Smoke and Mirrors in a World of Pain – CounterPunch.org

Almost ten percent of the firefighters in California are prison inmates receiving two dollars a day, plus one dollar for every hour they spend in the flames fighting active fires. This arrangement saves the state of California one hundred million dollars a year.  Other states pay them nothing at all.

In their world of forced labor, inmate firefighters can’t quit; they can’t complain; they have no rights; they do as they’re told or risk facing solitary confinement. Even asking a question could put you in solitary.  That means 23 hours a day you’re in a tiny concrete cell by yourself.  One hour a day the guards take you in chains to a chicken-wire cage where you can look at the outside,  pace around and maybe do some pushups.  And then back in you go.

Prison inmates are functional slaves because the 13th Amendment of the Constitution, which  officially ended slavery about a hundred and fifty years ago, allowed this exception for convicts. Part of their punishment was to remain slaves.  So prison labor for corporate profit is legal. It is also a sick and twisted industry making obscene profits to the tune of several billion dollars a year: The full-retail sales of goods from penal at no pay is lucrative indeed. There’s over a million productive slaves today in American jails, enriching the rich.  Some things never change.

Microsoft, Walmart, Whole Foods, and dozens of other blue-chip corporate American brands are in on it. Even Victoria Secret uses prisoners to cut off foreign manufacture labels, and replace them with  Made-in-USA tags.

Smoke and Mirrors in a World of Pain – CounterPunch.org