From the Ramparts
Junious Ricardo Stanton
“The racism that pervades every aspect of life in capitalist society — from jobs, income and housing to education and opportunity — is most brutally reflected by who is caught up in the U.S. prison system. More than 60 percent of U.S. prisoners are people of color. Seventy percent of those being sentenced under the three strikes law in California — which requires mandatory sentences of 25 years to life after three felony convictions — are people of color.” The Pentagon and Slave Labor in U. S. Prisons Sara Flounders www.workers.org/2011/us/pentagon_0609/
The United States imprisons more of its citizens than any other sovereign nation in the world. The US also imprisons more people of color percentage wise than whites. In her book The New Jim Crow Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness attorney and author Michelle Alexander examines how the “justice system” using the bogus war on drugs as a pretext, works hand in hand with the prison industrial complex and the politicians to relegate and consign people of color in general and African-Americans in particular to a nether world of second class citizenry and caste where they lose their right to vote, where getting a job becomes problematic and existing as self-actualizing productive men and women with dignity and a sense of worth becomes extremely difficult. Reading her book I was struck with the similarities between what she was documenting and another book by Charshee C.L. McIntyre entitled Criminalizing A Race Free Blacks During Slavery which detailed how the system criminalized free blacks prior to the US Civil War. These books along with the books by A. Leon Higginbothom: In The Matter Of Color Race and The American Legal Process The Colonial Period and Shades of Freedom Racial Politics and Presumptions of the American Legal Process reveal how the judicial system is undeniably racist and so egregiously stacked against people of color that justice for the most part is merely a word.
In this country from colonial times until the present the courts existed to arbitrate questions and issues of economics, labor and wealth. Yes the courts did rule on social issues and legislation but for the most part the courts like everything else in this country were established to ensure the ruling elites, the oligarchs and their interests were protected over and above those of the masses. Time after time the lower, appellate and supreme courts both state and federal tended to rule in favor of the rich and powerful. From colonial times to the present the courts both British and American protected the institution of indentured servitude and later the convict labor arrangements between colonies, local and state governments, the trading companies and other corporations.
“In1718 the British government decided that ‘transportation’ the banishing of convicts to work in the colonies, created a more effective deterrent to recidivism than the standard punishments of whipping and branding. This change in policy was favored because of high demand for labor in the colonies, and because facilities for long-term imprisonment were lacking. Between 1718 and 1775, approximately 50,000 British convicts were sentenced to long-term labor contracts, transported to America, and sold to private employers. They represented a quarter of all British and half of all English arrivals to British North America in this period. Most were convicted of some form of property crime, including horse and sheep stealing. While transported convicts were predominantly English and male, approximately 13 to 23 percent were Irish and 10 to 15 percent were female. Convict transportees were given one of three possible sentences—namely seven years, fourteen years, or a lifetime of banishment—that became the length of their labor contracts. Among those transported, 74 percent had seven-year sentences, 24 percent had fourteen-year sentences, and 2 percent had life sentences. Once convicts had served their sentences (contracts), they were free to return to Britain or to stay in America. The number who eventually returned to Britain is unknown. Convicts caught returning to Britain before completing their sentences were hanged. To minimize the cost of transportation, the British government channeled convicts through the existing transatlantic market for voluntary servant labor, which served those who wanted to emigrate but lacked sufficient cash to pay the cost of passage. Emigrants could secure passage to the colonies of their choice by negotiating long-term labor (servant) contracts that they would fulfill in America as payment for their passage. The typical voluntary servant negotiated a four-year contract. By contrast, British courts fixed the length of convict labor contracts and turned the convicts over to private shippers who would transport and dispose of the convicts for profit in the colonies chosen by the shippers. The typical convict was sentenced to a seven-year contract. Colonists mockingly referred to arriving convicts as ‘His Majesty's seven-year passengers.’” - Convict labor system http://www.answers.com/topic/convict-labor-systems
Keep in mind that as business enterprises, the colonies were obligated to ensure a profit to the Pope, the trading company and the monarchy that granted their charter. They structured their courts after those in their home country and they shared the same values as the European elites. So it is no surprise that for hundreds of years the courts have used prisoners as a way to make money through quasi slavery (indentured servitude), convict leasing and now the prison industrial complex. When they decided to use kidnapped Africans as free labor, the Europeans felt no compunction whatsoever to treat them fairly or justly, they still don’t.
“Prison labor offers no union protection, overtime pay, vacation days, pensions, benefits, health and safety protection, or Social Security withholding. Prisoners even recycle toxic electronic equipment and overhaul military vehicles. The prison system has quickly become and outsourcing corporation similar to cheaper labor markets overseas. This has created cheaper labor and also some very unsafe conditions for inmates. Prisoners worked covered in dust, with out safety equipment, protective gear, air filtration or masks. The toxic dust that they where around caused serious injury like blood clots and cancer.”Prison Slavery in Today’s U.S.A www.mediafreedominternational.org/2011/11/07/prison-slavery-in-today’s-u-s-a/
Prison labor today in the US is a huge business. “At least 37 states have legalized the contracting of prison labor by private corporations that mount their operations inside state prisons. The list of such companies contains the cream of U.S. corporate society: IBM, Boeing, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T, Wireless, Texas Instrument, Dell, Compaq, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard, Nortel, Lucent Technologies, 3Com, Intel, Northern Telecom, TWA, Nordstrom's, Revlon, Macy's, Pierre Cardin, Target Stores, and many more. All of these businesses are excited about the economic boom generation by prison labor. Just between 1980 and 1994, profits went up from $392 million to $1.31 billion. Inmates in state penitentiaries generally receive the minimum wage for their work, but not all; in Colorado, they get about $2 per hour, well under the minimum. And in privately-run prisons, they receive as little as 17 cents per hour for a maximum of six hours a day, the equivalent of $20 per month. The highest-paying private prison is CCA in Tennessee, where prisoners receive 50 cents per hour for what they call ‘highly skilled positions.’ At those rates, it is no surprise that inmates find the pay in federal prisons to be very generous. There, they can earn $1.25 an hour and work eight hours a day, and sometimes overtime. They can send home $200-$300 per month. Thanks to prison labor, the United States is once again an attractive location for investment in work that was designed for Third World labor markets. A company that operated a maquiladora (assembly plant in Mexico near the border) closed down its operations there and relocated to San Quentin State Prison in California. In Texas, a factory fired its 150 workers and contracted the services of prisoner-workers from the private Lockhart Texas prison, where circuit boards are assembled for companies like IBM and Compaq. The prison industry in the United States: big business or a new form of slavery? by Vicky Pelaez http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=8289
Private prisons are the newest rage and are trading briskly on Wall Street for them to make a profit they need bodies hence the unwillingness to repeal the draconian war on drugs era laws that are sending black and brown people to jail in record numbers. prisons are big business, and the need for prisoners is high so you can see why the prisons are jammed packed.
- US Prison labor Is very Profitable, jrswriter, 11/08/2011
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