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“WHY GO TO INDONESIA FOR LABOR, WE ARE OFFERING YOU COMPETITIVE PRISON LABOR”

As stated by former Oregon State Rep, Kevin Mannix to NIKE

By Evie Litwok
April 20, 2012

In 1971, America had 200,000 inmates in prisons, 40 years later we have 2.3 million incarcerated. Is it because America has so much crime or is it because we have a need for there to be criminals? Are politicians and corporations profiting from the 500% increase in incarcerations? It turns out there are private prison corporations which trade on the New York Stock Exchange and whose businesses are profitable. These private prison industries are so profitable they can afford to give millions in campaign donations to get legislation passed which is beneficial to them. They make an astonishing $3 billion dollars in profits annually.

And how do they make $3 billion dollar annual profit? The answer is they are trafficking in inmate slave labor. They offer the services of inmates from their facilities to Fortune 500 companies. Inmates earning 3 -12 cents per hour, replace salaries of American's who would normally earn $15-20 per hour for the same task. The $3 billion profit is the differential between a normal wage and the slave labor wage.

To keep their business more profitable, the private prison industry pushes legislation to pass lengthier sentences and to criminalize more actions. Private prisons encourage the passing of laws such as "3 Strikes, You're Out" because they provide more lifetime sentences. For these corporations, inmates with lifetime sentences offer a lifetime of work. In sum, the more Americans you incarcerate, the more these companies make.

They make no bones about their needs. In a recent letter to all Governors, Corrections Corporation of America offered to take the work of prisons out of the hands of States. All the state had to do was to make one payment of $250 million dollars and guarantee that 90% of the beds would be full. In other words, Governor, you fill the beds with inmates and we will help solve your deficit and maybe give you a little profit.

At this time in our history, the vast majority, 81%, of inmates are non-violent. And many are in prison for petty reasons. The private prison industry wants the sentencing of non-violent offenders to be lengthy because only if they have significant numbers of inmates with lengthy sentences will they see a profit.

The private prison industry is not solely responsible for the oversentencing, the overprosecuting and the overcriminalizing of average Americans. We can thank the U.S. Government, Congress and the Senate for continuing the practice of creating new laws and longer sentences. And who benefits from all of this? The private industry and investors gain profits, and the politicians get campaign contributions.

Some of the private prison companies trading on the NYSE include CORRECTIONS CORPORATION OF AMERICAN ( NYSE symbol CXW), CORNEL CORPORATION ( NYSE symbol CRN) and GEO CORPORATION ( NYSE symbol GEO).

The list of their political contributions is a matter of public record. Their Super PACs provide even more money to those running for Congress, Attorneys-General and elected Judges. This list represents all those involved in the process of expanded criminalization, expanding sentencing and expanding prosecution.

Former State Senator Kevin Mannix is not alone in his analysis. The Third World countries cannot compete with AMERICA'S NEW SLAVE LABOR FORCE: the incarcerated men, women and children. America's big business has discovered and invested in the PRISON SLAVE LABOR FORCE.

SLAVE LABOR

Most inmates make $5.25 monthly and are required to work a full day. Only in prison is it acceptable for an American to earn 3 cents to 12 cents per hour.

American companies have long taken advantage of this slave labor. TWA used prisoners to book flights, Microsoft used inmates in Washington State to pack and ship their products, and AT & T used inmates for telemarketing.

And where else could a corporation envision and expect unheard of profits were it not for the 2.3 million incarcerated inmates?

COTTAGE INDUSTRY CALLED PRISON

Telecommunication companies vie to be given the rights to put telephones in prisons because inmates' use of phones provides huge monthly profits. Prisons make 100% of all military helmets, ammunition belts and bullet -proof vests. In addition to military supplies they assemble stoves, home appliances, airplane parts, medical supplies and office furniture. Inmates are exploited by America's corporations and no one is putting a stop to it. America's corporations have lined up to use prison labor the same way they lined up to mine mineral ore out of the Congo. The business include: IBM, Boeing, Motorola, Revlon, Texas Instrument, Nordstrom's, Macy's, Target and many more.

PRIVATE PRISON'S AS INVESTMENTS: But is it ethical?

Wells Fargo was a beneficiary of the U.S. bailout; they received 37 billion from the government. They made numerous investments which helped them to become "too big to fail again." One of those investments was $72 million in GEO GROUP, a private prison group. In fact, Wells Fargo is the second largest investor in this group making money off inmate labor. And Warren Buffet's number two corporate holding in his portfolio is Wells Fargo.

Wells Fargo is not the only investor in private prisons. Several of the VANGUARD mutual funds, Vanguard Windsor II, Vanguard Small Cap Index, Vanguard Small Cap Growth and Vanguard Small Cap Index fund have substantial positions in CCA.

Investors in these funds should require fund management to consider the ethical question of owning these stocks. Does management know about work conditions for inmates? Do they want to invest in a venture which exploits a disenfranchised group? Is the prison industry copying the model of Adolph Hitler when allowing men, women and children to work for nothing? Certainly, inmates do not benefit.

The private prison industry has been examined by the U.S. Justice Department. GEO Group, one of the private prisons has the following problems at their juvenile facility; 1) sexual abuse is an epidemic, 2) excessive use of force, 3) deliberate indifference to juvenile suicidal behavior. These issues and many others have never been corrected.

The conditions of these private prisons are worse than those of public prisons because little to nothing is offered to inmates in order to keep costs down. No services are offered which need not be offered. As a result, the psychological well-being and the physical well-being of these inmates are at risk.

CAMPAIGN DONATIONS FOR POLITICIANS

FLORIDA

Florida is home to America's third largest penal system. Governor Scott, Congressman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and other state legislators supported the privatization of the Florida prison system. Campaign donations of over $1 million dollars were given by GEO Group, CCA, Global Tel Link, Armor Correctional Health Services and LCS Correction Services, Inc. to both Republicans and Democrats.

Candidates and politicians received 20% of their total contributions from private prison companies. The shift of the private prisons is not "we can save you money" it is "we can make you money."

The Republican controlled legislature passed the plan to privatize nearly 30 South Florida prisons. The legislature put the plans to pay for the private prison in the state budget which violated the Florida Constitution. Because it had to be a separate bill, Attorney-General Pam Bond overruled the plan.

The private prison is not likely to happen soon in Florida but neither is SMART JUSTICE likely to come from Governor Rick Scott. On April 6, 2012, Governor Scott vetoed bill HB177 that would have affected roughly 400 non-violent inmates. The bill would have made them eligible to receive drug treatment and supervised release after serving half of their sentence and completing a 6 month treatment plan.

For Governor Scott, inmates are more useful as a commodity and therefore he allows no early release for even those who deserve it. To Governor Scott we say, enjoy your term in office, it will be your last.

NEW MEXICO

NEW MEXICO has given half the states growing prison population over to private prison corporations. Then Governor Bill Richardson received more money from private prison than other politician campaigning in 2006 cycle. No one questioned his motivation or his judgment.

Why does America have so many people incarcerated? Why is America letting children as young as age-12 be incarcerated for life? Who is behind these decisions? There is only one answer, GREED.

The politicians we elect rely on the contributions of wealthy industry and the private prison industry is a big contributor. Politicians owe them and so do the Judges and Attorneys-General they help to elect. The average American does not stand a chance against GREED and POWER.

One way to combat these inhumane forces is to confront the stock holders of these companies and demand they take an "ethical look into their investment." We must ask shareholders to force mutual funds to eliminate these stocks from their holdings. They are no better than the Blood Diamonds of Africa. How many lives have to be effected before we say no to "inhumanity and cruelty" in America?

Another way is to educate ourselves and vote only for those politicians who have our best interest at heart. If the politicians can take money from a "slave labor industry" in America, then none of their "heartfelt words" matter. It's not what they say, it is what they do. And we must vote all of them out till we get politicians who get it right.

Evie Litwok
Ex-Offender Nation

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