant to breaking out or in, and designed so staff can see what prisoners are doing = expensive) and even more so, in staffing. Working in lockup is usually unpleasant and dangerous. Underpay your jailers and watch graft, bribery, and escapes, as well as abuse, increase.
    You want a system that makes the best balance between holding prisoners long enough to be an effective deterrent, and saving money by not holding people too long.
    Making jails profitable by privatizing them means (as discussed above) there’s a profit motive for getting a system that holds as many people as long as possible. (Remember the basic costs and the profit come from taxpayers).
    Making jails more profitable by letting corporations “lease” the prisoners to labor at slave wages for the corporations creates the same motivation to extend prison sentences – and also eliminates jobs for law-abiding people because the corp. can get it done cheaper by the jail. It’s odd that many who rail against illegal immigrants for stealing jobs, approve of corporate use of jail labor.
    (It is good for prisoners to have work to do. There have been some ingenious programs that let prisoners do good for the community and subsidize some of the costs of jails, without taking jobs from those Outside).

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  27. Since everyone else is chiming in on this… ahem… classic post, I will too.
    Dinah duly recognizes the effect of financial incentives. When someone’s making money off a particular legal regime, they have an incentive to protect and expand it.
    That, incidentally, is why government agencies _never_ die.
    Ultimately, if some corporations decide that using prison labor is good for their bottom line, they will support the continued availability and even expansion of prison labor, directly or indirectly. Others, far smarter than me and more diligent researchers to boot, have chronicled the vast expansion of federal criminal laws over the last few decades. The expansion of state criminal prohibitions could probably be catalogued similarly.
    Do I think that these are due to corporate influence? Not at all. There are few examples, if any, of corporations lobbying for additional penal statutes or stiffer sentencing requirements. In fact, an examination of the impetus behind increased criminal penalties and additional penal statutes usually reveals some kind of real or imagined concern among citizens about crime.
    Instead of corporate motivation, the larger cause of endless expansion of the criminal penal system is that legislators only have a few tools in their toolbox – taxing, spending, and legislating. If you the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem becomes a nail, as the saying goes. If you’ve got a hammer, a screwdriver, and a wrench, every problem is either a nail, a screw, or a nut. What does this mean? The leigslature spends a third of its time screwing you. [rim shot]
    In other words, it’s true that financial incentives may motivate corporations to encourage larger prison populations. But the real danger to personal liberty is the incentive of legislators to pass laws criminalizing everything under the sun.

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  28. Eric, an inmate at Monroe Correctional Complex, just spoke with we me concerning his job at Monroe Cor. Cmplx. where he has been working in the recycling unit. His job requires that he climb a mound of debris and pull out recyclable items such as paper, metals, etc. My concern is that he has no training in handling bio hazardous waste and his protection is only a pair of rubber gloves. He has informed me that he has found the red, plastic, bio bags, razor-blades, diabetic testing materials (which he is familiar with due to being a diabetic) rotted food complete with maggots, you get the point. He has gotten nauseous on this pile which is I’m sure he is not the first one to do so and inmates expectorate, urinate and defecate into the garbage cans which is also dumped on this pile for my son and others to sort through. My belief is that this waste should be burned, not handled, especially if handlers are untrained in the safe handling of bio hazardous waste. Today, my son refused to go up on the pile due to his continuous vomiting and is being threatened with repercussions such as charging him with infractions and taking away his good boy status (sorry, I do not know the correct terminology) to the point of being shipped out to another facility not minimum security. I agree that these men are offenders, but the potential risks involved here could have lifelong repercussions. I am not sure whom to contact regarding this so I am writing you. I have spoken with Debra Hunter,CPM at MCC, but did not receive a satisfactory response as to any investigation into the conditions of this job. I also spoke with Willie Dagle 360-794-2299 who is superintendent and although he reassured me that there has never been a life threatening disease contracted by an inmate due to their recycling system, I doubt if that type of follow up has even actually been done and advised me to advise my son to conform or the already mentioned punishments will be implemented. My son is not refusing to work, he simply cannot do that job without becoming nauseous and his small time sentence should not should not become a life sentence of illness. I am seriously concerned about the health aspects here

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  29. Wow, Cindy, that sounds really awful. Having seen the stupid stuff people put in the trash, this doesn’t sound unrealistic.
    He should definitely file a formal complaint and pursue that process, appealing or escalating the complaint if it remains unaddressed. It may be hard on him, but he could really change conditions for a lot of people if something this bad is going on and he can get it stopped.
    Good luck to you both!

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  30. ACLU might be a resource; if they didn’t have resources to pursue the case, they might refer to another agency that could help make the case.

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  31. ACLU might be a resource; if they didn’t have resources to pursue the case, they might refer to another agency that could help make the case.

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  32. very interested in your post as i am getting ready to post on this subject my self. I do believe the interest of companys using cheap prison “Slave labor”
    can be very dangerous to American citizens. Another way to further erode our freedoms

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  33. Slavery is an effective use of resources, we need to learn how to reimplement it in society. I think indentured servitude to corporations is an admirable start. If it trickled down to a domestic level that would be phenomenal. (Also please notice that I’m talking about present/future methods not past methods which were ineffective and considered by most immoral.)

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  34. I was in prison in Argentina. It was a political religious persecution. Although the conditions were bad and you had to watch out for other prisoners, the prison system itself was much more humane there than in the US. The US is following th path of Rome. Stated out as a pretty good republic (of course with many skeletons in the closet) and gradually progressing into an iron dictatorship. Much faster than Rome as technology also allows corruption to grow faster.

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  35. Can we get sources on the original post please? As much as I like to believe in the evil of the Machine, none of this has any weight or holds any water without evidence.

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  36. The sources are linked in the original post*, DJ Velveteen.
    (*which I probably would write differently if I approached the issue today. Perhaps sometime when work is not devouring my energy in the evenings, I will.)

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  37. Yes this is “slave labor”, but if your dumb ass pissed off society enough to land a stay in a jail cell then YOU DESERVE IT.
    Most inmates are bored to death anyway in jail, why not give them something to do while they are locked up? If I was in jail, I would PREFER to have some sort of job, paid or not, just to occupy time instead of punching walls or lifting weights or whatever inmates do.
    If you are locked up in jail, you are owned by the state for your allotted time for the good of society, and you should stop screwing up and making life miserable for the rest of us you cretins.

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  38. I just discovered this string. I found your comments interesting, but not as interesting as Dinah. Did anyone else notice that Dinah generally held one voice, but in one link took on a different syntactical identity. Did you do this for effect or what? I am an ultra lib teaching rhet on a college campus so that took away from the discussion. It seemed like you were mimicking a voice you knew nothing about. What’s the deal?

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  39. Uh, what? Con, I think maybe you’ve been on that college campus for a while. I’ve got academic leanings (and a masters degree) but even I had to read your comment several times to parse it. (What’s an “ultra lib teaching rhet”?)
    Do make note of the fact this post and the subsequent comments have taken place over five and a half years. That my writing style might vary with more than mood during a timespan like that seems unsurprising to me.
    Hard to answer your question though without knowing which comment you thought was the outlier (assuming that by “one link” you actually meant comment).

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  40. Sorry that I have not been able to read through the entire line of comments (time constraint). However, I am very eager to see real action develop to break the corruption and greed that has grown from the blatant misuse of our prison population. I would like to see continuing accuracy in the list of companies gaining from this. Any information that can be offered is welcome. Boycott, boycott, boycott! When writing to public servants and voting become impotent tools, we need to do something that works. How to get the word out?? My appreciation to everyone who has contributed to these comments.

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  41. I am doing a research project on Hanes Hosiery company. I need information about the company and when they applied slave labors in their company. Hanes is one of the American Corporations that uses slaves to make profit. Help anyone? Even just a little bit of hard hitting proof to present to my fellow peers.

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  42. ok, you guys talking about “conflict of interest” and “supply being manipulated to meet demand” are forgetting one very important thing, in this great nation, we have a system to prevent that: TRIAL BY JURY.
    The police and prosecutors who arrest someone and accuse him of a crime are the executive branch. The executive branch is elected.
    The judge who gives the sentence is a SEPARATE BRANCH OF GOVERNMENT, the judicial branch.
    The judge CANNOT GIVE A SENTENCE without a VERDICT HANDED DOWN BY A JURY. The Jury is ordinary people, A JURY OF THE ACCUSED’S PEERS.
    So, I’m sorry, prison labor in the great Nation of the United States of America is NOT the same as prison labor in, for example, China. We are a free country, we have checks and balances in our system of government, and you are presumed innocent until convicted BY A JURY OF YOUR PEERS.
    Keep things in perspective, people: THE USA IS THE GOOD GUYS.
    If you really have these twisted opinions that the USA is corrupt evil etc., no one is forcing you to stay. Go and live in Saudi Arabia, a truly fascist state, see if you like it. You will have to convert to Islam, as there is no freedom of religion there. Or you could go to China, a communist state. There is no freedom of religion there either; if you want to publish the King James Bible, you have to get permission from the government, because they feel that “religion is the opiate of the people.”
    Both places have prison labor, as well. But they don’t have the protections the the US Constitution has.
    –Brian

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  43. So What?
    Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time. At least this way convicts can be of SOME benefit to society as a whole. The last time I checked, GDP was negative… the economy can use all the help it can get. If that means rapists, murders, and the like have to do a bit of work in prison rather than sitting in their cells all day sucking tax dollars like the leaches they are, then so be it.

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  44. My experience is with Texas prisons, but most of what I say is across the board. I served ten calendar years in TX (I was guilty, lucky I didn’t get more, it’s behind me now). Southern prisons were originally and, to a large extent still are, run as plantations. While the agricultural part is nowhere near where it used to be the mindset is still there – inmates are slaves. As another posted mentioned, TX does not pay inmates for labor – three hots and a cot and cash at the door (was $200 when I got out, no idea of the status now). Up until the late 80’s beatings and killings (by the staff, mind you) were common and accepted practices (see Ruiz v. Estelle, 503 F.Supp. 1265 (S.D. Tex. 1980).
    There is no rehabilitation going on; it’s just caging and warehousing. There are some programs and they have value but those only exist because someone made enough noise that it couldn’t be ignored. I had enough spirit/fortitude/whatever to rise above that within me that got me there – I can’t say as much for the vast majority of men I did time with. Most of them exited in worse shape then when they entered.
    Money (meaning public funds gained from taxes) is squandered on a daily basis but certainly not on the inmates. I was there when TX started there big prison-building plan – cost overruns were the order of the day and, frankly, everyone knew where the money was going. Cost overruns in construction typically are because of labor costs (mismanagement of labor causing work to be done too slowly or need to be redone). But since the vast majority of the work was done by unpaid inmate labor, what was causing the overruns? During the construction of Beto I, outside Tennessee Colony, a Caterpillar bulldozer came up missing. The official report read “inmate theft.” Nice.
    As to the instant topic (i.e. inmate labor as slavery). I recall reading somewhere that TX has a little bit of this (after my time and I don’t put a lot of energy into keeping up with prison issues) but it’s big in other states. For example there is a call-center in the AZ system; inmates get about seventy-five cents/hour and it’s hard to get the job, easy to lose it. Well, they’re being paid so it’s not slave labor, right? No, but they are being exploited.
    It amazes me how very, very little the average citizen really knows about what really goes on in the Criminal Justice system. No one really wants to deal with it, they prefer someone else do it and not bother them with the dirty details. Then there’s all the shock and outrage when things come to life yet those of us who lived it (and are typically ignored, being written off as “bunch of whining, sniveling cons”) just shrug and look at such people in wonder. Did you think it was Romper Room? Excesses abound, the criteria for working in the prison system are almost non-existent and, once in, the Thin Blue Line takes effect. There are criminals in parts of the system who will never come to justice because they wear a badge.
    So, when I read this topic at the top of the page, all I could do was shake my head and wonder why people are so surprised.

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  45. 9 11 wasnt funded by drug money. you realize we do nothing to stop opium trade in afgan but in usa we are crushing people for simple pom. come on wake up man, we are all slaves to the gov’t and $. look up howard zinn the history of war and uses on terrorism. you may be enlightened to know that 9-11 and all that propaganda from then on was to create $ for corps owned buy key contributors to the administration at the time. if you really think rr and hw bush were good prez s you are a fool…are you an nra member too?

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