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Oh boy, another week and another series of articles related to prison labor and the never-ending pursuit of profits from, and exploitation of prisoners.

First a new story published yesterday from out of Illinois.  Unbelievable but expected in this period of every state trying to make a little money anyway they can off of inmates.  Illinois inmate Kensley Hawkins was sentenced in 1982 for murder and assaulting two police officers, receiving 60 years.  Once in prison Hawkins went to work for the prison industry.  He has worked steadily for them since 1982 - 29 straight years.  The industry program pays Hawkins a whopping $2.00 per day for work making wood furniture, plus occasional small commissions on the products he makes and the industry sells.  Hawkins is scheduled for parole in 2028.  The prison industry program allows the state to take up to 3% of Hawkins' wages to go toward paying for his incarceration - which they have taken over the entire period he's worked in the prison industry program.

Over the years Hawkins has done just what corrections authorities want inmates to do; save some of their earning to go toward supporting them upon release.  We've all heard stories about inmates getting out of prison with no money, family or way to make a living or feed themselves and wind up back in prison in months.

In inmate Hawkins' case he socked away as much money as he could for the day he would eventually be released.  To date his savings add up to $11,000.00 because instead of buying snacks, books or other items available at the canteen, Hawkins put most of his money into the savings account for his release- as prison authorities suggested.

Now the state is going after Hawkins' savings account, suing him under state law  that allows Illinois to charge prisoners for their incarceration costs.  They sued him for more than $455,000 the state spent to house him from July 1, 1983, to March 17, 2005, or an average of about $57 a day!  The state's position is that though the prison industry laws allow the state to take a percentage of an inmate's wages to offset some of the costs of incarceration, they are not precluded from going after more if there is a source available.

A lower state appellate court ruled in favor of the Department of Corrections, awarding them a judgment of the $455,000.00, but did not allow them to seize Hawkins' money because both sides have appealed the case to the Illinois Supreme Court.  The ironic part of this story is that the state says they will go after incarceration costs from current or former inmates.  The threshold that determines if they sue or not is $10,000.00.  If Hawkins had of spent his money on zoo-zoos, wham-whams and sweetie-golds at the prison canteen over the past three decades, the state wouldn't have proceeded to go after his savings.

This story brings up important issues across the full spectrum of incarceration, prison industries and slave labor.  First it raises the issue of whether or not making an inmate work for pennies per hour is right or qualifies as slave labor.  Secondly where there is a provision for paying an inmate those pennies per hour and taking a portion for the costs of incarceration, shouldn't the amount authorized and taken be all that is required?  Of course, where politicians are concerned, there are always "buts" attached to any legislation, and where the politicians are conservatives and inmate labor, prison industries and money are involved lawmakers are willing to change the laws to benefit the state - always.

A system whereby an inmate can be worked for years and if he/she saves money to assist them upon release, is an ideal situation that takes the pressure of reentry program costs and the inmate as well.  For years legislators and prison authorities have implemented programs, such as the PIE Program that urges inmates working in prison industries to save money for their release.  Now that an inmate has done just that, the state authorities want to take it all to pay for their incarcerating that inmate and leave him with no money to assist in transitioning back to his community.  The fact that the inmate is now 60 years old and has another 17 years to parole may be one of the factors looked at by the state.  If they believe he's unlikely to live that long or will not need that much money if/when he is paroled - due to his age - maybe they see the money in his account as something he will have little use for.  I disagree, however.  This man has been in prison so long that when he does get out he won't be young enough to work, he won't qualify for Social Security, Medicare or many other social programs.  I don't know if you see it or not, but I see the revolving door of imprisonment just waiting for inmate Hawkins and many more in Illinois and elsewhere.

Over the past months I have written extensively about the federal PIE Program that most state prison industries participate in (IL. is not a participant) that allows the prison industries to deduct room and board costs from the inmate's wages to reimburse society for the costs of incarceration.  I identified Florida and Minnesota as two of the states that actively take these allowed deductions and keep the money for themselves to pay for their work programs - in effect using as much as 40% of the money earned by inmates to fund the industry operations.

PIECP and now Illinois laws are being used to exploit prison workers at every turn now.  Not only are they being exploited, but that action puts the burden squarely upon the community's shoulders to care for an inmate when released.  They work them as long and hard as possible for the least amount of wages possible, allow the corporate partners to make as much money from that work and low wages as they can, and then turn the inmates loose back in their communities with no funds, no real job skills and no support.  Might as well put a fucking sign over the release portal that says "Hurry Back!"

As I wrote last week the conservative lawmakers in Oklahoma are seeking to empty the prison industry coffers of that state to the tune of nearly $7 million dollars.  $1.75 million was already pledged to the DOC by the prison industries, but the department wants it all.  The use for the money?  So that prison workers will only have to take one furlough day a month instead of three or four.  Great idea, eliminate the only training available to the inmate, the source of income for the industries and shut it all down so a few guards won't have to lose a couple of days pay a month for a period of about 6 months.  This is merely another clear indication that once empowered conservatives go after the money - no matter where it is, what it is used for or the impact upon those they take the money from - rather than allow the richest among us to pay a fair share of taxes.  Today the bill allowing the use of this money moves to the Governor's desk for signing into law.

I also wrote about the use of federal prisoners to make Patriot Missile components for the U.S. Military, manufactured by Lockheed Martin.  Lockheed immediately denied any use of prison labor in the manufacture of any of their products for the military, demanding that the author of the article make necessary corrections to the article deleting their name being involved with prison labor.  However as the article linked to above, provides ample documentation from the U.S. Department of Justice bragging about UNICOR manufacturing "guidance components" for the Patriot Missile system, military fighters (F-15 and F-16).  As always, when the public is informed about the involvement of large corporations using inmate labor, they all run for the shadows and loudly deny any participation.

The Patriot Missile expose wasn't the end of this story though - regardless of the wishes of Lockheed.  On the heels of these articles came another advising that the U.S. Army handed a contract to UNICOR to manufacture all of the body armor needed for them.  The contract is valued at $20 million dollars, and as the article points out, UNICOR was a curious choice due to the recent recall of more than 40,000 military helmets that failed the ballistic testing.

While Lockheed and other corporate giants continue to realize huge profits from exploiting prisoners as a cheap labor source, they continue to attempt to deny their involvement in such use.  They fear the public knowing about their duplicity - and how the huge profits they earn are actually made from the slave labor of state and federal prison industries.  Where the government is concerned, they don't care if you know of the use of prison labor or not, as they issue contract after contract to UNICOR.  More contracts = more inmates put to work = more private sector jobs taken from the private sector and sent to prison where they work for slave labor rates for corporations.

In the 80's Conservatives and their corporate sponsors and funders developed a program to imprison millions of Americans.  They wrote and sponsored hundreds of crime bills and legislation in order to do this.  New laws involving punishment for drug use and laws to increase length of sentences imposed, abolish parole and expand prison industries were the tools they used.  They implemented a campaign to make all Americans fear a false announcement of rising crime rates to assist them in their efforts.  Now more than 30 years later they have imprisoned 2.5 million of us and pick and choose workers from that group to manufacture their goods and provide their services.  They do this to reduce wages and increase profits.  A fairly simplistic formula overall, but it worked.

In the 2010 election cycle the conservatives prevailed at the polls - with the unlimited funding provided by the same sponsors, Koch Industries, Heritage Foundation, Reason Foundation, ALEC, etc.  Now with control of one house in D.C. and many state governorships and assemblies under their control, they are in a position to go after our Unions, collective bargaining and the minimum wage laws.  This has been a goal of theirs over this 30 year period and the use of prison labor helped them to do just that.  With the transfer of so many jobs to prison industries our labor force has been diminished, with more and more people jobless and from that, they have less influence over employment issues and laws - and less time to devote to such issues as they simply try and feed their families.

This is the environment of today - demonstrations ongoing from coast to coast.  Many workers are taking time off to travel to rallies and show their support for worker's rights and to stop the abolishing of collective bargaining and the imposition of right to work laws.  What we have to understand is this: during this period of labor strife in the U.S. the corporations behind all of this are without harm.  While we give up days of work to fight them and the conservatives, inmates are working overtime to make their products and keep the profits rolling in.  While we fight in the streets prisoners are being used behind prison fences to keep the money rolling in to pay for the costs to the corporations to wage this war.  We are clearly at a disadvantage in the financial costs of this class warfare.  Until and unless we can  impact upon the income being made by the corporations through prison industries, their unlimited profits from slave labor will continue as we grow weaker.

The one thing we have of value that can be used to overcome this attack is our votes.  We have the numbers on our side and as others have suggested, recalling of those Republicants and their corporate masters is a step that has to be taken.  We must recall all of the conservatives with their hands in the corporate till and start electing those who will do the will of the people instead of the will of the corporate $$$.

Now it really is necessary to "take back our country" from those who have bought our jobs, our wealth, our political offices and our government.

Originally posted to Bob Sloan on Wed Mar 16, 2011 at 10:03 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.


Can we vote these "Koch-Dealers" out of office and replace them with politicians who will pursue the public interests?

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Comment Preferences

  •  I'll be back (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    WI Deadhead, in the Trees

    This isn't slave labor.  They do have a choice.  I also spend a lot time in prisons.

    I have to go teach of bunch of recently release prisoners how to  describe the jobs they have done in prison, to potential employers.  

    •  I'm in MN n/t (0+ / 0-)
    •  Yes they have a choice...but if that choice (12+ / 0-)

      is to exist with no income versus some income, many choose to work for this small amount.  The PIE Program requires their voluntary participation, but most inmates are not completely informed of the pay, deductions or other requirements.

      Federal prisoners must all work.  Their job assignments are up to the classification assignment team and if they are assigned to the prison industries they do the work required of them.  The fact that they do the same jobs as civilians for pennies an hour compared to dollars an hour allows corporations to shift work inside prisons to avoid paying prevailing and fair wages to private sector workers.

      I'll be interested to read your interpretation when you come back.

      "Inmates should be reformed - not recycled"

      by Bob Sloan on Wed Mar 16, 2011 at 10:51:10 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm back (4+ / 0-)

        Part of your argument is related to wage and another is related to what they are building and yet another part is the ability of a state to recoup or take those funds.

        In the case of a convicted least he doesn't live in TX.

        I'll give you an idea of the level of manufacturing capability in the prison that I went to.  

        They could make a mean calendar, fix a car, install a light, and sew some leather gloves.  That's about it.  

        The bragging that UNICOR does about it's services must be  limited to a specific geographic location.

        Having seen the manufacturing capabilities of the particular prison I was at, I can't say that the body armor deal is that technical.  Most of it is probably sewing the final parts together or just assembly of pre-made parts.  

        They make other stuff as well, now for someone(as in anyone) who is anti-war, this is a major issue but for someone like me, I assume that the military will not be trusting it's more important production requirements to our federal prisons, who are often occupied by people with lots of manufacturing experience, if I may.  

        So my point with the type of stuff they make is that it varies.  I don't have a problem if they stop making components for the military but I don't have a problem if they continue either.  It's not fair to use what is probably a minor part of prison labor as an umbrella that over shadows everything else they do.

        I talked to a guy that was in quality assurance...17 years in with 1st degree murder over his head and he was getting out within a week.  In prison for the past 17 years this guy was the same age as me.  This guy was proud of the work he did, he was proud of the fact that he was given some extra responsibility, and that he was the example that the auditors used when it came time to check his work.  He was most proud of the fact that he was going to be able to train the next person in.  He wanted the next person to have the same level of pride in the job that he did.  Could they pay him more?  Sure, but he has been boarded for the past 17 years with all of his supplies paid for and he killed someone...that's also a reality, and he would rather the experience, than to have someone on the outside do it.  He is going to have to get a job once he gets out or they will send him back.  Do you think he really cares about the amount he got paid?  It was more of a annoyance to him than anything.  He's scared as shit to leave and needs all the help he can get.

        I ended up talking to 15 other guys just like him that day and will continue doing the same thing for the foreseeable future.  Many of them have never worked and yes they could be paid more but in the case of the guys doing auto work, the cars are donated and go to poor people that don't have cars at no cost.  Where does the money come from?  The guys in the printing shop were making from 4 - 6 hundred per month.

        I don't want you to think I have no concept on some of the ills of the system but if you are writing stuff about it and it is obviously something you are passionate about, you have some responsibility to talk about how this type of thing can really help people.   I work on a team of people dedicated to working with these men and women and we know it is a tough spot to be in, but it's not slave labor.

        Please don't be offended but I have to ask.  Have you ever been inside a prison to see how this type of thing works?

        I see you have lots of diaries talking about slave labor but when you say that they aren't training these people, that's crap.  A lot of the people in federal prison have never done a damnnd thing for work and they aren't exactly training them to be customer service reps.  Lots of dishwashers, custodians, and line cooks.  Maybe a noob electrician or mechanic but nothing that will give anyone a leg up.  

        I appreciate the fact that you see this as an issue but without the work history people that serve in prison will pay even worse for the crimes they committ.  

        It's only my opinion but you should dial back the rhetoric because you are not presenting a balanced view of this.

        •  I do not object to training inmates so they will (13+ / 0-)

          be better able to secure employment upon release, mim5677.  This is an important aspect of any rehabilitation effort.  And yes, there are multiple facets to the issue I've written about and I am passionate about both the exploitation of inmates and the profits made from such exploitation.

          I did work within a prison industry in Florida for PRIDE for several years.  I worked in both PIE and non-PIE projects for that company.  So I am familiar with the operations that go on inside prison industries and can write about the subject from that POV.  I too was proud of my efforts and the accomplishments made working under those conditions.

          My complaints are centered upon exploitation of the inmate workers by the prison industries and their corporate partners.  There in Minnesota - and I take it that is the operation you are familiar with - they along with 43 other state prison industries participate in the federal Prison Industries Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP).  This program allow prison industries to partner with private sector corporations and businesses to use inmate labor to manufacture their products that are then sold upon open markets in direct competition with private sector manufacturers.

          Your assessment of the abilities of inmate workers in the prison industries of today are incorrect.  Though there may be some industries that have such primitive work-training projects, most have moved far beyond simple sewing, car repairs or basic printing operations.  Today there are thousands of products now being made by prisoners that are sold upon the open markets to consumers in the U.S. and foreign markets.  It is done through the provisions of PIECP.

          The program found hereis now being used by huge corporations that have closed private sector operations and moved their manufacturing processes into prison industries to take advantage of the low wages, no benefits, virtual free leasing and taxpayer subsidized utilities.

          PIECP requires participating industries and corporations to pay prevailing wages to the inmates, provide benefits similar to those available to the private sector employee and that the inmates must volunteer to work in the program.  In addition the industries are required to take a percentage of the inmate's wages to offset the costs of incarceration to the taxpayer.  These are referred to as "Room and Board" deductions.  Minnesota, Florida and other states deduct up to 40% of the wages paid to the inmates for reimbursing taxpayers.  However, they have found a way to divert that money back to the industry to offset their costs of operation.  Thus the inmate's meager wages are further reduced by their being made to fund part of the industry operations out of their paychecks.

          Here is the link to a recent report by the Minnesota Auditor that identified that as much as $1.3 million a year is deducted from the inmate's wages for reimbursing the taxpayers...and the money is turned over to the DOC and given back to the industry.  Florida does the same thing and between them over $2 million a year is diverted from taxpayer reimbursement to industry profits.  This is nothing short of money laundering.

          The program is run by the Department of Justice - who also controls all federal prison industry operations - and they encourage private businesses and companies to move their operations from private sector to prison industries using "skilled and knowledgeable" inmate labor to make their products.  Take a look at this video made by the NCIA, BJA and DOJ to recruit new participants in the program.  As you will no doubt see from the plants shown in this video - along with the products made - they have moved far beyond what you describe as the skills taught to inmates.

          The NCIA is the National Correctional Industries Association which is made up of all the participating prison industries, their suppliers, vendors and companies using prison labor.  They oversee PIECP and is how they manage to violate all of the program's mandatory requirements in pursuit of lower wages and no benefits, and do not impact upon private sector wages, jobs or labor.

          So, as I said above, I support the training of inmates, but not the exploitation for profit by private corporations.  This is what is happening.  It is not the fault of the inmate workers - they're doing what they're supposed to do, but in so doing their work is being used to funnel profits to those in the federal program.  The manufacture of missile and other military components and products has resulted in the loss of many civilian jobs and the closure of private companies that did this highly technical work prior to it going to inmates.'

          Thousands of jobs have been lost to prison industries now.  Lufkin Industries closed an entire division in 2008 in Texas.  Another closed in Austin just prior to that and let go another 180 civilian workers.

          Train the inmates...yes.  Exploit them for the profit of private corporations...NO.

          "Inmates should be reformed - not recycled"

          by Bob Sloan on Wed Mar 16, 2011 at 03:09:40 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I stand... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            WI Deadhead, science nerd

            slightly more informed.  

            Not quite corrected though despite all the information.  Anyone can google prison industries and take a look at the products that these places are selling.  

            Now I don't expect missile components to be advertised but if the advancement that many of these places have made are from sewing to building office equipment I won't be writing my congress person anytime soon.  

            We subsidize wages for people all the time in the U.S. and yes the profits often go to private corporations.  As you know we do that for the good of the people we work with and I certainly applaud you for trying to expose the exploiters however when dealing with the masses A.K.A. people reading this, I think it serves all of us to not pretend that all of what goes on, serves people like the Koch brothers(as an example).    

            The products that most of these places sell varies little from state to state.  The facility I was at certainly had less capability than the other sites I took a look at but not much less.  

            I guess the alternative in this case is doing nothing at all or finding private companies with a higher moral standard.  The later is possible but I think you would agree that our prison system is about as heavily involved in private business as it should be.  

            I have to read the MN auditors report as I would like to see how much of that 1.3 is going where.  For a single business 1.3 million is a lot of money but for a number of them it starts to lose its punch.  

            You've written about 50 diaries on this so I have some reading to do.  I appreciate the info.  Not that you have to but since I am not as good of a writer maybe you wouldn't mind talking about the benefits this provides to people who may have never worked in their lives.  Once they hit the streets I have to find them jobs and I think that the general public should get a balanced view of how this works.

            •  It is those at the core of this exploitation that (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              MsGrin, peachcreek, JayinPortland, kurt

              is the driving factor in all of this.  Of course corporations are expected to make a profit.  That is one reason I oppose prison privatization altogether - with special interest on the industries run by the corporate owners or managers.

              We are not talking about the inmate of yesterday that made chemical products for prison cleaning and disinfectant uses, chairs for state office buildings or prison printing and uniform manufacture.  It is the same workforce times 10 and while some continue to make products for prison and institutional uses, more work manufacturing products in those industries that used to be made by civilians out here.  And they are doing it in direct competition against the same companies they competed with before moving to the prison industry, only now able to do it with less overhead, payroll or facility costs.

              It is not the inmate at fault here.  They are merely one tool out of a handful being used by participants in this.  A more important tool is that of lawmakers who manipulate the laws to benefit the industries and their industry partners.

              If we realize that behind all of those involved in using prison labor for profit, there is a central cabal.  It consists of influential interests and politicians with the specific intention of increasing corporate profits through decreasing wages paid to the their workforce.  If that workforce is prison labor, that means decreasing their wages from the required prevailing wage to minimum wage.  In the private sector that means lowering the fair wages normally paid in some manner.  Until recently that came about through the closure of many industries due to outsourcing and insourcing (prison industry) of jobs that resulted in lower priced products.  This in turn caused the closures and acquisition of many smaller companies by those profiting from the use of prison industries.

              With a low wage workforce available to manufacturers it is easier for them to insist on paying lower wages to civilians for the same jobs.  This has led us to today's problems with Conservatives actively attacking wages and collective bargaining laws...and once again the same old players are sitting on the opposite side of the issues: Koch, Boeing, Lockheed, AT&T, BP, and the list goes on.  All of them use prison labor to increase profits...all of them belong to AELC...all of them donate to and fund ALEC and the Conservative agenda on labor and 2,400 of ALEC's members are sitting Conservative state lawmakers.

              That is a powerful hand when held by one collective group and represents a genuine threat to all labor in the U.S.  As I said previously...the inmates are in prison because they committed a crime and while there they are expected to work.  Any rehabilitative program that helps reduce recidivism is necessary and needed.  Industry training is at the top of that list.  Training on contemporary equipment with current technologies so inmates who are released have a real chance of employment.  To accomplish this by mass production with mostly antiquated equipment and technology while earning a handsome profit, should not be an acceptable way of pursuing such purposes.

              The same inmates working in the same facilities can be trained by making products that are not directly competing with private industry.  This is how it was prior to the enactment of the PIECP laws.  Inmates worked manufacturing products used by state agencies, department and non-profits.  This had a slight impact upon private manufacturing, but now prison industries represent a multi-billion dollar annual industry.  The majority of those billions were once made privately with civilian labor.  Not so much anymore.

              "Inmates should be reformed - not recycled"

              by Bob Sloan on Wed Mar 16, 2011 at 07:46:46 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  How about we make prison industries (6+ / 0-)

    pay prevailing wage for inmate work  ------  and link that with laws that the FIRST dibs on their paycheck goes to pay back the VICTIMS of their crimes?

    It would make it financially less attractive for these corporate slavery investing leaches to misuse humans on prison plantations.  By putting state political profit motives second in line behind the actual victims -- it could make legislators less likely to go along with these scams.

    Voters could more readily see the fairness of making victims whole ---  instead of privatized prison shareholders, corporate slavedrivers, or the very politicians who passed ridiculous "law and order" bills to help them get re-elected.

    De fund + de bunk = de EXIT--->>>>>

    by Neon Mama on Wed Mar 16, 2011 at 11:44:37 AM PDT

    •  Inmates are required to be paid prevailing wages (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Seamus D

      Not that federal laws mean anything to the fascists running the joint.

      •  You can pass all the laws (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Neon Mama, kurt

        and codes and regulations you want. They don't mean shit if nobody is looking, and no one is interested in enforcing the rules.

        Prisoners are without power. They have been stripped of their rights as punishment for their crimes. This puts them at the mercy of the people who are jailing them. I guarantee you that if there is a problem of worker abuse, of serious safety problems, or of a defective product coming off the line, none of these workers will say anything to anyone. They are, by their position, mute and powerless.

        Plus, by adding in a corporation with profits to make, you add another layer of inpenetrable and unaccounted for authority. The people who the prison contracts with may not even live in that state. What interest do they have in seeing that money goes back into the counties that house them? Zero.

        This is a set up that practically invites abuse and corruption. It is just asking for it. If I were in organized crime, I'd be getting some of my money in on this deal. Now that would be pure irony, wouldn't it? Using prison labor to launder mob money?

        "YOPP!" --Horton Hears a Who

        by Reepicheep on Wed Mar 16, 2011 at 09:47:33 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I have to admit that your description of the (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Reepicheep, kurt

          situation is more apt than not.  It's as if one is walking through a room hung with various veils that hide the next step...and the next so that no matter how hard you try and look through them, you can't penetrate beyond the next blurry layer.

          What we're trying to do is to expose that which has been hidden for far too long from the public's view.  When the DOJ runs nearly all prison industries in this country, we're up against not just a lack of real interest but of a deliberateness to keep it all hidden at the government levels.

          I've already accused one of the main corporations involved of operating their industry as a R.I.C.O. operation with money laundering, personal gains from exploiting the inmate workers, wire fraud and extortion.  As yet the FBI has not made their investigation public.

          "Inmates should be reformed - not recycled"

          by Bob Sloan on Thu Mar 17, 2011 at 08:10:57 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  A great idea but as voters we would have to get (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Neon Mama, peachcreek

      this suggestion past the lawmakers who are in the pockets of the profiteers.  If it was not profitable to the corporate interests exploiting these prisoners and the industries, it would not be a problem.  With their current agenda that is not possible as they would see the repayment to the victims as both unnecessary and reduce the money available to them.  Victim restitution is already required from all inmates in the PIE program (currently about 15-20% of their wages is taken for restitution.  This is regardless of whether there was a victim of the crime committed or not.

      If profit was removed from prison industries and all money representing profit from sales were diverted to victims of crime, I would applaud that change.  But as I said above, not likely with the corporations holding the purse strings.

      "Inmates should be reformed - not recycled"

      by Bob Sloan on Wed Mar 16, 2011 at 12:53:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  An Interesting Point... (0+ / 0-)

      But, it would probably clog the Civil Courts, because every criminal case would be followed by a civil case to set the damages.

  •  It should be considered 'cruel & unusual (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Seamus D, tarminian, OleHippieChick, kurt

    punishment' to promise prisoners wages to be used upon release and then to take those wages away.

    This is unconstitutional and therefore illegal.

  •  manufacture of missile parts (10+ / 0-)

    Lockheed is lying, in 1978 inmates of USP Marion-High were manufacturing parts for IFCBM's when I was there.

  •  They Are Going To Sue Former Inmates? (6+ / 0-)

    That is really kafkaesque.

    Ineveitably we will see a case where an innocent person is freed by DNA testing, then sued by the prison for being wrongly jailed.

    •  Lord, I hope not! My activism plate (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      peachcreek, JayinPortland, Turbonerd

      is full enough, already! :)

      "Inmates should be reformed - not recycled"

      by Bob Sloan on Wed Mar 16, 2011 at 07:48:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Unlikely. Harder to recover (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        allenjo, Bob Sloan

        the funds once the inmate (and the $$) have left prison. Low-hanging fruit, and all that.

        This really burns me. Exploiting prisoners for slave wages is bad enough, but going after the money the prisoners earned in good faith is reprehensible - in addition to shortsighted and counter-productive, as you point out.

        Keep up the great work Bob.

        Reforms come from below. No man with four aces howls for a new deal.

        by Turbonerd on Thu Mar 17, 2011 at 04:34:33 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thanks, always doing what I can to show others (0+ / 0-)

          where and how these shady corporate interests are getting the funding to pursue their goal of reducing wages and eliminating the voices of opposition.

          "Inmates should be reformed - not recycled"

          by Bob Sloan on Thu Mar 17, 2011 at 08:12:38 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Not to mention (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    peachcreek, JayinPortland

    office furniture and prescription eyeglasses.  When I was a contract specialist for DA, I ordered prescription safety glasses out the wazoo from UNICOR.

    The way to combat noxious ideas is with other ideas. The way to combat falsehoods is with truth. - William O. Douglas

    by PSzymeczek on Wed Mar 16, 2011 at 07:44:46 PM PDT

    •  I know I've written about both of those (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      peachcreek, JayinPortland, kurt

      products in previous posts.  Another state - WA. just passed legislation allowing the prison industry there to make all glasses for state Medicaid.  Every state has at least one Optical plant and dental lab now.  

      "Inmates should be reformed - not recycled"

      by Bob Sloan on Wed Mar 16, 2011 at 07:50:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  happens in GA also (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bob Sloan, peachcreek, Turbonerd, kurt

    A friend, who, because he drives an "antique" Firebird and wears a ponytail, is arrested often here in Georgia. He tells me that he is arrested most often in the spring, because they know that he is a carpenter/roofer and is willing to work on government buildings in order to get out of his cell.  I don't think he gets any money for this work.

    •  Exactly the philosophy and kind of manipulations (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      peachcreek, Turbonerd

      involved in exploiting us by those with authority.  In Florida if you are stopped for anything, including and ID check, and your name comes back with a conviction tied to it, you can expect to be accused or suspected of something and sometimes held for days...not in all cases but a few.

      Also in Florida if they know an inmate has a specific skill and that skill is needed at another facility, the DOC will move him/her to that facility to use them.  Every arrest and conviction is accompanied by a form with your occupation (as given to them by you upon arrest) listed right under your name.  That information becomes part of the DOC database and as we know, can be sorted by topic.

      This kind of discriminatory profiling is exactly why the U.S. is now suing Arizona over SB 1070.  Your friend with the ponytail can relate, I'm sure.

      "Inmates should be reformed - not recycled"

      by Bob Sloan on Wed Mar 16, 2011 at 08:24:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Well, Bob.. I recc'd (0+ / 0-)

    your diary.. you are evidently passionate about the subject.

    But the reality is that inmates do not compete with US workers outside of prisons.

    A corporation willing to only pay prison wages for manufacturing and/or assembly would never pay prevailing wages for that same work.  If prison labor were not available, that work would immediately be shipped overseas or to Mexico and performed by one of the hundreds of maquiladoras a mere ten minutes south of the border.

    So.  Is it exploitation?  In a way, yeah.. it is exploiting a resource.  But as mim5677 says above, these inmates get something out of it as well.. something they may never have had in their lives - training, regular work habits, skills and even management experience.

    As far as leaving prison with some savings, I agree it is a travesty for a state to try to confiscate their savings.    But just remember the public would never stand for a convict to come out of prison with much more than meager savings, nor should they.  Anything beyond $10,000 or so should go to reparations to victim's families, etc.

    •  I have to disagree about the lack of competition (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      from prison industries against private industries.  I have 7 years of research that clearly demonstrates the losses of thousands of private sector jobs...that then turned up behind prison fences, producing the same products for the same corporations, for the same markets.  Texas is one of the worst.

      Take a brief look at U.S. Technologies.  Now defunct, it was the brain child of several key and noteworthy individuals - including the former CIA and FBI Director William Webster and former U.S. Senators, Speaker of the House and others.  The company had a prospectus of acquiring technology or IT companies and transferring their operations into prison industries nationwide.  They had contracts with Geo Group to operate all of the prison industries controlled by them. Below is from their prospectus:

      "U.S. Technologies Inc. (the "Company"), is engaged directly and indirectly through its wholly owned subsidiary, Labor-to-Industry Inc. ("LTI"), in the operation of industrial facilities located within both private and state prisons, which are staffed principally with inmate labor. These prison-based operations are conducted under the guidelines of the 1979 Prison Industry Enhancement (PIE) program. On February 22, 2000, the Company announced that it reached a definitive agreement to acquire E2Enet, Inc. ("E2E"), a privately held Internet incubator company, and on April 5, 2000, this agreement was amended so the acquisition could qualify as a tax-free transaction. E2E has made early stage investments in several development stage business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce businesses. The Company's acquisition of E2E is expected to close in April once all closing conditions have been satisfied.

      It is now defunct because the Chairman of the Board defrauded many investors and is now in prison.  Webster and the rest of the easily recognizable names on the Board defected as soon as they learned of the fraud investigation.

      Onshore Resources in Lockhart, Texas has taken their place in connecting prison labor and private corporate need for that labor now.

      With hundreds of thousands of prisoners being released every year in the U.S. and less than 1% of those released having participated in the prison industry training programs, such a program has a negligible impact upon recidivism or helping more than a handful of inmates get or keep a job.  The programs are set up to take advantage of their labor and has little impact upon actual training and job placement.  I'm sure the inmates are grateful for the chance to make some money and actually intend to use their training upon release.  For that I'm also grateful as any reduction in recidivism is appreciated.  However the success rates are simply too small to impact the situation.

      "Inmates should be reformed - not recycled"

      by Bob Sloan on Thu Mar 17, 2011 at 08:58:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Good diary on a grossly underreported story (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bob Sloan

    Under-reported because very few give a f@ck what happens to prisoners in this country.

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