New US Prison Strike Takes us to the Dark Heart of Capitalism

New US Prison Strike Takes us to the Dark Heart of Capitalism

Prison labour is a billion-dollar industry, and the corporate beneficiaries of this slave labour include some of the largest corporations and most widely known brands. There are literally hundreds of corporations and firms that exploit prison labour.

One year ago the largest prison labour strike in US history took place. More than 24,000 prisoners across 29 prisons in 12 states protested against exploitation and inhumane conditions. It was timed to mark the anniversary of the Attica Prison uprising1 of 46 years ago over prisoners' demands for better living conditions and political rights. Attica prisoners rioted and took control of the prison, taking 42 staff hostage. When the uprising was over, at least 43 people were dead, including ten prison staff, and 33 inmates.2

One year on, another major prison strike is now spreading across the US and Canada which has entered into its second week. The strike began on August 21 and is set to last a total of 19 days. Naturally, it has been subjected to a media blackout by the mainstream media in the US; and reliable information about the progress of the strike is difficult to come by.

Prison reform advocacy groups liaising with strike organisers, have reported that protests had been confirmed in three states, with further unconfirmed reports emerging from Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina as well as Washington State and up to Nova Scotia in Canada.

One of the intentions of the prisoners in the current dispute is to bring to public attention the spate of deaths in custody, which in some states has reached epidemic proportions. In Mississippi, 10 inmates3 have died in their cells in the past three weeks alone, with no firm indication of the cause of their deaths.

In addition to concern over unexplained deaths of prison inmates, the strikers, led by a network of incarcerated activists who call themselves Jailhouse Lawyers Speak4, have put out a set of 10 demands5 to reform the US’s penal system, including more investment in rehabilitation services and better medical treatment for mentally-ill prisoners. High up on the list is an end to forced or underpaid labour that the protesters call a form of modern slavery.

Among the main tactics that are being deployed in the strike are a refusal to work, a boycott of purchases at prison commissaries, sit-ins and hunger strikes.

Filling the Prisons

In 2016 there were 2.29 million people in US prisons which is equivalent to 716 per 100 000 of the population. This is one of the highest rates of incarceration in the world. (In England and Wales the equivalent number is 144 per 100 000 of the population.) The vast majority of prisoners in the US are working class, and a disproportionate number of them are African-Americans and Hispanics. In states like Virginia and Oklahoma one in every 15 African American men6 is put in prison. This is no accident since these groups predominantly come from some of the most deprived parts of towns and cities in the US. It is also no accident that the US bourgeoisie has been deliberately targeting these groups by passing draconian sentences on them in order to fill up the prisons. This policy accelerated in 1994 with the introduction of the “three-strikes law.”7 These laws require a person guilty of committing both a severe violent felony and two other previous convictions to serve a mandatory life sentence in prison. In California, these convictions can even be minor and a prisoner is sentenced for life.

In this way, the US has been able to readily fill up its prisons with cheap labour and keep them filled. For example, from 1982 to 2000, California's prison population increased 500%. To accommodate this population growth, the state of California built 23 new prisons at a cost of $280 million to $350 million apiece.8 California is by no means unique in showing such a phenomenal growth in prisons and prison populations. While California’s prisons are public and are financed by the Public Works Department and operated by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation; many other states encourage the building of private prisons. New Mexico incarcerates over 40% of its prison population in private facilities. Private prisons in the US incarcerated 128,063 people in 2016, representing 8.5% of the total state and federal prison population. Since 2000, the number of prisoners in private prisons has increased 47%.9

The United States Congress, influenced by enormous corporate lobbying, enacted the Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Programme10 in 1979, which permitted US companies to use prison labour. Coupled with the drastic increase in the prison population during this period, and particularly after 1994, profits for participating companies and revenue for the government and its private contractors soared. The Federal Bureau of Prisons now runs a programme called Federal Prison Industries (UNICOR)11 that pays inmates under one dollar an hour. The programme generated $500m in sales in 2016 with very little of that cash being passed down to prison workers. California's prison labour programme produced some $232m in sales in 2017. Prison labour in the US is referred to as insourcing. Under the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC), employers receive a tax credit of $2,400 for every work-release inmate they employ as a reward for hiring “risky target groups.”

Your Favourite Brands

Prison labour is a billion-dollar industry, and the corporate beneficiaries of this slave labour include some of the largest corporations and most widely known brands. There are literally hundreds of corporations and firms that exploit prison labour. According to the Left Business Observer, the federal prison industry produces 100% of all military helmets, war supplies and other equipment.

Prison workers supply 98% of the entire market for equipment assembly services; 93% of paints and paintbrushes; 92% of stove assembly; 46% of body armour; 36% of home appliances; 30% of headphones/microphones/speakers; and 21% of office furniture. Aeroplane parts, medical supplies and much more: prisoners are even raising guide dogs for blind people. While prison workers are generating huge amounts of surplus value, they only receive between 90 cents to $4 a day depending on the prison factory they are incarcerated in. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour which means prison labour is paid between 1/15th and 1/65th of the minimum wage. Below is a review of just some of the biggest US corporations that take advantage of this:

UNICOR manages 83 factories and more than 12,000 prison labourers who earn as little as 23 cents an hour working at call centres, manufacturing items such as military body armour. In 2013, federal inmates made $100m worth of military uniforms. UNICOR has also provided prison labour in the past to produce Patriot missile parts for defence contractors Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, and parts for others such as Boeing and General Dynamics.

Since 2011, Whole Foods has benefited from prison labour. This company, acquired by Amazon in 2016, purchases food from Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy and Quixotic Farming, two private vendors that use cheap prison labour to raise fish, produce milk and herd goats.

Walmart, one of the biggest retailers in the US uses prison inmates for manufacturing purposes. The company “hires” inmates to clean products of UPC bar codes so that products can be resold. The company has purchased produce from farms, where women prisoners face bad working conditions, inadequate medical care and very low pay. And Starbucks uses prison labour to cut costs as well. Starbucks’ subcontractor Signature Packaging Solutions hired Washington state prisoners to package holiday coffees.

McDonald’s uses prison labour to produce frozen foods and process beef for patties. Workers flipping burgers and frying French fries for minimum wage at McDonald's restaurants wear uniforms that were manufactured by prison labourers. Prisoners also process bread, milk and chicken products for McDonald’s. McDonald’s rival Wendy’s has also been identified as relying on prison labour to reduce its cost of operations.

Sprint, the telecoms company uses prison inmates to provide telecommunication services by using them in call centres and Verizon, another telecoms company, does the same thing. While American Airlines and the car rental company Avis use inmates to take reservations.

Victoria’s Secret uses prison labour to cut production costs. In South Carolina, female inmates were used to sew products. Prison workers reportedly have also been used to replace “made in” tags with “Made in USA” tags! While, Kmart and J.C. Penney both sell jeans made by inmates in Tennessee prisons.

Some proportion of pension and other investments owned by the US public are invested by Fidelity Investments in prison labour or in other operations related to the prison industrial complex. The investment firm funds the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which has created laws authorizing and increasing the use of prison inmates in manufacturing.

Making America Great Again

One way of trying to “make America great again” has been to ensure wages are suppressed in the US to the point where production becomes profitable again for the US bourgeoisie. Median real wage growth in the US was stagnating before the global financial crisis but has gone down even more since then, so that average wages in the US are lower than they were ten years ago. Prison labour has been an important source of very cheap labour and a means of suppressing wages. Prisoners are not only cheap labour, they are also easier to control. Companies are free to avoid providing benefits like health insurance or sick pay. They don’t need to worry about demands for paid leave, wage rises or family issues. In principle use of prison labour is not very different from Stalin’s gulags. Of course, this cannot be admitted because the US pretends it is the great defender of human rights, American values and so on. The Federal Prisons Industry Inc. actually advertises its services as “bringing jobs back to America” with long lists of services the prisoners can perform which can feed into other US industries. They do not say they are bringing the jobs back for US prisoners and so reducing wages of “free” workers.12

It comes as no surprise that “making America great again” also involves the use of foreign prison labour in countries where conditions are even worse than in the US prisons. China uses prison labour to make commodities a lot of which are directly exported to the US or form parts of products exported to the US. According to research by the Financial Times, China, which has a prison population of 2.3 million, virtually the same as the US, is using prison labour to offset the reduced profitability of its manufactures caused by rising wages. This is more or less what the Federal Prisons Industry is arguing for its services in the US. Agricultural products such as garlic, consumption products such as handbags and assembly of wiring for industrial products are examples of the type of work carried out by Chinese prisoners. Although the US tries to disguise the fact that the work of prison labour is imported into the US this often cannot be concealed. A woman in Arizona, for example, found a note, written in Chinese, hidden in a handbag she bought from Walmart saying:

“Prisoners in the Yingshan Prison in Guangxi are working 14 hours every day. Whoever does not finish his work will be beaten…being a prisoner in China is worse than being a dog in the US”

The prisoner obviously realised his work was going to the US but clearly has no idea that US prisoners are in a similar condition. Another prisoner who had been in Tonghua prison in Jilin province told the FT:

“We often needed to work from five in the morning to nine at night so the prison is able to make more money.”

A spokesman for China Labour Watch Mr Li states that in China:

“Prisons are run like companies, with their own sales teams.”13

This is exactly how US prisons are being run as shown by the Federal Prisons Industries website mentioned above.

But what lies behind the increased exploitation of the US and world labour force is the law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. Increasing the rate of exploitation, reductions in working benefits, reducing pensions, as well as simple wage cuts are all ways to offset the tendency of the rate of profit to fall in an attempt to make production profitable again. Of course the phenomenon of falling profit rates is not just a US one and the capitalist crisis is hitting the US’ rivals equally hard. The financial crash in 2008 was an indirect product of the fall in the rate of profit because firms have been reducing investment in production, because it is simply not profitable enough, and have been investing in speculation instead. And ten years since the last financial crash the global capitalist system now has ten times the debt it had when the system last collapsed to the tune of some $250 trillion!

The Trump administration clearly thinks continuing the exploitation of prison slave labour is the way to go. It has decided to reverse the Obama-era plan to phase out private prisons and enact new law-and-order policies to increase arrests and keep the prisons filled. This is an acknowledgement that in order to try to maintain profits the working class must be exploited even more ruthlessly. It will also increase opportunities for the US government’s corporate donors and lobbyists to profit from their many investments in mass incarceration.

In recent years there have been leftist campaigns to reform the prison system and end prison labour. But this is similar to other reformist campaigns such as calls to restore social housing. It is simply never going to happen under a capitalism that is now in its fifth decade of open crisis. Despite the assurances of left politicians like Bernie Sanders in the US and Corbyn in the UK that capitalism can be reformed, the system simply cannot afford to make any concessions. Sanders’ and Corbyn’s election promises will never be kept. There will be no free education in the US, just as there will be no scrapping of student debt in the UK, to take just a couple of examples.

Capitalism is in an advanced stage of its crisis. Short of a massive devaluation and destruction of capital, which has come about in the past through imperialist world war, the only other course open to it is ruthless exploitation of the working class. This means real cuts in wages, increases in the rate of exploitation, reductions in pension provision, cuts in social benefits, housing and healthcare, etc.

The only way the US and world working class can find a way out of their daily exploitation and, at the same time get rid of prison factories, is to put an end to wage labour, commodity production and the law of value. We can replace this rotten system, which cares only about profits with a world of “freely associated producers”. We need to recognise that capitalism is long past its sell by date. Let’s get rid of it and scrap the wages system at the same time!

ERGOSUM
29 August 2018

Comments

R Totale
Nov 4 2018 12:12
Gregory A. Butler wrote:
Re "slavery" - when a prison gives an opportunity for a lumpen to learn a trade and actually be employable when they get out of prison.... that's not a bad thing. It's actually a good thing

If prison teaches a lumpen soft skills like how to get up on time in the morning to go to work, or how to follow instructions once at work, that's good. Even better if they actually learn a marketable skill - like how to cook, or how to fix a car, or how to be a housepainter, or how to operate metalworking machinery (lots of American prisons literally make license plates for the Department of Motor Vehicles) - that's not "slavery" that's vocational training.

Just to be clear, is this you, a trade unionist, saying that you want to see manufacturing jobs performed by unpaid coerced labour rather than by unionised workers earning a living wage?

Auld-bod
Nov 4 2018 12:33

R Totale
Just to be clear, is this you, a trade unionist, saying that you want to see manufacturing jobs performed by unpaid coerced labour rather than by unionised workers earning a living wage?

I love a good straw man.

R Totale
Nov 4 2018 12:42
Gregory A. Butler wrote:
Also - at least here in the US - you don't get arrested, charged or indicted, let alone convicted, unless there's a whole lot of evidence that says you actually committed the crime you did

Leaving aside the question of actual convictions, are you really denying the existence of wrongful arrests? Saying prosecutors never decide to chance it and stack up loads of charges to pressure people into taking plea bargains? What kind of copshow version of reality is this?

Tom Henry
Nov 4 2018 13:47

R Totale, why are you getting so overwrought here?

Why are you suggesting that GAB is saying things that he hasn't?

fingers malone
Nov 4 2018 15:01

people definitely do get arrested, charged or indicted, and indeed convicted, without a whole lot of evidence.

Reddebrek
Nov 4 2018 15:11
Auld-bod wrote:

I love a good straw man.

???
Butler's own example is about the moving of manufacturing jobs into the prison system and saying its a good thing.
When did the meaning of strawman change to highlighting a negative aspect of a stated position and asking for clarification?

There's also another problem here, one of the most common grievances I've heard from people I know who have been in prison or the probation service or some other type of correctional behaviour program is that not only are the work programs large workloads for low to no pay, but that the justification that they teach job skills is nonsense. Mainly because sectors like textiles and manufacturing that are used in prison have also largely moved into the prison system because that's where the rate of profit is higher, severely cutting the number of jobs available in the open market place.

And those who do manage to get some of the increasingly rare jobs now have to compete with prison labour.

R Totale
Nov 4 2018 15:36

Auld-bod, I apologise if that was badly phrased - maybe "have no objection to" would be better than "want", but I really don't think the essential point there is a strawman - Greg seemed to be simultaneously admitting that these people are making commercial/state-quality industrial products, and that they had no objection to it. I would have thought that, leaving grand communist aims aside, opposing this sort of stuff would be pretty basic for any trade unionist, but it seems not.

Tom Henry wrote:
R Totale, why are you getting so overwrought here?

Why are you suggesting that GAB is saying things that he hasn't?

I didn't think I was getting that overwrought, although I guess that's a pretty subjective thing - I exercise my right to free speech, you express an opinion, they become overwrought and aggressive, etc. But if I am getting a tad emotional, it might be because I, and other people I care about, have been through experiences with the police and prosecutors that were not particularly pleasant - admittedly, UK rather than US, but I don't for a moment think that their filth are that much more Dixon of Dock Green-esque than ours - and when I read something like "you don't get arrested, charged or indicted, let alone convicted, unless there's a whole lot of evidence that says you actually committed the crime you did", that seems like a blatant denial of those experiences.
Also,

TH wrote:
The discussion here is an example of why much discussion on Libcom, particularly from the admins, or those close to them, is just full of shit...

Who fucking cares?

U ok hun? Can't help feeling that your tantrummy invective seems a tad overwrought there. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Auld-bod
Nov 4 2018 16:35

R Totale

I think GAB has given plenty of ammunition for critical comments, indeed your following post regarding wrongful arrests was spot on.

I believe your previous post was misguided. I read GAB’s post as addressing how prisoners could learn skills which would enable them to earn a living without the need to take future chances with their liberty. Prison have long been regarded as universities of crime, which is one of the reasons anarchists have long thought of them as useless institutions. To attack GAB’s post as an endorsement of non-union labour was disingenuous. It would be as if I accused you of wishing prisoners to be kept in a state of idleness, so as not to take the jobs of union members. I harbour no such thoughts.

When I worked on the Hillington Industrial Estate, in Glasgow, there was a small factory, run by the government, which employed people with learning difficulties, disabled ex-soldiers, etc. All the other factories on the estate were unionised and the shop steward’s committees kept a check that the special factory workers were protected. I feel that prisoners could and should be given the same protection.

R Totale
Nov 4 2018 17:43
Auld-bod wrote:
When I worked on the Hillington Industrial Estate, in Glasgow, there was a small factory, run by the government, which employed people with learning difficulties, disabled ex-soldiers, etc. All the other factories on the estate were unionised and the shop steward’s committees kept a check that the special factory workers were protected. I feel that prisoners could and should be given the same protection.

Was that Remploy, or the organisation that was called Remploy at the time the government closed most of them off? I think the crucial difference there is that, as I understand, those places paid an actual wage (comparable to anyone else doing the same job, I think? Or would hope?) whereas prison labour in its current form tends to be either unpaid or for literal cents/pennies an hour. Greg's post reminded me much more of the justifications offered up for the various unpaid "workfare" schemes like Mandatory Work Activity and so on, which I think most (all?) of us would oppose - although even there I think such schemes tend to be quite strictly time-limited in terms of how long anyone spends on any one placement, whereas a prisoner can be doing the same job for years.

Gregory A. Butler
Nov 4 2018 17:55

I see I struck a nerve here

If you want to follow the Black Panther Party's route, and advance some sort of theory of the lumpenproletariat as the vanguard of the revolution.... be my guest and good luck (also, do some googling and look at how well that worked out for them)

Black Badger
Nov 4 2018 18:42
Quote:
If you want to follow the Black Panther Party's route

i hope somebody will call out GAB on his own use of the strawman fallacy here.

also i find it worth remarking on that GAB asks me personal questions, positioning himself as some kind of caring comrade in my case, but remaining gleefully abstract when it comes to questions of a thoroughly corrupt institution like the criminal justice system. also gleefully ignorant of how cops, prosecutors, and judges fabricate evidence of guilt whether the defendant is guilty or innocent, since their goal is not to find truth but to prove the existence of prosecutable offenders. also gleefully ignorant of the difference between parole and probation; i said explicitly that i'm on probation, not parole. leaving aside the Marxist economism, making such a simple mistake makes me wonder about how much time and effort he's devoted to even the shallowest analysis of the function of law and incarceration. "The New Jim Crow," while certainly important as a basic introduction to the way the War on Drugs has been used to sentence Black people disproportionately, is not a radical text by any means (the author is a law professor after all, not a Black Panther). instead of quibbling about how prison labor can turn a lumpen into a full prole (which as about as absurd as saying that the skills one can learn in the military will apply to civilian life), or uncritically accepting the ruling class definition of crime, why not at least acknowledge the long-standing anarchist principle of prison abolition?

and Tom Henry, just because insults, objectionable analyses, and decidedly unradical positions are offered politely doesn't make them less objectionable or ignorant. plenty of what you characterize as invective is a written equivalent of an eye roll or a throwing up of hands in disbelief and frustration. never in the history of people saying "calm down" has it resulting in anyone calming down.

Tom Henry
Nov 4 2018 21:35

PS

R Totale wrote:

Quote:
U ok hun?

This is a sexist (employed to be patronising) remark that is repugnant.

gram negative
Nov 4 2018 22:17

GAB, you are full of shit.

The US is actually bad at solving murders, which is one of the actions that a prison supporter like yourself would see as the surest indication to imprison people.

The US has endemic levels of interpersonal violence that trump the rates of many nations, high income or not; the rates of violence of urban areas of similar population concentrations can be an order of magnitude different between say the US and Sweden, so the US is not simply better at locking people up than other countries (Sweden is also much better at prosecuting rapists than the US, as well). While that rate of violence has fallen in the US, it does not seem to be related to the rate of imprisonment to any significant degree.

It's odd that a so-called Marxist would downplay the effects of class society on producing criminality - the level of relative inequality in a geographic area has been proven to be one of the best predictors of the level of interpersonal violence. Your snide remark about mental health problems aside, the closing of state mental health facilities (which could be monstrous in their own way) led to an increase in the prison population, and untreated mental illness is an easy path to intersecting with the criminal justice system in the US. There is mountains of evidence that the kind of punitive imprisonment that the US uses are not only ineffective but counterproductive to preventing recidivism. The few anecdotes about your friends aside, on a societal level, imprisoning people does nothing to stop the real causes of interpersonal violence in our society.

While I do think that interpersonal violence among the working class and the poor is something that is under-theorized and downplayed by many on the left, mainly because I see the consequences (I work in health care), it is abundantly clear as someone living and working in a 'high'-crime city in the US that our criminal justice system is completely incapable of stopping this, and in many ways contributes to the high level of violence in our society. Your idea that there is some clear cut essence of lumpeness that transforms a worker into a lumpen once they are convicted of a crime is both bizarre and simplistic to the point of either myopia or willful ignorance. It makes it hard to take anything else you say sincerely or seriously. And for all of your anger directed at the drug industry, especially the remark regarding bartenders, deaths due to alcohol still dwarf all other drug use in the US, every year. I see things every day at work that would make your stomach turn, that are due to the epidemic of alcohol addiction, but those that aid and abet that walk free, while someone who sells a dime-bag or a rock of crystal meth should be imprisoned for years, subject to the conditions that are common in our prison system? I know people who have worked in health care in prisons, and what they have seen has shocked them for the sheer level of mistreatment, and these are people who are already used to seeing humanity in its worst states. It's also telling that you are so quick to claim that the only workers in a prison are the guards, excluding prisoners, as well as others who work in a prison, who are not there to coerce the inmates into submission. It's not surprising that you seem to sympathize with their mindset.

zugzwang
Nov 5 2018 03:30
Gregory A. Butler wrote:
the line is pretty clear - and criminals (who for the most part prey on the working class) are on the other side of it.

Prisoners who do work around the prison as part of their sentence are not part of the working class - they're lumpenproletarians (that's how they ended up in prison in the first place, for the crimes they did in the free world..crimes which, by and large, had working class victims, with the most marginal and oppressed workers being the most likely to be victims of these criminals)

Wouldn't you acknowledge most crimes have capitalist origins? Not to approve of whatever prisoners did to get in prison (depending on what), but I wouldn't attribute whatever crimes to them alone (without taking into account their backgrounds and everything else) and say they prey on the working class. Sounds like you want criminals locked up instead of addressing the systemic causes of their actions (which I think is a pretty significant part of most crimes).

fingers malone
Nov 5 2018 08:16
R Totale wrote:
But if I am getting a tad emotional, it might be because I, and other people I care about, have been through experiences with the police and prosecutors that were not particularly pleasant - admittedly, UK rather than US, but I don't for a moment think that their filth are that much more Dixon of Dock Green-esque than ours - and when I read something like "you don't get arrested, charged or indicted, let alone convicted, unless there's a whole lot of evidence that says you actually committed the crime you did", that seems like a blatant denial of those experiences.

yeah that sums up pretty well how I feel too.

fingers malone
Nov 5 2018 08:22
gram negative wrote:

While I do think that interpersonal violence among the working class and the poor is something that is under-theorized and downplayed by many on the left, mainly because I see the consequences (I work in health care), it is abundantly clear as someone living and working in a 'high'-crime city in the US that our criminal justice system is completely incapable of stopping this, and in many ways contributes to the high level of violence in our society.

I strongly agree with this, I think interpersonal violence among the working class and the poor is under-theorised and downplayed by many on the left too (well written btw gram negative) and I'd like it if we did actually discuss that more, but I also think the prison and criminal justice system absolutely isn't helpful at all. I live in a place where there is a high rate both of interpersonal violence and the police killing people. Both are bad.

Auld-bod
Nov 5 2018 11:18

R Totale Nov 4 18:43

Yes the factory I mentioned was part of Remploy.

According to Wikipedia:
Remploy was originally established under the terms of the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act 1944, to directly employ disabled persons in specialised factories. It opened its first factory in Bridgend, Wales, in 1946. Over the following decades it established a network of 83 factories across the UK making a wide variety of products. These were organised into a number of sub-businesses, such as Remploy e-cycle, which dealt with the safe disposal and re-cycling of electrical appliances.

I think this should be seen as part of the post war settlement welfare state. No one wished to see crippled ex-service people busking in the streets as was common post WW1. Their eventual closure was just another shrinking of the welfare safety net.

It was never part of the capitalist market system. As a lad I used to visit it for a free haircut, as there was a sizable re-training of folk, into hairdressing/ barbering and at lunchtime many workers from surrounding factories would present ourselves to be practised on. As a workmate said, “The difference between a good and bad haircut is fourteen days”.

The disabled workers did receive payment though not on the basis of ‘a fair days pay for a fair days work’. It was calculated on attendance and need (probably there were variations). Let’s be clear I am not advocating this, I want the wages system abolished. Remploy cost the state money to run (it did not make a profit or the Tories would have simply privatised it).

When discussing prisons I think it wise to differentiate between the UK and the USA. The American prison farms I understand are organised to be profitable (if at all possible).

The UK, as far as I am aware does not make a profit from any of its prisons. Indeed it cost thousands of pounds for each prisoner incarcerated. If there is profit to be made from the exploitation of prison labour where is the evidence?

On the contrary, prisoners in the UK are spending more time in their cells due to government cut-backs including the closing of prison workshops. If it was thought possible to make prisons pay by exploiting prisoner’s labour then surely the government would be expanding the prison workshops?

(The UK armed services I hear are not able to recruit enough gullible youths, perhaps the remedy could be for the prison authorities to rent them out a penal battalion? – I jest.)

R Totale
Nov 5 2018 19:49
Auld-bod wrote:
The disabled workers did receive payment though not on the basis of ‘a fair days pay for a fair days work’. It was calculated on attendance and need (probably there were variations). Let’s be clear I am not advocating this, I want the wages system abolished. Remploy cost the state money to run (it did not make a profit or the Tories would have simply privatised it).

Yeah, I hope we're all agreed on wanting to see the end of the wages system, but in the meantime a setup like Remploy sounds a lot more liveable than the situation with prison labour.

Quote:
When discussing prisons I think it wise to differentiate between the UK and the USA. The American prison farms I understand are organised to be profitable (if at all possible).

The UK, as far as I am aware does not make a profit from any of its prisons. Indeed it cost thousands of pounds for each prisoner incarcerated. If there is profit to be made from the exploitation of prison labour where is the evidence?

On the contrary, prisoners in the UK are spending more time in their cells due to government cut-backs including the closing of prison workshops. If it was thought possible to make prisons pay by exploiting prisoner’s labour then surely the government would be expanding the prison workshops?

I'm not an expert on the economics of this point, and the US prison system is definitely not identical to ours (as with so many things, I suspect this is one where their rulers set the model for ours to follow), but I think exploitation of prison labour is definitely an issue here as well, if not at the same scale - maybe another case of the state providing a huge subsidy for private employers? Anyway, the government are very definitely expanding the prison system as a whole, so it seems likely that there will be some expansion of prison labour to go along with it.
A few bits and pieces I was able to find, for anyone who's interested:
https://corporatewatch.org/prisonisland/
https://iwoc.iww.org.uk/prison-labour/
https://www.redpepper.org.uk/whiplash-wilko/
http://leedsabc.org/publications/john-shelley/prison-slavery/
https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/8g7zxz/are-britains-prisons-turning-into-factories
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2012/aug/08/prisoners-call-centre-fired-staff
https://bristolabc.wordpress.com/2010/08/27/interview-with-the-campaign-against-prison-slavery/

Gregory A. Butler
Nov 6 2018 12:21
Mike Harman
Nov 6 2018 16:15
Gregory A. Butler wrote:

Re "mental torture"... I know lots of people who've done time in the US

Russell Maroon Shoatz spent a cumulative 22 years in solitary confinement, much of it consecutive. https://www.theguardian.com/news/2016/jul/12/solitary-confinement-russell-shoatz-pennsylvania-black-panthers

Mike Harman
Nov 6 2018 16:18
R Totale wrote:
"you don't get arrested, charged or indicted, let alone convicted, unless there's a whole lot of evidence that says you actually committed the crime you did", that seems like a blatant denial of those experiences.

Yes that stuck out to me as well. 1,000 police killings per year. The massive sentences against the J20 defendants (who were all charge and prosecuted, very fortunately not convicted).

Mike Harman
Nov 6 2018 16:20
Gregory A. Butler wrote:
Let me just leave this here

https://www.jacobinmag.com/2017/08/mass-incarceration-prison-abolition-policing

Also this response from the IWW-IWOC - to both the original Jacobin piece and the response from Mariam Kabe et al https://itsgoingdown.org/destroy-prisons-tomorrow-iwoc-responds-jacobin/

R Totale
Nov 6 2018 16:39
Tom Henry wrote:
This tantrummy invective towards GAB comes not from ‘a working class perspective,’ but from a middle class sociological perspective that emanates from the liberal establishment and academia.

It is no coincidence that GAB is being attacked here by academics (eg Khawaga) and those who have absorbed the tropes of the left liberal establishment. The distance from understanding the reality of working class life demonstrated here is enormous.

Quote:
Roger Lancaster is a professor of anthropology and cultural studies at George Mason University and author of Sex Panic and the Punitive State.

lol

gram negative
Nov 6 2018 17:12

GAB, it is odd that you would post an article that contradicts some of your claims, but you do you.

R Totale
Nov 8 2018 13:07
R Totale
Nov 15 2018 13:12
Gregory A. Butler wrote:
Re "slavery" - when a prison gives an opportunity for a lumpen to learn a trade and actually be employable when they get out of prison.... that's not a bad thing. It's actually a good thing

"learn a trade and actually be employable"

https://www.democracynow.org/2018/9/12/amika_mota_fought_fires_as_a