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[Prison Labor] [Washington] [ULK Issue 3]

Economic Investigation of Washington State Penitentiary

How many prisoners at your facility?
According to information online, the capacity is 1825, but there are actually 2,240 prisoners being held here.

How many of them work?
An estimate will show that around 250-280 work as correctional industries employees. About 150 of these work on the sewing complex. The sewing complex is making most of the clothes we, the inmates, are provided with. They also produce materials for out of state contracts. The rest work on welding, license plates and perhaps other work. They make all types of stuff, from bunks to tables and everything they need to equip a cell.

Another form of employment that they have for inmates is what they call "Inmate duties." They pay from 35-55 dollars per month, depending on what type of job you get. Basically, this kind of job consists of cooking, cleaning, serving the food, washing the clothes and anything that is needed to run and keep a place like this clean. There are probably another 250-270 inmates working these types of jobs.

Who do they work for?
As far as I know, everything at this place is supposedly run by the state.

What work do they do?
As I mentioned earlier, sewing and welding are the main industrial jobs. The rest are not considered jobs, but "Inmate duties."

How much do they get paid?
The industrial complexes pay up to a dollar ten cents per hour. The rest of the jobs go from $35 to 55 per month.

Now, up to this point it might not seem like a big profit is being taken, but there is. Who is profiting from all this? The working class in this country, which is not exploited as they claim. Considering that those industrial complexes are run by the state, this is how I would explain who is profiting from all this. In this place there are around 280 inmates who are doing correction industries jobs. If we assume that all of these 280 inmates are working 40 hours per week, we would have 582,400 hours per year of work by this group. At $1.10 per hour, 582,400 hours of labor in the industrial complex would cost $640,640. If now, we decide to do this job with the same amount of people, but instead of paying them $1.10, we pay the Washington state minimum wage of $8.07, then the labor alone would cost $4,682,214. They are saving over four million dollars by using inmate labor, just in this place alone, comparing to state minimum wage salary. But most of the state industrial jobs are well-paid jobs in the outside world. So, if you compare these kinds of jobs, we have another loop that I cannot resolve myself, but will likely account for millions of more dollars in cost savings. I would assume anybody would get paid from 13 to 20 some dollars on the outside for welding work. This could mean a savings of over $10 million.

So far, we are talking of the cost of labor assuming that the state will use all of its products, which is a lie because they have sent products overseas. Now, all this profit will get shared down to every single person who works for the government, especially the department of corrections and the state police. How will this be shared? Better medical care than civilians, better salary than civilians, and better retirement plans. Better exemptions in tax collection. They benefit in so many ways, from which regular civilians are excluded. That is the main reason they support more incarceration rather than trying to educate the prison population in making better choices, if you want to call it "making a choice" when you have been culturally bombed to act stupid.

So when you stated in your article about prison labor that "corporate America do not benefit or do not benefit as much as people have suggested," I believe you are wrong, especially when you look at the benefits of corporate America not as monetary benefits, but rather ideological. Even though there are monetary benefits. Let me ask the following question: Who opposes socialism and the road to communism? Who is in charge of destroying any community based programs for society? Who is in charge of blocking any type of political analysis that tries to make society aware of the necessity to change? Who is in charge of the bad propaganda about Mao, Stalin or Lenin? It is the same corporate America and allies who created the first and second World Wars. To them, the government is just the legal way to repress rebellion. Government bodies are just structures that are defined by how we use them. When Lenin took power, the philosophical structure of the government remained in place, but the practice changed, that is why I believe that you are wrong on this point.

And why is it that when you try to tell people employed by the government about a conscious analysis of history they most likely will reject you? It may not be as big as exploiting the national resources of Third World countries in monetary measurements, but at home they have no opposition because of the juicy salaries they are able to give to their war machine, which is from the DOC all they way up to the presidency. Everybody gets enough to live a luxurious life, when the rest of the world gets screwed.

And the big help lately has been the "cheap labor," the inmates who willingly and ignorantly help the government oppress the rest. So I do not think it is correct to say that the government and corporate America do not benefit from it. Inmate labor is too important for this system that the prison population will only increase in this country and in any other capitalist country.

MIM(Prisons) responds: After a discussion with the author we uphold that we have less disagreement than they seem to think we do. MIM(Prisons) never stated that corporate amerika does not benefit from the institution of prison labor or prisons in general. And we agree with the author that the bourgeois state serves to benefit the imperialists as a whole. We have only suggested that it is not corporate profit motives behind decades of prison boom, but rather the national and bureaucratic interests of the oppressor nation that the author describes above. We can even agree that prison labor is too important to the system for it to go away. But that is because it would become cost prohibitive to run the prisons that are already becoming too expensive for public tastes. This is in contrast to the super-exploitation of the Third World (in terms of labor, not just natural resources) that the imperialist countries could not exist without.

Other than asking what are the interests behind the u$ prison industrial complex, we are also looking at the question of the existence of a proletariat within u$ borders in our research on prison labor. Competitiveness on the international market for low-tech items such as clothing indicate that Washington's correctional industries pay a wage that is approximately competitive with the Third World, ignoring state subsidies and other trade irregularities that prevent a truly free competition. One such subsidy is the fact that prisoners are provided room, board and limited necessities before they are paid the $1.10 per hour. For this reason these wage rates are not directly comparable to the Third World. Regardless, these figures seem to suggest that there is legitimate exploitation of labor power going on here, and not just the transfer of surplus value between various labor aristocrats as occurs in most of the First World economy. But being a part of this greater social reality, and considering that most will likely be free u$ citizens again someday, we still see a predominately petty bourgeois consciousness among u$ prisoners. More are amerikan dreaming to be the next Jay-Z or Big Pun instead of trying to organize prison labor to seize the means of production for the people.

The calculations done by the comrade above are an excellent example of exposing the economic realities within u$ borders, and we encourage others to follow this example to create reports in their own state or facility to print in Under Lock & Key. Of course, if prisons didn't use prison labor, they would probably import furniture from China, not hire amerikan welders. This cost comparison would be harder to come up with, though certainly the prisons themselves have done it and decided that prison labor is cheaper. However, work that must be done on site would be paid the minimum wage at least, and would account for additional millions of dollars added to the estimate above.

Finally, one of the most important points we can take from this report is that this is all state run, as is most common across the country. As we argued in our article that sparked this discussion, Amerikans: Oppressing for a Living, the cost savings are going to reduce the need for taxes for all u$ citizens, while providing the funds for wages and benefits for those who work for the state and especially the departments of corrections and the police, as stated above. If these industries are also pulling in profits from sales overseas, again this money is presumably going to offset/subsidize state expenditures. It is a form of state capitalism that lays the groundwork for fascism quite nicely integrating the corporation into the state and providing direct monetary benefits to the general population for expanded oppression.

[National Oppression] [Prison Labor] [ULK Issue 2]

Amerikans: Oppressing for a Living

Direct expenditure by criminal justice function

Critics of amerika's unprecedentedly high incarceration rates have stressed that increased imprisonment does not correspond to less crime. And despite decreasing crime rates, imprisonment continues to rise. How is this possible?

A recent report from the JFA Institute describes how the increase in prison populations is a result of a change in laws and policies in enforcement. (1) We have been in the era of "tough on crime" politics for decades, but most amerikans will still hide the fact that this translates into increased control and repression of the internal semi-colonies. At the same time, millions of amerikkkans are supporting these laws as a means of securing the jobs and livelihood of themselves and their families. While white people like to look at slavery and genocide as things in the past, the amerikkkan nation has probably never been so deeply entrenched and invested as a nation of oppressors as they are today with millions serving as cops, spies and military personnel.

And while the white media would have you believe that "tough on crime" policies are protecting amerikans from murderers and sexual predators, about two-thirds of the 650,000 prison admissions each year are people who have violated their probation or parole. And half of these violations are technical, in other words, they're going to prison for things most people could not be put in prison for. (1) The demand for more incarceration is putting hundreds of thousands of people in prison each year for doing things not generally considered crimes under u$ law.

Who's Profiting?

The progressive groups opposing the prison industrial complex like to condemn so-called "prisons-for-profit." But it isn't primarily corporate profits behind the three decades long prison boom and the so-called "tough on crime" legislation. It is amerikan cops and bureaucrats maneuvering for government funds (money that comes from taxing amerikans whose wealth comes from the exploitation of labor and resources from the Third World). And it is career politicians catering to a white nationalist vote. "Tough on crime" stances aren't tolerated in amerikan politics, rather, they are demanded by the voting public. Politicians who have attempted to go against the tide can attest to this.

Other than "prisons are big business" the other popular argument explaining the surge in incarceration is that it is "modern day slavery." As an economic force behind imprisonment, this too is largely a myth. If the motivation for being the number one imprisonment country in all of history was exploiting labor then you would see the majority of prisoners engaged in productive labor. While some sources claim half of all prisoners work, one study from 1994 found less than 10% are involved in work other than maintenance and housekeeping. (2) More recent statistics by state indicate industrial employment at similar low rates. (3) The estimate of half of prisoners working seems reasonable if we acknowledge that most of those prisoners have part-time jobs doing upkeep of the prison. While also dated, MIM cited statistics from 1995 showing that only 6.4% of sales stemming from prison labor in the united $tates was private in MIM Theory 11: Amerikkkan Prisons on Trial.

Generally, if prisoners work for an outside corporation and produce goods for interstate commerce, then they are legally required to receive amerikkkan exploiter level wages. The benefit to the companies is that they can skimp on benefits and don't need to give raises. Small business owners have fought to limit the benefits of those who use prison labor, since they lack the capital to take advantage of such competitive advantages. The petty bourgeois interests here keep those of the imperialists in check. (4)

Therefore, most prison labor is done for the state, who can pay whatever they want, and increasingly garnish most of the wages to pay for the prisoners' own imprisonment. These prisoners are either working to run the prison and therefore allowing the amerikkkans in charge of the prison to work as well-payed bureaucrats and not have to worry about cooking and cleaning, or they are working for government industries that supply state agencies and therefore subsidize the tax money of the state as a whole by reducing state expenses. The National Correctional Industries Association says state industries contributed $25 million by garnishing inmates wages, not a very large contribution to the cost of the u$ prison system. However, one estimate done by MIM 10 years ago indicates the savings in wages overall (not including benefits) could be on the order of 10% or more of current overall state expenditures on corrections (5), which have risen sharply (see graph).

Some state industries export products to other countries, but interstate commerce has largely been restricted by the efforts of small business interests and amerikan labor unions. Since the 1980s, the federal government has tried to embrace the model of "factories with fences." But the free market for slave labor continues to be hampered by state laws. This year, Alaska passed a law that allows the Department of Labor and Workforce Development can enter into contracts with private companies or individuals to sell them prison labor,

provided that the commissioner consults with local union organizations beforehand in order to ensure that the contract will not result in the displacement of employed workers, will not be applied in skills, crafts, or trades in which there is a surplus of available gainful labor in the locality, and will not impair existing contracts for services. A contract with an individual or a private organization must require that the commissioner be paid the minimum wage for each hour worked by a prisoner." (10)

Clearly this has nothing to do with prisoners' rights, but it is crafted for the protection of labor aristocracy jobs and small businesses. And as many states do, Alaska allows for the wages to be garnished before disbursing them to the prisoner. So there is no law that the prisoner must be paid a certain wage.

What about the one industry that does have unfettered access to prison labor? Theoretically, private prisons could collect fat contracts from the state and let prisoners do much of the work to run the facility. But after 3 decades of prison boom, still less than 5% of prisons are privately owned, at least partially due to an inability to remain profitable. (4) It is often pointed out that it costs more to keep a persyn in prison for a year than send them to college. (The difference for sending youth to a correctional facility compared to grade school can be differences in order of magnitude). This is a price that largely tax-averse amerikkkans are willing to pay.

State Bureaucrats and National Oppression

Strictly speaking, prisons are a net loss financially for the amerikkkan nation. And the boom cannot be blamed on any major corporate interests. What a beefed up injustice system does offer economically is a means of employing millions of people at cushy exploiter wages. It is a means of shuffling the super-profits around the pigsty and maintaining a consumer population. These millions of people provide a self-perpetuating demand for more prisoners, and more funding for various law enforcement projects.

One example of this self-perpetuating bureaucracy dates back to 1983 when James Gonzalez became Deputy Director of the California Department of Corrections. He immediately expanded the department's planning staff from 3 to 118 and began focusing on modeling that would forecast increasing needs for expansion into the future (it's not just COs getting the jobs). (6) Since then California has built 23 major new prisons, expanded other prisons and increased its prison population 500%. (7) With more prisons, come more prison guards, creating the 31,000 strong California Correctional Peace Officers Association with yearly dues totaling $21.9 million. (8) This is the same union that earned itself a raise following the exposure of gladiator fights staged by guards at Corcoran State Prison, where many prisoners were murdered. The very same that was behind the 3 strikes laws to put people away for 25 to life for petty crimes, and that has campaigned repeatedly to eliminate educational programs for prisoners.

The CO's are partners with the private industry that has boomed off of an economy based on war and repression. A visit to the American Corrections Association conference will tell you it's not just a few imperialist suits in a smoke-filled room. It is a getaway for a large mix of salesmen, cops and CO's; just regular amerikkkans. (9)

In the united $tates there are laws that prevent the military from lobbying the government as a safeguard against war being carried out in the interests of the warmakers. There are no such limits on the police and correctional officers (COs), allowing the war on gangs to go on perpetuating itself both politically and economically. The NYPD and LAPD have arsenals and capabilities that rival many nations' armed forces, and they are allowed to influence politics on the local, state and even federal level both directly and indirectly.

On the local level police departments have undermined trends toward so-called "community policing." Where youth in the community have been effective at reducing violence through dialogue and organizing, the police have rejected these programs in favor of community representatives who will rubber stamp their continued strategies of suppression and harassment of oppressed nation youth. When street organizations came together to form peace treaties in Los Angeles and Chicago in the 1990s, the police responded immediately through the white media saying it was a hoax and it would never last. Let there be no confusion, the police created these wars and the police will not let them stop.

In the late 1990s, the New York Times reported that most white residents of New York City were comfortable with police behavior, while 9 out of 10 Blacks believed brutality against Blacks to be frequent. The regular "stop and frisking" by police that was then practiced under Mayor Giuliani, was found to be directed at Blacks and Latinos 90% of the time. (11)

Politically, the rest of the oppressor nation is willing to go along with the job security plans of the police and correctional officers as a means of protecting their collective privilege. One of the few things amerikkkans can agree to spend state money on. With that, the injustice system becomes an important part of the national culture in rallying the people in material support of the imperialist system that they benefit from.

Who's being locked up?

While the question of who is profiting from the prison industrial complex is a bit cloudy and controversial, everyone knows who is being locked up. In a half century, amerikan prisons have gone from white dominated to Black dominated in a period where the Black population has increased less than 2 percentage points to its current level of about 12%. And yet amerikkkans are not outraged.

As we recently reported, Blacks are imprisoned at rates 10 times those of whites for drug charges and the increase in drug-related prison sentences was 77% for Blacks compared to 28% for whites. (12) So, the increase in sentences that is behind the current prison boom is targeting certain populations.

The JFA Institute report references research indicating that incarceration often encourages crime. In their summary of literature, they point to evidence that people will leave criminal lifestyles when given opportunities. No shit? Stopping crime isn't exactly rocket science. While communists know how to put an end to crime, the pigs and their fans have demonstrated that they aren't really interested in that. That would involve destroying their own privilege. In it's advanced stage of parasitism, the amerikkkan nation has a well-entrenched sector of pigs who get job security and pay raises from perpetuating crime and imprisonment.

Interestingly, the report also points to a number of studies indicating that government run programs have very marginal effects on reducing recidivism. This conclusion is supported by reports we get from comrades criticizing government programs. (13) Apparently, the literature also supports the need for programs like MIM(Prisons) Prisoner Re-Lease on Life program, because the only programs that seem to be effective in treatment and rehabilitation are independent from the government. (1) The people aren't stupid, they know what the state is there to do.

[Medical Care] [Prison Labor] [Pennsylvania] [ULK Issue 2]

Fees keep prisoners from needed medical care

Recently the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, in conjunction with Prison Health Services, the statewide healthcare provider for the PA-DOC based out of Brentwood, Tennessee, made it much more difficult for prisoners to get medical treatment by increasing the co-payment for medical services to $5. A fee of $5 will be assessed each time a medical service at sick call is provided to a prisoner when seen by any physician, physicians assistant, dentist, optometric professional or other person licensed to provide health care under the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Also, an additional fee of $5 will be charged for each subscription that is ordered for the prisoner by an on-site health care professional.

No complimentary services will be given to prisoners, with the exception of prisoners with well documented chronic care issues: HIV/Aids, hepatitis, hypertension and diabetes.

With the average wage paid for a prison work assignment here in Pennsylvania of 19 cents an hour, 4 hours max a day, many prisoners are letting their illnesses go untreated. They are unable to pay for medical services and buy bare necessities like toothpaste, deodorant and shampoo from commissary! Frequently prisoners are deliberately given medication subscriptions that do not improve or fully restore them back to good health.

Under DOC policy DC-ADM820, there should be no additional fee when this takes place, however a prisoner still must fill out and sign a DC-138 cash slip for follow up sick call visits, and these signed cash slips are being forwarded to the facility business office for fee deduction from the prisoners account.

The prisoner can use the grievance system to try to recoup these deductions, however the odds are small that fee will ever be credited back to the prisoners account. This is just one of the many ways the executive administration of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections manipulate the prison population into handing back over the slave wages they work all month for.

[Prison Labor] [Economics] [California]

"News and Letters" misses the boat on labor aristocracy

Greetings and respects to all. Thanks you guys for the free newsletter you sent me. I found it to be very interesting and insightful. However I couldn't help but to notice the enormous amount of support you guys give to the various labor unions here in the United States. And also in other First World nations. Do you guys not consider these labor unions part of the 'Labor Aristocracy?" To be a bit more specific on this term, please allow me to directly quote from our comrades Theory Journal #1 "White Proletariat?" By the way, when I say "our comrades" I'm speaking about the Maoist Internationalist Movement. Anyhow, "The labor aristocracy comprises the elite workers in the world who the capitalist class have bribed with profits obtained from other workers. Lenin said that imperialism gives the bourgeoisie enough super-profits to 'devote a part (and not a small one at that!) to bribe their own workers, to create something like an alliance…between the workers of a given nation and capitalists.." "There is the tendency of the bourgeoisie and the opportunists to convert a handful of very rich and privileged nations into 'eternal' parasites on the body of mankind to 'rest on the laurels' of the exploitation of negros, first world nations, etc., keeping them in subjection with the aid of the excellent weapons of extermination provided by modern militarism." "Lenin believed there was a growing labor aristocracy which owed its position to the workers exploited and super-exploited abroad."

A perfect example of one such union that's filled with these parasites is the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA). This particular "labor union" through the exploitation of minorities in this state has quickly risen to become one of California's largest and most powerful unions around. Through the bribing of government officials they've been able to consolidate power at the very highest levels. That unfortunately has cost us minorities very dearly. Because now they are able to pass even more stringent laws aimed at us. Thus keeping their "cash cow" well fed. And us and our communities oppressed.

Another union that comes to mind is the AFL-CIO. This particular union has a very unsavory past, to say the very least. From Guatemala to Chile, they have helped to oppress our brothers and sisters. Or did they not play a very significant role in bringing down the "Allende Government in Chile!?! Or did they not provide assistance to the United Fruit company in Guatemala when they were trying to smash the indigenous led union!?! Their foreign policy speaks for itself. Of course I could go on and on about these labor unions. But I'll go ahead and stop here. I hope to get some feedback from you guys on this topic. Once again, thanks for the newsletter.

MIM responds: This comrade's analysis of "News and Letters" position on unions is right on. The only point we disagree with is where s/he writes that the CCPOA "through the exploitation of minorities in this state, has quickly risen to become one of California's largest and most powerful unions around." Presumably the minorities in this state referenced are prisoners. The current economics of prisons don't (yet) support this statement. Prisons in California don't yet make a profit off of prisoners; they are still greatly subsidized by the state. And so it is not the CCPOA doing the exploiting, though the use of them as an example remains correct as they are definitely benefiting from exploitation of Third World peoples as those superprofits are brought home and the state of California uses them to build more prisons and pay high wages to CCPOA workers.

[Control Units] [Prison Labor] [Oklahoma]

Repression in OK SHU

I am a female Segregation Housing Unit (SHU) inmate, and this is my fourth time on Administrative Segregation (A.S.). I have spent a total of eight years on lockdown. As of May, 2004 I have been on SHU for one year and seven months, for an alleged battery without a weapon on another inmate. The inmate that I battered has a paper filed on me that keeps us separated on a yard divided from mine by a brick wall.

Nail clippers are not allowed in this facility, so I am charged $2.00 to see the doctor and fill out a form, and $2.00 to use the clippers. This leads me to ask where is the money that is supplied to run this facility? Has it been reduced? Even as an indigent inmate, I must pay for any doctor visit, plus medications.

Where does inmates' money go and what is it used for? Starting May 3, 2004, we are going to be charged for any form we need for in-house mail. We are charged for copies of cases from the law library, legal-sized envelopes to mail to the courts, etc. Being on the SHU it is almost as if I am cut off from the world completely. I have no resources to raise hell about injustice.

At this prison, slave labor is in full effect. Inmates work at a plant here called Oklahoma Corrections Industries. They handle Department of Motor Vehicles-related paperwork. They're paid a few cents an hour, according to how many huge boxes they sort through.

There are 37 rules for the SHU that we must comply with or have our exercise (which is a right) terminated.

[From the prison's handout, these rules include: "9. Materials will not be allowed to hang over the cell door to obstruct observation. ... "15. Magazines, newspapers, and catalogs are not allowed for DU/PI/PD/TD/TS inmates. ... "17. Library books cannot be traded between inmates, left outside of the cell, or placed in the windowsill. ... "22. Inmates are subject to urinalysis testing at any time. ... "30. All inmates shall be allowed one hour of exercise outdoors, weather permitting, five days per week. The Shift Supervisor may cancel outdoor exercise for security reasons. If exercise is indoors, inmates will be restrained in belly chains, hand cuffs, black box, and leg irons ..."]

If an A.S. inmate receives a misconduct for not having our shirts tucked into our pants, we must spend more time on A.S.

Your Notes are an informative inspiration. I am now being transferred to another yard. I will fight for my beliefs if I am sent to hell.