Sunday, June 26, 2016

US Prisons The new Slavery


                                                  From The Ramparts
                                                Junious Ricardo Stanton
                                            US Prisons The New Slavery

            "'Insourcing,' as prison labor is often called, is an even cheaper alternative to outsourcing. Instead of sending labor over to China or Bangladesh, manufacturers have chosen to forcibly employ the 2.4 million incarcerated people in the United States. Chances are high that if a product you’re holding says it is “American Made,” it was made in an American prison".

            If you haven't read Michelle Alexander's best selling book The New Jim Crow Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness please read it soon. She documents the creation and rise of the prison industrial complex's underclass of Black and Brown prisoners who have been stripped of: their  citizen rights, the right to vote, the right to serve on a jury, severely minimizes their employment opportunities, eliminates financial aid for education, and their ability to secure public housing. The sad reality is the US gulag system was ramped up by President Bill Clinton with major support from his wife Hillary who campaigned hard for legislation that created a sharp spike in federal and state prison construction and the rise of Wall Street traded private prisons.
            When our people are locked up they are usually forgotten except by their families. Unless they are a celebrity, very little is known about what happens once those steel doors slam behind them and become engulfed into the prison culture. Even if they are not subjected to atrocities, torture  or horrid conditions they are for all intents and purposes now slaves.
            Slavery in the US was legally outlawed by the Thirteenth Amendment but that amendment contains language that says, "except for punishment of crimes."  So what we have is not just a new Jim Crow (apartheid) in the US but also slavery. Many of us are familiar with US history following the War Between the States and the end of so called "Reconstruction" whereby Southern Blacks were routinely arrested on bogus and trumped up charges sanctioned by legislation enacted by most of the former Confederate States called the Black Codes. These laws reinstituted the subservient status of Black people, severely restricted their movement and activities.  Once Blacks were arrested they were often "hired out"  to plantation owners, the railroads, mines or did forced labor for the county or state. That system still exists today.  
            Racism and class bias are endemic in the "justice system" and seeking fairness and justice is not easy. The costs of securing a competent legal criminal defense and all that goes with it such as investigators and support staff are prohibitive for most people. Most people are forced to rely on the Public Defenders who are overworked and overwhelmed by the volume of their caseloads. This overload is due to the draconian laws passed at the behest of lobbyists who pushed for anti crime laws that mandated prison time that benefited their clients; the for profit private prison companies.  
            State and federal prison systems actively collude with corporations to use their inmates to make the corporation's products. These companies only pay inmates a pittance in some cases less than $1 a day. More and more corporations are turning to prison labor to increase their profits. Corporations that directly or indirectly use prison labor are:  At&T, Walmart, McDonalds, Whole Foods, Victoria's Secret, Wendy's Starbucks, Verizon, Sprint to name a few. For an extensive list of companies involved in prison labor use go to    America imprisons more people than any country in the world. It's not about reducing crime, it's about profit. Prison labor the new slavery is one of the reasons.



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