23 Cents an Hour? The Perfectly Legal Slavery Happening in Modern-Day America


The government and corporations have a pool of powerless, exploitable workers in skyrocketing prison populations.

By Terrell Jermaine Starr / AlterNet

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

 

If you thought slavery was outlawed in America, you would be wrong. The 13th amendment to the Constitution states that “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.”

In plain language, that means slavery in America can still exist for those who are in prison, where you basically lose all of your rights.  (You don’t gain a lot of your rights back when you get out of prison, either, but that is a different story.) So, given the country’s penchant for rapacious capitalism, it may not come as a surprise that there is much of the American prison system that exploits American prisoners much like slaves.

In fact there is large-scale exploitation in American prisons benefiting American corporations and the military-industrial complex. UNICOR, better known as Federal Prison Industries, or FPI, is a government-owned corporation that employs inmates for as little as 23 cents per hour, to provide a wide range of products and services under the guise of a “jobs training program.” In theory, this is supposed to give inmates skills that will prepare them for the workforce upon release.

Critics of FPI have long claimed it exploits prisoners who don’t have the right to organize for representation to protect their rights and it unfairly competes with small businesses that can’t provide goods and services for the average pay of 92 cents an hour FPI workers make. The program employs around 13,000 prisoners per year. In 2013, it reported gross revenue of $609.7 million.

According to FPI’s website, inmates employed in the program carry out a wide range of services that include making house and office furniture, mattresses, flags, traffic signs and military items. These items are usually made for other federal agencies, but private companies can contract workers through FPI as well.

It is no surprise that the inmate/slave labor force has grown along with mass incarceration in America. The Prison Policy Initiative counts 2.3 million people in prison, according to the 2010 census, by far the highest rate of incarceration in the developed world.

Many more are ensnared in the criminal justice system’s other branches. At the end of 2013, nearly 5 million adults were either on probation or parole, according to Bureau of Justice Statistics. All of these populations and even those not even convicted of a crime are vulnerable to exploitative fees and byzantine rules seemingly designed to catch people and get them back into the grips of the prison system. Basically, there is a trifecta of exploitation in the American criminal justice system. As reported on AlterNet, the bail system in America keeps many people in jail in a massive form of pretrial detention one has to buy one’s way out of. And police departments are increasingly funding themselves by charging poor people exorbitant fees for minor infractions.

In terms of prison labor, one of its controversial services is the production of solar panels. Reuters reports that Suniva Inc, a Georgia-based solar cell and panel maker, uses prison labor for 10 percent of its manufacturing needs to keep its costs low so it can, in part, keep up with producers from China. The company is also backed by Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Over the last 18 months, Suniva moved all of its solar panel assembly to the United States from Asia. Suniva’s deal with FPI helps it to avoid U.S. government tariffs on Chinese-made panels and capture lucrative government contracts. Roughly 200 inmates make solar panels in factories at prisons in Sheridan, Oregon and Otisville, New York, according to Reuters.

Solar panels made in America are more efficient in generating electricity from the sun, allowing companies like Suniva to sell them at premium rates. As for the inmates, Suniva’s vice president of global sales and manufacturing Mike Card says he doesn’t know how much they are paid.

Manufacturing solar panels is actually a good skill to have, but according to Alex Friedman, managing editor of Prison Legal News, FPI has no job placement program for inmates once they are released.

“You can have lots of skills, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get a good job when you get out,” Friedman told AlterNet. “You can be really skilled at whatever it is, diesel engines even, but you also have a felony record. You’re getting out from prison after five or two years or whatever it is and starting from scratch.”

Another field where FPI inmates are providing labor is through military contracts. In 2013, federal inmates stitched more than $100 million worth of military uniforms for the Department of Defense, according to the New York Times. The federal inmates who make these garments earn no more than $2 per hour, something that puts competing small businesses that have to pay at least minimum wage at a major disadvantage.

Cathy Griffiths, operations manager for clothing maker American Power Source of Fayette, Ala., complained in 2012 that she had to let 50 of her 300 employees go after FPI won a lucrative contract with the U.S. Army. During the same year, American Apparel, Inc., an Alabama company that makes military uniforms, said it had to close down a plant and lay off 175 workers because it was forced to compete with FPI for federal contracts.

“We pay employees $9 on average,” Kurt Wilson, an executive with American Apparel, told Prison Legal News at the time. “They get full medical insurance, 401(k) plans and paid vacation. Yet we’re competing against a federal program that doesn’t pay any of that.”

With prisoners lacking even a modicum of labor protection, it is very hard for any company to compete with companies that use this source of dirt-cheap prison labor.

“Prisoners currently don’t fall under any fair labor standard practices or umbrellas,” Christopher Petrella, a researcher at UC Berkeley who studies labor abuses in prisons, told AlterNet. “So, often times, prisoners will get paid but they aren’t afforded the same protections as a worker outside of prison.

No one is complaining about prisoners having the right to work and learn skills that will help them once they are released from prison. But that is not the issue. In reality, FPI is paying far below minimum wage rates. Prison labor takes advantage of a vulnerable workforce that can’t advocate for itself, form a union, fight for its labor rights or seek legal protections for potential workplace abuses.

Prison workers have no political support, either. “There is virtually no constituency that really cares,” Petrella said. “That’s a very sobering and tragic thing to say, but I think it’s actually true. Prisoners are often times disenfranchised. They can’t even vote. So, if they can’t even vote, then what kind of constituency exists that politicians can then lean on to make these sorts of decisions about how they want to move forward with reforming the system?”

The number of inmates working under FPI make up just a small number of the 2.2 million prisoners behind bars in a wide range of state and federal work programs, so it’s just a small part of the larger issue of exploited labor. But it is important to note that the federal government finances and operates FPI, a corporation that outsources labor in exploitive ways.

Friedman says FPI and other work programs in general must undergo major reforms that include giving inmate workers the right to protect themselves from exploitation, paying them as much as a worker who is not locked up would make, and training them for jobs that will actually lead to employment once they leave prison. Without such changes, Friedman says prison labor is nothing more than slave labor.

One injustice that simply won’t end: The saga of Brandon Hein


Originally posted on Media and Mayhem:

Some students of mine from past semesters know that — for a host of personal and other reasons — the mind-boggling injustice of Brandon Hein’s continued imprisonment has concerned me for years.

More information about Brandon’s case can be found here, although the blog is only occasionally updated. Actor Charles Grodin has also devoted significant time and effort  to the cause of undoing this injustice. And William Gazecki’s superb documentary Reckless Indifference is still an excellent introduction to Brandon’s case.

We must never, ever, forget Brandon Hein.

And it is time for Governor Jerry Brown to use his executive powers to end Brandon’s imprisonment.

View original

Kalief Browder, Jailed For 3 Years Without Conviction, Dies Of Suicide


He was suspected of stealing a backpack as a teen. His parents couldn’t afford the $10,000 bail so he remained at Rikers for three years. He was beaten by guards repeatedly…

By NewsOne Staff

A 22-year-old man who spent three years in jail at New York City’s Rikers Island without ever being convicted of a crime died this weekend of an apparent suicide, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Kalief Browder, who was released in 2013, died at home in the Bronx on Saturday, his lawyer Paul V. Prestia told the Times. Browder was 16-years-old when he was arrested on suspicion of stealing a backpack, and he spent about two years in solitary confinement, the report says. He was never convicted.

From the Los Angeles Times:

“I think what caused the suicide was his incarceration and those hundreds and hundreds of nights in solitary confinement, where there were mice crawling up his sheets in that little cell,” Prestia said in a phone interview Sunday evening. “Being starved, and not being taken to the shower for two weeks at a time … those were direct contributing factors.… That was the pain and sadness that he had to deal with every day, and I think it was too much for him.”…

Browder, who was black, insisted he was innocent. The story told how he had spent two of his three years on Rikers Island in solitary confinement, and how he had attempted suicide multiple times before prosecutors ultimately dropped the charges in May 2013.

Publicity around Browder’s case came at a time of increasing scrutiny on jails, prisons and municipal courts, especially in how the nation’s justice system treats people of color.

Via LA Times

You Can’t Go Home Again


Via The Marshall Project

Surprising new research suggests parolees who go somewhere new are less likely to offend again.

By DANA GOLDSTEIN

When people move away from a troubled neighborhood, do they become more likely to avoid crime and live a productive life?

For years, social scientists believed — often reluctantly — that the answer was no. Beginning in 1995, a large federal experiment called Moving to Opportunity provided housing vouchers to families living in extreme poverty in Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City. Some of those families were required to use their vouchers to rent an apartment in a neighborhood where fewer than 10 percent of residents were poor. The hope was that children in those families would do better in school, obey the law, and eventually become middle-class adults. But that didn’t happen. Over the long term, the sons of Moving to Opportunity families were actually more likely to be arrested and to use drugs than boys in the control group who continued to live in poorer neighborhoods. Their incomes remained low.   But now a spate of high-profile new research seems to be overturning the Moving to Opportunity consensus. Moving from one neighborhood to another, it turns out, can have a big impact on crime and incarceration, as well as on individual earning potential. The key factor may be timing that move to the right moment in a person’s life.

The latest contribution to this research is from David Kirk, an American sociologist at Oxford University in England. His new study, which appears in the academic journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, took advantage of what social scientists call a “natural experiment” — a case when a real-world event creates random change. In this case, the event was Hurricane Katrina. Kirk first started thinking about its impact on the people who commit crimes in late 2005, when he visited storm-ravaged New Orleans to spend time with his in-laws, who live there.

“Driving around the city, it was hard not to contemplate the nature of the devastation and what it meant for individuals,” he said in an interview. “Certain neighborhoods didn’t really exist anymore. So where were folks coming out of prison going? They would normally go back to the Lower Ninth Ward or Mid-City, but they couldn’t. Where were these individuals?”

Kirk set up a study to find out, examining state data on where 5,400 parolees lived after leaving prison in 2005 and 2006. It turned out that after Hurricane Katrina, parolees dispersed throughout the state, often ending up in even poorer neighborhoods than the ones they had come from in New Orleans. They typically moved to smaller cities like Baton Rouge, Shreveport, and Lake Charles.

Previous research had found that former prisoners who return to poor neighborhoods are more likely than those who return to middle-class or affluent areas to end up back in prison, regardless of those former prisoners’ individual characteristics. But in a series of papers, Kirk revealed a surprising pattern in Louisiana after Katrina. Regardless of neighborhood poverty, the density of parolees living within a zip code had a powerful effect on whether recently released prisoners were able to turn their lives around.

In neighborhoods where five of every 1,000 residents had recently been released from prison, 34 percent of parolees returned to prison within one year, either for committing a new crime or for breaking the rules of parole. In similarly poor neighborhoods with just one recently released prisoner per 1,000 residents, 22 percent of parolees returned to prison. In a forthcoming paper, Kirk will look at Louisiana parolees eight years after their release from prison. The positive influence on these individuals of new neighborhoods with fewer parolees persists over time, he said.

Kirk speculates that moving helps former prisoners sever ties to people likely to become criminal associates. “Residential change is a turning point that may give people a fresh start,” he said. “It’s something that organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous talk about: Stay away from the people and places associated with prior behavior. In that sense, this is not entirely novel.”

Kirk’s findings join a widely heralded new series of draft papers from Harvard economists Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren, and Lawrence Katz. They reassessed the decade-old Moving to Opportunity data in order to isolate only those children who were youngest — under the age of 13 — when their families moved. Staying in a high-crime neighborhood reducedreduced boys’ future incomes by 7 percent and girls’ future incomes by 4 percent, relative to kids who moved from high-crime to low-crime neighborhoods early in childhood and later earned more as adults.

That research is ongoing, and it is not yet clear if young children who left high-crime areas also experienced lower arrest rates. But the overall trend among sociologists, economists, and political scientists is to rethink the power of helping people change where they reside, especially during those periods of life, such as early childhood or the first year out of prison, when people are most vulnerable and also most heavily influenced by the social environment around them.

“The pendulum has swung back to thinking that neighborhoods are very important,” said Jonathan Rothwell, a fellow at the Brookings Institution who studies urban policy.

Housing vouchers that can be used only in neighborhoods far from the parolee’s original home could help former prisoners avoid ending up back behind bars, Kirk suggests. So could overturning state laws that currently require some parolees to return to their previous counties. Yet other scholars urge caution. A separate body of research on prisoners reentering society shows that family, friends, and former employers are the people most likely to help a recently released prisoner get a job, and that getting a job is a primary factor in avoiding re-incarceration.

“I have concerns about the policy implications” of Kirk’s Louisiana study, said Nancy La Vigne, director of the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute. “If the implications are that we should ensure that people, upon release from prison, are dispersed throughout a state, will it compromise social support networks in ways that make it more difficult to successfully reintegrate? What we know is that family members are there for returning prisons and provide emotional and tangible support.”

For Kirk, the key is recognizing that neighborhood-based social networks often exert a negative influence, in addition to a positive one. Previously, he studied the effects of “legal cynicism” in Chicago — perceptions of law enforcement as unresponsive and illegitimate — which appeared to contribute to high homicide rates in certain neighborhoods even as they gentrified. That type of cynicism, he posits, may blossom when many recently released prisoners gather in a small geographic area.

“Families aren’t always positive influences,” Kirk said. “Somebody has a brother or a cousin who is into drugs or worse, and that’s not good to be around. A next step on my agenda and in the field in general is to look at what residential change means for social networks. Can they help maintain positive relationships and end negative ones?”

California Man Executed in 1998 “Likely Innocent” According to Federal Judge


Via The Innocence Project

A federal appeals court judge says a man executed in California in 1998 was “likely innocent” of the rape and murder for which he was sentenced to death. In an article in the Michigan Law Review, 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Reinhardt said Thomas Thompson, one of 13 Californians executed since 1992 under the current death penalty law, was put to death only because of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that prevented a lower court from considering the merits of his case.

Thompson was convicted of the 1981 rape and murder of 20-year-old Ginger Fleischli. Thompson’s roommate David Leitch was convicted of second-degree murder in connection to the crime. The prosecutor gave conflicting versions of events at each trial, saying during Thompson’s trial that Thompson was alone with the victim, and at Leitch’s saying Leitch was present and ordered Thompson to kill her.

During Leitch’s parole hearing in 1995, Leitch testified to witnessing Thompson and Fleischli engaging in consensual sex on the night of her murder, testimony that Thompson’s jury never heard. According to the San Francisco Gate, in light of this detail, the jury may have cleared Thompson, since rape was alleged to be the motive for Fleischli’s murder. Thompson’s jury was also not aware that two witnesses were regular jailhouse informants with questionable records.

Because of the conflicting prosecutions and unreliable witnesses, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Thompson’s death sentence in 1997. The Supreme Court overturned the ruling in April 1998. Thompson was executed three months later.

Orange County prosecutors insist Thompson was properly tried and sentenced.

Read the San Francisco Gate article here.

 

Justice For Felix Garcia-Imprisoned for 30 years & INNOCENT!


 

More than 100,000 people signed a petition to free Tampa’s Felix Garcia. Advocates for the deaf claim he was framed for murder back in 1983, and was unable to follow his own trial because of his hearing problem.

His story has been shared and his face shown on posters in rallies for the disabled on the Capitol steps.

So FOX 13 investigated his case, and interviewed Felix Garcia from prison. He lost most of his hearing and requires a sign language interpreter to effectively communicate. But the scope of his hearing loss in 1983 is a matter of dispute.

Doctors for the prosecution say he was competent and could hear his trial, while the court-appointed doctor testified that Felix Garcia had up to 70-percent hearing loss.

Garcia’s legal advocate, Pat Bliss, claimed Felix tried to make it appear as if he understood the proceedings when he really didn’t, out of a misguided attempt to appear alert.

“He thinks hearing people are so smart, he wants to compete that he’s smart too,” said Bliss. “He’d just smile and nod, pretending he understood everything so he wouldn’t appear stupid.”

Thirty-two years ago, Felix Garcia took the stand, answering questions that he later said he couldn’t hear or understand. He later said he was unaware that his own family accused him of murder.

“He was played as a patsy and played right into it,” said Felix’s attorney Reggie Garcia, who is not unrelated to Felix. “He’s served 33 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.”

LINK: Read Felix’s testimony (PDF)

But to prosecutors, Felix Garcia is a killer who walked into a north Tampa hotel room back in 1981 and shot a guest in the head. His own brother and sister said he did it, and the jury agreed.

Years later, a signed affidavit shows his brother changed his story. Felix’s older brother Frank later said he committed the crime. Detectives found 13 of Frank’s fingerprints at the crime scene, and no prints from Felix.

Meanwhile, Felix’s ex-girlfriend and her mother gave him an alibi the night of the murder. They said he was at their home nearly six miles away from the hotel when the killer struck.

But Felix signed a pawn slip for the dead man’s ring — and that, combined with the testimony, sealed his fate.

Felix now claims Frank drove him to a pawn shop and tricked him into signing for the ring. Frank later claimed he framed his little brother to save himself from the electric chair and protect another man named Ray Stanley. According to another signed affidavit, their sister Tina backed that up.

However, Tina told FOX 13 she does not remember signing that affidavit. She said Stanley was not involved and she thinks Felix is guilty.

“Did I sign the affidavit? I do not remember, and I don’t believe I signed one,” Tina Daniels said. “He needs to stop and leave this family alone is what he needs to do.”

Hillsborough State Attorney Mark Ober personally prosecuted Felix’s brother Frank. He concedes that Felix had a hearing problem, but says he was competent, and could hear and participate in his trial, and that the trial was fairly conducted.

Judges have previously considered and denied Felix’s request for a new trial. Felix’s next chance for parole is in two and a half years.

“Please. It’s the only way the truth will ever come out,” Felix insisted. “The truth is there. It’s there!”

You can read more ( and watch many videos!) about Felix Garcia at the Deaf In Prison Blog here on WordPress:

https://deafinprison.wordpress.com/

and Follow the Facebook dedicated to  him!

https://www.facebook.com/championsforjusticeforfelixgarcia?fref=ts

 

Via MyFoxTampaBay

Punishment for profit: The economics of mass incarceration


By Joyce Chediac

“Mass incarceration on a scale almost unexampled in human history is a fundamental fact of our country today — perhaps the fundamental fact, as slavery was the fundamental fact of 1850.” (“The Caging of America” by Adam Gopnik)

PrisonThe excessive arrests and unjustified long-term imprisonments of mostly people of color, and the devastating effects these measures have on whole communities, have been exposed and denounced by community, religious, human rights, legal and advocacy organizations, and individual researchers.

Then why is it so hard to stop?

Because for a very powerful few, mass incarceration is not a bad thing at all.  It is the source of fabulous profits.  For them, prison equals profits.

The total cost to government of incarceration is $70 billion a year. The privately run prison industry, which feeds on mass incarceration, is one of the fastest growing and widest reaching of U.S. industries. In 2009 alone, when most industries were in a slump, the prison industry brought in $34.4 billion in revenues. (“Prison Labor and Crime in the U.S. — Inmate Facts and Stats,” a report to the Black Congressional Caucus at http://www.phewacommunity.org)

The rate of profits from prison industries is comparable to what U.S. companies extract from exploiting labor markets in the global South, without the need to pay the added transportation costs. There is virtually no overhead for these corporations, because the prisons are paid for and prisoners are housed at tax dollar expense.

Secret corporate cheerleaders of mass incarceration

This is why some of the world’s most powerful financial institutions — Bank of America, Goldman Sachs Group, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and others — are the primary investors in the prison-industrial complex and the secret cheerleaders of mass incarceration.

That’s why virtually every major company and employer — from the U.S. military to Exxon, to McDonalds, to Victoria’s Secret — and a great many minor ones, profit directly or indirectly from low-cost prison labor.  This reach is so vast that the products of prison labor touch virtually every part of life, from the food we eat, the jeans we wear, the phones we use, to how our pensions are invested.

That’s why the judiciary, the courts, the police, the legislatures and even whole federal agencies have become apologists for, encouragers of and accomplices in punishment for profit, having had their palms amply greased by its main corporate players.

Legislation that enables financial gain from prisons, such as mandated harsh sentences for nonviolent crime, were actually written by the prison profiteers, then passed by legislatures in their pay.

Prison labor has taken the place of many jobs. So punishment for profit contributes to unemployment, undermines workers’ demands for living wages and creates obstacles to trade union organizing.

How did this happen?

Emergence of the prison-industrial complex

The term “prison-industrial complex” was coined in 1997 by activist and former political prisoner Angela Davis to describe the high rate of profit made by the corporations running prisons, the merger of these companies with the biggest banks and businesses, and the devastating effect this phenomenon has had upon the working class, communities of color and the socially vulnerable.

Before 1980, there were no private adult prisons in the U.S.  Private companies began to run state and federal prisons in the 1980s, under President Ronald Reagan. These corporations were given a huge boost in the 1990s by President William Clinton, whose cut to government jobs provided a golden opportunity for private firms seeking to run prisons.   “Punishment for profit” was off and running.

Since then, there has been an explosion in private companies providing goods and services to government agencies involved in punishment.  This includes contract prison labor, construction of prisons, surveillance, tech vendors, prison food providers, medical services, phone service for prisoners, private probation companies, investors in these companies, and the lobbyists that represent the businesses seeking to expand the prison system.

Revenues increased 500 times

Two of the largest private companies now running prisons are the Correction Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group.  There were no private prisons before 1984. From then until 2009, these two corporations increased their role to running 264 prisons with more than 100,000 prisoners. (“Prison Labor and Crime in the U.S.”) The CCA’s revenues increased 500 times in the last two decades. (Mother Jones, Sept. 19, 2013)

Then there’s the work that inmates do inside the institutions. Prisoners toiling often for pennies an hour and sometimes without any pay at all, totaled at least $2.4 billion in sales, and maybe as much as $5 billion. (www.phewacommunity.com)

The private companies get a cheap, easy labor market, where they don’t have to provide benefits or sick days, there is no union organizing, and if a person refuses to work they can be locked in solitary confinement.

We pay the overhead!

These businesses have virtually no overhead costs in the prisons because the cost of incarceration and the source of their cash-cow profits are tax dollars.

While money is steadily cut from social programs, tax subsidizing of prison profiteers does not come cheap.  The Vera Institute for Justice states in its report, “The Price of Prisons,” that the cost to taxpayers of incarcerating one inmate in fiscal 2010 was $31,307 per year, and in  Connecticut, Washington state and New York,” It’s anywhere from $50,000 to $60,000.”

The American Civil Liberties Union reveals that the national yearly figure for incarcerating people with mental illness, a vulnerable population jailed at disproportionately high rates and suffering greatly in jail, is more than $63,000 a year. (ACLU report, July 2014, tinyurl.com/mng4ya2) All of this is paid for by U.S. workers.

Some 600,000 to 1 million of the 2.4 million U.S. prisoners toil in 300 factories in a 21st century form of slavery. (www.phewacommunity.com) El Diario-La Prensa of March 10, 2008, writes that the companies contracting private prison labor contain “the cream of U.S. corporate society: IBM, Boeing, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T, Wireless, Texas Instrument, Dell, Compaq, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard, Nortel, Lucent Technologies, 3Com, Intel, Northern Telecom, TWA, Nordstrom’s, Revlon, Macy’s, Pierre Cardin, Target Stores and many more.” The whole capitalist establishment is in on it.

A system ‘too vast to boycott’

Bob Sloan, who wrote the “Prison Labor and Crime in the U.S.” report, unearths and exposes businesses involved in prison labor.  He found that McDonald’s uniforms are made in jail. Kmart and J.C. Penny sell jeans sewn by inmates in Tennessee.  (www.dailykos.com, Dec. 13, 2010).

And then there’s food production. In July/August 2008, Mother Jones magazine reported that in California alone, prisoners were processing “more than 680,000 pounds of beef, 400,000 pounds of chicken products, 450,000 gallons of milk, 280,000 loaves of bread, and 2.9 million eggs.” Signature Packaging Solutions, a Starbucks subcontractor, was using prisoners to package holiday coffees.

Inmates are producing airplane parts, medical supplies and much more. They are even raising seeing-eye dogs.

Investors in prison labor and the prison-industrial complex include the oil giants ExxonMobil Corp. and Chevron, Koch Industries, a host of utility companies, and insurance companies such as GEICO, State Farm and Fidelity Investments, which holds the 401(k) and retirement counts of millions of people, according to Sloan.

Involved in punishment for profit are a host of giant pharmaceutical companies, including Bayer, Glaxo Wellcome, Merck & Co. and Pfizer.  Also making gain from the misery of those behind bars are Caterpillar Inc., International Game Technology, virtually all the telecommunications companies, and transportation companies such as American Airlines, Boeing and United Parcel Service, says Sloan.  So the hotel and airline reservations we make for vacations are often handled by prisoners. And this is just a sampling.

Sloan concludes, “The Prison-Industrial Complex is simply too vast to avoid or boycott — in a manner typically used by consumers and concerned citizens.”

To get your job back ‘go to prison’

Factories are closing and workers being laid off because it’s cheaper for the bosses to get prisoners to do the work.

In Texas, a factory fired its 150 workers and contracted the service of prison-workers from the private Lockhart Correctional Facility in that state, where circuit boards are assembled for companies like IBM and Compaq.

The federal government is in on this, too. It owns Federal Prison Industries, operating in 83 federal prisons and employing more than 13,000 inmates at from $0.23 to $1.15 an hour. FPI collected more than $900 million in revenue in 2011. It produced more than $100 million in military uniforms in 2012. (“More Jobs Lost as the Government Decides to Have Military Uniforms Made by Convicts,” Business Insider, Sept. 7, 2012)

In 2012, Tennier Industries fired more than 100 employees after losing its military uniform contract to FPI. That year, American Apparel closed an Alabama plant employing 175 for the same reason. The workers there had made $9 an hour, and had benefits.

A disgruntled Kurt Courtney, director of government relations at American Apparel, told CNN on Aug. 14, 2012, “The only way for workers to get jobs back is to go to prison.”

U.S. prison labor is even replacing labor markets in poor and oppressed countries. A company that operated a maquiladora (the Spanish term used for a foreign-owned assembly plant on the Mexican side of the U.S./Mexico border) closed down its operations there and relocated to San Quentin State Prison in California. “[Former] Oregon State Representative Kevin Mannix recently urged Nike to cut its production in Indonesia and bring it to his state, telling the shoe manufacturer that ‘there won’t be any transportation costs; we’re offering you competitive prison labor (here),” according to the El Diario article.

Prisoners replacing farmworkers

Fruits and vegetables are often picked by immigrants, many of them undocumented. The Obama administration, however, has deported undocumented workers in record numbers, while it slowed the legal flow of contracted agricultural workers into the country. At the same time, more states are issuing fines to farmers and agricultural businesses who hire undocumented workers.

With fewer workers available to pick crops at the going wage, the prison-industrial complex has happily stepped in to fill the gap.  Today, prisoners pick onions in Georgia, watermelons in Arizona, apples in Washington and potatoes in Idaho.

For a capitalist, what’s not to like?

Profiting from people in jail is undeniably a horrible form of exploitation, destructive to all working people and to society as a whole.  This is the raw face of capitalism in the 21st century, without the ideological touch ups provided by Wall Street public relations firms or the corporate media.

The drive for ever greater profits is built into the capitalist system. Money gravitates to where the rate of profit is the highest, regardless of the social cost. This is why virtually all the corporate establishment sharks are in a feeding frenzy over the profits to be made off of punishment.

For a capitalist, what’s not to like?

Via Workers World

Young Girl’s In Custody Death Sparks Controversy and heartache-Justice for Tori Herr!!


Police investigating Lebanon County 18-year-old inmate’s death

The 18-year-old apparently died of complication from heroin withdrawal

By John Latimer

The results of my daughter going to jail for a mere four days have devastated me for the rest of my life. I only had two children, a son and a daughter and now all I have left of my daughter are her ashes.~Stephanie Moyer Patschke

Stephanie and Dean Moyer of North Cornwall Township talk about their daughter, Victoria "Tori" Herr, who died April 5 at the Lehigh Valley

Stephanie and Dean Moyer of North Cornwall Township talk about their daughter, Victoria “Tori” Herr, who died April 5 at the Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown. Herr had been incarcerated at the Lebanon County prison and was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital on March 31. Hours later she was airlifted to Lehigh Valley Hospital. (Michael K. Dakota — Lebanon Daily News)
Submitted - Lebanon Daily NewsStepanie and Dean Moyer submitted this photo of their daughter, Tori Herr.

Submitted – Lebanon Daily News Stepanie and Dean Moyer submitted this photo of their daughter, Tori Herr.

Stephanie Moyer didn’t immediately notice the changes in her daughter’s behavior last year.

Growing up, the fun-loving Victoria “Tori” Herr enjoyed hanging out with a group of other bright kids. She loved animals and was “artsy,” with an eye for photography and a talent for writing, which one day she hoped might lead to a career in journalism, said her mother.

But about a year ago, near the end of Tori’s senior year at Cedar Crest High School, Moyer saw a distinct change in her daughter. No longer carefree, she became morose and distant. Her old friends stopped hanging around, and her new ones were different.

“It took a while for me to catch on to that. You know, that all of a sudden I didn’t know any of her friends,” Stephanie Moyer recalled this week, sitting on the couch beside her husband and Tori’s stepfather, Dean Moyer, in their North Cornwall Township home.

“They were not coming into the house,” Moyer said. “They were not introducing themselves, and she was very upset when I’d take her to school. I drove her to school every single day. And there toward the end of her senior year she was just crying, and she wasn’t looking the same. I tried to get answers from her friends that I did know, and nobody was really giving me any answers.”

Frustrated and worried, Moyer did the only thing she could think of to find out what Tori was getting into — she read her journal.

What Moyer learned in the pages of her daughter’s diary was a parent’s worst nightmare. Her teenage girl had become a heroin addict.

That nightmare turned into a living hell three weeks ago when Herr, 18, died from apparent complications of heroin withdrawal, eight days after being incarcerated in the Lebanon County Correctional Facility.

Now the Moyers are looking for answers to how and why it happened.

Michael K. Dakota — Lebanon Daily NewsStephanie and Dean Moyer are waiting for answers about their daughter’s death. A photo of Tori Herr, a

Michael K. Dakota — Lebanon Daily News Stephanie and Dean Moyer are waiting for answers about their daughter’s death. A photo of Tori Herr, a Cedar Crest High School graduate, in her graduation cap and gown is stored on the family’s iPad.
Details scant

A Pennsylvania State Police investigation — standard procedure in all death cases at the prison — is underway, and the Moyer’s have hired an attorney, preventing Lebanon County prison Warden Robert Karnes and other county officials from speaking directly about the case.

What is known is that on March 27 Herr and her boyfriend, 21-year-old Jesse Roldan, were arrested in their North 12th Street apartment by Lebanon police, who were helping another law enforcement agency serve a fugitive bench warrant on Roldan. The warrant was issued for Roldan’s failure to show up for sentencing on retail theft and drug charges that included possession with intent to deliver heroin, to which he pleaded guilty on Nov. 20.

See also:

Warden says prison followed protocols

Using a drug-sniffing dog, police found 69 packets of heroin in the house. Herr claimed the drugs were hers and was charged with possession with intent to deliver. Roldan was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia. Both were placed in Lebanon County prison.

Also what is known is that four days later, on the night of March 31, Herr lost consciousness at the prison. She received treatment there and was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital. Within hours, she was air-lifted to Lehigh Valley Hospital, where she remained in a coma before dying on Easter Sunday, April 5.

According to the only official report, submitted by Karnes at last week’s county Prison Board meeting, Karnes went to the jail the night Herr lost consciousness “at approximately 10:15 p.m. due to a medical emergency involving an inmate. Upon initial questioning of staff, all operational protocols appeared to be followed. The PA State Police were notified of this incident and responded as per procedure.”

The Moyers don’t know much more about what happened to their daughter between the time she was incarcerated and hospitalized.

The Moyers are receiving information, including some from inmates released since their daughter’s death, through a Facebook page called “Justice for Victoria ‘Tori’ Herr” that was started by a friend.

There are allegations that Herr did not receive proper medical care prior to collapsing at the prison and in the immediate moments that followed.

But the Moyers do not know how accurate that information is and said they are waiting for the state police investigation to conclude. They hope a security video will shed light on the truth.

‘Just want lemonade’

The last time Stephanie Moyer spoke with her daughter was by telephone on Monday, March 30. Moyer said it was their first talk since her daughter had been jailed, and she sounded disoriented.

“I was like, ‘Tori what happened?’ and she said, ‘I don’t know, mom. But I’m seeing people die. I’m going to die,'” Moyer recalled. “And I said, ‘Tori, you are not going to die, honey, you are just going through withdrawal. And she said, ‘I’m so thirsty. I’m so thirsty. I just want lemonade. They won’t give me lemonade. Can you put money on my account?'”

Moyer said she asked her daughter how to do that.

“She said, ‘I’ve got to go,'” Moyer said. “And I said, ‘Wait! How do I put money on your account?’ And she said, ‘I don’t know, maybe go into the jail. I’ve got to go.’ And that was the end of our conversation. It was the last time I talked to her.”

Later that day, the Moyers went to the jail at 730 E. Walnut St. in South Lebanon Township to set up a cash account for their daughter. When they asked to see her, they were told she was in quarantine, and they would not be able to see her until the following week, Stephanie Moyer said. Next, they asked how Tori was doing and were told she was fine.

But Stephanie Moyer was not convinced her daughter was fine.

“I had concerns, I know Tori mentally,” she said. “I knew this would be a huge thing to bear mentally and physically. Her physical condition just wasn’t that great. She was so thin and tiny. You know, just being an addict alone.”

The day after trying to visit her daughter, Stephanie Moyer said she tried to contact her prison counselor but was unsuccessful. That night, before going to bed, she turned off her phone, thinking that at least her daughter was away from the threat of heroin.

In a coma

“Everybody always says there are two options for an addict: they are either dead or in jail,” Moyer said. “And she was in jail, so I honestly thought she was in the best place. I mean the best place with the circumstances.”

The next morning she woke at 5:30 a.m. to find out that was not the case. A message left by Karnes at 11:20 p.m. the night before informed her that Tori was in critical condition.

The next few hours were frustrating for the Moyers as they tried to find out where their daughter was and how she was doing.

Moyer said she eventually was told her daughter had “a heart attack or something” and that she was at Lehigh Valley Hospital.

Why she was air-lifted to Lehigh Valley Hospital instead of transported to Hershey Medical Center is another mystery, although the Moyers said their daughter received excellent care there.

The Moyers rushed to Lehigh Valley Hospital to be by their daughter’s bedside. They found her unconscious and hooked to tubes.

Dean Moyer said a Lehigh Valley doctor told him Tori had been without oxygen at the prison for eight to 10 minutes.

“She was in a coma,” Stephanie Moyer said. “She had brain swelling. Her brain had swelled. They said they (the prison medical staff) did CPR on her for 33 to 40 minutes until they called 9-1-1. That’s what the doctor told us. So you do the math.”

Stephanie Moyer said she has spoken to Karnes since her daughter’s death, and he has been unable to shed any light on her treatment prior to her losing consciousness.

“Heroin in itself, you don’t die from withdrawal of heroin, but you do die if you are not given liquids and certain things because you are dehydrating, because they vomit and they are going to the bathroom all of the time,” Stephanie Moyer said. “So they have to have fluids. Whether or not she got those fluids, I would venture to say no, because she died. Unless there is another reason why she died.”

Parents tried to help

The Moyers are not blind to the fact that their daughter bears responsibility for her untimely death.

After learning that Tori was addicted to heroin, the Moyers said they tried to convince her to get treatment. Efforts to get her to a methadone clinic were unsuccessful.

“I’m not saying that Tori didn’t make her own choices as well. I know that it was her choice to decide to use heroin. No one put a gun to her head and told her to do it,” Stephanie Moyer said. “Most of her school life, she was in honors classes. She was extremely intelligent and never had a criminal run-in, ever. And when we had found out that she was using heroin about a year ago, we tried to help her immediately. Immediately we tried to talk to her and everything.”

But Herr resisted, eventually moving in with her boyfriend.

The Moyers did not like their daughter’s relationship with Roldan, whom she started dating in May, about the time they discovered she was using heroin.

“At first, I was not happy with her being with Jesse,” Stephanie Moyer said. “I mean, that was part of the reason why she was hiding from me and everything, because she was with Jesse, and I knew he had a criminal background. I did not know he was a heroin addict or anything like that. But I knew he had a criminal background.”

As they got to know Roldan, Stephanie Moyer said, she and her husband began to understand that he had made bad choices, just like their daughter.

“Once we got to know Jesse, we had tried to help him. Especially Dean, when (Roldan) got out (of jail) the first time, through the church and stuff. But he wasn’t interested,” Stephanie Moyer recalled. “We very much saw potential in him. He seemed like he was a good guy with bad choices. But honestly, at this point in time, I don’t know where I’d put him. I have issues to work out with him. But I can honestly say that he is the one person who could have truly helped her.”

The Moyers said their daughter’s love for Roldan caused her to claim the heroin was hers.

More than 200 people came to their daughter’s funeral held at Calvary Chapel on April 11.

“Like the pastor said at her services, people’s choices, the choices that we make, affect so many people,” Stephanie Moyer said. “Her boyfriend Jesse had a bench warrant out for his arrest. … (If) he had just went to court that day, none of this would have happened as far as her going to jail. She would be at U-Turn (for Christ, a residential drug treatment center) right now. And she’d be clean, and he’d be clean.

“So the choice that he made, he will have to live with the rest of his life. And certainly I am going to have to live with it the rest of my life. And all of Tori’s friends and family will, too.”

Support group on Facebook:

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Sign the petition demanding reform!

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/pa-investigate-lebanon-county-corruption

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