What is Modern Slavery?

Many corporations today rely on the forced-employment of American prison inmates as a source of inexpensive labor. Most people believe the United States abolished slavery through the enactment of the thirteenth amendment, although this article clearly states that people can be subjugated into what would otherwise be unjust working-conditions if they have been sentenced to prison-time. The 13th Amendment states: Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction (Thirteenth Amendment). United State prisons should not be allowed to force inmates into involuntary labor how they can because it gives correctional facilities incentive to view their inmate population as a resource it can sell to other corporations. United State citizens lose job opportunities when corporations can insource labor from inmates that can be payed less than minimum wage. Even more of a problem for citizens, when local governments get into contract with privately-owned prisons the state must meet a minimum occupancy requirement. When those minimums are not being met the government must pay privately-owned prisons for not filling their correctional facilities, working with these corporations becomes a huge waste the taxpayer’s money. This causes police officers that need to meet quotas to begin racial profiling citizens to make arrest.

Everyone in favor of forcing our prison-population into involuntary-servitude can see how beneficial it is for large corporations and there is money to be made by providing these inexpensive workers to big businesses.

Corporations need cheap labor to stay afloat. The United States became of the world’s strongest economies by utilizing slave-labor while it was still legal. In 2018, for-profit prisons that will exchange the labor of their inmates for money is one of the most reliable ways a corporation can insource very inexpensive labor in the county. What people need to recognize presently, is what Abraham Lincoln and The Union understood back in 1865 when they worked toward abolishing slavery. Big businesses in the U.S economy rely so heavily on inexpensive labor to sustain their business that without it many American owned companies could collapse due to the high cost of workers.

There are over two million inmates in state, federal, and private prisons around the country. The United States has locked up more people than any other nation around the entire world. A half million more than China, which has five times as many citizens as the United States. Statistics reveal that the United States holds 25% of the world’s prison population, but only 5% of the world’s people (Palta) It can be stipulated that the reason U.S prisons has such a large prison population is because the State has incentive to fill prisons by being in contract with privately ran prisons.

The U.S Department of Justice state that the use of our incarcerated population for involuntary labor is justifiable by having The Bureau of Prisons operate an inmate work program within its institutions with the purpose of:

Reducing inmate idleness, while allowing the inmate to improve and/or develop useful job skills, work habits, and experiences that will assist in post-release employment; and ensure that activities necessary to maintain the day-to-day operation of the institution are completed. Sentenced inmates who are physically and mentally able to work are required to participate in the work program (Lappin).

This turns the two million plus inmates in prisons around the United States into one of the most reliable and beneficial sources of cheap labor for American companies due to these modern-day slave’s inability not to work and ability in many states to be payed for less than the regional minimum wage that they’d have to pay a regular worker.

The average pay of convict labor in private prisons is between $0.93 – $4.73 per day. More generous wages in federal prisons range from $0.23 to $1.25 per hour and our usually employed through Unicor. Roughly 21,000 inmates work in Unicor programs. The nation’s prison industry now employs more people than any Fortune 500 company (besides General Motors) and generates about $2.4 billion in revenue annually (Khalek).

Because of prison labor, a business operated an 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 let go of its 150 workers for the contracted inmate workers, where circuit boards are assembled (PelГЎez). What happens is companies like Correction Corporation of America (CCA) can make a deal with a federal or state-run prison that would have CCA to finance, build, and manage their facility in a private prison then split the profit with the state they’re contracted with. What’s included in many of the deals is an occupancy requirement, a clause demanding the state to keep those newly privatized prisons at least 90 percent full at all times, regardless of whether crime was rising or falling. So, when crime rates do drop, and prison populations dwindle in states that agreed to keep their correctional facilities 80 percent or 90 percent full, what happens?

Consider Colorado. The amount of crime in this state has sunk by a third since the early 2000’s. Many more prison beds remain empty in facilities. Colorado taxpayers foot the bill for leaving these state-run prisons underused. In March, Christie Donner, executive director of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition estimated that the state wasted at least $2 million in taxpayer’s money paying CCA for not keeping up their side of the contract (Kroll).

Back in 2010, three inmates of an Arizona private prison resulted in State officials refusing to send inmates to a 3,300-bed facility. By 2011 Management & Training Corp. threatened to sue the state. A line in their contract guaranteed that the prison would remain at 97% full capacity. They argued they had lost nearly almost $10 million from the reduced inmate population. State officials ended up paying $3 million for empty beds as the company continued to address problems, according to state documents and local news accounts (Kirkham).

As the number of incarcerated population per state go up their regional crime rate goes down. Due to these occupancy requirements the State is lead to discriminate against citizens to meet a quota. This explains why so many private prisons are full of young minorities. It’s estimated that 1 in 3 black men will spend time behind bars during some point in their life, compared with 1 in 6 Latino men and 1 in 17 white men. the reason behind the racial disparity: private prisons purposefully exclude people with high medical care costs from their contracts. Younger, fitter inmates, are found to be mostly people of color. Older inmates, who usually come with a slew of health problems, are whiter.

These statistics debunk the stigma behind many Americans believing immigrants are stealing jobs from our economy when companies are given more incentive to have them locked up rather than hiring them for the jobs we think they’re stealing. What’s really happening is big corporations are looking to fill industrial jobs, so they contract a prison to hire their prisoners as a reliable source of very inexpensive labor that is also closer to home. Compared to outsourcing labor from countries that could produce their goods and ship them back to America, insourcing labor will give them the same result while also saving money on the transportation from overseas.

The United States economy and even foreign countries are losing jobs due to prison labor programs. We need to raise awareness of the harmful side effects of insourcing labor from prisons by making sure corporations and businesses are producing their goods and services in a morally up-right manner. For now, our best call to action is to simply make it common knowledge of how in-just working conditions can become for many of our industrial workers and how that can make it more difficult for citizens in our economy to afford the cost of living. As states began to work towards finding new means of labor new job markets will begin to open up for us that will lead to lesser crime rates without having to meet capacity quotas for prisons because of more of our working class being able to find legal and stable ways to make profit.

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