Today the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. These inmates are disproportionately the impoverished and people of color. Inside prison, these individuals are compelled to work in often sub-standard conditions for less than $1.00/hr, virtually unable to save money with which to build a better life upon release from prison. How is this not modern day slavery?
Many prisoners leave jail in debt, with a higher propensity for violence than they had upon entering prison, with more psychological problems than they already had, and with more difficulty re-integrating into their communities, finding jobs and getting education.
If we did not allow slavery within the prisons, and forced not only UNICOR but all corporations who do currently or might in the future profit from exploitative convict labor to maintain standard or above standard working conditions and pay rates, this would allow for prisoners to actually build something with which to contribute to society, put money into local economies when they get out, and stabilize them upon re-entry into society so that they would be less likely to engage in crime for survival. We would thereby combat the recidivism rates.
The many adverse effects of the current prison system are disseminated throughout society such that no single piece of legislation can fix them. However, the absolute abolition of all forms of slavery is our responsibility as a nation.
Further, the tangible effects of allowing these prisoners to profit off of the hard work they are already compelled to do in prison would benefit the economy by giving them spending power upon release from prison, rather than forcing them to be dependent on public benefits even after they are freed.
Finally, by allowing these prisoners who are already compelled to work to be paid for that work, they can help support their families while they are in prison. This will combat child poverty rates, which are disproportionately high in the United States compared to other developed nations. It would help support single mothers. The abolition of slavery would thereby alleviate many poverty-related issues in the United States. With a prison population in the millions, this would constitute a massive direct economic stimulus.