Prison Labor and Privatized Prison Industries

Slavery in America was technically abolished in 1865, but due to a loophole in the 13th Amendment, it has remained legal well into the twenty-first century. Human rights groups, as well as political and social organizations, have spoken out against what they call the “new form of inhumane exploitation” in the United States. They claim that there is a prison population of up to two million people, the majority of whom are Black and Hispanic and work in a variety of industries for a pittance. In America today, many more inmates are forced to perform unpaid hard labor than they were in 1830. The United States covers 5% of the population in the world and is responsible for twenty-five percent of the world’s prison population making it hold the record for having the largest incarcerated population in the Universe. The asperity of this situation is made even worse by the disproportionate incarceration rates of African American and Hispanic males and females. This paper will discuss on how the media ignore prison labor strikes and prison issues. It will also focus on how the media portray privatized prison industries.
Reality-based police television programs have overestimated the prevalence of violent crimes, misrepresent the percentage of criminals that come from minority groups, and perpetuate myths about the efficiency of law enforcement (Brynjolfsson & McAfee, 2014). These programs most of the time portray black and Hispanic characters as being criminal suspects while white figures are given the role of heroes and police officers. An estimated 77% of African American characters are portrayed as criminal characters while 38.4% of Caucasian actors are cast as criminal characters. Reality-based police television also depicts 80% of officers as being perpetrators of violence and is justified in acting violently. Research also showed that police officers were more likely to use physical aggression towards Hispanics and African American criminal suspects than towards white defendants (Brynjolfsson & McAfee, 2014). It also showed that 33% of black criminal defendants were more likely to be the recipients of unarmed physical violence by the police.
Analysis of Privatized Prison Industry
Incarcerated individuals are legally slaves in consideration to the 13th Amendment which prohibited slavery and involuntary servitude except punishment for a crime committed. They are oppressed by the poor privatized services such as food, healthcare, and phone calls that have outrageous prices. The government also profits a lot from the labor provided by those who are incarcerated as at least 1.5 million inmates in the United States have jobs but are paid pennies, and in some other prisons, they are paid nothing for the work (Brynjolfsson & McAfee, 2014). Many prisoners perform the needed work to ensure the smooth running of prisons like filing papers, mopping cellblock floors, preparing and serving foods, and other prison duties. Other prisoners also work in correction industries programs where they work in areas like clothing and textile, computer-aided designs, recycling activities, and electronics., There are some who are even in sub-contract with private corporations like Starbucks, Sprint, Victoria’s Secret, and many more. Incarcerated workers are among the most exploited employees in the United States as prison labor does not have a minimum wage. The average salary per one hour is twenty cents, and even with this low wage some states do not pay at all. Prison officials can at times withhold up to 80% of wages.
Today’s age freedom has become the exception rather than the rule as the imprisonment of offenders in private prisons which are under the control of mega-corporations has turned more into a cash cow for big business. States have been attempting to save money through the outsourcing of prisons to private corporations. The flawed but still retributive American system of justice is being replaced by an even more flawed and dangerous method of mass punishment that is motivated by profit and expenditure. When the population of prison increases it increases the prison labor which directly leads to profit boom for these businesses. Various researchers have found that private prisons are not cost friendly, unlike the government ones (Brynjolfsson & McAfee, 2014). It is also evident that private jails usually avoid taking the sick and elderly inmates because health care is an enormous expense for prisons. They typically seek the services of younger less well trained who they pay low wages, and their prisons have a higher inmate to guard ratio, all these conditions save money, but they also result in the jails becoming more dangerous. Apart from capitalist growing through administering of low paid factory work they are now taking advantage of human capitals within the prison system. Productivity levels can increase when there are high levels of discipline in the prison environments.
In the United States prison labor is referred to as insourcing because they are cheap labor which reduces the cost of operations and are easier to control when they are compared to employment that is acquired from outside of prison or in the market. When corporations insource, they can skip providing benefits such as health insurance or pensions. They also do not have to worry about union organizations or collective bargaining or demands for vacation time. These companies do not have to give in to demands wage raises, promotions, or offer longer sick days in the prison labor force. These companies do not have to worry about excuse the workers due to family issues or concern themselves with the working conditions as well as the potential harm to these workers. The high demand for prison labor leads to these companies lobbying the state and federal government to continue with the current system of mass incarceration (Martin, 2004). Because of building, storages, and labor supervision costs that are covered by the state, these companies can pay this low wages (Martin, 2004). The government will acquire the finances from taxpayers who usually are the ones who cover the cost prisoner upkeep expenses and because of this new regulations and policies of the expansion of prisons are taking place in different states. There are three categories of corporations that participate in the utilization of inmate labor. The first one is businesses that utilize the direct inmate labor for manufacturing and service jobs. The second one is corporations that get into contract with other companies to acquire products and services made through the work of prisoners a good example is McDonald’s. The third category is that of individuals, organizations, and investment companies that promote the employment of prison labor through the contribution of financial support to the businesses that are directly involved in the use of prisoners for cheap labor.
Mainstream Media Portrayal of the Government
The press describes prison privatization as a practice that is related to efficiency, profit, and overcrowding. The focus of news is more on the external characteristics of the privatization rather than the internal traits that are firmly related to the prisoners, staff, and the challenges of operational quality. Media portrays the prison privatization more negatively now than it ever did since its establishment almost two decades ago. On September 9th, 2016 marked the beginning of America’s most massive prison labor strike in history, but the mainstream media were reluctant to cover it. It is estimated that incarcerated workers from more than 40 facilities in twenty-four states participated in the strike. Mainstream media such as the New York Times, Washington Post, ABC News, NBC News, MSNBC, Fox News, NPR, and CNN all ignored to cover this historic demonstration. The reason behind them ignoring to include this landmark strike was primarily because many of the major corporate sponsors like Chevron, Bank of America, AT&T, McDonald’s, Walmart, and GEICO all employ the services of prison labor to their benefit (Martin, 2004). For example, a company such as Verizon uses the prison labor of its telecommunication services. Being the owners of Yahoo and The Huffington Post, it would not be in their best interest to partially fund the coverage of the demonstrations. It was impossible to gauge how far the strike had spread or its success because mainstream media was muted. A lot of women prisoners also participated especially those who were held at Central California Women’s Prison, Lincoln Correctional Center, and at the Merced Jail in California who either went on hunger strike or refused to work. Around 80,000 inmates work for the outside world of which sometimes these jobs are as a result of government contracts. Prisoners at times end up working for companies like Victoria’s Secret, Walmart, or Whole Foods. These workers are never protected by labor laws like other American employees, they lack access to workers compensation, get paid below the minimum wage, and are unable to form unions. Courts ruled that inmates are not entitled to labor protections as their relationship between prisons and inmates is not the same as that of an employer and employee.
Application of the Five Frames Dominated In Media
Applying the Five Frames Dominated in Media, it describes how media frames have led to the critiquing of labor actions and the support of capital action. Consumers are usually referred to as kings and are told they have a variety of choices yet they are only given a limited amount of choice. For example the media refusal to air the strike of the prison workers so the world could know their grievances. The process of production for the media is none of the public business as they put the interests of the sponsors before that of their consumers (Martin, 2004). Business leaders and entrepreneurs drive the economy that’s why the media prefers not to advertise the challenges of workers. Media also goes with the notion that workplace is a meritocracy whereby one gets what they deserve which means that prisoners deserve what they go through for being behind bars. They also believe that collective economic action is terrible whereby if they aired the strike some of the companies that are directly involved in the prison labor might lose their consumers as it would damage their image.
The privatization of prisons has resulted in financial gain for corporate sponsors enjoy these profits at the expense of mostly the Blacks and Hispanic men and women who were incarcerated instead of being rehabilitated. The protesting of injustices shaped the future of the United States as when one looks back at the history of the United States most of the progress can be related to demonstrations against segregation, the right of women to vote, against gay marriage and many other great movements. Media news outlets would not want to cover such a historical event because they would have to put the journalistic integrity before money and exploitation but it’s no secret that big corporations would never employ such a move.

Brynjolfsson, Erik and McAfee, Andrew (2014). “Chapter 9: The Spread.” In The Second  
Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies. New York: W.W. Norton.  
Martin, Christopher R. (2004). How Labour Gets Framed. In Framed!: Labor And The  
Corporate Media (pp. 1-20). Ithaca and London: ILR Press.  
Martin, Christopher R. (2004). Labour at the Millennium. In Framed!: Labor And The Corporate  
Media (pp. 21-43). Ithaca and London: ILR Press.  
Martin, Christopher R. (2004). The Consumer Media Emerges. In Framed!: Labor And The  
Corporate Media (pp. 44-71). Ithaca and London: ILR Press. 

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