Stop Prison Labor

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Stop these corporations from utilizing prison labor.
End prison labor in the US by fixing the 13th amendment.

There are 2.2 million people in the nation’s prisons and jails—a 500% increase over the last 40 years. A series of law enforcement and sentencing policy changes of the “tough on crime” era resulted in dramatic growth in incarceration. The number of people sentenced to prison for property and violent crimes has also increased even during periods when crime rates have declined. Sentencing policies, implicit racial bias, and socioeconomic inequality contribute to racial disparities at every level of the criminal justice system. Today, people of color are 37% of the U.S. population but 67% of the prison population. Overall, African Americans are more likely than white Americans to be arrested; once arrested, they are more likely to be convicted; and once convicted, they are more likely to face stiff sentences. 

 After Lincoln abolished slavery at the end of the Civil War, a system of hiring prisoners was introduced, which is evidently just another form of slavery. Instead of blatant, mandatory labor, slavery transitioned into prisons as police arrested and targeted black people. Shortly after the Civil War, the police often arrested freed slaves for not completing their sharecropping commitments, petty thievery, or for false claims with little to no proper evidence. Owners of cotton plantations, coal mines, and railroads, began to exploit the prisoners by utilizing their labor for little or no wages. In Mississippi and other states, prison FARMS replaced slave plantations, and some existed until the 1970s. In california, prisoners earn $0.08 to $0.95 an hour. Even though the 13th amendment prohibited slavery in 1865, it also states that the government may implement prison labor as forms of punishment for crimes. Prison labor is, unfortunately, very much legal according to our Constitution.

A public prison is naturally non-profit and owned by the government, whereas private prisons are owned by corporations. Private prisons receive stipends from the government: the more prisoners, the more money they recieve. The true goal of prisons is to prevent future crime. However, since the goal of corporations that own private prisons is to earn money, a higher prison population is necessary. They earn profit through the reduction of essential services, like cleaning. Suppose a prison ceases the cleaning services and the cost per prisoner drops to $90 per day. They instantly earn an additional $10 per day; a number that amasses quickly if there are 1,000 prisoners in the facility. Reducing essential services earns companies profit, yet provides unhealthy and inhumane living conditions for the inmates. The law is structured in such a way that allows a steady stream of new inmates. Stricter laws lead to higher rates of incarceration, and more money. This is the entire reason why the War on Drugs was started: to impose another set of laws that could incarcerate thousands of people every single year and earn corporations even more profit.

Prison labor: Corporations can own private prisons, as stated previously, or utilize incarcerated people to perform labor. The following list provides examples of some companies that do so and alternatives: 

McDonald’s
Uses prison labor to create employee uniforms.

Walmart
Contracts companies that use prison labor to manufacture their products

Alternative: Safeway.

Victoria’s Secret
Paid inmates with peanuts to make expensive lingerie.

In the late 90’s two prisoners were placed in solitary confinement for informing journalists that they were employed to complete this job.

Alternative: Organic Basics