4 Reasons to End Prison Labor Immediately

When you think of workers who receive under a dollar an hour to work long days of strenuous labor, you probably think of sweatshops in foreign lands. In truth, though, you can find these same conditions in many modern American prisons – and somehow this is legal. Corporations have exploited loopholes to get prisoners to perform labor for them and it’s causing a lot of problems. Here are a few reasons prison labor needs to stop immediately:

1. It Keeps People in Jail Longer

Don’t believe that this wildly cheap labor is a factor for the government? Recently, California found itself in hot water for not releasing eligible inmate to ease the overcrowded prison system. Federal judges had already demanded that these releases occur, but California did not follow through. When called back to court, lawyers for the Attorney General tried to make the case that most of the impacted inmates are a “valuable” part of the prison labor community.

It’s crazy that the state is willing to admit that they want to keep non-violent, reformed people locked up because they can exploit them for cheap labor. While it obviously happens, for them to feel comfortable admitting this shows just how institutionalized this practice has become.

2. We Send More People to Jail Altogether

If the government wants to ensure that the labor gets done by any means necessary, it’s no wonder why we put so many people in jail in the first place. Despite having just 5% of the world’s population, 25% of all incarcerated people in the world reside in U.S. prisons. Statistics show that even as crime rates continue to decrease, more people are being locked up anyway.

Though we should be finding ways to reduce our prison population, as long as for-profit prisons are allowed to make millions off of the backs of incarcerated people, jails will be filled with victimized Americans.

3. It’s Costing Americans Jobs

Under the guise of teaching inmates a “work ethic,” American companies are replacing normal jobs with prison labor. Corporations don’t want to pay their employees even living wages, so why would they turn down the opportunity to instead pay a literally “captive” workforce that it can compensate with mere pennies per hour?

For one of the most egregious examples, look no further than the infamous Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin. When he busted up unions in his state, Walker made sure that provisions were in place to allow prisoners to take over jobs that union members formerly held.

4. It’s Essentially Modern Slavery

Inmates generally don’t have much of a choice in whether or not they work. Those who try to opt out of labor are punished by losing privileges or put into solitary confinement. It’s certainly not a “job” when prisoners aren’t given any say in the matter.

The hiring practices are unconscionable, too. We have a “justice” system where those charged with crimes are convinced to plea to lesser charges to avoid risking even lengthier jail time rather than having their cases go to trial 90% of the time. Add to that the fact that black and brown skinned Americans are exponentially more likely to locked in prison in the first place, and it’s not hard to see how the elite have devised an underhanded system that forces the poor and disenfranchised to do manual labor for the 1%.

Photo Credit: Quinn Dombrowski

130 comments

Jack Y
Jack Y2 months ago

thanks

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Jack Y
Jack Y2 months ago

thanks

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John J
John J2 months ago

thanks for sharing

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John J
John J2 months ago

thanks for sharing

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Stephanie B.
Stephanie B2 years ago

Interesting, sharing.

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donald Baumgartner

Signed!!!

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Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill4 years ago

Well said Ken R.! My hubby worked corrections for over 20 years, they have it very good! I think they should work the land the prison sits on and grow their food too. They used to. The prison could sell the extra to help cover the other costs to help relieve the burden on the tax payers.

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Joseph Glackin
Joseph Glackin4 years ago

Susan T.~~

You have some delusional ideas about prison.

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Susan T.
Susan T4 years ago

Why not make inmate criminals work? this is ridiculous. OK tho, don't work...no TV, no education, no meals other than what kids get fed now in school. no computers, access to porn, no cell phones....

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Brian F.
Brian F4 years ago

Their is really little difference between our 80 billion dollar a year for profit prison industry, Wal-Mart and the fast food industry. The CEO of Wal-Mart makes $11,000 an hour while his employees make $8.00 an hour, live in poverty and require food stamps, which we pay for in taxes. Slave labor is exploitation, and like these greedy corporations like Wal-Mart that make 8 million dollars a day, as their workers slave in poverty, America's 80 billion dollar a day private for profit prison industry enslaves people for money. Of course America's venal scumbag politicians are paid off by corporate America, and our for profit prison industry to keep taxes low for the rich, and corporations and, not raise the low $7.25 minimum wage, Keeping Americans enslaved in poverty is good and profitable for America's politicians and corporate CEO's who have made record profits the last few years.

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