Is America's Prison System Legalized Slavery?
IS SLAVERY REALLY OVER in America, or was the privilege to enslave human beings and enforce their labor simply relegated to the nation's prison system? The Fifth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America provides that no person can "be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law."* Therefore, citizens can only become slaves after having "due legal process" and sentencing by the courts. Does the desire to have complete control over human beings by force and use them for profit-making enterprise explain why 1 in every 99.1 Americans is currently in prison, nearly two-thirds of them for non-violent offenses?
Congress apologized to African Americans for slavery and Jim Crow practices in 2008, but is it really over, or is slavery actually one of the fastest growing enterprises in the country, with hundreds of thousands of African Americans being "captured" from their communities in America rather than from African villages? As private industry downsizes and workers find their jobs either dissolved or transferred overseas, our prison industry continues to expand, with mandatory sentencing restrictions and three-strikes policies to ensure the continued success of the enterprise.
Slavery is a prominent part of United States history. Slavery has existed for thousands of years in many cultures, but in the United States, the institution seemed to have been perfected. Oliver Ellsworth, one of the signers of the Constitution wrote, "All good men wish the entire abolition of slavery, as soon as it can take place with safety to the public, and for the lasting good of the present wretched race of slaves." **
Like the enslavement of Africans which ended after the Civil War, today's prison system is profitable and cruel. Like original slavery, it favors "enslaving" citizens along racial lines, imprisoning a disproportionate number of people of color - 1 in 9 young black men, 1 in 100 black women in their mid- to late 30's, and a growing number of immigrant women and children. According to a Black American Web report, black females were more than twice as likely as Hispanic females and nearly five times more likely than white females to be in prison in 2003.
PEW Charitable Trust 2008 report: http://www.pewcenteronthestates.org/default.aspx
WHO IS IN PRISON? Taxpayers pay an estimated $50 billion annually to incarcerate an ever increasing portion of our population, including 2,225 adolescent offenders who are serving life without the possibility of parole. The estimate reaches $185 billion when one factors in police services and court costs, including the price of public defenders for the indigent. Of the 2.3 million imprisoned Americans, 1.25 million are mentally ill. The cruelty of imprisoning mental patients is a growing debate. Sixty percent of inmates in solitary confinement 23 hours per day are mentally ill, and 80% of prisoners in the "hole" are African Americans.
Besides the $50 billion per annum from taxpayers, many prisons earn additional capital of an unspecified sum by using inmate labor to manufacture marketable goods. Profits could increase substantially as plans are being discussed to again use American prisoners as test subjects for pharmaceutical drugs.
With discussions to again use prisoners as convenient lab rats for pharmaceutical companies, it appears that authorities finally found some "use" for mentally ill Americans. In 2006, the prestigious Institute of Medicine has recommended that federal rules be altered to allow drug testing and other experimentation on prisoners (The Boston Globe 8/17/06). Is this why families of mental patients have such trouble committing their sick relatives or getting community care under enforced treatment provisions when needed?*** Is the system just waiting on our mental patients to do some crime worthy of imprisonment, like vagrancy, disturbing the peace, substituting psychiatric medicines with street drugs, or worse? A physically healthy 30-year-old schizophrenic man who remains untreated in his community, commits murder and is sentenced to life in prison may bring over $3 million dollars at $50,000 per year plus a conservative estimate for treatment costs.
Are sick Americans being deprived of needed treatment and thereby preserved to eventually join their fellow mental patients warehoused in jail? Is support for mental patients withheld in order to eventually enrich private prison profiteers? Is this the plan for military personnel who are to be withdrawn from Iraq by 2011, many of whom suffer PTSD to varying degrees? Have we got a monster under our beds?
Who profits? It would behoove taxpayers to demand to see the investment portfolios of judges and elected officials and others who have authority over public policy. For many of these are the people who determine the length of prison sentences and vote on harsher, longer sentences but refuse to budget for job and recreation programs for our youth and community care for mental illness. See if these decision-makers are being driven by the same carnivious greed that once moved this nation to enslave millions of people for centuries. Persons who do not wish to profit from the enslavement of their fellow human beings, including mental patients and children, should check their own IRA accounts and investment portfolios.
Prisoners provide a cheap labor force that works without the protection of labor laws. In 2008, former prison guard Freda Cobb and 25 other plaintiffs sued the Federal Corrections Institute in Marianna, Florida for exposing them to dangerous lead levels while inmates burst computers with hammers to extract gold from within. Prisons reportedly earned $878 million each year while under contract to Dell and Hewlett Packard while exposing inmates and employees like Cobb to high levels of lead and toxic chemicals such as Cadmium, Barium, and Beryllium. The prisoners who lived continued to work as slaves, although sick inmates may have been even more profitable for prison investors. Substantially more tax money is demanded for hospice patients and acute mentally ill inmates, who frequently receive little or no medical and psychiatric care with the additional revenue. http://my.nowpublic.com/health/prisons-earn-878-million-annually-poisoning-inmates-and-guards-lawsuit-alleges
According to The Federal Inmate Labor Program, even the federal government is unwilling to forego taking full advantage of the 21st Century legalized enslavement of American citizens - disproportionately comprised of those who are black, brown, poor, or mentally ill.
Excerpt from Biotech Empire, by Andrew Bosworth, Ph.D.
The federal government is taking the entire concept of prison labor to a new level: The Federal Inmate Labor Program. Details of the program can be found on the Pentagon’s own website. Documents released as far back as 2005 establish “Procedures for establishing a civilian inmate prison camp on Army installations.” Sample text from the Federal Inmate Labor Program:
b. The Army is not interested in, nor can afford, any relationship with a corrections facility if that relationship stipulates payment for civilian inmate labor…
(3) No photograph, film, nor video may be taken or made of any inmate labor detail or member for any reason without prior written permission from both (name of the Army organization) PAO and (name of local federal corrections facility) officials.
In other words, the federal government is seeking unpaid laborers from among the pool of prisoners who would not be incarcerated long-term in other nations — non-violent and petty offenders who do not need constant guard. Just as in the Third Reich, federal authorities wish to convey their good intentions; in this case, they seek to enrich the life of prisoners:
“(2) Providing meaningful work for inmates…”
So it is not surprising that inmates are becoming guinea pigs for medical experiments and drug testing. Big Pharma faces a shortage of experimental subjects. Ian Urbina, in the New York Times, explains how the pharmaceutical lobby is on the verge of changing — or reversing — federal law:
An influential federal panel of medical advisers has recommended that the government loosen regulations that severely limit the testing of pharmaceuticals on prison inmates, a practice that was all but stopped three decades ago after revelations of abuse…
slav·er·y: The state of one bound in servitude as the property of a slaveholder or household; a mode of production in which slaves constitute the principal work force.
Is America's prison system legalized slavery?
*** www.psychlaws.org - Assisted Outpapient Therapy (AOT) programs like Kendra's law have a better than 85% success rate in reducing the number of mentally ill persons being homeless, hospitalized, imprisoned, or requiring re-arrest. AOTs combine subsistence assistance and enforced treatment to deliver many psychiatric patients to wholsome living and kept patients and their communities safer.
Author's page http://www.care2.com/c2c/people/profile.html?pid=513396753
Assistance to the Incarcerated Mentally Ill: http://www.care2.com/c2c/group/AIMI
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. ~ Matthew 25:40