Are "Prisons for Profit," something that has begun at the level of federal prisons; is it another way to improve our system of justice?
"What’s the deal with those corrupt judges, corporate executives, and the like who are convicted of doing real harm to real people getting sentenced to country club prisons while people convicted of the mere possession of drugs do hard time under less favorable conditions?"
The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified in 1865, reads as follows:
Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Contrary to popular opinion, the United States Civil War, Emancipation Proclamation and Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution did not end legalized slavery in this country. Convicted criminals are eligible to be subject to the condition as a part of punishment for their crimes. With the advent of prison privatization and the constant search for cheap labor, this glaring loophole in the 13th Amendment has been used to improve the bottom lines and profit margins of private businesses – not the least of which includes the private prison industry.
After all, prisoners don’t need to be paid a living wage (not that workers outside of prison don’t deserve one either - in the opinions of many corporate executives and shareholders). Their needs for shelter, clothing and sustenance are paid for by the taxpayers. It’s only fair that they work to repay their debt to society, right? Except for the fact that cheap prison labor is actually a way to funnel taxpayer dollars into private profits for those corporations, their executives and shareholders – at the expense of the taxpayers and the exploitation of the labor of a captive labor force.
Our criminal justice system has become bloated to the extent that our prison populations have become the largest in the world. The War on Drugs and preponderance of extremely harsh mandatory minimum sentences, often for less serious non-violent offenses, has led to prison over-crowding in many states. Extremely low pay for prisoners’ work, combined with harsh prison working and living conditions, has led to prisoner uprisings in the past. The most famous of such events was the one in Attica, New York in the early 1970’s. More recently, strikes have taken place in several states involving many prisoners. These events have been largely ignored by mainstream media.
Slavery was legal in this country from before it became an independent nation. It remained so through the Civil War in the Southern states whose economies were largely dependent on the forced labor of people who weren’t considered citizens, were owned as property by the slaveholders who bought or inherited them, and had no voting rights. They weren’t even counted as complete human beings for the purpose of representation in Congress by the US Constitution. Race relations have been forever tainted in this country as a result of this lengthy era of subjugation of blacks by whites.
Why was the prison loophole included in the 13th Amendment? Hasn’t the US berated forced labor camps in the former Soviet Union and other totalitarian regimes? How is our system superior to those which we seemingly abhor? The private prison industry has been under fire, particularly at the federal level, in recent years. Making imprisoning people a profit-making enterprise is increasingly seen as a horrid use of taxpayer money, not to mention inefficient and inhumane. Judges have even been convicted and sent to prison for taking kickbacks for ensuring that prisons maintain a certain level of occupancy. This has even been the case in juvenile detention facilities in my own state of PA.
The makeup of our prison population is another glaring problem when it comes to the state of our criminal “justice” system. Why are our prisoners so disproportionately Black and Hispanic, from poor rather than wealthy backgrounds. Are we to believe that this is merely a coincidence or have our lawmakers managed to find ways to enslave many of the same people who would have been born to slavery in an earlier time? I don’t necessarily think this was all orchestrated in an elaborate charade by our ruling oligarchs to excuse their continued mistreatment of members of minority racial and ethnic groups along with impoverished whites in order to maintain their own privileged socio-economic status. I surely can see why many of those being stepped on by the system would see it that way, however.
To me, coming up with new ways to force people to labor for the material benefit of others with little or no personal incentive to do so other than to maintain their ability to breathe is on the same moral level as willingly to allow people to die because they can’t afford to pay the going rate for a medical procedure. Regardless of the reason someone is in prison, they should be afforded more human rights than our system used to afford slaves. The fact that we have reached a point in our society where most would agree that, in way too many cases, the punishment for an infraction far exceeds the severity of the crime committed, demonstrates a drastic need for reform in our criminal justice system.
Committing most crimes should not mean that a person will never again be able to get a good job once their sentence is completed, nor vote, nor do most of what someone never convicted of a crime can expect to be able to do. That is obviously currently not the case. The prison loophole permitting convicts to be used as slaves or involuntary servants needs to be taken out of the Thirteenth Amendment. Creating such a large force of cheap labor helps to drive down the wages of workers as a whole, leads to unfair exploitation of some people for the unwarranted and unearned benefit of a few and leads to an exacerbation of social and economic inequality that is not fitting the moral values of a democratic society which we are taught from a young age to venerate. That includes the guilty as well as the untold numbers of people unfairly convicted when innocent of any wrongdoing or those sentenced to life for a third strike caused by a relatively minor offense.
By the way, what’s the deal with those corrupt judges, corporate executives, and the like who are convicted of doing real harm to real people getting sentenced to country club prisons while people convicted of the mere possession of drugs do hard time under less favorable conditions? So many ills beset our criminal justice system. Ending the slave labor loophole and covering prisoners under minimum wage laws and other labor legislation would be a step in the right direction. Ending Prisons for Profit, something that has begun at the level of federal prisons, is another way to improve our system of justice, the goal of which should be to make society safer and people more productive, not to line the pockets of greedy capitalists by shifting wealth to the benefit of those already wealthier than most of us. I think most of us still prefer Robin Hood to Romney Hood (or, in this election season, Trump Hood).
Oh so true! but, there hold on there oppressive power establishment is dwindling, and thank you brother Gregory Boulware Esq., "and I hope that you and yours family are doing fine", much love to you and yours, stay strong, because it is, hidden racist self interest powers in play, let not any of us fool ourselves. I myself wish that it wasn't so, but it is.
Sunday, October 23rd 2016 at 8:34AM
7th Angel Chronicles...
Many Blessings and Thanks to You and Yours as well, Brother!
I most certainly appreciate your much welcomed viewpoint. Brother, I wish it wasn't so too!