Monday, 17 May 2010

Prisoners-Slaves of the 21st Century

by Genea Waters

Labour is compulsory for British prisoners. If they refuse to submit to it they are punished by being put on 'basic' regime, being segregated, having restricted visits, and even having their sentences extended.

Prisons that contract their labour out to private business and especially privately run prisons are the ideal capitalist model. Private companies own the prisons, which are being paid for by the prisoners in the workshops, produced by slave labour and they also control where prisoners spend their money. They are at work, then they are locked up, then they are there ready to start work the next day. They don't have days off sick, don't get sick pay, can't go on holiday, can't hide and pretend to be ill. They are always there for the company and everything they earn goes back to the company. Private prisons routinely neglect their prisoners because they are looking to make more profit and will make cutbacks wherever they can.
The Situation In America
A survey in 2000 predicted that 1 in every 9 men will be imprisoned during their life and there is a disproportionate number of prisoners from Black and Asian backgrounds. But something that almost all prisoners have in common is that they are working class. This new American penal theory has been born nationwide to duplicate the 18th century ploy of enslavement by colonizing mass people in high tech plantations without benefits or advantages from the state of servitude.

Contrary to what most Americans may believe, slavery was not abolished under the 13th Amendment. Any study of the prison industrial complex quickly reveals that forces with a financial interest in a big prison population have helped to cause and perpetuate the prison boom. The American state holds 2 million people in prison on any given day, four times the number in 1980, because there is money in it. This represents the highest per capita incarceration rate in the history of the world. In 1995 alone, 150 new US prisons were built and filled. It is rapidly becoming an essential component of the US economy. They endlessly lobby for tough laws and the privatization of prisons.

Prisons are big business in four ways. Firstly, state correctional departments are turning their prisons into factories. Secondly, corporations are forming partnerships with prison authorities to provide goods and services for their customers. Thirdly, prisoners are increasingly seen as a captive market (literally) that can be exploited as consumers. Lastly, the prison regime is increasingly being colonized by the corporations, as justice is privatized. These companies are making huge profits as wages are very low, and they are not required to pay holiday pay, provide for industrial injuries, sick leave, and health insurance. There are no strikes, no union organizing, no unemployment insurance and no language problems, unlike investing abroad. The company pays rent to the Department of Corrections for factory space at prices well below market rates and pay no local, state or federal income taxes. This work teaches the inmates little or no useful skills for life outside prison and does nothing to reduce re-offending. Economically depressed areas are falling over each other to secure a prison facility of their own.

Prisoners do data entry for Chevron, make telephone reservations for TWA, raise hogs, shovel manure, make circuit boards, water beds and underwear for Victoria's Secret, all at a fraction of the cost of 'free labour'. Small companies complain that they are being driven out of business by prison companies. US Technologies sold its electronic plant in Austin, Texas, making 150 workers unemployed. Six weeks later, the electronics plant reopened in a nearby prison.

Prisoners are both captive workers and captive consumers. It is estimated that inmate calls, most of which must be made collect, generate an estimated $1bn or more each year. MCI Maximum Security and North American Intelecom have both been caught overcharging. Inmates are forced to work, and what little they are paid they are forced to use to pay for basic necessities, from medical care, to toilet paper, or to use to law library! Many states are now charging 'room and board'.

Like PFI in Briton inspired by the prison-building programme in America a private company will either run the prison for a Government agency, or build and operate its own. Private prisons are built and run more cheaply than state prisons but not because the private sector is more efficient, most of the savings come from cut backs in facilities, staff, education, and the use of non union labour. Correctional officers in private prisons usually earn lower wages, while receiving fewer benefits and no pension. Substandard diets, extreme overcrowding and abuse by poorly trained personnel have all been routinely documented. Federal regulations concerning the interstate shipment of cattle are much stricter than those concerning the shipment of prisoners.

A state judge in New Orleans removed 6 teenaged boys from a private owned juvenile prison. The judge said they had been treated "no better than animals" and was partly due to the private run complex cutting costs. They had gone without food, clothing, education and medical treatment. A quarter of the inmates were 'traumatically injured' in a 2 month period, many by untrained guards. Dr Nancy Ray, an author of a report on the place, said many boys had no shoes or jackets in the winter, some were forced to spend the day huddled under a shared sheet or blanket to keep warm, rather than attend classes.

In the year 2000 alone prison labour made over 9 billion dollars in shareholder profit and replaced 4000,000 jobs otherwise done by the normal workforce.

Back In The UK
The situation here is rapidly becoming as bad. In this country we now have the highest per capita prison population in Europe for the first time. The UK is introducing prison privatization into the continent from the US.  Some jails cannot have so much as a postage stamp sent in. Aramark is a US company that has prospered on the misery of incarceration. It is now contracted to do catering, cleaning and run prison canteens in the UK. When they take control over the prison canteen prices go up (sometimes double) and the quality and range goes down. Prisoners are not even allowed to choose a birthday card themselves.

Dysons recently decided to move their operation to Malaysia in order to exploit cheap labour, but this was simply a continuation of their policy of using cheap, non-unionized labour in Full Sutton prison.

Prisons do not rehabilitate or re-educate, their primary purpose is to enslave. Prison industries throw prisoners in direct competition with civilian workers, inmates are exploited and the jobs provide few real skills.

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