Celebrate Thanksgiving by Thinking Critically about American Suppression: Prison is a Big Business
What was constructed to ‘protect’ society’s upright, law-abiding citizens has been abused and manipulated by the powers that be, the man behind the curtain, the reptilians and stem-cell bred aliens that we call the American government. The Prison Industrial Complex is a pretty awful thing which has transformed American prisons into a bloodsucking business. But what else is new? This is America, capitalism capital of the world, and it would be pretty un-American if we didn’t accidentally, haphazardly reduce institutions meant to punish and rehabilitate into lucrative sweatshops. Here are five reasons why prison in America has become a scary money guzzling monster:
America’s Prison Problem
A 25 minute documentary titled America’s Prison Problem should be next on your ‘to watch’ list, right before the new episode of Shark Tank. It outlines the misuse of the “Three Strikes Law” which is now in effect in 27 states. Three Strikes sounds reasonable enough at first glance: violent repeat offenders who have clearly expressed a disregard for the safety, rights and lives of others should receive harsher punishments the more they’re arrested, culminating in a life sentence upon their third conviction. Intended to stop murderers and rapists from, you know, murdering and raping, this policy has wound up incarcerating thousands of non-violent offenders for decades to life for petty crimes such as stealing a VCR out of an empty apartment following two minor possession charges, regardless of time span between offenses.
The Three Strikes predicament is part of the reason America spends $2 billion dollars keeping just a little less than 2 million people in jail. And by ‘prisoners’ I mean ‘mostly black prisoners.’ Consider the fact that there are more black people in prison today than were ever enslaved at the height of slavery.
But what does any of this have to do with big business?
This Call May Be Monitored or Recorded
Your cable stopped working! No more flipping excitedly between porn and CNBC! Time to call customer service.
You don’t really care if the call is monitored; your only concern is avoiding a 40 minute Guantanamo Bay torture session enduring loud, fuzzy jazz music on hold. But that little message is played for an unexpected reason: many customer service employees are helping you solve your petty tech problems from behind bars.
In 1979, the Prison Industries Enhancement Certification Program was born, a slimy little baby designed to encourage state and local prisons to employ inmates at private companies because it was “a cost-effective way to occupy a portion of the ever-growing offender/inmate population.” Convict report cards would reflect the inmate’s performance, earning them credit for good behavior, and they would also get paid for their work. Sounds great.
Only, it’s not, since large corporations have been exploiting this act to hire inmates at sweatshop rates in order to reduce costs and earn totally awesome tax write offs. Although inmates have a required salary of at least minimum wage, the Prison Industries Act of 1995 basically said “minus the amount required to pay for the cost of keeping you here, you slave!” The result is that in Florida, for instance, prisoners are paid minimum wage minus 40% to “defray the costs of inmate incarceration” which was later amended to “pay the cops in your jail and also make new jails, hooray!” Leaving prisoners with little to no wage rights whatsoever. As a result, some inmates are paid as little as 21 cents an hour.
Remarkably, the act was further marred by the Prison Industries Act because it exploited a loophole that said “None of these rules count if prisoner-made goods aren’t shipped across state lines and you’re touching home base” since companies employing prisoners could set up a local address, purchase the prison booty, and then ship the products out-of-state from that location.
Who cares? Companies are people, too.
Private prisons are for-profit prisons which are literally businesses, and they don’t give a care to hide it from you at all. It works like this: a government agency contracts a third party jail. The jail, now a hired hand, retains the prisoners. After the grossly ineffective and Nazi-esque failure that is the War on Drugs got its running start in the 80s, the American prison population exploded with (mostly black) offenders usually caught with minimal amounts of drugs or engaging in some type of petty, drug-fueled theft. Prison’s rapidly increasing overcrowding problem made sociopaths everywhere drool, and extremely lucrative private prison services including the management and operations of entire prisons began popping up like cold sores on a methy old hooker.
As of 2008, 264 of America’s correctional facilities in the US were owned by private companies and housed almost 99,000 adult convicts.
With all this cheap, local labor and raw profit resulting from merely having bodies to keep locked up, why would we release the guy who got 27 to life for stealing some tools out of an unoccupied pickup truck in the middle of the night? It was his third offense, after all, and he was a filthy drug addict to begin with (also probably black). He’s much more useful at saving AT&T, like, hundreds of dollars.
“Politics, Shmolitics, It’s Too Confusing.”
Shouts out to Eric Schlosser, who wrote a great article on the Prison Industrial Complex over at The Atlantic. He notes that it “is composed of politicians, both liberal and conservative, who have used the fear of crime to gain votes; impoverished rural areas where prisons have become a cornerstone of economic development; [and] private companies that regard the roughly $35 billion spent each year on corrections not as a burden on American taxpayers but as a lucrative market.”
Politicians use backwards logic to promote stricter laws and harsher sentences using the fact that America’s violent crime rate has dropped 20% since 1991 as the prison population has grown by 50% — because more prisons mean less free-roaming criminals. Duh. And prison-owning companies are totally not using their multi-million dollar fortunes to inflate both the fear of crime and the notion that more people in jail implies safer streets. Just kidding; there are public lists of politicians who received contributions from private prisons, and, believe it or not Mr. Smith, some of those politicians are even enthusiastically advocating for their well-paying friends.
And then there are prison towns, which, like Walmart, employ the whole darn neighborhood.
Car repairs. Toys R Us.TWA. AT&T. Compaq. Dell. Microsoft. IBM. Clothing. File Cabinets. Electronics and electronic repairs. No wage laws. No insurance. No paid holidays or sick days. No grievances. No quitting for a better company. The threat of labeling disagreeable prisoners ‘uncooperative.’ The power of rewarding compliant ones with notes of ‘good behavior.’ Low cost, high profit. Ah, yes, The American dream.
On behalf of our families, we at EgoTV would like to wish all of our readers a joyous and lighthearted Thanksgiving Day.
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