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The state- run prison industrial complex was shifted into a slave manufacturing operation after the 13th amendment of the United States constitution was enacted to supposedly end slavery and indentured servitude. The 13th amendment declared that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for a crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States,” The 13 amendment was passed by Congress on January 31st, 1865, and ratified by the states on December 6th, 1865 according to the Library of Congress. Yet wWhoever thinks that slavery was completely outlawed has been deceived. They just shifted the slaves from the fields to the prison yards where they could be controlled by barbed wire, high walls and shotguns.
After the civil war from 1861-1865 a new system of slavery was enacted to keep blacks in servitude called “hiring out prisoners.” Criminal charges were brought up on them for cultivating someone else’s land in exchange for part of the harvest, or for not carrying out their sharecropping commitments and petty thievery was used with mostly accusations to incarcerate. This created a larger cheaplarger cheap prison slave labor work force. The supposed freed slaves were “hired out” from the prison yards to pick cotton, work in the mines and build railroads.
In 1871 the Virginia Supreme Court upheld a case called Ruffin v. Commonwealth, which made prisoners “slaves of the state.” Up until the 1930’s state and federal prisons were self-sufficient;, they would eventually produce the foods and industrial products at a surplus which they started to sell for profits. The depression hit the U.S. a few years later, this was cuttingwhich cut into the private sector unions and manufacturers’ profits. The private sector was very upset about competing with prisoner slave labor made products on the open market and the prisons complied stated that they would stop selling consumer products on the open market. Slave labor from prisons slowed down after the 1930’s which brought a new awareness to the prison population, and how they were being paid pennies on the dollar and forced to work for only a roof over their head and some food.
In the 1980s it became an issue again. From the 1930’s until the 1980’s the majority of prison- produced goods by slaves of the state were used within the prison or sold to state agencies. According to the Left Business Observer in regards to the federal prison industrial complex, 100% of military bullet-proof vests, shirts, pants, tents, canteens, bags, ammunition belts, helmets, and ID tags are all produced by prison slave labor. The prisoners also make 98% of equipment for assembly services; 93% of paints and paintbrushes; 92% of stove assembly; 46% of body armor; 36% of home appliances; 30% of headphones/microphones/speakers; and 21% of office furniture. The prisonersThey also produce medical supplies, airplane parts, medical supplies… the list goes on and on. This in reality means that the private sectors are losing a massive amount of jobs that are being taken away by prisoners to make 17 + cents per hour for private prison labor and some state penitentiaries pay their prisoners a minimum wage.
All over the world human rights organizations have made to a point that the United States of America holds the highest rate of incarceration internationally, with mostly blacks and Hispanics being locked up. There are around 2 million inmates in state, federal and private prisons throughout the United States. In a statement made by California prison focus, “no other society in human history has imprisoned so many of its own citizens.” The statistics are very alarming and point to the fact that we have half a million more inmates than China, and their population is five times larger than the U.S. We also hold 25% of the world’s prison population. America has only 5% of the world’s population in comparison. When prisoners refuse to work for 25 cents an hour they are locked up in solitary confinement.
In 1972 there were less than 300,000 inmates in state, federal and private prisons, then in 1990 it grew to one million throughout the United States. Since then the prison population has grown to over 2 million today. Ten years ago there were 5 private prisons with a population of 2000 inmates. Today it has grown to over 100 private prisons with 62,000 inmates, and this number is expected to grow past 360,000 in the coming decade.
Why has the prison population exploded? “The private contracting of prisoners for work fosters incentives to lock people up. Prisons depend on this income. Corporate stockholders who make money off prisoners’ work lobby for longer sentences, in order to expand their workforce. The system feeds itself.,” from This comes from a study by the Progressive Labor Party, they who have accused the prison industry of being “an imitation of Nazi Germany with respect to forced slave labor and concentration camps.”
Human rights organizations have stated that the increase in profit potential comes from incarcerating non-violent crimes, along with small quantities of drugs. Someone Getting caught with 5 grams of crack or 3.5 ounces of heroin can get you 5 years in jail. In Texas if you get caught with more than 4 ounces of marijuana you can be sentenced for up to 2 years. The passage of the three strikes laws passed in 13 states has built 20 new federal prisons that depend on having long- term slave labor residents. There is a shift from 3rd world labor that is transferring new slave labor to the prisons of America. “Today, a new set of markedly racist laws is imposing slave labor and sweatshops on the criminal justice system, now known as the prison industry complex,” quoted by the Left Business Observer.
The companies that are basically deciding to hire prisoners over the private sector has to make a llot of unemployed Americans upset. The companies that invest in this new form of slavery are IBM, Boeing, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T, Wireless, Texas Instrument, Dell, Compaq, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard, Nortel, Lucent Technologies, 3Com, Intel, Northern Telecom, TWA, Nordstrom’s, Revlon, Macy’s, Pierre Cardin, and, Target Stores, along with all military goods. The prison industrial complex profits have gone from $392 million to $1.31 billion from 1980 to 1994. The prison population boom started in the 1980s during Ronald Reagan and Bush Sr. then Then it was amplified in 1990 with a program from Clinton, which cut the federal work force and this resulted in the Justice Department contracting private prison corporations for the incarceration of undocumented workers and high security inmates. Ninety-seven percent of the 125,000 federal inmates have been convicted of non-violent crimes. There are also 623,000 inmates in municipal and county jails, which over half of which are innocent but will have to sit in prison while waiting for a trial to be exonerated. Our system of justice has failed us;, we have created a for- profit slave labor prison machine that gives incentives to creating more prisoners. One solution would be to legalize and regulate drugs as a treatable offense instead of a criminal offense. In today’s society we can notcannot lock up half the population just because they tried some drugs;, instead, we have to be more humane and have programs that rehabilitate instead of incarcerate.


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