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Prison Jobs (4)…

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.

But take heart.  Used to be in olden days when our previous masters declared us outlaws, anyone on the pike could kill us on sight with impunity.  There’s a few in the political and corporate stratosphere today that would like to bring back those days.  Give ‘em time; they’re trying–when their not turning us into their profit.

In general, the prison itself assigns inmates to perform practically all of its internal functions.  When one goes thru A&O (Admissions & Orientation), part of the assessment includes any skills you might have.

Such facilities work includes housing and ground’s maintenance; kitchen staff; laundry; medical, education and recreation orderlies; carpenters, plumbers, electricians, welding and construction; etc.

For the most part, if there is any pay at all (which goes into your personal account to spend at the commissary, phone, etc.), it usually runs from about 12¢-to-40¢/hr.  If you make, say, $40-$50/mo., you’re doing pretty good.  Few make that.

Prisons supply very few amenities.  Less all the time.  If you’re not getting money from home, then the more entrepreneurial prisoners have some kind of hustle.  Cleaning rooms, shoes, laundry, running a small store (you get 1 and owe back 2, whatever), drugs, gambling, hootch, tattoos, massages, blow jobs, extortion, you name it.  In other words, just like the “free world.”

In the fed joints there’s usually a UNICOR factory.  Maybe 200-or-so out of some 800 prisoners can work there.  Pay averages out to 93¢/hr.  There’s often a 2-yr waiting list to get in.

UNICOR was created by Congress back in 1933 as a gov’t-owned corporation, like the Postal Service or Amtrac.  UNICOR produces goods and services exclusively for other gov’t agencies.

If the prisoner-employee has a court-ordered fine, restitution, family-support, etc., then up to 50% of their salary is deducted for such.  Still, it beats the alternatives.

Many of the state prisons also have factories.  They used to perform a variety of state-supporting labor.  That’s changing.  Gradually, as prisons created consumer goods, Congress enacted laws prohibiting the interstate sale of these products.

More recently, Congress passed various Acts allowing state prisons, in partnership with private enterprise, to engage in for-profit, interstate sales of prison-labor goods under certain restrictions.  One of the rules is for prisoners to be paid the local industry standard for comparable work.  (The prison, of course, takes up to 80% of their salary for room & board, etc.)

In any event, the industry cheats the inmates at every turn.  Thru a variety of “training” scams and others, they keep them at minimal wages, if that.  If an inmate clears 40¢/hr., he’s doing good.

National prison industry consultant, Bob Sloan, documents these practices to the US Attorney’s Office and the various states Attorneys General.  But it’s all an uphill battle.  The authorizing and monitoring agencies are comprised of prison and private industry members.  Truly the fox guarding the henhouse.

As the mass of prisoners continues to grow, it’s inevitable that vultures will seek to profit from it.  In addition to the prison-labor industry, there is the industry itself of private prisons.  Thru contracts with the states and federal gov’t, entrepreneurs use prisoners themselves as the commodity.

Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the Geo Group are examples of private, for-profit prisons.  Central to their success is a continuous supply of prisoners.

That task is aided by legislators who create laws that criminalize the behavior of immigrant workers (as they’re rounded up by proto-fascist forces like ICE, they’re held for increasingly longer and longer periods of time).

Arizona is a major player in that process as CCA and the Geo Group currently are awarded over $11 million/mo. in that state alone for their “detention.”

American Tribune will endeavor to bring you specific news on this issue…

         Dr. Publico

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2 Responses
  1. Roger Liebmann says:

    Excellent commentary – Thanks for that.

    Wonder how many prisoners escape from the private prisons?

    Will they lower custodial costs at the expense of security?

    Ramping up laws to keep the prisons full is a worry.

    Rogue

  2. publico says:

    Thanx for the comment. Good idea on the escaped prisoners of pvt vs. public prisons. I’ll do an article on that soon…

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