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Monday, November 23, 2009

Is America's inmate population being converted into a slave labor force? Just Look at the Slave Labor Graphics

by Charles Overbeck
he Justice Department reported in August that there are nearly 1.6 million men and women incarcerated in the United States -- currently the highest incarceration rate in the entire world. This startling figure tops off a decade of rapid expansion of America's prison population, fueled by a "war on drugs" that is steadily undermining the rights so succinctly expressed in the Bill of Rights more than 200 years ago.

As 1995 drew to a close, one out of every 167 Americans was in prison or jail, compared to one out of 320 in 1985, when the crack cocaine trade began to proliferate. The total number of inmates has more than doubled in the past decade, and we just can't seem to build enough prisons to keep them all in.

Add the trend towards private prison facility management and corporate use of prison labor, and you have an extremely unsettling social situation. Are we witnessing the creation of a slave labor force for the corporate New World Order?

Quite possibly, if the Oakhill Correctional Institute in Dane County, Wisconsin serves as a model. Seventeen inmates crowded in a makeshift basement factory in that facility crank out over a million dollars' worth of office chairs per year, in exchange for wages ranging from twenty cents to $1.50 per hour.

The operation is run by Badger State Industries, the Wisconsin prison industries program, which employs 600 inmates and which raked in a $1.2 million profit in 1995. In the past, to protect manufacturers from unfair competition, Wisconsin allowed sale of prison-made goods only to state and local government agencies. But Governor Tommy Thompson's new state budget allows commercial entities to use prison facilities and labor for manufacturing purposes. The money will be used to pay for the costs of incarcerating the prisoners -- including the ones who work in the factories.

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