‘China-Like’ Labor Force Used In US Prisons

inmate labor

Despite American criticism of forced or coerced labor in other countries, a similar trend is occurring among incarcerated Americans, with prisoners having to work for less than a dollar a day.

This post originally appeared at Occupy Democrats

by Justin Acuff

This trend isn’t just beginning — it is now occurring on a massive scale, with a million prisoners doing this work. The worst part is, companies utilizing this cheap labor pool are major corporations, such as Walmart:

One of Walmart’s suppliers, Martori Farms, was the subject of an exposé by Truthout in which one female prisoner described her typical day working for the private company.

Currently, we are forced to work in the blazing sun for eight hours. We run out of water several times a day. We ran out of sunscreen several times a week. They don’t check medical backgrounds or ages before they pull women for these jobs. Many of us cannot do it! If we stop working and sit on the bus or even just take an unauthorized break, we get a major ticket which takes away our ‘good time’.

In response, Joseph Oddo, Martori Farms’ human resource director, told the Guardian that the company is no longer using inmates because prisons are not always able to provide workers on call the way they need. Oddo also said that workers were provided enough water, but the prisoners didn’t sip it slowly enough.

In a press release on Walmart’s site, Ron McCormick, vice-president for produce, said, “our relationship with Martori Farms is an excellent example of the kind of collaboration we strive for with our suppliers.” (Source)

It’s not just that there is the possibility of jobs being taken away from citizens who are not incarcerated — it’s that these prisons market their labor force, and spend millions lobbying for laws that keep them full. It’s a for-profit prison industry with cash incentive to lock people up. Is it any surprise that we have the largest prison system in the world?

Private prisons profit from the incarceration of human beings. As I reported for Addicting Info

Private prisons are similar to the hotel industry in one simple way; they make money when they fill beds. They lose money when beds are empty. According to the Bureau of Justice statistics, the prison population has actually declined in recent years.

She goes on to report that the declining prison population has caused for-profit prisons and lobbyists to become more proactive, spending money lobbying Congress and others to create laws that create more prisoners, more people in jail, and, because they also own multiple detention facilities that deal with immigrants, harsher laws regarding immigration.

Another big problem with for-profit prisons is that the goal of profit conflicts with the goal of a prison — to house inmates while they serve their sentences and attempt rehabilitation, preventing recidivism. When you put profit into the equation, you’re giving prisons incentive to ensure that prisoners have a high chance of reoffending.

It is difficult to reconcile the ownership and operation of prisons as a for-profit venture, knowing that they run and thrive on filling beds with offenders, while simultaneously providing ‘rehabilitation’ of inmates. Every prisoner that is helped with treatment, with schooling, with counseling is a potential lost ‘customer’ for the corporation. This leaves little incentive for the for-profit prison system to actually do what the prison system is designed to do. With the exception of those locked up for decades or life, the prison system is a way of isolating offenders for a time so that they can mature, grow, and become better, productive citizens who will be released at some point down the road. A for-profit prison has no reason to make their inmates better people. They need them to reoffend. It’s good for business. (Source)

And like most hugely profitable industries, there are millions spent on lobbying for favorable laws — in this case, things like the drug war, keeping prison populations high. Young Progressive Voices reports,

The industry, through activists and lobbyists, controls legislators on the state level. Take the CCA, for example. Operating in an industry that has exploded by 1600% over the last 20 years, the Corrections Corporation for America is currently housing 80,000 inmates in 60 facilities in 16 different states. Pressure is put on legislators to pass laws that benefit the private prison industry.

Here’s a video from Russia Today talking about the China-like labor force utilized in American prisons:


  1. ogwriter says:

    It seems to me that the real problem is the lack of empathy men have for each other,the implicit,pervasive, racism for the other and the general ignorance regarding the interconnectedness of the systems of oppression,that allowed this system to come into fruition in the first place.Think of it,prisons as commodities on the stock exchange!What does that say about us?Prisons lobbying to stay in existence.What does that say about us?A society that mistreats it’s most vulnerable,will eventually mistreat everyone.The illusion that one is safe is just that,a mirage.You too are a unit of production,disposable.There are those who blame it on the patriarchy,as if women don’t benefit from and support this system,or so the theory goes.The corrupted prison system is not a male’s only club,even though feminists theory says otherwise.In the complex web of relationships that sustain this beast are women.And on the ground,an aggressively politicized, unreasonable,fear of ALL men as violent oppressors adds fuel to the system’s engine.If whitemen are violent oppressors,then men of color must be relatively worse.Bottomline,women are not the problem,men and the system they created,are to blame.Belief in applied feminism won’t solve the prison-industry problem.Belief in each other could.

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