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The Prison State Of America

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http://www.truthdig.com/report/print/the_prison_state_of_america_20141228

Prisons employ and exploit the ideal worker. Prisoners do not receive benefits or pensions. They are not paid overtime. They are forbidden to organize and strike. They must show up on time. They are not paid for sick days or granted vacations. They cannot formally complain about working conditions or safety hazards. If they are disobedient, or attempt to protest their pitiful wages, they lose their jobs and can be sent to isolation cells. The roughly 1 million prisoners who work for corporations and government industries in the American prison system are models for what the corporate state expects us all to become. And corporations have no intention of permitting prison reforms that would reduce the size of their bonded workforce. In fact, they are seeking to replicate these conditions throughout the society.

States, in the name of austerity, have stopped providing prisoners with essential items including shoes, extra blankets and even toilet paper, while starting to charge them for electricity and room and board. Most prisoners and the families that struggle to support them are chronically short of money. Prisons are company towns. Scrip, rather than money, was once paid to coal miners, and it could be used only at the company store. Prisoners are in a similar condition. When they go broke—and being broke is a frequent occurrence in prison—prisoners must take out prison loans to pay for medications, legal and medical fees and basic commissary items such as soap and deodorant. Debt peonage inside prison is as prevalent as it is outside prison.

States impose an array of fees on prisoners. For example, there is a 10 percent charge imposed by New Jersey on every commissary purchase. Stamps have a 10 percent surcharge. Prisoners must pay the state for a 15-minute deathbed visit to an immediate family member or a 15-minute visit to a funeral home to view the deceased. New Jersey, like most other states, forces a prisoner to reimburse the system for overtime wages paid to the two guards who accompany him or her, plus mileage cost. The charge can be as high as $945.04. It can take years to pay off a visit with a dying father or mother.

Fines, often in the thousands of dollars, are assessed against many prisoners when they are sentenced. There are 22 fines that can be imposed in New Jersey, including the Violent Crime Compensation Assessment (VCCB), the Law Enforcement Officers Training & Equipment Fund (LEOT) and Extradition Costs (EXTRA). The state takes a percentage each month out of prison pay to pay down the fines, a process that can take decades. If a prisoner who is fined $10,000 at sentencing must rely solely on a prison salary he or she will owe about $4,000 after making payments for 25 years. Prisoners can leave prison in debt to the state. And if they cannot continue to make regular payments—difficult because of high unemployment—they are sent back to prison. High recidivism is part of the design.

Corporations have privatized most of the prison functions once handled by governments. They run prison commissaries and, since the prisoners have nowhere else to shop, often jack up prices by as much as 100 percent. Corporations have taken over the phone systems and charge exorbitant fees to prisoners and their families. They grossly overcharge for money transfers from families to prisoners. And these corporations, some of the nation’s largest, pay little more than a dollar a day to prison laborers who work in for-profit prison industries. Food and merchandise vendors, construction companies, laundry services, uniforms companies, prison equipment vendors, cafeteria services, manufacturers of pepper spray, body armor and the array of medieval instruments used for the physical control of prisoners, and a host of other contractors feed like jackals off prisons. Prisons, in America, are a hugely profitable business.

Our prison-industrial complex, which holds 2.3 million prisoners, or 25 percent of the world’s prison population, makes money by keeping prisons full. It demands bodies, regardless of color, gender or ethnicity. As the system drains the pool of black bodies, it has begun to incarcerate others. Women—the fastest-growing segment of the prison population—are swelling prisons, as are poor whites in general, Hispanics and immigrants. Prisons are no longer a black-white issue. Prisons are a grotesque manifestation of corporate capitalism. Slavery is legal in prisons under the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It reads: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States. …” And the massive U.S. prison industry functions like the forced labor camps that have existed in all totalitarian states.

Corporate investors, who have poured billions into the business of mass incarceration, expect long-term returns. And they will get them. It is their lobbyists who write the draconian laws that demand absurdly long sentences, deny paroles, determine immigrant detention laws and impose minimum-sentence and three-strikes-out laws (mandating life sentences after three felony convictions). The politicians and the courts, subservient to corporate power, can be counted on to protect corporate interests.

Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest owner of for-profit prisons and immigration detention facilities in the country, had revenues of $1.7 billion in 2013 and profits of $300 million. CCA holds an average of 81,384 inmates in its facilities on any one day. Aramark Holdings Corp., a Philadelphia-based company that contracts through Aramark Correctional Services to provide food to 600 correctional institutions across the United States, was acquired in 2007 for $8.3 billion by investors that included Goldman Sachs.

The three top for-profit prison corporations spent an estimated $45 million over a recent 10-year period for lobbying that is keeping the prison business flush. The resource center In the Public Interest documented in its report “Criminal: How Lockup Quotas and ‘Low-Crime Taxes’ Guarantee Profits for Private Prison Corporations” that private prison companies often sign state contracts that guarantee prison occupancy rates of 90 percent. If states fail to meet the quota they have to pay the corporations for the empty beds.

CCA in 2011 gave $710,300 in political contributions to candidates for federal or state office, political parties and so-called 527 groups (PACs and super PACs), the American Civil Liberties Union reported. The corporation also spent $1.07 million lobbying federal officials plus undisclosed sums to lobby state officials, according to the ACLU.

The United States, from 1970 to 2005, increased its prison population by about 700 percent, according to statistics gathered by the ACLU. The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, the ACLU report notes, says for-profit companies presently control about 18 percent of federal prisoners and 6.7 percent of all state prisoners. Private prisons account for nearly all newly built prisons. And nearly half of all immigrants detained by the federal government are shipped to for-profit prisons, according to Detention Watch Network.

But corporate profit is not limited to building and administering prisons. Whole industries now rely almost exclusively on prison labor. Federal prisoners, who are among the highest paid in the U.S. system, making as much as $1.25 an hour, produce the military’s helmets, uniforms, pants, shirts, ammunition belts, ID tags and tents. Prisoners work, often through subcontractors, for major corporations such as Chevron, Bank of America, IBM, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T, Starbucks, Nintendo, Victoria’s Secret, J.C. Penney, Sears, Wal-Mart, Kmart, Eddie Bauer, Wendy’s, Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Fruit of the Loom, Motorola, Caterpillar, Sara Lee, Quaker Oats, Mary Kay, Microsoft, Texas Instruments, Dell, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard, Nortel, Nordstrom’s, Revlon, Macy’s, Pierre Cardin and Target. Prisoners in some states run dairy farms, staff call centers, take hotel reservations or work in slaughterhouses. And prisoners are used to carry out public services such as collecting highway trash in states such as Ohio.

States, with shrinking budgets, share in the corporate exploitation. They get kickbacks of as much as 40 percent from corporations that prey on prisoners. This kickback money is often supposed to go into “inmate welfare funds,” but prisoners say they rarely see any purchases made by the funds to improve life inside prison.

The wages paid to prisoners for labor inside prisons have remained stagnant and in real terms have declined over the past three decades. In New Jersey a prisoner made $1.20 for eight hours of work—yes, eight hours of work—in 1980 and today makes $1.30 for a day’s labor. Prisoners earn, on average, $28 a month. Those incarcerated in for-profit prisons earn as little as 17 cents an hour.

However, items for sale in prison commissaries have risen in price over the past two decades by as much as 100 percent. And new rules in some prisons, including those in New Jersey, prohibit families to send packages to prisoners, forcing prisoners to rely exclusively on prison vendors. This is as much a psychological blow as a material one; it leaves families feeling powerless to help loved ones trapped in the system.

A bar of Dove soap in 1996 cost New Jersey prisoners 97 cents. Today it costs $1.95, an increase of 101 percent. A tube of Crest toothpaste cost $2.35 in 1996 and today costs $3.49, an increase of 48 percent. AA batteries have risen by 184 percent, and a stick of deodorant has risen by 95 percent. The only two items I found that remained the same in price from 1996 were frosted flake cereal and cups of noodles, but these items in prisons have been switched from recognizable brand names to generic products. The white Reebok shoes that most prisoners wear, shoes that lasts about six months, costs about $45 a pair. Those who cannot afford the Reebok brand must buy, for $20, shoddy shoes with soles that shred easily. In addition, prisoners are charged for visits to the infirmary and the dentist and for medications.

Excellent slave labour that you can exploit for profit, it's the American way!

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http://www.truthdig.com/report/print/the_prison_state_of_america_20141228

Excellent slave labour that you can exploit for profit, it's the American way!

It's the imperialism way.

All the big powers in history have enslaved the masses. There is much more profit for the 1%ers when you force people out to work with nothing to show for it bar low quality food and basic shelter.

We welcome the immigrants.

Desperate people entering freely into serfdom.

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Slightly dystopian but still a better bet in terms of rehabilitation than letting them sit about on they buttz all day.

The issue for me (like my issues with work for welfare in the UK) is surely "doesn't this undermine the non-prison labour market?"

Shouldn't some of America's non-criminal unemployed be doing those jobs for a proper wage and getting on in life as a result?

Surely you risk ending up with a feedback loop? No/few low wage jobs = desperate folk = crime being the only thing that pays = an increased prison population?

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Its not the work as such that is the problem...I couldnt really care less if REAL criminals were sentenced to break rocks in Siberia. Its the moral hazard in that the state, lobbied by prison companies, is always creating new crimes out of non-criminal behaviour. Be it imprisoning people for drugs over the past 40 years, or now imprisoning them for these daft hate speech 'crimes' or viewing certain types of pornography.

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Its not the work as such that is the problem...I couldnt really care less if REAL criminals were sentenced to break rocks in Siberia. Its the moral hazard in that the state, lobbied by prison companies, is always creating new crimes out of non-criminal behaviour. Be it imprisoning people for drugs over the past 40 years, or now imprisoning them for these daft hate speech 'crimes' or viewing certain types of pornography.

As long as it's not hurting anyone else it shouldn't be illegal IMHO.

I've only tried it a handful of times (and I'm not far off the original Woodstock generation!), but I cannot comprehend why weed is illegal.

I giggled a bit and ate the best sandwich I've ever had. Certainly way more in control than when I've been hammered on booze.

We've wasted billions policing and criminising it based on the Daily Mail hating it and a few posh mums blaming it for their kids going a bit mental as teenagers.

When I was at school it was a gateway drug precisely because it was illegal. It was actually easier to get than booze was (even then) and kids would sell it at school etc because there was a demand and it was an obvious source of quick income. Some of those graduated to selling other drugs and that then led kids to buy them (and daftly assume they were all as harmless as weed). Doubt much has changed in 40 years.

Stop spunking billions on that and tax it.

The fact we now include drug revenue in GDP shows how big the market is.

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The issue for me (like my issues with work for welfare in the UK) is surely "doesn't this undermine the non-prison labour market?"

Shouldn't some of America's non-criminal unemployed be doing those jobs for a proper wage and getting on in life as a result?

Surely you risk ending up with a feedback loop? No/few low wage jobs = desperate folk = crime being the only thing that pays = an increased prison population?

Yeah good point - although if they are clever about what they get the cons doing they can mostly cannibalise the jobs/work that is getting off shored to Bangladesh etc anyway.

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Slightly dystopian but still a better bet in terms of rehabilitation than letting them sit about on they buttz all day.

Is there any evidence to back that statement up that you're aware of? I know that it seems self-evidently true, but it would be interesting to know if there were any comparable statistics that would prove it one way or another.

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Its not the work as such that is the problem...I couldnt really care less if REAL criminals were sentenced to break rocks in Siberia. Its the moral hazard in that the state, lobbied by prison companies, is always creating new crimes out of non-criminal behaviour. Be it imprisoning people for drugs over the past 40 years, or now imprisoning them for these daft hate speech 'crimes' or viewing certain types of pornography.

Don't forget, that a lot of men in the US are in prison because they fell behind with their payment's to their ex's.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-08-26/jail-becomes-home-for-husband-stuck-with-lifetime-alimony.html

Add it all up:

The woman's story MUST be believed - even if evidence directly contradicts her (see Rolf).

The increasingly trivial acts for which one can be jailed - "inappropiate" touching, looking at pics of women who look under 18, historical offenses, nasty remarks on twitter that hurt someone's feelings, or even could be assumed by a third party to hurt someone's feelings.....

We are well on the way to the situation feminists drool over; every man enslaved for life.

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