Hello! You are part of a community of millions who seek out Democracy Now! each month for ad-free daily news you can trust. Maybe you come for our daily headlines. Maybe you come for our in-depth stories that expose corporate and government abuses of power and lift up the voices of ordinary people working to make change in extraordinary times. We produce all of this news at a fraction of the budget of a commercial news operation. We do this without ads, government funding or corporate sponsorship. How? This model of news depends on support from viewers and listeners like you. Today, less than 1% of our visitors support Democracy Now! with a donation each year. If even 3% of our website visitors donated just $10 per month, we could cover our basic operating expenses for a year. Pretty amazing right? If you visit us daily or weekly or even just once a month, now is a great time to make a monthly contribution.

Your Donation: $
Friday, April 25, 1997 FULL SHOW | HEADLINES | PREVIOUS: First National Conference on Police Brutality and...
1997-04-25

US Prison Labor and US Corporations

download:   Audio Get CD/DVD More Formats
DONATE →
This is viewer supported news

As prison populations explode nationwide, more companies are using prisons for cheap and controlled labor to produce a range of private sector goods, from Microsoft equipment to aircraft components. Paul Wright, prisoner at Washington State Reformatory and editor of Prison Legal News, recently published an article on prison labor in the Covert Action Quarterly, called "Captive Labor: US Business Goes to Jail." More private sector business use prisons for cheap labor and also benefit from state subsidies as a result. Some of the companies that have utilized the Reformatory’s prison labor include Washington Marketing Group (prisoners calling voters to help elect Jack Metcalf on tough on crime platform), Redwood Outdoors (garment sweatshop operation), Elliot Bay (metal fabrication plant), Microjet (aircraft components for Boeing). Prisoners are making minimum wage on paper but are happy to work under these conditions because there is 50% prisoner unemployment rate and the alternative would be jobs that make 38-40 cents an hour (vs. minimum wage). Wright argues that it is ironic that the media has made much of US companies (e.g., Boeing) going to China for cheap labor, with the workers in China being forbidden to unionize and having poor working conditions yet the same conditions apply in State of Washington, but with little media interest. What’s wrong with having prisoners pay through work for their captivity? Wright believes that it is wrong because the taxpayers are paying for the prisoners but the corporations are the ones to benefit from prison labor. Corporations who use prison labor don’t have to: pay overhead even if no production is taking place; pay benefits; pay workman’s compensation for injured workers. Wright also does not believe that the current forms of prison labor provide valuable workforce training for the prisoners as most of the work is manual labor. Wright talked about UNICORP, a government run federal prison industry that, ironically, is making equipment for the military and the police. The Federal government must allow UNICORP first bid on anything government procurement before private companies can bid. Usually, the UNICORP cost is higher and the quality is lower. Wright concludes this segment with his recommendations for reform of the prison labor system.

Guests:

Paul Wright, prisoner at Washington State Reformatory and editor of Prison Legal New


Creative Commons License The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.