Most history books will tell you that slavery was abolished in 1865 when Abraham Lincoln and other leaders of the anti-slavery Republican Party formed the 13th Amendment stating that “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude… shall exist within the United States of America, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” This was certainly a step in the right direction, however, it only led to a more creative way for oppressive regimes to use slavery in the States, which quite unbelievably is still going on to this day.
The American prison system is a huge business and allows many companies to use the labour (which is comprised mainly of black males) to increase their bottom line. Prison as a business is one of the largest and fastest-growing industries in the United States. As taken from- Prison Privatization: The Many Facets of a Controversial Industry:
Now prison labor based in private prisons is a multimillion-dollar industry with its own trade exhibitions, conventions, websites, and mail-order/Internet catalogs (Pelaez 2008). . . . The industry also has direct advertising campaigns, architecture companies, construction companies, investment houses on Wall Street, plumbing supply companies, food supply companies, armed security, and padded cell manufacturing, all of which rival those of any other private industry (Pelaez 2008). Furthermore, private prisoners at the state level produce a variety of goods and services, from clothing to toys to telemarketing and customer service (Erlich 2005). The private federal prison industry also produces nearly all military goods, from uniform helmet to ammunition, along with durable goods ranging from paint to office furniture (Pelaez 2008). (source)
If we look into the roots of the US prison system it become clear that it was born to continue the systematic use of slavery for profit under the guise of reform:
Prison labor has its roots in slavery. After the 1861-1865 Civil War, a system of “hiring out prisoners” was introduced in order to continue the slavery tradition. Freed slaves were charged with not carrying out their sharecropping commitments (cultivating someone else’s land in exchange for part of the harvest) or petty thievery – which were almost never proven – and were then “hired out” for cotton picking, working in mines and building railroads. From 1870 until 1910 in the state of Georgia, 88% of hired-out convicts were Black. In Alabama, 93% of “hired-out” miners were Black. In Mississippi, a huge prison farm similar to the old slave plantations replaced the system of hiring out convicts. The notorious Parchman plantation existed until 1972.(source)
This may seem like something that sits in the dark past of American history, however, this is far from the truth. Today there are still many well known corporations using modern day slavery to profit. This list of 7 companies that are profiting from modern day slavery in America was compiled by Arjun Walia from Collective Evolution:
The state allows inmates to work for the profit of a private corporation, and Whole Foods is one of many companies that takes advantage, buying fish and cheese produced by prison inmates and paying them a rate of .74 cents a day. They then increase the price of the product astronomically – tilapia raised by inmates, for example, sells for $11.99 a pound at Whole Foods — and enjoy all the profits. (source)
It’s no secret that McDonalds is suffering right now; in a world where people are steadily waking up and moving towards a healthier lifestyle, there is no place for such heavily processed and unethical ‘food.’ Yet despite being the world’s most successful fast-food chain, they still source many of their goods from prisons, including their containers, uniforms, and cutlery. The inmates who sew the uniforms hardly make anything. (source)
Although their company policy expressly outlines that forced labor, as well as prison labour, is unacceptable, a large portion of products sold in their stores have been supplied by third-party prison labor factories. Wal-Mart purchases its products from prison farms, where workers are put through several hours of intense labor, in difficult conditions, without sunscreen, water, or food —not to mention, basically working for free. (source)
Undergarments and casual wear are sewn by female inmates for Victoria’s Secret. In fact, in the late 1990s 2 prisoners were placed in solitary confinement for telling journalists that they were hired to replace “Made in Honduras” garment tags with “Made in U.S.A” tags. (source)
This is a surprising one. When BP spilled several million barrels of oil into the Ocean (Gulf Coast), the company sent a workforce of prison inmates — almost all of them African-American — to handle cleanup, despite there being scores of displaced coastal residents desperate for work. The move sparked considerable outrage, particularly since BP not only saved money by hiring inmates over locals, but also through the significant tax breaks they received as a result. (source)
In 1993 the company laid off thousands of telephone operators, who were all union members, in order to increase their profits. Despite being vocally against prison labour, they went on to hire inmates to work in their call centres, paying them a mere $2 per day. (source)
This is a company that provides food to hospitals, schools, and colleges. They also have a monopoly on food served in approximately 600 prisons. They have a history of poor food service, a problem which led to a prison riot in Kentucky in 2009. (source)
There are many other shocking facts about the prison system such as:
- Corporate stockholders of companies which are profiting from prison labor are lobbying for increased prison sentences.
- America is home to 4% of the global population, yet houses approximately 25% of its prison population.
- America has the highest global incarceration rate, which is growing every year.
- Almost 50% of American juveniles will be arrested before their 23rd birthday.
- Each U.S. resident is paying roughly $260 per year on the prison system
This means that all this slave labour that big corporations are profiting from is paid for by the taxpayers of the United States. Thanks to Collective Evolution for putting this article together, where I sourced most of the information. Much love, Luke
Image Copyright: morphart / 123RF Stock Photo
I am Luke Miller the author of this article, and creator of Potential For Change. I like to blend psychology and spirituality to help you create more happiness in your life.Grab a copy of my free 33 Page Illustrated eBook- Psychology Meets Spirituality- Secrets To A Supercharged Life You Control Here