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Friday, May 20, 2011
Five Core Demands *** Formal Complaint
April 25, 2011
Dear Supporters of Prisoner and Human Rights,
On July 1, 2011, between 50 and 100 prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison in the Security Housing Unit (SHU), Corridor D, are going on an indefinite hunger strike. The D corridor (also known as the "short" corridor) has the highest level of restricted incarceration in the state and among the most severe conditions in the nation. The rules of their confinement are extremely harsh in order to force them to "debrief" or offer up information about criminal or prison gang activity of other prisoners. Most inmates in the SHU are not members or associates of prison gangs, as the PBSP staff claims, and even those who are put their lives and the lives of their families and other prisoners at risk if they debrief.
Using conditions of severe mental and physical harm in order to force prisoners into confessing is torture! Many debriefers simply make up information about other prisoners just to escape the isolation units. This misinformation is then used to validate other prisoners as members or associates of prison gangs who in reality have nothing to do whatsoever with gang activity.
California Prison Focus recently interviewed some of those who are leading this hunger strike and we will be taking a number of key steps to publicize this event. This widespread hunger strike has the potential to become the most significant event in California prison reform in the last decade. Public support is crucial. Please stay in touch with California Prison Focus and other prison organizations who are supporting this hunger strike.
Attached are two documents. The first lays out the five core demands of the hunger strikers. The second is their formal complaint which outlines how the conditions of their imprisonment constitute human rights violations and violate both US and international law.
California Prison Focus
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Mr. Erwin Lensink is Being Held in a High Security Prison and Committed to Involuntary Psychiatric Treatment After Throwing a Tealight Holder at Dutch Queen’s Golden Carriage
AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS, May 17, 2011
In the Netherlands, traditionally, the third Tuesday of September (called Prince’s Day) the reigning monarch of the Netherlands (currently Queen Beatrix) addresses a joint session of the Dutch Senate and House of Representatives. A small incident occurred during last year’s Prince’s Day (2010), which has lead to what many Dutch citizens believe a miscarriage of justice, as it has created the country’s very own political prisoner, Mr. Erwin Lensink, better known as the “waxinelichtgooier” or tealight-thrower.
During Prince’s Day 2010, the Queen, accompanied by some other members of the royal family, left Noordeinde Palace in the Golden Carriage for the Binnenhof (The Hague, the Netherlands), the venue of her speech. She was escorted by court dignitaries and a military escort of honour. Along the procession trail the public usually stands behind fences. Among the gathered public in 2010 was Lensink, a Dutch citizen who is of the opinion that the Dutch royal family consists of Nazis and traitors. This is a controversial issue that has haunted the royal family since decades. Standing among the public, seven meters away from the carriage, Lensink threw a small tealightholder in the direction of the Golden Carriage (which is equipped with bulletproof windows). Lensink was immediately apprehended.
Lensink has been incarcerated since September 2010 at a High Security Prison, along with convicted murderers and suspected terrorists. But what really bothers many Dutch citizens is that Lensink is also being heavily medicated due to the diagnosis that he suffers from severe delusions, a claim that is not without controversy. The Attorney’s Office is trying to have Lensink sentenced to TBS (Ter beschikkingstelling: involuntary commitment), which is a practice of placing a person in a psychiatric hospital or ward against his will. In the real world this could result in life without parole.
The way this controversial case has evolved, with outrageous claims by a psychologist and a psychiatrist, gives the impression to many Dutch citizens that the royal family is still pulling many strings in the Netherlands, stands above the law, and enjoys preferential judicial treatment.
In a special petition addressed to the Dutch government, started just days ago, already more than 200 people have expressed their concerns about the Lensink affair, the so-called “tealightgate” scandal.
This press release is distributed by krapuul.nl, an independent online political news & opinion site, specializing in anti-fascist and anti-corruption news and opinion.
For more information on the High Security Prison where Lensink is being held: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nieuw_Vosseveld
For a short commentary on the Lensink case: http://www.krapuul.nl/blog/35610/waarom-erwin-lensink-de-waxinewerper-vrij-moet/ (Dutch)
For the petition: http://petities.nl/petitie/laat-de-waxinewerper-vrij-nu (Dutch)
For communication/interview with the krapuul.nl staff, please email firstname.lastname@example.org (also for interview in English)
PLEASE NOTE: International press is allowed to run this story without any reservations whatsoever. Copyright free.
Thursday, May 12, 2011
Lois Ahrens is the Founder/Director of The Real Cost of Prisons Project (RCPP) and has been an activist/organizer for more than 40 years. First started in 2001, RCPP brings together justice activists, artists, justice policy researchers and people directly experiencing the impact of mass incarceration to work together to end the U.S. prison nation. RCPP created workshops, a website that includes sections of writing and ‘comix’ by prisoners, a daily news blog focused on mass incarceration and three comic books that were first created in 2005: Prisoners Town: Paying the Price, by artist Kevin Pyle and writer Craig Gilmore; Prisoners of the War on Drugs, by artist Sabrina Jones and writers Ellen Miller-Mack and Lois Ahrens; and Prisoners of a Hard Life: Women and Their Children by artist Susan Willmarth and writers Ellen Miller-Mack and Lois Ahrens.
Hundreds of organizations around the country use the comix in workshops, outreach and organizing. 135,000 have been printed, while over 115,000 have been sent, free of charge, to organizations and thousands of people held in prisons and jails. Due to lack of funding, Prison Town is now out of print and Prisoners of A Hard Life will soon be as well. Prisoners of the War on Drugs is still available. Print-ready versions of all three are available to view and download here.
In 2008, the three comix were published in an anthology, edited by Ahrens, entitled The Real Cost of Prisons Comix, (PM Press, 2008). Through the RCPP, Ahrens has been fortunate to have built an extensive correspondence with prisoners, which has grown into working relationships and friendships. In Massachusetts where she lives, Ahrens is involved in working to stop the state from charging $5/day jail fees to convicted prisoners and those held "pretrial." She is also working to stop new "3 Strikes" legislation from being passed.
Angola 3 News: Who is your target audience and what is the message that you are communicating with the comix?
Lois Ahrens: The comic books were created to communicate complex ideas in language that could be easily understood despite the fact that they are filled with information, research, analysis and a glossary. We wanted them to look and feel like comic books since people are not intimidated by comic books.
Initially, my goal was to create useful materials for organizers working to challenge and change punitive and destructive drug policies, activists opposing the building of new prisons and jails, as well as educators, and health workers. After publishing the comic books, we realized that prisoners were extremely interested. Comic books have been sent to prisoners every day since April 2005, with many requesting that comics be sent to family members and other prisoners.
The comic books place an individual’s experience in a political context by describing how the prison system is built on racism, sexism, and economic inequality. They include alternatives to the current reality so that readers can strategize and act to make change no matter where they are. The goal of the comic books is to politicize.
A3N: Have you ever had problems from prison authorities when sending comic books to prisoners?
LA: Yes. I think of this as the “tyranny of the mail room.” Often an individual working in a mail room sends the comic books back. Generally, I have found county jails are the worst in turning back comic books. For prisoners who are in “administrative segregation” there are often rules against receiving materials. Because the Real Cost of Prisons is the publisher of the comic books, usually, after a phone call, or an appeal letter, comic books do get in. Since comic books have been sent to prisoners in every state, I always cite many examples of other prisons within that system where they have been accepted. I appeal every refusal.
Interestingly, women’s prisons are more apt to return comic books; however, once I write and say that a prison for men in that state has accepted them, they do get in.
A3N: In your 2008 book The Real Cost of Prisons Comix you wrote that “every year from 1947 through the beginning of the 1970s, approximately 200,000 people were incarcerated in the US. Today, there are more than 2.3 million men and women incarcerated [now 2.4 million], with more than 5 million more on parole and probation.” Subsequently, the US has become the world’s #1 jailer. According to the International Center for Prison Studies at King's College London, only China, with 1,620,000 prisoners, and the Russian Federation, with 819,200 prisoners, have a total prison population that is remotely close to the US.
Furthermore, with 751 out of 100,000 people, and one out of every 100 adults in prison or jail, the US also has the highest incarceration rate in the world. The Russian Federation is second with 577 per 100,000 and China is 116th with 120 per 100,000. How do you explain this astonishing level of mass imprisonment in the US during the last 40 years? What are the forces behind this and why have they employed this particular strategy?
LA: In the workshops we first developed, in our trainings, and in the comic books, we wanted to create a bigger picture about how we came to this place. To do this, I think we need to understand how Ronald Reagan and the neo-liberal agenda came to power in 1980 by using covert and overt racist messages fabricating the myth of the welfare queen, capitalizing on fears of affirmative action, tearing away at the gains made in civil rights movement---specifically voting rights—while fostering alarm about rampant crime.
The racist sub-text of the neo-liberal political agenda succeeded in creating acceptance of mass incarceration while simultaneously creating the laws and industries to police, prosecute, cage and control millions of people—almost all poor people and people of color.
Neo-liberal policies have been in place for more than thirty years. As a result many people are not aware that our current political and economic situation is not the result of a natural course of events, but rather, of a systemically created ideology that has pervaded every aspect of our daily lives. Deregulation and globalization have caused: the loss of U.S. manufacturing by outsourcing; corporate agriculture and the disappearance of the family farm; reduction of protections for workers; huge decreases in number of unionized workers; privatization of hospitals, water, education, prisons, and the military; drastic cuts in public spending for welfare, public schools, public transportation, housing, and job training. These policies have created huge disparities in wealth.
Democrats and Republicans capitalized on this “perfect storm”. They ran and won on “tough on crime” platforms and passed legislation that has resulted in one in 31 people now under the thumb of the criminal justice system.
A3N: The corporate media’s support for the prison system has ranged from stoking public fears by over-reporting crime, to portraying prisoners as pampered and over-privileged. The comic books, therefore, provide an important counter-narrative. A major focus of the comic books has been the so-called “war on drugs.” Why do you feel that this issue is so important?
LA: Of the more than 2.4 million people imprisoned, more than one million are African Americans. Almost 5 million men and women are on probation and parole, a disproportionate number due to the “war on drugs.” (According to a Pew Report in March 2009, “One in 11 African-Americans are under correctional control, one in 27 Latinos, and one in 45 white people are in prison, jail, or under correctional supervision.”)
The war on drugs includes aggressive policing, centralized data bases for people stopped and frisked for no cause, surveillance cameras in streets and buildings, police or security in schools, and SWAT teams for communities as small as 25,000, and long and punitive mandatory sentences.
>From its inception, African-Americans and their communities were the primary target of the war on drugs. In terms of drug use: African Americans constitute 13% of the nation’s monthly drug users, 37% of drug possession arrests, 56% of drug possession convictions, and 74% of those sentenced to prison for drug possession.
There are mandatory sentences for drug convictions and disproportionate sentencing for crack vs. powder cocaine. After years of organizing against this, the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine has changed from 100 to 1 to 18 to 1, with no retroactivity for those already convicted under the old law. 80% of people sentenced to crack cocaine charges are African American.
A3N: What have been the consequences of this mass incarceration, fueled by the war on drugs?
LA: The consequences for individuals, families and communities are huge, cumulative, and long-lasting. According to Dina Rose and Todd Clear, in African American communities where 15 to 20% of adults are incarcerated community stability is undermined, resulting in more crime instead of less crime, especially when aggressive policing is added. In addition to less safety, what are the effects of removing the earning and spending power of so many who are incarcerated? What are the long term costs of the disruption of the family as both an economic and emotional unit?
There are other costs and consequences of the punitive legislation especially directed at people with felony drug convictions---read African Americans---that prevent them from creating a sustainable life once they leave prison. These include, for some, a ban on higher education and vocational training, as well as a ban on receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) if convicted of possessing or selling drugs, although some states have opted out. Legislation in 1996 and 1998 also prevented people with felony drug convictions and their families from federally subsidized housing, serving to increase homelessness and make family reunification much more difficult—for women especially. For women who are incarcerated, there is always the possibility of losing custody of their children.
A3N: How has the corporate media presented the war on drugs? Strategically speaking, how do you think activists can best confront this and work to publicly discredit the war on drugs?
LA: The media has portrayed the war on drugs as a fantasy of good vs. evil. There is little or no acknowledgement of the truth about who is targeted and why, of the system’s cruelty and destructiveness, nor of its lasting consequences to people’s lives, the evisceration of communities, and the bankrupting of governments. Only now, with huge state budget deficits, have some states begun to look at what 40 years of these policies have created; not because they think they are unconscionable, but because they are no longer financial sustainable. If they could find a way to continue to finance the bloated prisons and jails, I don’t think they would be looking for alternatives.
Despite this, I do think there is a small opening now to look at the catastrophic “war on drugs.” Michelle Alexander, in her book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness, details how in many ways, the war on drugs has created a more potent, strangulating and oppressive system than the old Jim Crow.
I agree with her and think this framework can re-energize people who took part in the Civil Rights and Black Empowerment movements of the 1960’s and millions who did not. I believe that what is important about her book is that she articulates the convergence of economic, legal, legislative, governmental policies and political forces which led to the mass incarceration of African Americans.
To overturn these policies and the beliefs on which they were built, we must understand the complexities of why and how they have been put in place. Then we can build the new and strong movement we need now.
A3N: Alongside the printed comic books, how do you use the RCPP?
LA: Early on, we developed a website and a little after that a news blog. Together, every day they receive a minimum of 2000 unique visitors. The website is filled with new research, links to hundreds of organizations, and the comic books. A few years ago I began adding political writing and comix by prisoners. This is now a big part of the website. People inside and outside the country are now using the comix and essays in other publications, which is how I had hoped it would work.
As the website has developed, so has a list-serve that keeps me connected to hundreds of organizers, as well as the media and family members of prisoners.
A3N: Of the many news stories featured on the website in the last couple years, could you tell us about a few important stories that you think were the most under-reported and/or misreported by the corporate media?
LA: There are thousands of stories because the true story about prisons is almost completely missing from not only the corporate media, but the left media as well.
First, there is almost no coverage at all about the growth of solitary confinement in the U.S. The best website for this is Solitary Watch and the RCPP website and blog publishes writing and comix from prisoners in solitary.
Second, there are a number of stories involving prisoners organizing, notably the Georgia Prisoners strike and the hunger strike in Lucasville, Ohio. There are a number of stories posted on the RCPP blog. The Human Rights Coalition (PA) is working to bridge the divide between outside and inside organizing (see The Movement).
Third includes "How prisons and jails are becoming debtors prisons," “Criminal Justice Debt: A Barrier to Reentry” by the Brennan Center, and “In For a Penny: The Rise of America's New Debtors' Prisons” by the ACLU .
Finally, the excellent work by The National Advocates for Pregnant Women, whose groundbreaking work brings together issues of women, reproductive rights, criminal justice, and racism.
A3N: Besides the website, how else has the RCPP evolved since the first comic book was published?
LA: The RCPP has evolved greatly since its beginning in 2000. When I started, I barely knew anyone in prison. That began to change once we started conducting our workshops and created a Train the Trainers program which involved many people who had been incarcerated.
Then, the comic books started flying out the door and the daily stacks of letters began arriving. Reading thousands of letters and beginning long-lasting correspondence-relationships with many prisoners, my focus shifted to their efforts to connect and remain a part of the world outside of prison. I saw how the longer someone’s sentence is, the more difficult it becomes to maintain connections—especially after a loved one has passed away.
Because of my daily connections with prisoners, I have become much more involved in conditions of confinement, sentences of life without the possibility of parole, the lengthening of sentences, the parole process or lack of it, and the non-use of compassionate release—even in states where it is policy.
I am constantly aware of the daily cruelties and indignities that men and women endure at the hands of others. I witness how so many people (against circumstances designed to dehumanize and crush their body and mind) manage to overcome and create lives of meaning to themselves and others.
A3N: What do you focus most of your energy on these days?
LA: In addition to sending out comic books, answering mail, and updating the website, I spend some part of everyday attempting to track down research, contacts, and other information for a large number of prisoners who are writers, researchers and activists/organizers.
In Massachusetts, where I am located, I have led an effort to stop the jails from charging fees to prisoners who are convicted and “pre-sentenced.” We are now waiting for a report that will hopefully recommend against these outrageous fees. I am engaged in various efforts to stop “three strikes” legislation from being law in MA. I regularly write and speak to classes and organizations about what is going on all around them, if they will allow themselves to look.
A3N: In your opinion, what are the best forms of practical action that those of us living outside the prison walls can do to help to improve present conditions for those incarcerated, and to challenge the broader criminal “justice” system, with abolition as the long-term goal?
LA: As abolitionists we must find smaller and larger steps along the way to stay engaged and connected to activists inside and out. There’s a lot of work to do:
--Connect to prisoners via books through bars projects and pen pal programs.
--Create true community-based alternatives programs that are not affiliated with sheriff’s departments and other law enforcement, for people with non-violent convictions to stay at home, connected to family and communities, and not go to jail.
--Create bail reform programs so that jails are not debtors prisons- examples include unsecured appearance bonds, setting lower amounts of bail and lowering bail based on the circumstances of someone’s life. For example, do they have children they are taking care of? Do they have a job that will be jeopardized? Many people plead guilty and then end up jail because they know they can’t make bail.
--Create affirmative action campaigns for people with criminal records, based on models of other affirmative action categories, to begin a conversation with employers about the need for second chances. Expand the campaign to housing fairness.
--Talk about the growth of solitary confinement in the U.S. People will be disbelieving but Solitary Watch is a great resource for information and activism.
--Work to expand parole, rather than restricting it! Attend parole hearings and write letters in behalf of people seeking parole
--Communicate with your governor to reinstate commutation. Most governors no longer commute sentences, although this used to be standard practice. Actively support people seeing commutation through letter writing campaigns and public events.
--Work to end the unnecessary and costly systems designed to send parolees back to prison based on minor violations. Strategically speaking, right now with state budget deficits, is a good time to focus attention on this.
--Challenge the drug laws that criminalize addiction and work with “harm reductionists” to provide needle exchange, safe injection sites, community education.
--Decriminalize sex work by joining forces with organizations of sex workers and make public the harassment from the police suffered by sex workers.
--Work with organizations such as Families Against Mandatory Minimums nationally and in your state to end mandatory minimum drug sentences.
--Begin a conversation with state legislators on the extreme length of sentences, not only for people convicted of non-violent offenses, but for those convicted of violent offenses as well. The new report by the Justice Policy Institute, "Finding Direction: Expanding Criminal Justice Options by Considering Policies of Other Nations,” provides models of what other countries are doing.
--Model the successful organizing strategies and legislation in NY State to end the shackling of women in labor and childbirth.
--Join with family groups and others organizing to end “life without the possibility of parole.” Introduce parole review for everyone beginning at 15 years.
--Make compassionate release real for states where it is already a law. Work with faith-based groups and involve faith-based communities in organizing for compassionate release.
--Work with Families to Amend California's Three Strikes (FACTS) and other organizations to end three strikes and habitual offender sentences.
--Join forces with community-based mental health and addiction treatment centers to advocate for money needed for treatment in communities, rather than jails and prisons filled with people suffering from untreated mental illness and no drug treatment. Drug addiction is a mental illness.
--Question the propaganda about who is criminal and the unchanging nature of people who have committed crimes and how they are portrayed in the media.
--Finally, each of us must fight racism wherever we find it. Fighting racism is a blow to mass incarceration.
A3N: How can our readers support your work?
LA: Your readers can support the work of the RCPP by becoming actively engaged in any areas I suggest in the previous answer. People need to know that they can spend a few hours a week and it can have political meaning.
They can financially support effective grassroots organizations that receive no funding or little funding, including of course, the Real Cost of Prisons Project. Our total yearly budget is approximately $4,000 which provides postage, envelopes and maintaining the website. You can make a donation here.
Mostly, I believe people need to wake-up and get engaged wherever they live in whatever they find most compelling. The fact that there is so much to do is not a reason to do nothing.
--Angola 3 News is a project of the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3. Our website is www.angola3news.com where we provide the latest news about the Angola 3. We are also creating our own media projects, which spotlight the issues central to the story of the Angola 3, like racism, repression, prisons, human rights, solitary confinement as torture.
Real Cost of Prisons website
Real Cost of Prisons weblog
Monday, May 2, 2011
Margaret T. Hance Park
May Day 2011
What immediately follows is an excerpt from one of two letters I received this past week regarding prison labor at Martori Farms, which I read at the May Day Rally today. The second letter is pasted at the bottom.
Note that refusal to accept these jobs is grounds for transfer to a higher security yard or detention unit- is that what we want to be spending our corrections money on, instead of programs and health care for these women?
May Day was awesome, by the way. More on that soon...
Remember Women Prisoners
Pinatafest, Margaret T. Hance Park
May Day 2011
Happy Easter :)!!! I hope all was great for you today!!!
Well friend I regret to tell you this letter will not be a social call. I’m calling on you to advocate for me and do what you do. I’m in a TERRIBLE situation here. And I need help from the outside. We are totally being oppressed!!! And ABUSED by the system. The prison is out of control!!!! OK ready?....
It’s a doosey friend. You’re gonna be totally shocked. Perhaps you’ve heard already but we need help! I NEED help before they kill me!!
OK it’s about my job. I work on a work crew for Martori Farms. We work 6 days a week for 8 hrs. It’s a mandatory overtime job. We work in the fields hoeing weeds and thinning plants currently until it’s harvest time then it will be 12 hrs a day. It’s insane. Currently we are forced to work in the blazing sun for 8 hrs. Many times we run out of water several times a day. We ran out of sunscreen several times a week. They don’t check medical backgrounds or ages before they pull women for these jobs. Many of us cannot do it! And if we stop working and sit on the bus or even just take an unauthorized break we get a MAJOR ticket which takes away our “good time”!!!
We are told we get ‘2’ 15 min breaks and one ½ hr lunch like a normal job but it’s more like 10 min and 20 min. They constantly yell at us we are too slowand to speed up because we are costing $150 an acre in labor and that’s not acceptable.
The place is infested with spiders of all types, scorpions, snakes, and blood suckers. And bees because they harvest them. On my crew alone there are 4 women with bee allergies but they don’t care!! There are NO epinephrine pens on site to SAVE them if stung.
There’s no anti venom available for snake bites and they want us to use windex (yes glass cleaner) for scorpion stings!! INSANITY!!! They are denying us medical care here.
If we are “red lined’ meaning we have a DR or Nurse or Psych appt any other job holds you back because medical takes precedence over every thing. But not at this job. If we don’t go to work and choose to stay for medical we get a Major ticket. And if they’rereally short people or too many people are like screw it give me the ticket like last week they take you to “CDU” the hole!!! It is so not fair!!! COIV xxx is going crazy trying to find people to fill this contract it’s rumored to be a $40 Million contract but also heard $4.5 mill either way it’s big money. They are going to any lengths to fulfill this. Not caring about our civil rights, safety or health!!
Women have made their complaints on inmate letters and verbally to Lt., Sgt, Captains, DW, COIII, COIV, and the major. Their solution was to give us an extra sack lunch and agree to feed us breakfast sat mornings. UGH!! Really… food is not what we were asking for. Though being fed on Saturdays is nice. Yah! They were not feeding us Sats because that’s a day Kitchen opens late because they give brunch on weekends. No lunch so we were getting screwed! But as of this past Sat they said they would feed us before work! Let’s see how long it lasts. Because they also said they would allow us to be “Red lined”. But it only lasted 1 day.
They wake us up between 2:30 and 3:00 am and KICK US OUT if our housing unit by 3:30am then we get fed at 4:00am and our work supervisors show up between 5am and 8am. Then it’s an hour to 1 ½ hr drive to the job site. Then we work 8 hrs regardless of conditions. Even the porta potties are usually dirty. Sometimes NO SOAP and never any seat covers and women on my work crew are HIV+ and Hep C positive. Not sanitary at ALL!
It's come to my attention that the women from ASPC-Perryville who are providing the prison labor to Martori Farms are being coerced into taking the jobs by the guards responsible for recruiting them, and are reportedly working at times without water, sunscreen, adequate nutrition and full breaks, and without regard to medical concerns or age. Those who refuse the jobs or don't work sufficiently hard enough in the fields - or who even just complain - are threatened with being written up (a major ticket which can cost good time), or thrown into the hole.
The women are afraid for their health and safety; some are allergic to the bees they are harvesting, and others have been told to work through serious symptoms such as chest pain, still being dismissed as malingering - reminiscent of what happened to Brenda Todd and Susan Lopez, when they begged for medical care. They're presently working 8-hr days/6 days a week (not including the 1+ hour trek to and from the farm). Come harvest time, they've been told they'll be working 12-hour days.
Upon receiving this information, I called OSHA - the Department of Labor doesn't have jurisdiction over prison labor, even when contracted to private farms. The only department in the state, outside of Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) they referred me to was the AZ Department of Administration's Risk Management people - they're the only ones who care about prisoner-worker "rights", it appears, because they want to minimize liability (which has little to do with taking responsibility in practice, it appears).
The Department of Administration referred me back to the ADC, to a guy by the name of Barry Keith. I told them I already contacted the ADC"s general counsel's office about the issue, and want outside eyes on the prison to assure worker's rights are being protected. They had no one else to refer me to, though, so I left a message for Mr. Keith. We'll see who gets back to me with what - I'm not on the best of terms with them these days.
Again, I'm urging people to contact the Chair of the AZ House Health and Human Services Committee, Rep. Cecil Ash, and request hearings on the conditions in the prisons.
He can be reached at:
Arizona House of Representatives
1700 W. Washington St.
Phoenix, AZ 85007
cc me (see margins), the Phoenix New Times (PO Box 2510, Phoenix, AZ 85002 / Phone: 602-271-0040 / Fax: 602-340-8806) and your own legislators on your concerns, please...let me know if I can print what you write.
Finally, here's some info about prison labor, from a good DAILY KOS story in December 2010. An older Christian Science Monitor article about AZ prison labor as it relates to the issue of immigration comes first...and here's something from another blog post last June: Slaves of the State: Prison Labor
By Nicole Hill, Christian Science Monitor
Posted on August 22, 2007, Printed on April 29, 2011
60497/with_fewer_migrant_ workers%2C_farmers_turn_to_ prison_labor
Picacho, Ariz. -- Near this dusty town in southeastern Arizona, Manuel Reyna pitches watermelons into the back of a trailer hitched to a tractor. His father was a migrant farm worker, but growing up, Mr. Reyna never saw himself following his father's footsteps. Now, as an inmate at the Picacho Prison Unit here, Reyna works under the blazing desert sun alongside Mexican farmers the way his father did.
"My dad tried to keep me out of trouble," he says, wearing a bandanna to keep the sweat out of his eyes. "But I always got back into the easy money, because it was faster and a lot more money." He's serving a 6-1/2 year sentence for possession and sale of rock cocaine.
As states increasingly crack down on hiring undocumented workers, western farmers are looking at inmates to harvest their fields. Colorado started sending female inmates to harvest onions, corn, and melons this summer. Iowa is considering a similar program. In Arizona, inmates have been working for private agriculture businesses for almost 20 years. But with legislation signed this summer that would fine employers for knowingly hiring undocumented workers, more farmers are turning to the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) for help.
"We are contacted almost daily by different companies needing labor," says Bruce Farely, manager of the business development unit of Arizona Correctional Industries (ACI). ACI is a state labor program that holds contracts with government and private companies. "Maybe it was labor that was undocumented before, and they don't want to take the risk anymore because of possible consequences, so they are looking to inmate labor as a possible alternative."
Reyna and about 20 other low-risk, nonviolent offenders work at LBJ Farm, a family-owned watermelon farm, as part of ADC's mission to employ every inmate, either behind prison walls or in outside companies. The idea is to help inmates develop job skills and save money for their release. "It helps them really pay their debt back to the folks who have been harmed in society, as well as make adequate preparation for their release back onto the streets." says ADC director Dora Schriro.
If it weren't for a steady flow of inmates year-round, says Jack Dixon, owner of LBJ, one of the largest watermelon farms in the western US, he'd have sold out long ago. Even so, last year 400 acres of his watermelons rotted on the ground - a $640,000 loss - because there weren't enough harvesters. Mr. Dixon had applied for 60 H2-A guest worker visas, but only 14 were approved because of previous visa violations.
"We are in desperate need for hand labor," says Dixon, who started working on the farm when he was 9, alongside mostly migrant workers. "It's hard to get migrant workers up here anymore, with all the laws preventing them. It's not what it used to be," Dixon says. "It's dangerous for them with all the coyote wars and smuggling."
Other farmers wonder if inmates could be their solution. Dixon has received calls from a yellow-squash farmer in Texas inquiring about how to set up an inmate labor contract as well as from another watermelon farmer in Colorado seeking advice on how to manage inmate crews.
For labor-rights activists, federal immigration reform is the only viable solution to worker shortages.
Marc Grossman, spokesman for the United Farm Workers of America, says inmate labor undermines what unionized farmworkers have wanted for years: to be paid based on skill and experience. "It's rather insulting that the state [Arizona] would look so poorly on farm workers that they would attempt to use inmates," Grossman says. There is also the food-safety aspect, he says: Experienced workers understand sanitary harvesting.
"Agriculture does not have a reliable workforce, and the answer does not lie with prison labor," says Paul Simonds of the Western Growers Association, a trade association representing California and Arizona. "This just underscores the need for legislation to be passed to provide a legal, stable workforce." A prison lockdown would be disastrous, he points out, with perishable crops awaiting harvest. Other crops, like asparagus and broccoli, require skilled workers.
Although the ADC is considering innovative solutions - including satellite prisons - to fulfill companies' requests for inmate labor, prison officials agree that, in the end, the demand is too high. "To go into a state where agriculture is worth $9.2 billion and expect to meet a workforce need is impossible," says Katie Decker, spokeswoman for ADC. At any given time only about 3,300 prisoners statewide (out of a prison population of about 37,000) are cleared to work outside.
ACI provides inmates to nine private agricultural companies in Arizona, ranging from a hydroponics greenhouse tomato plant to a green chile cannery. Unlike other sectors where federal regulations require that inmate workers be paid a prevailing wage and receive worker compensation, agricultural companies can hire state inmates on a contract basis. They must be paid a minimum of $2 per hour. Thirty percent of their wages go to room and board in prison. The rest goes to court-ordered restitution for victims, any child support, and a mandatory savings account. Private companies are required to pay for transportation from the prison to the worksite and for prison guards.
For Reyna, his work on farms over the past couple of years has added $9,000 in his savings account and given him a renewed respect for his Mexican father's lifetime of stoop labor.
At Dixon's farm, it's 103 degrees F. The inmate crews, wearing orange jumpsuits, work in a rhythmic line, calling out the number of the watermelons, and alongside the trailer. Just a few yards away, Mexican workers also work in a line. The inmates will quit at 4 p.m., while the immigrant laborers may work 13-hour days. "We go back, they stay out here," Reyna says. "It really isn't the same."
In the farm's office, watermelons line the counter, and photos of migrant workers hang in dusty frames. When asked why he doesn't sell the farm, Dixon says, "the inmates, the migrants, these people are part of the family - that's why I keep this darn place."
Dixon says he supports the idea of a reformed, guest-worker program that would employ migrant workers during the harvest and return them to Mexico in the winter. But until that happens, he's willing to fight for the workers he's shared the land with for most of his life.
"People are crossing the border because they are starving to death," Dixon says, "I don't care what their status is. If they are hungry and thirsty, I am going to feed them."
"I could sell this and quit," he continues, "But I believe in supporting the American farming industry."
© 2011 Christian Science Monitor All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/
Tue Dec 14, 2010 at 03:23 PM PST
Many readers have asked how a corporation can be identified as participating in the use of inmate labor. Actually there are three "categories" of those involved in prison labor and prison industry operations:
- corporations, businesses and companies that use direct inmate labor for manufacturing and service jobs,
- corporations, businesses and companies that contract with other companies to purchase products or services made by inmate labor (such as McDonalds), and,
- individuals, corporations, organizations and investment companies that support the use of prison labor or enable prison industry operations by contributing financial support to those directly involved in using inmates for labor or invest in or support private prison corporations.
To demonstrate how difficult involvement in prison industries and the use of inmate labor is to identify, we'll begin with an investment firm involved in many of our 401(k) and retirement accounts.
Fidelity Investments (Fidelity). This "financial investment" corporation is involved in holding the retirement and 401(k) accounts of millions of Americans. Many of the largest companies in our country offer Fidelity Investments as the sole source of retirement investing for their employees.
Fidelity was previously identified as a funder of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in an earlir Insourcing blog. ALEC is deeply invested in supporting Corrections Corporation of American (CCA) and Geo Group (Geo) - that are both corporate members of ALEC. ALEC has willingly accepted responsibility for enactment of laws authorizing and increasing the use of inmates in manufacturing of products as well as the housing of those inmates by private corporations such as CCA and Geo.
Unfortunately if your retirement savings, 401(K) or other investments are held by Fidelity, chances are some of your money is invested by Fidelity in either the use of prison labor or in other operations related to the prison industrial complex (PIC).
I purposely mentioned McDonald's in the intro because though they are not "directly" using inmate labor in their food service operations, they are dependent upon the use of inmate labor to reduce costs associated with those operations. The way they do this is by contracting to purchase their uniforms and some of the plastic utensils provided to customers from a company using inmate labor to make those uniforms and utensils. The uniforms are made by Oregon Inmates. Wendy's has also been identified as relying upon prison labor to reduce their cost of operations - and they fund ALEC.
Two other U.S. companies relying upon prison labor for products sold in their stores are K-Mart and J.C. Penny. Both sell Jeans made by inmates in Tennessee prisons. The same prison in Tennessee provides labor for Eddie Bauer's wooden rocking horses. There are other products we would not associate with prison made products: dentures, partials, eye glasses, processed foods such as beef, chicken and pork patties sold to and served in our schools, grocery stores and hospitals. I don't know about you but putting dentures made in prison in my mouth just somehow causes me concern...just as buying a box of breaded chicken patties and fixing them for my family does.
What about services such as Insurance? Banking? Utilities - gas, oil, electricity? Prescription drugs? Are all of these services or commodities tied to prison labor and the PIC? Unfortunately, yes. Many insurance companies are tied to ALEC...as are corporations involving utilities provided to you in your city or town. To name jut a few brand names you'll recognize that are invested in prison labor or PIC through ALEC are:
BANKS: American General Financial Group, American Express Company, Bank of America, Community Financial Services Corporation, Credit Card Coalition, Credit Union National Association, Inc., Fidelity Inestments, Harris Trust & Savings Bank, Household International, LaSalle National Bank, J.P. Morgan & Company, Non-Bank Funds Transmitters Group
ENERGY PRODUCERS/OIL: American Petroleum Institute, Amoco Corporation, ARCO, BP America, Inc., Caltex Petroleum, Chevron Corporation, ExxonMobil Corporation, Mobil Oil Corporation, Phillips Petroleum Company.
ENERGY PRODUCERS/UTILITIES: American Electric Power Association, American Gas Association, Center for Energy and Economic Development, Commonwealth Edison Company, Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Inc., Edison Electric Institute, Independent Power Producers of New York, Koch Industries, Inc., Mid-American Energy Company, Natural Gas Supply Association, PG&E Corporation/PG&E National Energy Group, U.S. Generating Company.
INSURANCE: Alliance of American Insurers, Allstate Insurance Company, American Council of Life Insurance, American Insurance Association, Blue Cross and Blue Shield Corporation, Coalition for Asbestos Justice, (This organization was formed in October 2000 to explore new judicial approaches to asbestos litigation." Its members include ACE-USA, Chubb & Son, CNA service mark companies, Fireman's Fund Insurance Company, Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc., Kemper Insurance Companies, Liberty Mutual Insurance Group, and St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Company. Counsel to the coalition is Victor E. Schwartz of the law firm of Crowell & Moring in Washington, D.C., a longtime ALEC ally.)
Fortis Health, GEICO, Golden Rule Insurance Company, Guarantee Trust Life Insurance, MEGA Life and Health Insurance Company, National Association of Independent Insurers, Nationwide Insurance/National Financial, State Farm Insurance Companies, Wausau Insurance Companies, Zurich Insurance.
PHARMACEUTICALS: Abbott Laboratories, Aventis Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Bayer Corporation, Eli Lilly & Company, GlaxoSmithKline, Glaxo Wellcome, Inc., Hoffman-LaRoche, Inc., Merck & Company, Inc., Pfizer, Inc., Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of
America (PhRMA), Pharmacia Corporation, Rhone-Poulenc Rorer, Inc., Schering-Plough Corporation, Smith, Kline & French, WYETH, a division of American Home Products Corporation.
MANUFACTURING:American Plastics Council, Archer Daniels Midland Corporation, AutoZone, Inc. (aftermarket automotive parts), Cargill, Inc., Caterpillar, Inc., Chlorine Chemistry Council, Deere & Company, Fruit of the Loom, Grocery Manufacturers of America, Inland Steel Industries, Inc., International Game Technology, International Paper, Johnson & Johnson, Keystone Automotive Industries, Motorola, Inc., Procter & Gamble, Sara Lee Corporation.
TELECOMMUNICATIONS: AT&T, Ameritech, BellSouth Telecommunications, Inc., GTE Corporation, MCI, National Cable and Telecommunications Association, SBC Communications, Inc., Sprint, UST Public Affairs, Inc., Verizon Communications, Inc.
TRANSPORTATION: Air Transport Association of America, American Trucking Association, The Boeing Company, United Airlines, United Parcel Service (UPS).
OTHER U.S. COMPANIES: Amway Corporation, Cabot Sedgewick, Cendant Corporation, Corrections Corporation of America, Dresser Industries, Federated Department Stores, International Gold Corporation, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Microsoft Corporation, Newmont Mining Corporation, Quaker Oats, Sears, Roebuck & Company, Service Corporation International, Taxpayers Network, Inc., Turner Construction, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
ORGANIZATIONS/ASSOCIATIONS: Adolph Coors Foundation, Ameritech Foundation, Bell & Howell Foundation, Carthage Foundation, Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, ELW Foundation, Grocery Manufacturers of America, Heartland Institute of Chicago, The Heritage Foundation, Iowans for Tax Relief, Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation of Milwaukee, National Pork Producers Association, National Rifle Association, Olin Foundation, Roe Foundation, Scaiffe Foundation, Shell Oil Company Foundation, Smith Richardson Foundation, Steel Recycling Institute, Tax Education Support Organization, Texas Educational Foundation, UPS Foundation.
As the foregoing illustrates, many U.S. companies and corporations not only fund ALEC's activities regarding prison labor and PIC, they have foundations that also contribute handsomely to ALEC. Many are represented upon ALEC"s Private Enterprise Board.
Commodities, services and various products sold to U.S. consumers provide profits to these companies/corporations that are used to further the goals of ALEC. They sell us our vehicles, Chrysler, Ford, GM...sell us the fuel to power those vehicles, insurance to cover our cars and trucks. Some of our homes are mortgaged through banks and mortgage companies affiliated with ALEC. Our homes are insured by carriers supporting the use of inmate labor. Our phones are provided by those who are also involved and our medications also fund these same ALEC activities. Even the fast food places we depend upon are part of the overall PIC operation - McDonalds and Wendy's.
Reservations we make for American Airlines and the likes of AVIS rent-a-car are taken by inmates. More and more call centers are coming on line every day manned by inmates in both state and federal prison operations. Each position taken by an inmate, used to belong to private sector workers who are now unemployed.
Another industry I've briefly touched upon needs to be discussed here. That is the agriculture industry. One side effect of immigration laws being enacted in the Western states is the reduction of migrant workers in those states that have passed tougher immigration policies. Not one to miss such an opportunity, prison industries are vying to fill the voids created by these laws.
Colorado has been one of those states hardest hit because of new laws similar to that of SB 1070. In an effort of providing labor to the farmers in that state, the legislature has partnered with the state DOC to implement a new program allowing for the use of inmates on private farms.
"To meet the needs of the capitalist farmers, the state legislature has partnered with the Colorado Department of Corrections to launch a pilot program this month that will contract with more than a dozen large farms to provide prisoners who will work in the fields. More than 100 prisoners will go to farms near Pueblo, Colo., to start the program in the coming weeks.
Prisoners will earn a miserable 60 cents a day. The prisoners will be watched by prison guards, who will be paid handsomely by the farmers. The practice is a modern form of slavery.
The corporate farm owners and capitalist politicians are defending the program. They claim that business needs to be "protected" for the sake of capitalist production in the agricultural sector."
There were many indicators that this was on the horizon over three years ago, when articles began to appear about several states switching from migrant farm workers to inmates:
"As states increasingly crack down on hiring undocumented workers, western farmers are looking at inmates to harvest their fields. Colorado started sending female inmates to harvest onions, corn, and melons this summer. Iowa is considering a similar program. In Arizona, inmates have been working for private agriculture businesses for almost 20 years. But with legislation signed this summer that would fine employers for knowingly hiring undocumented workers, more farmers are turning to the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) for help."
It isn't surprising that agricultural and farming needs would be pointed in this direction by state legislators...where ALEC's efforts of eliminating "illegal" aliens from agribusiness work coincided with their SB 1070 and earlier state legislative efforts. They realized the impact the laws would have upon immigrant workers and that a labor force would be necessary to take the place of immigrants picked up or scared off by laws like SB 1070. CCA, Geo and state prison industry operators were informed of the expected future labor needs of U.S. farmers and began to gear up in 2007 when ALEC successfully proposed and was able to enact one of the first restrictive immigration laws in Colorado. I believe ALEC projected the impact on farming, predicted the labor need and advised prison industries to be prepared to put inmates out in agriculture work on short notice. As soon as the Colorado law went into effect, prison industries had inmates picked, vetted and with the proper custody level ready to step into the shoes of the missing migrant workers.
All in all a very effective business plan put into place by ALEC and their members - eliminate an entire industry workforce and replace it with a workforce supplied by their members at a wage scale of less than $1.00 per hour. At the same time salaries of the prison staff guarding the workers is paid for by the farmers. Talk about a win-win-win business plan.
Prison labor had been used in Arizona for more than two decades prior to SB 1070. However the enactment of that law made the need for inmate labor to treble - along with profits from that labor.
Other occupations are being impacted by privatization of prison related healthcare. Many doctors are now choosing to work in prison rather than private practice. Obviously this switch lowers the number of doctors available in the private sector. One reason for this change in direction by physicians is retirement benefits and free malpractice insurance offered by prison healthcare corporations, such as PHS.
If more information is needed to clarify the financial impact of continuing incarceration upon us as a society take a brief look at Washington State's latest efforts to address the state deficit. The below cuts are necessary to reduce the budget by $600 million. A substantial need for such reductions was created because of the state's continued reliance upon incarcerating more and more citizens, reducing private sector jobs through the use of prison labor by large WA. corporations such as Boeing and Microsoft.
"Among the cuts approved by legislators: nearly $50 million from the Department of Corrections, including the closure of a prison facility; $50 million from K-12 education, including funding intended to keep class sizes small; $51 million from higher education, including at several of the state's flagship universities; nearly $30 million from a state-subsidized health insurance program for the poor; and the elimination of non-emergency dental care for poor adults."
What a trade off, huh? More cuts to education and social programs that benefit the poor while they pay out millions to prison industries and private prison operators - and give tax breaks to Boeing and Microsoft. Washington citizens are getting the shaft - especially their students and the poorest among them.
While Washington state is making terrible cuts to the budget, elsewhere prison workers and their supporters are successfully keeping unnecessary prisons open to keep prison staffers from losing their employment. An action that keeps taxpayers funding their salaries - needlessly.
"ETOWAH COUNTY, Alabama -- U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have agreed Thursday to delay removal of more than 300 inmates from Etowah County's detention center until at least the spring, the Gadsden Times reports.
ICE officials had notified the county Saturday that they would be removing the inmates from the Etowah County jail, which is the only facility in Alabama with a contract to house ICE inmates.
On Thursday, after intercession by the county's congressional delegation, ICE agreed to keep inmates at the facility and use Etowah County's prisoner transportation services until March 31, 2011, according to the Gadsden Times, which cites a news release from Sheriff Todd Entrekin.
The decision stops what would have been a substantial economic loss for the jail and could have resulted in the loss of some 49 jobs."
While this fight to keep jobs and inmates in AL. is fought, another fight results in the loss of a successful privately operated reentry program for ex-offenders in Virginia. The state has decided to "re-vamp" its reentry efforts and closed this and 12 other successful programs. Even in instances where volunteers and organizers step-up to address recidivism, the state steps-in and thwarts their efforts. It's almost like there are efforts going on at the state levels to keep incarceration and recidivism rates up.
Our country is being turned into a nation of prisoners and those who pay for their incarceration costs - period. Everything else is being cut to keep the PIC in place and profitable. Medicare and Social Security are next in line in the next U.S. Congress. Don't you find it odd that of all the rhetoric about our failing economy, the cuts to social and community programs, unemployment and unemployment compensation arguments - none of our lawmakers are openly voicing calls for any reduction in imprisonment? I mean there have been hundreds of articles identifying incarceration costs as being responsible for necessary cuts in funding for education and other necessary programs...but no one wants to go on the record as supporting a stop to mass incarcerations? How is it that our elected officials continue to cut more and more out of annual budgets to pay for incarceration and make no effort of reducing the need for that incarceration? I believe it is because they're paid handsomely to avoid any effort of reforming laws or reducing incarceration. It is simply too profitable to allow us to stop sending men, women and our children to jail and prisons.
This is exemplified by a recent article on Louisiana's practice of housing state prisoners in local Parish jails:
“Legislators wonder why the budget for the Department of Corrections is so large,” said one state employee who is familiar with the department. “As long as they keep trying to criminalize everything they find personally offensive in the name of law and order for the benefit of the folks back home, the budget is going to keep growing.
”Each legislative session, dozens of bills are introduced by Louisiana lawmakers to either create new criminal statutes or to increase penalties for existing laws. Only rarely does a bill attempt to reduce penalties for crimes. In the 2010 regular session alone, for example, 68 of 93 bills addressing criminal procedure and crime, called for jail time for new crimes or longer sentences for existing laws. Those included crimes ranging from “unlawfully wearing clothing which exposes undergarments or certain body parts” to cyberbullying, and terrorist acts.
"Local sheriffs relish the opportunity to house state prison inmates because it infuses needed cash into the local coffers. One state official said the actual cost to sheriffs to house the state prisoners is only a fraction of the $24.39 daily income per prisoner. “It’s a big bonus for the sheriffs,” he said."
Right now prisoners in Georgia are striking due to being used as slave labor by that state's prison industries. Such strikes are unheard of and one reason is the huge amount of "get-back" available to the prison staff and their willingness to use physical means to force compliance. My heart goes out to these men, as I've been there and know how dire their circumstances must be to cause such a dangerous mission from behind bars. Many are trying to provide assistance to them through phone and email communications with prison authorities, but so far the prisons involved (6) remain on indefinite lockdowns with reports of retaliation at each facility being reported via cell phone calls from the inmates. There has been limited media coverage of this historical strike (and no mainstream media attention) - again, it is not in their best interests to publicize this action to the public, for fear of creating a discussion on the merits of using inmate labor in a "slavery like" manner - though from reports, thousands of inmates are participating in the strike. These men represent those who are now performing the work previously performed by Georgia private sector workers, and doing it for pennies on the dollar.
As shown by the above information, every facet of our lives are now touched in some way by prison privatization, prison healthcare, feeding of prisoners or by working prisoners in the PIC. This puts their products in our homes, on our grocer shelves, in our produce consumption and reduces available private sector jobs - including positions for physicians. Sadly we must realize that all of this is financed with our tax dollars that are quickly converted to "profits" once received into the coffers of corporations participating in the PIC.
Many comments have been made to my Insourcing Series saying we should identify those involved and boycott their products and services. As this segment demonstrates, it is nearly impossible to identify each corporation, group, organization or individuals involved in PIC and prison industries. Their products are so vast and diverse, each of our homes now have one or more of those products in use. Even picking up the phone and calling for technical assistance with products, making a reservation or inquiring about services may put us in touch with an inmate on the other end of the phone. The Prison Industrial Complex is simply too vast to avoid or boycott - in a manner typically used by consumers and concerned citizens.
Boycotting is usually an activity used to refuse our business to those involved in practices we object to. In this case it is just too difficult to accurately identify prison industry participants.
I'm working on developing a program now that may allow all of us to identify those companies, businesses and corporations not involved in any way with prison labor or the PIC. We can eliminate the profits realized by corporations using inmate labor, by reducing sales of their products. Just as those participating in the PIC transfer our tax dollars into profits, we can transfer their anticipated future profits back to the private sector worker through participation in this program. The only thing these corporations understand is "profit". Money drives them and is what gets their attention. So let's get their attention by denying them sales - not boycotting.
I intend to set up a website allowing those not connected with the PIC, not investing in or funding prison industries and not selling any products made by inmates or inmate provided services to be named. The site is intended to list corporations, retailers, providers and businesses certified as not involved in PIC operations. Links to these certified non-participating company websites and online catalogs, local outlets and products lines will be made available. In addition those industries, corporations, investors, banks, finance companies and others identified as profiting from PIC or prison industries in any form will be identified and "blacklisted". In this way one comprehensive site can be used to identify those products, services and companies to avoid while providing links to U.S. retailers and companies not involved, that provide the same products or services without the use of prisoners.
In order to participate, these companies must "Certify" in writing that they use no inmate labor, do not invest in or sell products made in prison. Secondly they will be required to use the "Made in U.S.A." labels with products and services provided by American workers and offer those products to U.S. consumers.
Prison made goods include those made in China and elsewhere that are finding their way to our retail shelves more and more of late. There are strict prohibitions against allowing imported products into the U.S. when those products were made by prison, slave or child labor. These strict provisions are being circumvented in some instances and deliberately ignored by our Custom Service in others. Companies, businesses, retailers and manufacturers wishing to be listed within the proposed site, must certify non-use of those foreign prison-made goods as well.
The site is intended to allow consumers to identify those not involved in prison labor related products and offer shoppers a discount direct from participating U.S. manufacturers, retailers and service providers for purchasing their products or services made by U.S. workers in our private sector markets. This will help increase jobs and deny continued profits to those using inmate labor.
This effort will be time consuming and expensive to develop and put into operation. Sponsors and volunteers will be needed to assist in this endeavor. This is going to need the expertise of a website developer, software programmers, advertising and accounting assistance. We are going to need people to submit to us the names of businesses they own, work for or invest in that are not associated or affiliated with prison labor or products. Money is going to be needed to advertise the site and make consumers aware that such a site exists to provide them with alternatives to prison made products. If successful this will put money into the pockets of those manufacturers and retailers who refuse to become involved in prison made goods for profit. It will provide those businesses with income to hire more workers due to increased production and sales.
Originally posted to Bob Sloan on Tue Dec 14, 2010 at 03:23 PM PST.
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