By: James Stacy
One of the worse things to happen to our freedom is the privatization of our prison system. Prisons are supposed to be a drain on our society so that we are reluctant about taking away freedom from our citizens. Freedom is our most important right as American citizens.
Prison labor has its roots in slavery. After the Civil War, many of the freed slaves were put in prison on false charges and then put to work on building bridges, picking cotton and working in mines.
America has 5% of the worldâ€™s population, but 25% of the worldâ€™s prison population. We have a half million more people in prison in the U.S. than communist China.
President Nixon wanted to stop protesters of the Vietnam War and thought the best way to do that was to outlaw marijuana. Nixon established the Controlled Substance Act and made marijuana a Schedule I drug in opposition to the Schaffer report he had commissioned to study marijuana.
Now, a new group of people are taking advantage of Nixonâ€™s attacks on American freedoms. The private prison system makes a lot of money off marijuana users. Private prisons are getting paid by the state or federal government to house prisoners. They then make the prisoners work for $15 a month.Â The prisoners work full-time, canâ€™t call in sick, strike or ask for raises. If they refuse to work, they are placed in isolation cells.
Some of the corporations using prison labor are: IBM, Boeing, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T, Wireless, Texas Instrument, Dell, Compaq, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard, Nortel, Lucent Technologies, 3Com, Intel, Northern Telecom, TWA, Nordstrom, Revlon, Macyâ€™s, Pierre Cardin, Target stores, and many more.
[Former] Oregon State Representative Kevin Mannix recently urged Nike to cut its production in Indonesia and bring it to his state, telling the shoe manufacturer that â€œthere wonâ€™t be any transportation costs; weâ€™re offering you competitive prison labor (here).â€
The federal prison industry produces 100% of all military helmets, ammunition belts, bulletproof vests, ID tags, shirts, pants, tents, bags, and canteens. Along with war supplies, prison workers supply 98% of the entire market with equipment assembly services; 93% of 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. They also produce airplane parts and medical supplies while some prisoners are even raising seeing-eye dogs for blind people.
With the three strikes law, they can put people in prison for life. A man recently received three 25-year sentences for his third offense after stealing a bicycle.
A private prisonâ€™s trade stock is based on the number of persons that are in their prison. They need more prisoners to make more profit; they need longer sentences to project the long-term profits. They lobby lawmakers to increase mandatory sentencing for drug use and possession to keep a steady flow of nonviolent prisoners.
The biggest boom for private prisons is medical marijuana. State and local officials ignore the will of the voters and arrest legal medical marijuana users. District attorneys offer plea deals or turn over evidence to the DEA. Medical marijuana patients are caught off guard as they were following the law and now find themselves in court and facing jail time.
When a person is sick and thinks they were following the law, they will not attack guards and get into fights. They want to do their time and get back to their families as soon as they can. Even when a medical marijuana patient takes a plea deal that is just probation, they still suffer. How? In this bad economy where jobs are hard to come by, a person with a criminal record will not have much of a chance in getting a job. When you canâ€™t work, you might break another law and theyâ€™ll have you back in their private prison.
Private prisons have insured support for longer mandatory minimums by giving $100,000 to the Republican Party and state elections â€“ money that came from the suffering of our fellow Americans.
It is obvious that the level of professionalism in private prisons is far lower than what we, the taxpayers, expect. We are getting a lower quality of service while the corporation is making the money.
There is a moral question to be asked here. Is it okay for people to make a profit on putting someone in prison? Does that give them incentive to keep more people in prison? Do you know that in private prisons you are seven times more likely to get your good time cancelled? Good time is what will allow you to get out early. Getting out early is bad for the corporation that runs the prisons.
As we fight for our rights, we must not forget the people who are profit centers for private prisons. We must demand that all prisons be run by the government and never for profit.
You can write to your state and federal representative and demand that they change the law and make the government run our prisons. Take the profit out of prison.