Stunning statistics on prison labour.

This may be known to some of you, but to me this was a total surprise: slave labour in prisons is actually very much enmeshed with big corporations.

There are presently 80,000 inmates in the US employed in commercial activity, some earning as little as 21 cents an hour. The US government program Federal Prison Industries (FPI) currently employs 21,000 inmates, an increase of 14 percent in the last two years alone. FPI inmates make a wide variety of products—such as clothing, file cabinets, electronic equipment and military helmets—which are sold to federal agencies and private companies. FPI sales are $600 million annually and rising, with over $37 million in profits.

In addition, during the last 20 years more than 30 states have passed laws permitting the use of convict labor by commercial enterprises. These programs now exist in 36 states.

Prisoners now manufacture everything from blue jeans, to auto parts, to electronics and furniture. Honda has paid inmates $2 an hour for doing the same work an auto worker would get paid $20 to $30 an hour to do. Konica has used prisoners to repair copiers for less than 50 cents an hour. Toys R Us used prisoners to restock shelves, and Microsoft to pack and ship software. Clothing made in California and Oregon prisons competes so successfully with apparel made in Latin America and Asia that it is exported to other countries.

Inmates are also employed in a wide variety of service jobs as well. TWA has used prisoners to handle reservations, while AT&T has used prison labor for telemarketing. In Oregon, prisoners do all the data entry and record keeping in the Secretary of State’s corporation division. Other jobs include desktop publishing, digital mapping and computer-aided design work.

8 thoughts on “Stunning statistics on prison labour.

  1. […] Stunning Statistics on Prison Labor by Chalmers Johnson […]

  2. Belinsky August 31, 2008 at 22:42

    Good to know. I don’t know why, but I can just imagine some vulgar libertarian ranting about how the prisoners voluntarily accept the low wages…never mind the unfree conditions under which they accept the work.

  3. thomasblair October 17, 2008 at 14:26

    I think this is hilarious. FPI revenue is $600m and it only manages to eke out $37m in profits, using virtual slave labor? They’re doing pretty basic manufacturing, which is not exactly labor-intensive, but it’s not without a significant labor cost input. I assume they have no additional labor costs that private sector does (i.e., unemployment taxes, SS matching, benefits) and they’re paying (in the case of Honda) 6-10% of what Honda pays its own workers. How can they be making so little?

    • Rick May 17, 2012 at 19:25

      Simple, for every employee (inmate) they are supervised by two corrections officers.

  4. Francois Tremblay October 17, 2008 at 15:18

    Incompetence?

  5. Franklin Oliveira May 1, 2011 at 18:07

    So what’s the solution? Letting prisoners soak up taxpayer’s dollars without contributing to society? Or not imprisoning rapists, armed robbers and murderers to begin with?

    • Francois Tremblay May 1, 2011 at 18:33

      This is an Anarchist blog. You really need me to answer that question?

  6. myrthryn April 5, 2012 at 19:10

    Surely no reason to answer that as over 80% of the Federal Prisoners have been convicted of victim-less crimes. It is not but slave labor pure and simple.

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