Tag Archive: prison labor

California Tells Court It Can’t Release Inmates Early Because It Would Lose Cheap Prison Labor

jailbreak!From Think Progress/ by Nicole Flatow

Out of California’s years-long litigation over reducing the population of prisons deemed unconstitutionally overcrowded by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010, another obstacle to addressing the U.S. epidemic of mass incarceration has emerged: The utility of cheap prison labor.

In recent filings, lawyers for the state have resisted court orders that they expand parole programs, reasoning not that releasing inmates early is logistically impossible or would threaten public safety, but instead that prisons won’t have enough minimum security inmates left to perform inmate jobs.

The dispute culminated Friday, when a three-judge federal panel ordered California to expand an early parole program. California now has no choice but to broaden a program known as 2-for-1 credits that gives inmates who meet certain milestones the opportunity to have their sentences reduced. But California’s objections raise troubling questions about whether prison labor creates perverse incentives to keep inmates in prison even when they don’t need to be there. (more…)

On the Alabama Prison Labor Strike: Repression of a Movement and It’s Aftermath

WMRWCCAerial1WebAs most readers of this newsletter know, in January 2014 prisoners in Alabama went on work strike. This work strike was called for by the Free Alabama Movement (FAM), and began on January 1st and ended on January 15th, 2014. The strike was ended because the message was given that our free world supporters (ACLU, the Ordinary People Society, etc.) were in negotiation with State legislators and that these same legislators had committed to addressing the issues put forth by FAM that prompted the strike.

Then on January 15th, a special session of the Alabama legislature was called that was supposed to address these issues, and the free world supporters asked that the strike be suspended until the end of the session. The FAM in turn asked the striking prisoners to stand down. On the 15th we suspended the strike and the legislators put our issues on the back burner until a later unknown date. (more…)

Prison labor’s new frontier: Artisanal foods

Colorado inmates milk cows at a CCI facility.

Colorado inmates milk cows at a CCI facility.

It ain’t just license plates anymore. Inmates are making a surprising array of products for small businesses. You can even find some in your local Whole Foods.

From Corporate Media

Some years back, a small Colorado goat-cheese maker called Haystack Mountain faced its version of a classic growth challenge: National demand was growing for its chèvres and other cheeses, and the company was struggling to find enough local goat farmers to produce milk. The solution came from a surprising source: Colorado Corrections Industries (CCI). Today six inmates milk 1,000 goats twice a day on a prison-run farm. After non-inmate employees cultivate the cheese at a company facility, it’s sold in Whole Foods WFM -0.50% outlets, among other stores.

Prison labor has gone artisanal. Sure, plenty of inmates still churn out government office furniture and the like, and incarcerated workers have occasionally been used by large companies since the late 1970s. Nationwide 63,032 inmates produce more than $2 billion worth of products a year, most of them sold to government entities.

But in recent years a new wave has begun, driven primarily by small businesses that need workers for boutique-size production. These days inmates can be found making everything from redwood canoes to specialty motorcycles, fishing poles, and saddles. They produce apple juice, raise tilapia, milk cows and goats, grow flowers, and manage vineyards. (more…)