prison labor as slavery


Prison Labor as Mod­ern Day Slav­ery by Lisa Wade, PhD at Soci­o­log­i­cal Images

Grad­u­ate stu­dent Christo­pher Petrella, cur­rently writ­ing a book called The Color of Cor­po­rate Cor­rec­tions, describes this as “mod­ern day slav­ery.” In short, the U.S. dis­pro­por­tion­ately impris­ons the same demo­graphic pop­u­la­tion that elite whites once enslaved. That pop­u­la­tion did work to enrich the elites. Today, in cor­rec­tional facil­i­ties, they con­tinue to enrich white elites. Their labor is low paid and invol­un­tary, by any mean­ing­ful def­i­n­i­tion of the word.

Trac­ing the racial­iz­ing logic of pri­vate pris­ons and the prison labor indus­try, Petrella finds that these prac­tices are dis­pro­por­tion­ately found in for­merly Con­fed­er­ate states…

When pris­on­ers are in state and fed­eral pris­ons, the U.S. tax­payer is sub­si­diz­ing low wages and cor­po­rate prof­its, since they are pay­ing for pris­on­ers’ room, board, and health care. When pris­on­ers are in pri­vate pris­ons, prison labor is a way to make more money off of the human beings caught in the cor­rec­tions indus­try. In other words, prison labor is an effi­cient way for cor­po­ra­tions to con­tinue to increase their prof­its with­out shar­ing those gains with their employees.

for a list of com­pa­nies that rely on prison labor see Prison Labor Exposed at the Prison Movement’s Weblog

conservation. sustainability. prison labor and training.


from prison sus­tain­abil­ity project an blog arti­cle my first two months work­ing at spp

I can say with con­fi­dence that work­ing with inmates is not what it sounds like at all. Inmates are just peo­ple like you and me, peo­ple that have been down on their luck for one rea­son or another, peo­ple that are pay­ing their dues to soci­ety and try­ing to make the best out of their sit­u­a­tion. The major­ity of the inmates we work with are there because they want to get involved in some­thing mean­ing­ful, or because they have a pre­vi­ous expe­ri­ence in nurs­ery work, or are just try­ing to make some money and escape the rou­tine of prison. But what­ever brought them to us, I try to make it a good expe­ri­ence for them, get them involved in our work and help them under­stand the big pic­ture of what we do and why we do it. It is easy to lose focus and inter­est in what they are doing when they spend a long time just sow­ing and not think­ing about how help­ful and mean­ing­ful their job is. Lec­tures about sci­ence, ecol­ogy, and restora­tion tech­niques are a good way to keep them excited and engaged. The last lec­ture they had was about sci­ence and reli­gion, and believe me, it was amaz­ing hear­ing what they already knew of the sub­ject and the dis­cus­sion that fol­lowed. We had the same lec­ture as part of my Master’s pro­gram, yet the dis­cus­sion they had was far more cap­ti­vat­ing than the one in my class. Most of the offend­ers truly appre­ci­ate when we describe the eco­log­i­cal con­text of what they are doing because it helps them under­stand the impact of their labor and see how it fits into the big­ger pic­ture of conservation.