My wife used to run the corporate McDonald’s restaurants, as the executive director in Arizona, for almost a decade. The goal of every one of her stores was to create return business. McDonalds would invest in playland equipment and dine in furniture, all designed to make the restaurants a desirable place to return to. The business principle is called “Return on Investment”. And now, our prisons are being organized along the same business principle.
The present privatized prison system operates on the same principle and it is quite effective. The average person is sentenced from 5-7 years in prison. There is no rehabilitation, only the prison life which produces a more hardened criminal. When the convict is released, they find it virtually impossible to get a job because of their ex-con label. Within three years of release from prison, 70% of all prisoners return. Can you imagine if every restaurant had a 70% return rate from its customers? If my wife could have enjoyed these kinds of numbers, she would have been the executive of the year, each and every year.
According to the Pew Center in their study The Long Reach of American Corrections (March 2009), it costs nearly $79 per day to house an inmate which is 20 times the cost of putting someone on probation. Wouldn’t it make sense to sentence nonviolent offenders to probation and save the taxpayers’ money? Of course it would, unless you are Vanguard Investments, the largest owner of privatized citizens in the form of the Correctional Corporation of America (CCA), GEO (2nd largest private prison company), Wackenhut, Viacom, AOL Time Warner and they are all controlled by the Vanguard Family of Funds. You remember Vanguard don’t you?
The problem of prison slave labor, goes right to the top and these corporations have a powerful political ally.
This is the same Vanguard that moved money prior to the Gulf Oil Explosion in a manner which made massive sums of money for key investors in the same manner as did Transocean, Goldman Sachs and Halliburton. And one of those insiders that benefitted from the Gulf Oil Explosion was President Obama as he was vested in Vanguard I and Vanguard II. The late Bob Chapman reported on this Obama conflict of interest as did I in an earlier article. Obama’s corruption is not limited to his investors having and acting on foreknowledge of the Gulf Oil Explosion, he is an active investor in the slave labor motivated Prison Industrial Complex.
Obama benefits and profits from prison slave labor.
Overt Slave Labor
Many of Wall Street’s giants have been invited to the party and are reaping huge profits. The following is a list of the corporations that contract with CCA and GEO to produce American slave labor goods. They include Intel, Northern Telecom, TWA, Nordstrom’s Boeing, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T, Wireless, 3Com, Revlon, Macy’s, Pierre Cardin, Texas Instrument, Dell, Compaq, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard, Nortel, Lucent Technologies, Target, and countless more. All of these businesses are excited about the economic boom generation by prison slave labor and most actively lobby for mandatory sentencing.
Generally, prison inmates in state run penitentiaries receive minimum wage for their work. In Agenda 21 controlled Colorado, they only receive about $2 per hour, well under the minimum for state run prisons. However, Colorado inmates are rich compared to inmates in privately-run prisons where they can receive as little as 17 cents per hour. This is worse than Walmart slave labor in China! The highest-paying private prison run by the CCA pays 50 cents per hour for “highly skilled positions.” I am not sure how this is even legal as I remember reading something about the 13th Amendment being repealed.
Prison Slave Labor Has Become One of the Mainstays of the American Economy
If there is a silver lining as America has found and antidote to the loss of manufacturing through the various free trade agreements (i.e. NAFTA, CAFTA). Unfortunately, prison slave labor is the solution. The Left Business Observer identifies private corporate interests benefiting from prison slave labor which includes the manufacturing of “93% of all paints and paintbrushes; 92% of stove assembly; 46% of body armor; 36% of home appliances; 30% of headphones/microphones/speakers; and 21% of office furniture. This is a kind of Walmart for prisons and your State Legislatures are promoting this as a kind of cost savings, but they guarantee 90-100% prison bed occupancy rates. And we wonder why mandatory sentencing has replaced judicial discretion when deciding the disposition of a criminal case.
Time Off for Good Behavior
In these normally overcrowded prisons, inmates may get their sentences reduced for “good behavior,” but for any violation of prison rules, they get 30 days tacked on to their sentences. I thought only a judge, under the Fifth Amendment due process provisions of the Constitution, could impose a prison sentence. This translates into more profits for CCA. According to a study of New Mexico prisons, it was found that CCA inmates lost their “time off for good behavior” at an 800% higher rate than inmates in state run prisons. CCA’s prisons are notoriously understaffed and this under-staffing leads to more acting out by the inmates which in turn leads to longer sentences resulting in more profit.
Therefore, one of the profit motivators for CCA is administration by neglect. In other words, they make more money if the prisons are poorly run and decidedly more dangerous.
Rockefeller Scams the System in Search of Profits
In New York, Nelson Rockefeller’s heralded anti-drug law, initiated in 1973, provided for a mandatory prison sentences of 15 years to life for possession of four ounces of any illegal drug. Fifteen years to life for possessing four ounces of marijuana? Mr. Rockefeller, what could possibly be the motive for such strict drug laws? Answer, the same motive on why Obama has his money in Vanguard.
Besides Nelson Rockefeller, the privatized prison system has enjoyed having low friends in high places for a very long time beginning with Nancy Reagan’s “Just say no” and her husband’s War on Drugs program. Ironically under Reagan, his CIA traded guns for drugs in the Air America Iran-Contra Affair. Enter former president, George H. W. Bush, an ex CIA director, and things only got worse. Bush helped fuel the growth of the industry during his presidency. And upon leaving office, he became a player in privatized prisons.
Under Reagan and Bush, Federal drug laws became more draconian. Presently, Federal law mandates five years’ imprisonment with no hope of parole for possession of five grams of crack or 3.5 ounces of heroin. Further, Federal law provides for 10 years imprisonment for possession of less than two ounces of crack. A sentence of five years for cocaine powder requires possession of 500 grams. This puts the United States on a par with nations like Turkey with regard to excessive sentences handed out for simply drug possession. There can only be one outcome from this trend curve, more slave labor and a lot more smiling faces on Wall Street.
Go to School and End Up In Prison
The above graphic now applies to our children as our kids are increasingly becoming victim to what is called the School to Prison Pipeline.
Every good major league baseball team has a successful farm system of minor league teams in smaller towns and cities. This is where the majority of baseball talent develops their skills prior to coming to the parent club. The Prison Industrial Complex is run like a major league baseball team’s farm system in which young talent is developed to replace the aging veterans.
It used to be a given that unless one committed murder, juveniles under the age of 18 did not go to jail or prison. That is no longer the case. The incarceration of our youth is big business. There are almost 75,000 juveniles in prison and the rates are skyrocketing because of a phenomenon that is now being referred to as the school to prison pipeline in which schools are increasingly refusing to deal with even minor discipline issues and are placing juveniles in police custody.
In 2010, there were 5,574 school-based arrests of juveniles in the Chicago Public School system. The juvenile arrests accounted for about one of every five juvenile arrests in the entire city of Chicago for all of 2010. The incarceration rates for Chicago’s juveniles are in line with most other metropolitan areas in the country. There is also a general trend of disproportionate rates of minority contact within the juvenile justice system, Black youth accounted for 74% of school-based arrests, and 22.5% of youth arrested were Latino. The enrollment of Chicago schools in was 45% Black and 41% Latino. These high arrest rates for so many of our minority youth, create potential slave laborers for the Prison Industrial Complex. Once a child is adjudicated in the justice system, society usually witnesses a straight line right to prison. These precious children are having their futures robbed from them before they can even get started. What are they being arrested for? The number one reason is for fighting on school grounds.
As a child, I had fights on school grounds, but nobody tried to send me to prison. The number two reason why children end up in the justice system is for possessing small amounts of marijuana.
As a former mental health counselor, I am all too familiar with the devastation brought on by use of drugs. However, marijuana is not one of these drugs. If legalizing marijuana runs against everything you believe in, how about decriminalizing? In other words, we still make the drug illegal but nobody goes to prison for simple possession.
The federal authorities, controlled by the corporations will never allow such a common sense, liberalized approach to drug enforcement. The feds even arrest medical marijuana dispensers and users. Why? Because Wall Street wants prisoners to fill its increasingly privatized and for-profit prison system. This is the major reason why America has 25% of the world’s prison population.
Our minority youth, in the inner cities, are being conditioned by the system that going to prison is part of the life experience. And with extremely high recidivism rates, prison slave labor will never have any shortage of participants.
The Prison Industrial Complex and their lobbyists are responsible for zero tolerance policies, mandatory sentencing and the three strikes life sentencing that is so prominent in many of our states and unless we identify these abuses and stop them, it is only going to get worse.
These events are culminating to establish was has been dubbed as the School to Prison Pipeline. Remember the term, because they are actively recruiting our children for the prison slave labor force.
Since the advent of privatized prisons in 1984, America has witnessed the passage of laws that require minimum sentencing, without regard for any extenuating circumstances. Our prison system is experiencing a much larger percentage of work by prisoners, thus creating profits for Wall Street which in turn motivate the incarceration of more people for longer periods of time. And privatized prison corporate investors make happy campaign contributors. Therefore, you can bet that the proverbial poop rolls down hill to the cops and the push is on to incarcerate more and more. Some argue that is fine, but when children are one of the fastest growing segments of our prison population, we all need to sit up take notice and take action.
Again, this system is very effective and efficient. With only four percent of the world’s population, the United States has over 25% of the world’s prison population. As a people, we are very ingenious as our corporations have learned to make money from virtually any life circumstance. Do your kids have a “get out of jail card”?
Dave Hodges is the Editor and Host of The Common Sense Show.