Profit Driven Prison Industrial Complex: The Economics of Incarceration in the USA - Page 2


Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this obstinate moral predicament presents itself in the private contracting of prisoners and their role in assembling vast quantities of military and commercial equipment. While the United States plunges itself into each new manufactured conflict under a wide range of fraudulent pretenses, it is interesting to note that all military helmets, ammunition belts, bulletproof vests, ID tags, uniforms, tents, bags and other equipment used by military occupation forces are produced by inmates in federal prisons across the US . Giant multinational conglomerates and weapons manufacturers such as Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Corporation employ federal prison labor to cheaply assemble weapons components, only to sell them to the Pentagon at premium prices. At the lowest, Prisoners earn 17 cents an hour to assemble high-tech electronic components for guided missile systems needed to produce Patriot Advanced Capability 3 missiles and anti-tank projectiles .
In the past, political mouthpieces of the United States have criticized countries such as China and North Korea for their role in exploiting prisoner labor to create commodity products such as women’s bras and artificial flowers for export. Evidently, outsourcing the construction of the military equipment responsible for innumerable civilian causalities to the prisons of America warrants no such criticism from the military industrial establishment. In utter derision toward the integrity of the common worker, prison inmates are exposed to toxic spent ammunition, depleted uranium dust and other chemicals when contracted to clean and reassemble tanks and military vehicles returned from combat . Prison laborers receive no union protection, benefits or health and safety protection when made to work in electronic recycling factories where inmates are regularly exposed to lead, cadmium, mercury and arsenic.
In addition to performing tasks that can result in detrimental illnesses, prison labor produces other military utilities such as night-vision goggles, body armor, radio and communication devices, components for battleship anti-aircraft guns, land mine sweepers and electro-optical equipment. While this abundant source of low-cost manpower fosters greater incentives for corporate stockholders to impose draconian legislation on the majority of Americans who commit nonviolent offenses, it’s hard to imagine such an innately colossal contradiction to the nation’s official rhetoric, i.e. American values. Furthermore, prison labor is employed not only in the assembly of complex components used in F-15 fighter jets and Cobra helicopters , it also supplies 98% of the entire market for equipment assembly services, with similar statistics in regard to products such as paints, stoves, office furniture, headphones, and speakers.
It is some twisted irony that large sections of the workforce in America’s alleged free-market are shackled in chains. Weapons manufactured in the isolation of America’s prisons are the source of an exploitative cycle, which leaves allied NATO member countries indebted to a multibillion-dollar weapons industry at the behest of the U.S. State Department and the Pentagon. Complete with its own trade exhibitions, mail-order catalogs and investment houses on Wall Street, the eminence of the private prison industry solidifies the ongoing corrosion of American principles – principles that seem more abstract now, than the day they were written.
Predictably, the potential profit of the prison labor boom has encouraged the foundations of US corporate society to move their production forces into American prisons. Conglomerates such as 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, Victoria’s Secret, and Target have all begun mounting production operations in US prisons. Many of these Fortune 500 conglomerates are corporate members of civil society groups such as the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). These think tanks are critical toward influencing American foreign policy. Under the guise of democracy promotion, these civil societies fund opposition movements and train dissent groups in countries around the world in the interest of pro-US regime change. With naked insincerity, the same companies that outsource the production of their products to American prisons simultaneously sponsor civil societies that demanded the release of Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest – an overly political effort in the on-going attempts to install a compliant regime in that country.
The concept of privatizing prisons to reduce expenses comes at great cost to the inmates detained, who are subjected to living in increasingly squalid conditions in jail cells across America. In 2007, the Texas Youth Commission (TYC) was sent to a West Texas juvenile prison run by GEO Group for the purpose of monitoring its quality standards. The monitors sent by the TYC were subsequently fired for failing to report the sordid conditions they witnessed in the facility while they awarded the GEO Group with an overall compliance score of nearly 100%. Independent auditors later visited the facility and discovered that inmates were forced to urinate or defecate in small containers due to a lack of toilets in some of the cells. The independent commission also noted in their list of reported findings that the facility racially segregated prisoners and disciplined Hispanics for speaking Spanish by denying their access to layers and medical treatment. It was later discovered that the TYC monitors were employed by the GEO Group. Troublingly, the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility (WGYCF) operated by the GEO Group in Mississippi has been subject to a class-action lawsuit after reports that staff members were complicit in the beating and stabbing of a prisoner who consequently incurred permanent brain damage. The official compliant authored by the ACLU and Southern Poverty Law Center also highlights cases where the administration turned a blind eye to brutal cases of rape and torture within the facility.
The first private prison models were introduced following the abolishment of slavery after the American Civil War from 1861 to 1865, which saw expansive prison farms replace slave plantations. Prisons of the day contracted groups of predominately African-American inmates to pick cotton and construct railroads principally in southern states such as Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi. In 2012, there are more African-Americans engrossed in the criminal-justice system than any point during slavery. Throughout its history, the American prison system has shared little with the concept of rehabilitation. Like the post-Civil War prison farms, today’s system functions to purport required labor, largely on a racially specific basis. African-Americans consist of 40% of the prison population and are incarcerated seven times more often than whites, despite the fact that African-Americans make up only 12% of the national population. Once released, former inmates are barred from voting in elections, denied educational opportunities and are legally discriminated against in their efforts to find employment and housing. Few can deny the targeting of underprivileged urban communities of color in America’s failed War on Drugs. This phenomenon can largely be contributed to the stipulations of its anti-drug legislation, which commanded maximum sentencing for possession of minute amounts of rock cocaine, a substance that floods poor inner-city black communities.
Unbeknown to the vast majority of Americans, the US government has been actively taking steps to modify the legal infrastructure of the country to allow for a dramatic expansion of the domestic prison system at the expense of civil rights. On December 31st, 2011, Barack Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) H.R. 1540. Emulating the rouge military dictatorships the US Government has long condemned in its rhetoric, the NDAA introduces a vaguely worded legislation that allows for US citizens to be arbitrarily detained in military detention without due process – might they be predictably be deemed radical, conspiratorial or suspected of terrorism. In a climate of rising public discontent, the establishment media has steadfastly worked to blur the line between public activism and domestic extremism.  In addition to the world’s largest network of prison facilities, over 800 located detainment camps exist in all regions of the United States with varying maximum capacities.

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