hands through prison bars

b&b50 Prison as a business | The PIC Series, Part 1

To mark our 50th episode, we will be starting a 4-part series on the Prison Industrial Complex.

In Part 1 of the PIC series, we talk about Prison as a Business: From corporations like the Corrections Corporation of America being publicly traded on the stock exchange to companies like Wendy’s, Walmart, Starbucks, and Verizon using prison labor to package food or answer customer service calls, the prison industry is incentivized to keep its facilities full.

Join us this month as we explore the hidden side of prison labor (is this modern day slavery?), the history of the prison industrial complex, hear first hand what it’s like to be trapped in this system, and talk about what people are doing to break the cycle.

Episode Highlights:

Dyalekt: Basically, we can sum this all up in one word: slavery. You know how when people are comparing somebody to a bad person and they’re like “They’re like the Hitler!” And then you’re like, “That’s going too far ‘cause they’re not Hitler.” Right? That’s not what I’m doing with this. I’m not equating this with slavery. I’m not saying this is similar to slavery. I’m not saying this reminds me of slavery, or shares similarities or common threads. It’s slavery. 

Pam: Prison Industrial Complex: so, basic definition is a privatization of prisons. Government and prisons are working together to expand the prison population for the sake of profit. 

Pam: The prisons as a for-profit business create these contracts with the state governments where the government guarantees that the prison will be 80-100% filled…this is called a lockup quota, and if the quota is not fulfilled, the government has to pay the private company for the empty bed. 

Pam: In 1998 there were 5 private prisons…2008, there are 100 private prisons…95 more private prisons. $3 Billion more dollars going to private prison companies. 

Dyalekt: All violent crime is dropping everywhere. 

Pam: 11 times as many people are in jail for drug convictions than in 1980…50% of the prison population is for non-violent crimes. 

Pam: How many people are actually incarcerated in the United States: 2.5 million prisoners, that means 1 in 107 people in the U.S. are incarcerated. That also means most likely, if you don’t actually know somebody who’s in jail, you know somebody who knows somebody who’s in jail.

Pam: The U.S. makes up about 5% of the global population, but we have about 5% of the prison population. It costs $55 Billion a year to support the prison industry, and the prison population grew more than 500%, think about that, 500% in the last 30 years. So crime went down but prison population went up 500% in the last 30 years. 

Pam: 60% of people in prison are people of color, even though they’re only 30% of the total U.S. population. 

Pam: Nearly half of all detained immigrants are actually held in privately owned facilities. The immigration and customs enforcement, they have a goal of catching about 400,000 undocumented immigrants each year.

Pam: The federal prison industry produces 100% of the war supplies. …The military industrial complex and the prison industrial complex have to exist together, the way that it’s set up. 

Pam: California Inmates produce more than 680,000 lbs of beef, 400,000 lbs of chicken…450,000 gallons of milk, 280,000 loaves of bread, 2.9 million eggs.

Pam: Inmates are being paid around $120-$180 working full time. That translates to 75¢ an hour…They are selling and promoting products, handling customer service, and taking hotel reservations. 

Pam: California put two men into solitary for telling journalists that they were ordered to replace “Made in Honduras” labels for Victoria’s secret and JCPenney with ‘Made in USA’ labels. 

Pam: This company called Globel Tell Link or GTL, it’s a company that makes $500 million annually in profits because you know when you’re in prison and you make a call and you have to make a collect call? So, this company is responsible for all of the collect calls in all of the prisons….They charge them $1.13 per minute for the collect call. So they pay you 75¢ an hour to take calls for corporations, and on the other side of it this company is charging you a dollar plus to talk to your family. 

Pam: ¾ of the private prisons in the United states are operated by publicly traded companies. Now, why is this a big deal? Because publicly traded companies, companies traded on the stock market, are beholden to making a profit for their shareholders, every single year. And how do prison companies make money? Dyalekt: They gotta have more prisoners. 

Dyalekt: Businesses exist to do business. They don’t exist to make as much money as possible. If you wanna make as much money as possible, you can rob and steal and prostitute to get as much money as possible. But these businesses become publicly traded, it compromises their mission or what should be their mission or their explicitly stated mission, and it makes it like there’s no point in that being a business.