Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Pentagon and slave labor in U.S. prisons

The Pentagon - Wiki Image
Sara Flounders
Worker's World

Prisoners earning 23 cents an hour in U.S. federal prisons are manufacturing high-tech electronic components for Patriot Advanced Capability 3 missiles, launchers for TOW (Tube-launched, Optically tracked, Wire-guided) anti-tank missiles, and other guided missile systems. A March article by journalist and financial researcher Justin Rohrlich of World in Review is worth a closer look at the full implications of this ominous development. (minyanville.com)

The expanding use of prison industries, which pay slave wages, as a way to increase profits for giant military corporations is a frontal attack on the rights of all workers.

Prison labor — with no union protection, overtime pay, vacation days, pensions, benefits, health and safety protection, or Social Security withholding — also makes complex components for McDonnell Douglas/Boeing’s F-15 fighter aircraft, the General Dynamics/Lockheed Martin F-16, and Bell/Textron’s Cobra helicopter. Prison labor produces night-vision goggles, body armor, camouflage uniforms, radio and communication devices, and lighting systems and components for 30-mm to 300-mm battleship anti-aircraft guns, along with land mine sweepers and electro-optical equipment for the BAE Systems Bradley Fighting Vehicle’s laser rangefinder. Prisoners recycle toxic electronic equipment and overhaul military vehicles.

Labor in federal prisons is contracted out by UNICOR, previously known as Federal Prison Industries, a quasi-public, for-profit corporation run by the Bureau of Prisons. In 14 prison factories, more than 3,000 prisoners manufacture electronic equipment for land, sea and airborne communication. UNICOR is now the U.S. government’s 39th largest contractor, with 110 factories at 79 federal penitentiaries.

The majority of UNICOR’s products and services are on contract to orders from the Department of Defense. Giant multinational corporations purchase parts assembled at some of the lowest labor rates in the world, then resell the finished weapons components at the highest rates of profit. For example, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Corporation subcontract components, then assemble and sell advanced weapons systems to the Pentagon.

Increased profits, unhealthy workplaces

However, the Pentagon is not the only buyer. U.S. corporations are the world’s largest arms dealers, while weapons and aircraft are the largest U.S. export. The U.S. State Department, Department of Defense and diplomats pressure NATO members and dependent countries around the world into multibillion-dollar weapons purchases that generate further corporate profits, often leaving many countries mired in enormous debt.

But the fact that the capitalist state has found yet another way to drastically undercut union workers’ wages and ensure still higher profits to military corporations — whose weapons wreak such havoc around the world — is an ominous development.

According to CNN Money, the U.S. highly skilled and well-paid “aerospace workforce has shrunk by 40 percent in the past 20 years. Like many other industries, the defense sector has been quietly outsourcing production (and jobs) to cheaper labor markets overseas.” (Feb. 24) It seems that with prison labor, these jobs are also being outsourced domestically.

Meanwhile, dividends and options to a handful of top stockholders and CEO compensation packages at top military corporations exceed the total payment of wages to the more than 23,000 imprisoned workers who produce UNICOR parts.

The prison work is often dangerous, toxic and unprotected. At FCC Victorville, a federal prison located at an old U.S. airbase, prisoners clean, overhaul and reassemble tanks and military vehicles returned from combat and coated in toxic spent ammunition, depleted uranium dust and chemicals.

A federal lawsuit by prisoners, food service workers and family members at FCI Marianna, a minimum security women’s prison in Florida, cited that toxic dust containing lead, cadmium, mercury and arsenic poisoned those who worked at UNICOR’s computer and electronic recycling factory.

Prisoners there worked covered in dust, without safety equipment, protective gear, air filtration or masks. The suit explained that the toxic dust caused severe damage to nervous and reproductive systems, lung damage, bone disease, kidney failure, blood clots, cancers, anxiety, headaches, fatigue, memory lapses, skin lesions, and circulatory and respiratory problems. This is one of eight federal prison recycling facilities — employing 1,200 prisoners — run by UNICOR.

After years of complaints the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General and the Federal Occupational Health Service concurred in October 2008 that UNICOR has jeopardized the lives and safety of untold numbers of prisoners and staff. (Prison Legal News, Feb. 17, 2009)

Racism & U.S. prisons

The U.S. imprisons more people per capita than any country in the world. With less than 5 percent of the world population, the U.S. imprisons more than 25 percent of all people imprisoned in the world.

There are more than 2.3 million prisoners in federal, state and local prisons in the U.S. Twice as many people are under probation and parole. Many tens of thousands of other prisoners include undocumented immigrants facing deportation, prisoners awaiting sentencing and youthful offenders in categories considered reform or detention.

The racism that pervades every aspect of life in capitalist society — from jobs, income and housing to education and opportunity — is most brutally reflected by who is caught up in the U.S. prison system.

More than 60 percent of U.S. prisoners are people of color. Seventy percent of those being sentenced under the three strikes law in California — which requires mandatory sentences of 25 years to life after three felony convictions — are people of color. Nationally, 39 percent of African-American men in their 20s are in prison, on probation or on parole. The U.S. imprisons more people than South Africa did under apartheid. (Linn Washington, “Incarceration Nation”)

The U.S. prison population is not only the largest in the world — it is relentlessly growing. The U.S. prison population is more than five times what it was 30 years ago.

In 1980, when Ronald Reagan became president, there were 400,000 prisoners in the U.S. Today the number exceeds 2.3 million. In California the prison population soared from 23,264 in 1980 to 170,000 in 2010. The Pennsylvania prison population climbed from 8,243 to 51,487 in those same years. There are now more African-American men in prison, on probation or on parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began, according to Law Professor Michelle Alexander in the book “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.”

Today a staggering 1-in-100 adults in the U.S. are living behind bars. But this crime, which breaks families and destroys lives, is not evenly distributed. In major urban areas one-half of Black men have criminal records. This means life-long, legalized discrimination in student loans, financial assistance, access to public housing, mortgages, the right to vote and, of course, the possibility of being hired for a job.

10 Indications The United States is a Dictatorship

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Anonymous said...

This is hilarious, incredibly hilarious.

The story -of course- is meant to play on your gullible heartstrings and distract you from the real problems.

I am not saying these things are not true.
They are true.

What is worse, the jobs being done in these prisons are exactly the same sort of jobs the "free" population outside the prisons feels lucky-enough to find in this economic environment.

My area in Northern Maine refurbishes HumVEES too. And telemarketing jobs are ubiquitous.

So, I laughed -hard and merrily- to read on the Unicor site -that these prison industries are competing for these jobs.

So, what is the real problem, Kids?

The real problem is that the world is so over-populated with horny-reproducing-ignorants who don't know any better than to pump-out eight or ten uglier-than-sin welfare brats in a single generation, and that -->>this is<<-- the sure future that science, modernization, technology and PROGRESS has led the world toward.

They led the horse to water, and look at the fucking fool drink!

It is a world filled-full of laws, and goons to enforce the fucking laws too. Getting a job in this country means dumbing down. Pull your hat down over your ears and act dumb -you will get hired at McDonalds and Walmart -then-.

The U.S. is being run -->>right now<<-- like it is in a population-race with China and India, the more impoverished idiots -the merrier.

Holy shit you people are dumb, -Michael Rivero-.

Good fucking luck -you stupid humanitarian fools.

For me- when I see 2.3 million prisoners in this country, I see potentially the world's largest revolutionary army ready to sweep into every metropolitan center and especially Washington D.C. itself -->>and once there<<-- kill literally everyone in sight.

Where is there a Napoleon -when you need one?

Progress requires a NEW Napoleon, a bigger, badder Napoleon, -->>someone who knows how to rile the masses to kill and be killed.

Otherwise, the whole world is headed into the prison industries business model. It's the only model feasible with this many morons loafing around looking for an easy hit...

Don Robertson
Limestone, Maine

Adnihilo said...

re. The U.S. imprisons more people per capita than any country in the world.

That statistic along literally means the US is the least free nation in the world.

Anonymous said...

The U.S. has criminalized so much previously innocent behavior, that the prison population will continue to grow, providing even more cheap slave labor.

It is now impossible for those with useless college degrees to slough off college tuition debt short of dying. Those who are blacklisted for defaulting on such loans will be unemployable and will face starvation or jail time. They will welcome their fate as slave labor for the military industrial complex much as Jews during WW2 preferred concentration camp labor to extermination.

Anonymous said...


Thirteenth Amendment
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.[2]

Title 18, U.S.C., Section 241 – Conspiracy Against Rights:[19]
Conspiracy to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person's rights or privileges secured by the Constitution or the laws of the United States
Title 18, U.S.C., Section 242 – Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law:[20]
It is a crime for any person acting under color of law (federal, state or local officials who enforce statutes, ordinances, regulations, or customs) to willfully deprive or cause to be deprived the rights, privileges, or immunities of any person secured or protected by the Constitution and laws of the U.S. This includes willfully subjecting or causing to be subjected any person to different punishments, pains, or penalties, than those prescribed for punishment of citizens on account of such person being an alien or by reason of his/her color or race.


Labor is defined as work of economic or financial value. Unfree labor (i.e., labor not willingly given), is obtained in a number of ways:

causing or threatening to cause serious harm to any person;
physically restraining or threatening to physically restrain another person;
abusing or threatening to abuse the law or legal process;
knowingly destroying, concealing, removing, confiscating or possessing any actual or purported passport or other immigration document, or any other actual or purported government identification document, of another person;
causing or threatening to cause financial harm to any person—i.e., using financial control over a person. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thirteenth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution.

A class action would be needed to test if working on products and services for less than minimum wages, which products and services benefited for-profit corporations, constitutes “involuntary servatude”.

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