Toward the end of the workday at the prison factory (UNICOR), one of the tools—a hammer—turned up missing. Before we could return to the housing units for count and dinner, all tools had to be accounted for and locked in the toolroom.
When a preliminary search failed to find it, the inmate who had checked it out and the 5 others in his crew who had access to it, were ‘cuffed and taken to the hole.
Collective punishment: In its more extreme forms, the Nazis were prosecuted for it at Nuremberg. The federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) uses the nomenclature, Common Area Punishment.
Still, there was the problem of the missing hammer. Doug Moyer, the Supervisor of Industries (one of the more retribution & punishment oriented jumped-up prison guards) called for a full-strip search of the worker-prisoners, about 250 of us. more…
In several previous articles here at the American tribune, I’ve spoken to the issues of prison industries.
In prison, everyone has a job. It’s enshrined, in fact, in the U.S. Constitution. At the conclusion of the American Civil War, an exception clause was inserted into the 13th Amendment (1865), which ostensibly prohibited slavery and involuntary servitude “except as a punishment for crime…”
So, when some of my more libertarian buds crank out, “Hey! They can’t do that! I got rights!” Actually, they can. The only “rights” we have are those they choose to give us. They don’t call us outlaws for nothing. more…
In Prison Jobs (1), I spoke to the general issue of prisoner employment and pay throughout the United States—50 independent prison systems. In this segment, I’ll address the federal system.
UNICOR Furniture Factory
Most facility jobs, as in the state prison systems, start and pretty much end at 12¢/hr. The major exception is UNICOR.
Relatively speaking, Federal Prison Industries, Inc. (UNICOR) is a bright spot in the American gulag. Created by Congress back in the midst of the last depression (1934) with the cooperation of gov’t and American unions, it’s controlled by a 5-member Board of Directors appointed by the president. more…
During the 20 years I’ve spent in the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), I’ve witnessed a variety of sexual situations. There was only one that I could consider to have been coerced. The kid (maybe 20) was a nervous wreck and scared like a chicken spotting a hawk.
Sal Mineo & Don Johnson
He was in and out so fast—checked into segregation and was apparently transferred—that I never did get his story. But I have no shortage of others…
FCI Ray Brook, Lake Placid, NY, was a form of international village of prisoners (in fact, it started out as the Athelete’s Village for the 1980 US Winter Olympics). No one ever accused the US of failing to Romanize the world… more…
“Hey, Mac! You got a minute?”
Finishing up some production procurements on the govt’s internal computer system, I strolled over to where several fellow prison Business Office workers and the Associate Warden (AW) were having an argument.
Being one of the resident inmates taking college courses, I had occasion to being asked information and opinions related to education.
It was 1994. We were in a federal, medium-security prison. Congress was debating legislation to eliminate prisoners from getting Pell Grants. more…
One afternoon, the Business Manager was discussing the need to hire another CPA for all the work coming into our local Federal Prison Industries, Inc., factory, UNICOR.
As the clerk to the Factory Manager, I suggested that I had an idea for how to get an accountant for practically free from the prison population.
“Really?” said the Business Manager. “Do you know an inmate here who’s a CPA?”
“Not exactly,” I replied. “But I have an idea. Contact the local U.S. Attorney’s office and ask them to mail a plea deal out to every CPA listed in the local Yellow Pages.
“Have them offer, say, a three-year plea bargain on an open felony charge in return for immunity from prosecution for anything else.”
The Business Manager turned to the Factory Manager with a smirk, “Your clerk has quite a sense of humor…”
“No, really! Try it,” I said. “I’ll bet you get acceptance letters from maybe half of them—or bankers, lawyers, doctors–whomever you want. “I mean, basically, that’s how the system works.”
When FCI Schuylkill, PA, first opened back in ’92, I was one of the first prisoners bused there. I resumed my usual clerk’s job at the prison factory.
- Arbeit Macht Frie
As the prison filled up, a logo design contest was held for the factory. The design I submitted was of a factory belching smoke on a hilltop with a long snaking line of prisoners in chains. Over the gate to the prison they filed thru was a sign reading: Arbeit Macht Frie.
To my utter amazement, I soon became one of the five finalists in the contest. Being interviewed by Mike Campanale, the Associate Warden of Industries (AW-I) and his staff, they asked me what the slogan on the gate stood for?
I was working in the prison factory, UNICOR, as a quality assurance clerk. One of my co-workers was a younger, tall, handsome guy who spent a lot of time doting over his daughter. The arrival of her latest picture was always cause for his joy and pride. I’d guess the little girl was maybe 3 or 4. He’s not alone. More than 2 million children in the U.S. have an incarcerated parent.
Jimmy was in for transporting several pounds of marijuana in the trunk of his car “for a friend.” He said it wasn’t even his and he wasn’t in the business. He toked and enjoyed a beer from time to time, but mostly, from what I could judge, he was just a working class guy in the construction trades with a young family–and a fateful decision. more…