Shocking Facts About America’s For-Profit Prison Industry
As long as their have been human societies, there have been criminals. Despite the best efforts of lawmakers and religions, humans can’t be trusted to do the right thing, even when we’re aware of the consequences. The prison system used to be a last resort, a place you sent people when other forms of punishment were ineffective. Now it’s grown into something much darker, and even less rehabilitative.
Unbeknownst to many, the prison system has become a for-profit business in which inmates are the product–a system that has shocking similarities to another human-based business from America’s past: slavery.
In late 2013, a new report from In the Public Interest (ITPI) revealed that private prison companies are striking deals with states that contain clauses guaranteeing high prison occupancy rates–sometimes 100 percent. This means that states agree to supply prison corporations with a steady flow of residents–whether or not that level of criminal activity exists. Some experts believe this relationship between government and private prison corporations encourages law enforcement agencies to use underhanded tactics–often targeting minority and underserved groups–to fill cells.
“The report, ‘Criminal: How Lockup Quotas and ‘Low-Crime Taxes’ Guarantee Profits for Private Prison Corporations,’ documents the contracts exchanged between private prison companies and state and local governments that either guarantee prison occupancy rates (essentially creating inmate lockup quotas) or force taxpayers to pay for empty beds if the prison population decreases due to lower crime rates or other factors (essentially creating low-crime taxes),” reports Salon.
As a result, there are now over 2 million people living behind bars in the United States. That’s half a million more than China, which has a population five times greater than the U.S. Many are incarcerated for non-violent crimes, like the use or possession of marijuana, and other problems that would be far better served through a rehabilitation or education program.
The worst part is that once captured by the prison industry, inmates are forced to work for pennies an hour, providing cheap labor for some of the most profitable enterprises in the world, including the U.S. Military.
“Federal Prison Industries, better known as UNICOR, consists entirely of convicts working at 89 factories,” reports Mental Floss. “Together, they help clothe the United States military, making jackets, uniforms, helmets, shoes, and even flak vests. For police officers, they craft body armor and holsters.”
When you can get that kind of labor for less than a dollar a day, it’s hard to see the government’s motivation for incarcerating fewer people. And it’s all done at the taxpayer’s expense.
Scroll through the infographic below for more shocking facts about America‘s prison industry, and how much it‘s costing taxpayers like you.
Update: When originally published, this post contained the quote below, attributed to Left Business Observer. Since then, it has come to our attention that the quote may in fact have been fabricated. See here. We apologize for the error.
According to the Left Business Observer, “the federal prison industry produces 100 percent of all military helmets, ammunition belts, bullet-proof vests, ID tags, shirts, pants, tents, bags, and canteens. Along with war supplies, prison workers supply 98 percent of the entire market for equipment assembly services; 93 percent of paints and paintbrushes; 92 percent of stove assembly; 46 percent of body armor; 36 percent of home appliances; 30 percent of headphones/microphones/speakers; and 21 percent of office furniture. Airplane parts, medical supplies, and much more: prisoners are even raising seeing-eye dogs for blind people.”
Image via Thinkstock