“Made In America” – How These 7 Popular Companies Are Exploiting Prisoners And Ruining The Economy

inmate1By Brianna Acuesta

The prison-industrial complex: some may have heard of it, but this term is still widely unknown amongst the masses despite its huge effect on the American economy. This complex is described as “the overlapping interests of government and industry that use surveillance, policing, and imprisonment as solutions to economic, social and political problems.” The interests of the government are their efforts to increase their policing of people rather than solving the root of the problems, which leads to over-incarceration. The interests of industries are their financial holds over privately-owned prisons and their exploitation of prison workers who are underpaid and overworked.

How does this affect America? First of all, outsourcing, which is frowned upon by those who know about it because of its economic effect on American citizens, is replaced with “insourcing,” which is when corporations employ prisoners for as little as $0.23 per hour. Outsourcing affects the American economy by choosing to employ workers in foreign countries rather than displaced workers in America itself, thus causing a rise in unemployment and poverty.

Insourcing is just as bad for the economy for several reasons. The extremely low pay for prisoners might be fine if the prices they have to pay for communication and commissary items weren’t so vastly inflated compared to their wages. Instead of being released from prison with job experience and a small bit of money in their pocket to get back on their feet, inmates are often released with a debt to the prison that they can’t pay off because of the low wages.

Some might argue that these inmates are criminals, so they should take what they get and not complain, but consider what this means for America as a whole. Since these criminals are in debt upon release, they re-enter society as unstable individuals looking for any way to earn money again, often causing them to relapse into old habits or crimes and landing them back in prison. The American taxpayers are the ones that wind up paying for the prisoners’ continued stays in correctional facilities, which could have been avoided if the inmates didn’t have the debt and had better job training or program opportunities.

Meanwhile, the companies that employ prisoners often get huge tax breaks, which is millions of dollars that the American people could have benefited from. On top of all of that, citizens of America that aren’t incarcerated don’t have those job opportunities that are given to inmates. Less Americans with jobs means that the economy remains stagnant because less citizens are spending money. So, yes, it has a significant impact on all Americans.

While most huge companies in America employ prisoners, here is a list of household names that really make a killing off of the prison-industrial complex:

1 – Whole Foods: Often called “Whole Paycheck” because of its pricey items, this company came under fire when it was revealed that they were selling artisan cheeses prepared by prisoners who were only paid $0.60/day. Critics pointed out that these kinds of wages are not fair trade.

2 – BP: A perfect example of how insourcing affects displaced workers, BP had a massive oil spill on the Gulf Coast and exclusively hired inmates to come do the clean up. Though there were plenty of fisherman that were displaced because of the oil spill and in need of work, BP did not extend the opportunity of employment to them and offered no remedy for the issue.

3 – McDonald’s: This fast-food franchise employs inmates to make a number of items for them, from plastic cutlery to uniforms. The inmates who make the uniforms earn significantly less than those who wear the uniforms, which is already called a “starvation wage” rather than a minimum wage because it is impossible to live with the small hourly pay.

4 – AT&T: Over 20 years ago, this well-known and widely-used tech company laid off thousands of union telephone operators and replaced them with prisoners in their call centers in order to increase their profits. AT&T has employed them in this same fashion ever since 1993 while paying them only $2 per day.

5 – Wal-Mart: This huge company might claim to never exploit prisoners, but just like everything else Wal-Mart does, their method of increasing a profit is shady at best. Nearly everything on their shelves is supplied by prison laborers through third-party companies that place prisoners in prison farms with minimal access to water or food.

6 – Aramark: Known for its monopoly over food service throughout the U.S., this corporation also provides food for hundreds of prisons in America. They may be well known but that doesn’t mean they don’t have their share of issues; a massive food shortage that affected their service to prisons in Kentucky even caused a prison riot in 2009.

7 – Victoria’s Secret: Inmates in South Carolina sew some of the pricey undergarments sold at this lingerie store. In a famous late ’90s story, two female prisoners came forward and revealed that they were paid to replace already-sewn garments saying “Made in Honduras” tags with “Made in USA” tags. The two inmates were placed in solitary confinement for blowing the whistle on Victoria’s Secret.

If you see a “Made in USA” tag on something, it’s likely that it was made in an American prison rather than by citizens who aren’t incarcerated. While it’s great that these inmates are learning valuable skills that could help them once they’re released, to say that companies are exploiting these prisoners and making a huge profit at the expense of all American citizens would be an understatement.

What do you think about prison laborers being employed by huge corporations? Are you surprised that some of these companies made the list? Comment your thoughts below and share this article!

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  • onetree

    This is a disgusting, outrageous, and shameful practice! I’m not going to buy from any of these companies, except that it’s almost impossible, at least where I live, to avoid buying some things at Wal-Mart. But this issue is important enough that I will continue to seek sources other than Wal-Mart.

  • Kingdom Ambassador

    “[M]any of America’s prisons are nothing more than slave labor camps. In many prisons the inmates are employed at slave labor wages, anywhere from 22 cents to a $1.10 and hour. Prisoners are “employed” making boxes, stickers, license plates, mattresses, canned goods, textiles, road signs, etc., all to be sold on the open market. Their employer, the Federal Government, d.b.a. UNICOR (trade name for Federal Prison
    Industries, Incorporated), does not pay social security, unemployment, workmen’s compensation, health insurance, pensions, or holiday or vacation pay. They also do not have to pay income tax on their profits.

    “Someone is likely to respond: “So what! Why shouldn’t such criminals, at the very least, be used in this fashion? Why should they deserve decent wages in light of their crimes?” That is precisely how the Federal Government wants you to think about it. The arrangement between UNICOR and the prisons is just
    another means by which private enterprise is being destroyed in America. The average private businessman is unable to fairly compete on the open market against such a setup….”

    For more, google free online book “Prisons: Shut Them All Down!”

    • Grundune

      Shades of the Shawshank Redemption.

  • Ben

    Something to consider. Not saying it so for every individual in prison,
    there are some there unwarranted.

    Some who are fathers that may dispense meager earnings, what they can
    to mothers and children. Some are brothers who may support brothers, or
    sisters in like manner. Others are sons doing what they may to support
    elder mothers & fathers.

    These are human beings still. These people deserve kindness and
    respect the same as all of us, all human beings. If we boycott these
    corporations and their products, we take away any hope of dignity some
    of these fellow human beings hold unto. We take away a means for them to
    contribute no matter how meager. This will hurt the wrong parties.

    Boycotting the corporations and the products does not solve the larger
    problem without undue harm to the wrong people. You send the message
    that you no longer care what happens to prisoners if you boycott. You
    slap the efforts of these deserving people in the face.

    The corporations do not care if you boycott. It is fine with them. They
    can still sell products outsourced to other slave labor in another
    country. They have plethora of products to sell too, even ideas.

    The big idea corporations seem to sell here is that due to someone being
    a prisoner, that person is degraded to being less than human. Another
    big idea they seem to be flouting is it is good be patriotic and buy
    products stating they are made in the country, when the product is
    only repackaged in the country. You really want get the goats of the
    corporations?

    Understand the big ideas sold long ago. One idea comes from
    Christianity, it teaches us that the world can over populate. Another
    idea comes in part from Rockefeller, it teaches us that all resources
    are scarce.

    Look around at some big news lately, some even in broad daylight of MSM.
    MSM cannot lie about obvious truth. That obvious truth in this case is
    that Saudis are drowning the world in oil, and are continuing to produce
    oil with no end in sight.

    Consider what all oil does, effects. How then can any resource be scarce
    at all? We had been told oil was becoming scarce. It does appear that
    was an outright lie in order to prop up the idea of scarcity.

    Over populating? Since when do we know nature to abhor a vacuum?
    If humankind could indeed over populate, the Earth itself would be
    imploding. We would be the ultimate black hole quite literally. Nature
    will tend itself, it will not allow us to over populate. It can use
    disasters, new diseases, or just blink and have us all die.

    Order cannot be extracted from chaos. There is always chaos. There is
    always order. They are both also not present. Those seeking to extract
    order out of chaos foolishly think they can impose another idea, an
    illusion, … control.

    Control reveals itself as a tool of fear. Fear creates hate and darkness
    follows. We become the black hole all over again. And that is the larger
    game. A desire exists to create us as the black hole in order to render
    light extinguished. That will not happen though.

    You now see the bigger game. If you doubt light will not be
    extinguished, consider that chaos and order need one another to create
    balance. It is the same with life and death, light and dark. The
    universe/s are nothing if not balanced.

    • JohnZ

      Ben, you’re an ignorant asshat. A shill for the corporat -prison complex. Go suck off a cop.

      • Ben

        Lovely that you may cast aspersions without any knowledge of someone isn’t it? That makes you so brave doesn’t it? Not knowing someone else but being capable of seeming to annihilate them via words really entitles you, doesn’t it?

        Well it may _seem_ you may annihilate me. I still remain standing and will continue to do so. Your words fail. Your fear fails. You fear me, the unknown. That much is obvious in the _seeming_ harsh _attack_ of me.

        Have fun attempting your futile and childish hubris upon another. Unfortunately for you, I have exposed your failing and any others will see it. They may not be as kind as me. Have a nice one.

  • Gregory Alan of Johnson

    Might be time for the populace on this land to stop buying anything (or anything new) and shut down commerce completely.

  • eddysachs

    This is the tip of the iceberg…ALL of us are next!…except for the 0.001%er’s.

  • gweneth

    Let’s see – uhh I never shop at wallie mart or eat (ugg) fast foods at Mcdonalds. I’m clear of doing any business with any of the corporations mentioned (thankfully).
    I did not know that prisoners were used directly by the fascist corporations, but figures.
    I think it is fine for them to pick up trash off the roads. But I agree that using them for real world labor should not be allowed.

  • CAWS

    Of course if you call other carriers you get a guy in India; not much better!

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