Texas Prisoner Forced to Work for No Pay

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[Prison Labor] [Texas] [ULK Issue 8]
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Texas Prisoner Forced to Work for No Pay

In Texas, every general population prisoner is required to work. They either work in the service of prison upkeep (i.e. maintenance, food service, field labor, support service inmate, etc.) or they work in one of the various factories owned by TCI (Texas Correctional Industries).

TCI is not part of the state. It is not part of the prison system. TCI is a private conglomerate which contracts with the state for prisoner labor. They operate metal fabrication plants, stainless steel works, meat packing plants, furniture factories, computer restoration plants, and many others throughout the 130+ prison units around the state. These industries do indeed provide products which the prison system needs for itself, but these products are also sold to other states for their prisons and jails at prices greatly marked up. The profits come from the fact that the prisoner labor is free.

Texas prisoners do not get paid for working.

Now there are a couple of pilot programs which started a couple of years ago, that do pay their workers a tiny bit. But these programs employ less than 1% of the 150,000+ prisoner population, and there are no plans to extend or expand these programs.

When general population prisoners in Texas attempt to involve the U.$. Department of Labor, OSHA, or other labor organizations concerning the exploitation of prisoners, we are told that prisoners in Texas "volunteer" to work, and are therefore not entitled to any support. They fail to mention that if a prisoner refuses to work, he is subject to disciplinary action, loses commissary and recreation privileges, has his good time credits taken away, gets locked up in administrative segregation - all of which has a negative effect on chances for parole. So the Catch 22 is: either work for free, or suffer the consequences.

Oh, they tell us that our good time credit is our pay. But good time only affects non-3G prisoners. It means nothing to the rest of us.

Furthermore, the extent of embezzlement within TCI is outrageous. The managers and department heads, even the foremen, are ripping off the tax payers with their thefts. I personally have witnessed many such incidences. For example: the maintenance department receives a new pump which it does not need at the time, so it is put into storage. Three weeks later I can't find that pump. A month after that, the supply truck delivers another pump which has the exact same serial number as the first.

Another example: just before Thanksgiving, the meat packing plant receives a truckload of frozen turkeys. The plant closes on Friday evening, and come Monday morning there are 120 frozen turkeys missing. The official ruling is "inmate theft." But no prisoners are at the plant on weekends.

And again: the stainless steel fabrication plant makes the round circles which are used for the seats we sit on at the chow hall tables. I saw a bill for 24 of those seats, the price? $40,000 for 24 one foot circles of stainless steel.

The factories build all the bars, the bunks, the toilets and sinks, the steel doors, etc., using prison labor. Then TCI sells all that to the contractors who build the new units at an unbelievable mark-up. The contractor then builds the prison, and sells it back to the state for an even more exaggerated price. Meanwhile, briefcases of cash keep changing hands. How else do you think the state gets away with telling the tax payers that a new prison costs $64 million when the outside of that prison is all pre-fab, and the inside is all prisoner built? Where is the oversight? Where is the accountability? The nature of bureaucracy allows these things to go on. Hell, they learned it from the feds, there's no one left to tell. Those officials who are supposed to look out for these things just take their share too.

The nature of capitalism ensures that the abuses of prisoner labor and the rape of tax payers in Texas will continue unchecked while the imperialistic standards thrive.

MIM(Prisons) responds: This is an excellent exposure of the prison labor conditions in the state of Texas and the benefit that private industry is getting for this free labor. The stories of corruption ring true across the whole federal government. See our article on Halliburton/KBR and Blackwater to see parallels in the military industrial complex.

We only disagree with the author in their assessment that the tax payers in Texas are being raped. While it is true that the State is paying ridiculous prices for goods, this is no different than the state paying high salaries to guards: these things actually work to ensure good jobs for those working in the service to imperialism. And the vast majority of taxpayers in Amerika are benefiting from imperialism so we can't agree that they are being raped. The criminal injustice system is helping to prop up the system of imperialism that benefits the taxpayers, and a little more money exchanging hands to enrich another imperialist institution (TCI) does not change this situation.

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