What's Your Job Worth?
One Must Follow Legislation and The Money
From the American Legislative Exchange Council...
...All the way to your state and federal Legislator's pockets
By Bob Sloan
In today's news there is article after article describing the financial crunch being experienced by every state, local and municipal government in the US. The governing bodies are constantly searching for a way to cut expenditures and save tax dollars for important matters. Some of the first cuts being suggested and considered in most states are to Corrections budgets. Inmate education programs go first, recreational and vocational are next and substance abuse programs follow. This is being done nationwide as this is written. It is being done in the face of an ever-increasing prisoner population that continues to set records state by state. Other cuts, related to prisons are a reduction of janitorial, maintenance and grounds staffs of city, county and some state governments and government buildings and parks. These jobs were not eliminated, rather the private sector workers were laid off or terminated and replaced with state prison inmates. These inmates receive no pay for their labor but tax dollars paid for by those terminated pay for their continued incarceration. Seems to be something twisted and surreal about these circumstances and an exchange of jobs between convicted offenders and non-offenders.
Another recent incident in the news demonstrates the use of inmates in lieu of unemployed workers in the Gulf Coast region. The recent BP oil spill dumped millions of gallons of crude oil upon the beaches of several states along the Gulf. Instead of choosing to at least allow those who lost jobs or income due to the spill to help clean it up at a decent hourly wage, BP instead chose to use inmates in Louisiana and other states. No or low wages, no speaking with media by prisoners and no complaints could be made by those workers. Once assigned to this detail, prisoners who refused the assignment, lost gain time and face going back to maximum security prison facilities to finish their sentences. Our state prison administrations cooperated fully with BP, even going so far as to refuse to be interviewed by the media or provide any confirmation as to the use of their inmates for the cleanup work (clothing worn by these inmates with “prison labor” stencils on it, were exchanged for regular BP provided uniforms when questions began to surface. The media blackout, exchange of clothing and statements of “no comment” lead us to believe these participating agencies and corporations have to hide they are using prison labor. Could it be they think what they're doing might be considered illegal?
The above brings to the front one of the major problems in today's communities and American society overall – the ever-increasing tax dollars being spent on prisons and incarceration, while education spending gets fewer and fewer tax dollars. We are forsaking the education of our children in order to imprison more and more of our neighbors who are then put to work in your old job for considerably less than you were paid.
As prisons fill and become overcrowded, crime rates at all levels are dropping even as we experience a deep recession, high unemployment and a dwindling number of private sector jobs. One must wonder what is the reason for these increasing prison populations while crime rates are decreasing? How can this be? Could it be that prison industry and their partners need more and more workers? (The federal prison industry – UNICOR- employed 26,000 inmates in manufacturing until earlier this year when they were forced to cut back due to the recession and fewer orders).
A more important question is “why” is this phenomena happening? Money. Money and greed at the highest levels of our state and federal governments. Previously I've written extensively about the federal Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP) that is allowing the use of inmate labor to manufacture products now sold to us as consumers. In this article I'm going to address the reason this program has become so corrupt, identify some of the corporations, organizations and legislators involved as well as the reason for a lack of interest by the controlling US Government Agencies and Departments with oversight.
A good place to begin is the current immigration furor in Arizona. Governor Brewer signed SB 1070 – more commonly called the “Breathing While Brown” - into law. Governor Brewer has made statements to the effect that she must sign and put this law into effect to protect Arizona from the massive increase in illegal immigration from Mexico and other countries through Mexico, because the federal Government has failed to prevent border crossings. Opponents argue that it is a law that is blatantly discriminatory and designed to bring immigration to the table in the upcoming mid-term elections. Several states have begun to consider immigration legislation similar to Arizona's and from this, one would probably deduce that each of those states have independently considered the law and believe implementation of such legislation would help protect their residents from alien influx and a loss of jobs to those illegals.
However this is just not the case. The entire illegal alien issue now raising such cane in Arizona did not actually begin in Arizona. No, it began behind closed doors within the American Legislative Enterprise Council (ALEC). The concept was born there and ALEC looked for a likely place to put it to the test. Arizona was chosen due to the the placement of certain lobbyists (friendly to ALEC member Corrections Corporation of America) within the Governor's advisers and re-election campaign, the influence these individuals could wield with the Governor , and the fact that 35 members of the Arizona legislature are ALEC members. The actual job of introducing legislation was assigned to ALEC member, Arizona Senator Pearce. Pearce developed SB 1070 and a month or so prior to making his legislation proposal to the Arizona Senate, he took the proposed legislation back to ALEC for consideration, review and suggested amendments or tweaking.
One might think that proposed legislation is never conceived in such a manner, but you would be wrong. ALEC takes great pride in telling the world that because of their “model Legislation” activities, they were the driving force behind: truth in sentencing, three strikes, mandatory minimum sentencing, mandatory drug and other state enacted laws dealing with crime. In essence this “Council” of conservative politicians and like thinking corporate partners develop laws that would benefit their concepts and send their members back to their home states to encourage other legislators to support those laws at the state and federal levels.
Currently there are several corporations, organizations, associations and members of our state legislatures that have formed a close knit cabal to control prison industry manufacturing, guarantee laws to ensure a continued source of inmate workers and increased profits to participants. Important officials within various important federal governmental agencies and departments willingly cooperate with this cabal in an effort to deflect oversight and investigations away from their activities.
At the center of this clique of influential entities are the aforementioned ALEC and the National Correctional Industries Association (NCIA). Nothing could be accomplished without the assistance of both of these organizations and their members. One influences state and federal laws and legislation for the purpose of enacting actual laws favorable to their goals. The other is responsible for applying those laws in such a manner as to ensure the maximum profit to corporate participants in the private prison industrial complex while deflecting public and private investigations and reviews.
Who are the Corporations?
Corporations directly involved in prison industry by using inmate labor to make their products or provide their services are:
• Northern Telecom
• Pierre Cardin
• Texas Instruments
• Chevron, McDonalds
• United Vision Group
• Victoria's Secret
• US West
• Lucent Techhnologies
• Hewlett Packard
• Kaiser Steel
• J.C. Penny
• Hawaiian tropic
and a myriad assortment of other manufacturers. These entities are directly involved in using prison labor and manufacturing for profit. Most of them do this through sub-contractors or other companies so they have the ability to deny using inmate labor.
What is the NCIA?
It is exactly what the name implies – an association of those state prison industries, corporations, vendors and suppliers who participate in correctional industries nationwide. The NCIA Board of Directors and association membership is composed of employees, administrators and staff of the 42 participating state prison industry operations and representatives of those corporations or companies who provide materials and shipping services to those industries. In essence a group of individuals, corporations and state facilities joined at the hip for the purpose of making money and doing it through unfair competition against private sector manufacturers or companies who make the same or similar products. They oversee their own operations and are responsible for seeing that they are in compliance with state and federal programs. The NCIA holds annual “conferences” (last year in Cincinnati, Ohio) where products and services are displayed and seminars are attended by members and those interested in joining the NCIA or partnering with a prison industry. Other peripheral vendors set up shop at these conferences to sell wares to the various prison industries. Prison made products are donated to the NCIA – printing of annual reports, pamphlets, furniture and furnishings for the NCIA offices. The entire Board of Directors of the NCIA are authorities within the participating prison industries, the federal Bureau of Prisons and private sector corporate members see: http://www.nationalcia.org/?page_id=12 for a listing of those Board members and whom they
The NCIA was chosen by the Department of Justice and Bureau of Justice Assistance to oversee the PIECP program. They perform all those duties previously held by the BJA – and do so under a substantial tax payer grant from the DOJ, so you pay for this “oversight”. This choice by the BJA and DOJ allows participants to oversee themselves without further government oversight or influence. The participating corporations mentioned above are represented both by the state prison industry where their products are manufactured as well as the suppliers of materials for that production and the legislative members (ALEC) of state and federal governments.
Complaints and allegations of non-compliance by PIECP participating prison industries and/or their private sector corporate partners sent to the DOJ, OJP or BJA are referred to the NCIA for investigation and response. The NCIA fails to do either and the government departments and officials complained to, refuse to force an investigation or response from the NCIA. Business continues as usual without government interference.
What is the American Legislative Exchange Council?
ALEC is a group of mostly conservative state and federal legislators who make up – by their own admission – 1/3 of all elected state Senators and Representatives nationwide. ALEC has nine (9) “Task Forces” to address and propose state and federal legislation beneficial to their Council and supporters of ALEC. To research ALEC go to: http://www.alec.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Log_in and start there.
ALEC has a Private Enterprises Board that consists of members that represent:
• Correction Corporation of America
• Geo Group
• GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals
• AT&T Services
• Bayer Corporation
• American Bail Corporation
• Centerpoint 360
• Energy Future Holdings
• Johnson and Johnson
• Kraft Foods
• Coca-Cola Corporation
• Pfizer Pharmaceuticals
• Peabody Energy
• Koch Industries
• Exxon Mobil
• Reynolds American, Inc.
• Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
• Salt River Project
• State Farm Insurance
• Altria Client Services, Inc.
ALEC claims responsibility for the enactment of laws that limit gain time or good time credits for prisoners, extending their sentences to as much as 85% of the entire sentence. They currently have proposed legislation in each of their nine task forces that represent the interests of their Private Corporate partners, such as CCA and Geo Group. These “legislative proposals” are listed at their site under “Model Legislation” but most are only accessible by ALEC members.
Relationship between Brewer, CCA and ALEC
In the instant situation in Arizona it is important to remember Senator Pearce presented his draft of the proposed legislation to ALEC first and that ALEC is funded in part by CCA, CCA's annual membership fees, Geo Group and their annual membership fees as well as the above listed other corporate partners.
Over the past few days it has been reported that Governor Brewer's deputy chief of staff, Paul Senseman was a lobbyist for CCA and his wife is still lobbying for CCA through the same agency Senseman previously worked with. Brewer's Policy Adviser and Campaign Manager, Chuck Coughlin is President of HighGround Public Affairs Consultants which lobbies for CCA. CCA currently has an ironclad grip on the Arizona and federal private prison contracts to house illegal immigrants as well as other state and federal inmates.
With the passing of SB 1070 CCA is positioned to see a spike in their revenue from housing all of the immigrants picked up under the new law in Arizona. ALEC members have taken Pearce's ALEC proposed legislation and run with it to each individual state legislative body in an effort to expand acceptance and implementation of the Arizona Breathing While Brown law to all the other states. This has resulted in similar legislative consideration in Tennessee, Indiana, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode island, South Carolina, Texas and Utah(see: http://www.againstamnesty.com/event_locations.html).
An interesting link between all of these states, ALEC, CCA and the proposed legislation is William Gheen of ALIPAC. He is the listed “organizer” supporting these legislative proposals in each of the foregoing states. He is very protective of CCA and that corporation's interests as evidenced by his recent objections when President Obama announced humane treatment for all immigrant detainees. CCA has nine (9) facilities that house illegal immigrants see:
http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?=cache:c4Nnr3132gYJ:immigrationclearinghouse.org/alipac-president-william-gheen-denounceshumane-treatment-for-detainees/+%22William+Gheen+%2B+CCA%22&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us and the President's order immediately affected CCA.
Through coordinated efforts SB 1070 has been supported and funded by CCA at several levels – lobbying Arizona law makers, to other states through ALEC members and directly to Governor Jan Brewer through her close ties to lobbyist Coughlin and past lobbyist Senseman and his lobbying wife. It has been supported and funded by the Corporations mentioned above - involved in ALEC. SB 1070 rhetoric and support has now spread nationwide like a hardy infection. Proponents spread the word through disinformation and misleading facts and statistics. An example of this is a current statistic in Arizona that informs that the number of arrests and detention of illegal immigrants is down by more than 40% while proponents claim illegal alien immigration is on the rise – along with Arizona's crime rate. They now talk of drug cartels beheading citizens to frighten both citizens of Arizona and visitors to that state.
Completing the Puzzle – Why?
Jobs, corporate profits and greed. Private sector jobs are disappearing quicker than I-Phones when they first came out. Corporations have been sending jobs overseas for more than a decade and a half now. Those jobs they can't send to Mexico, India, China or other third world countries with low wages and therefore must be kept here in the US due to logistics, transportation or shipping costs, are going to prison. Literally.
As the recession deepened and our economy tanked, US Corporations were one step ahead of the curve. They were already involved in using inmates to manufacture their products and provide their services. Their support of laws such as SB 1070 in Arizona, truth in sentencing, three strikes,mandatory minimums, guaranteed a steady supply of captive workers for the prison industries that make their products. When it became apparent that more and more US workers were loosing their jobs, PIECP participating corporations moved more and more manufacturing operations behind prison fences where wages are next to nothing, facility leases are also next to nothing ($1.00 per year in most cases) and the corporations did not have to pay for benefits such as insurance, vacation pay, maternal leaves or unemployment insurance premiums.
Members of ALEC and other similar organizations like the Association of Private Correctional & Treatment Organizations (APCTO ) and the National Correctional Industries Association (NCIA) make sure their corporate contributors and partners receive the benefits of legislation regarding privately owned prison and prison industry operations. CCA is the number one private prison operations corporation in the US. Geo Group is number two. Both own or manage prison facilities with prison industrial manufacturing operations on site. Both have links to and use PIECP industries to increase profits for the corporations and their participating private manufacturer partners.
To make prison industry work in a manner to allow the most profit, it is important to keep inmate worker's wages as low as possible and keep actual manufacturing costs down. To accomplish this, it is necessary to avoid the “prevailing wage” requirement of PIECP by substituting minimum wage scales or lower. In addition oversight of the program has to be limited and any complaints of noncompliance must be diverted.
If the foregoing machinations are to function properly it is important to influence those Governmental Agencies and Departments which oversee PIECP and the public and private participants in the program. To this end the Department of Justice and Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) had to be convinced or coerced to turn a blind eye upon the PIE Certification Program. They accomplished this by assigning oversight of the program to the NCIA in 1995. All compliance reviews and investigations are now handled by this association rather than the BJA or DOJ. This allows the prison industries and their corporate participants to operate freely without interference from the state or federal governments. They violate the program on a daily basis without any governmental control or supervision. In this manner large US corporations are able to amass huge profits. Money they then disperse as campaign contributions to law makers or donations to organizations such as ALEC, NCIA and APCTO to assure continued dominance in their particular markets or fields of manufacture. This keeps the wheels greased and the money flowing in waves.
With the near collapse of Wall Street, the automotive industry, housing, and loss of jobs our country is mired in financial and employment problems. Banks, and Wall Street were bailed out with taxpayer dollars – yet are unwilling to put that money to work creating jobs and promoting manufacturing. GM and Chrysler received bailouts and instead of hoarding the money, used it to create or keep as many as 55,000 jobs in Michigan. Big bank and investment corporations are investing our money in lobbying our Congressional and Senatorial members to keep them from voting for any legislation that would keep them from doing it all over again. Corporations now have too much influence in our government, laws, legislation, work force and financial interests. They are not individual citizens, yet our Supreme Court now rules they can do what they want with their funds to influence our elections – for their benefit.
The immigration law in Arizona is only a sample of the efforts the cabal will put into an issue – not as a real community matter – in an effort to profit from the near hysteria they deliberately instill through a dedicated media marketing campaign(s). If the corporations make more money, the lobbyists make more, organizations like ALEC receive more in funding and support to advance more of their agenda(s). Campaign contributions enlist more legislators and thus the cabal gains more influence and power. Increased profits allow for more advertising and scare campaigns on imaginary threats to generate more laws, stiffer penalties and the increased need for prisons and prison industries. Prison industries in turn, have more inmates to put to work manufacturing products to make the corporations more and more money and the cycle continues – with private sector jobs falling like dominoes. While we labor daily to find work, feed our families and make our car and mortgage payments, the fat corporations get fatter and simply tell us to try harder to find a new job.
The training of inmates to reduce recidivism through PIECP is the goal of that program and was the legislative intent behind enacting it. However, training of inmates to instill work ethics, knowledge and skills to make them better able to earn a living when released is a joke. There are no jobs for them on the outside. The jobs they've been trained for have all been moved behind prison fences and in order for them to work at their trained occupations they must commit more crimes and go back inside. With the millions of non-offenders already on unemployment rolls, how are exoffenders to get employment? Where will they work to earn a living to keep out of prison again? They can't – don't listen to the rhetoric about re-entry programs and how well they work – it is an impossible situation for ex-cons and the corporations and likes of ALEC not only know that, they depend on it so the ex-offender will soon re-offend and return to the factory.
Corporate investments to influence state and federal laws pertaining to prison labor and the overall private prison industrial complex involves: lobbying, funding organizations such as ALEC and purported “studies” made by the likes of the Reason Foundation and John Thomas – a University of Florida professor that produced research favorable to the private prison industry in the mid 1990's, while he sat on the board of Prison Realty Trust (operated by or a spin-off of CCA. Thomas was later forced to resign and fined $20,000 for his duplicity).
This cabal is a cyclic program that takes more and more jobs from the private sector and replaces those workers with inmates at seriously reduced wages. The profits made from this are then reinvested in lobbying for more laws, more arrests and stiffer sentences, building of more prisons and detention facilities. This money is also put to work through campaign contributions to impact legislation such as SB 1070 in Arizona and other states represented by the members of ALEC in an effort to fill the beds owned by members/supporters CCA and Geo Group – amongst other private prison operating corporations.
At the peak of all the machinations, PIECP, prison labor, prison labor partnerships and the private corporate profits from the program are the US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs and the Bureau of Justice Assistance. These agencies bear responsibility for the operation of PIECP and compliance with the program guidelines. They serve as the buffer between corporate interests and maintaining compliance with the prison labor program operating under their authority. By outsourcing that responsibility to the NCIA these agencies have effectively turned their collective heads so they can effectively assert plausible deniability when the corruption is discovered.
Other US Governmental agencies and departments have also fallen victim to the actions of those in authority within the DOJ and BJA. Investigations by the USDA and FSIS have been compromised due to the corruption within PIECP operations and the DOJ and BJA's refusal to force compliance by a Florida prison industry operation.
So if/when your job disappears and you are unemployed with few prospects for obtaining other employment, you can thank all of those corporations, legislators and organizations mentioned in this article. They are all busy working to take your job and give it to an inmate worker so their supporters and members can make even more money. While they're at it, these same people – especially the elected legislative members of your state and federal government – are also working to deny or extend unemployment benefits to those of you who have already been displaced by prison labor.
A terrible side-effect to all of this is the United States' loss of much of our manufacturing and the ability to compete with third world industries that now have the ability to out-produce our nation because most of our technologies and manufacturing expertise and funding has been sent there by greedy corporations that would rather make a dollar than see our country strong and competitive with a similarly strong private work force.
You now know where your jobs have gone, who the responsible parties are and how they've managed to accomplish all of this. You know which corporations are using prison labor to increase profits and deny you a fair wage at a good job. Do you keep buying their products and using the services of the likes of AT&T (using prison labor and sitting on ALEC Board)? Will you still be influenced by the slick TV ads for the likes of GlaxoSmithKline, Lilly or Pfizer and ask your doctor to prescribe their latest pill? You know which of your Representatives and Senators are playing ball with these corporations and belong to ALEC and other organizations that do not have your best interests in mind. Will you continue to vote for them?
If you answered no to these questions start writing letters and sending emails to your elected representatives. Speak out about the corporations involved – or at least question them about their activities and involvement with prison industry and the likes of ALEC. Develop boycotts of products made with prison labor by these corporations and urge others to join you in demonstrating in front of office of these corporations. Lastly, get the word out to friends and family – let them know that unless we, as a society stand up for our right to work and thus support our families, the future holds only more of the same.
If you answered yes to any of the foregoing questions posed...you're part of the problem.