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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The True Costs of Incarceration
Taxpayer Funding
Building Prisons -
In todays USA billions of tax dollars are being spent building more and more state prison facilities, federal detention centers and prison work camps. We as a society fund the development and construction of these facilities because we're told by "experts" in the field of corrections and lawmakers that this is necessary to protect us from the rising crime rates across the country. The fact that this is untrue, with all categories of crime diminishing over the past decade and a half, does not deter proponents from denying this fact and pushing for more housing for offenders.
Some prison facilities are being built by private corporations such as Corrections Corporation of America and Geo Group - formerly Wackenhut - Cornell Corrections and MTC. In their cases they entice communities to fund building of their prisons through bonds and other investment opportunities, promising great returns. Some of these "private" facilities are now standing vacant, with skeleton crews maintaining the prisons until inmates can be found to house there.
In each case - federal, state or private - prisons are continuously being built at huge expense to society. We either pay for it through tax allocations or risk our earnings through the purchase of bonds in hopes of earning a return on our investments in housing of criminals.
This is not the entire expense associated with prisons and prison industry borne by taxpayers. No this is simply the beginning of the process that eventually will more than triple the costs to society. In addition to the building there is the operational expenses with staffing each facility, feeding inmates, transporting inmates from prison to prison, providing medical and health care to those inmates, mental health programs, and of course, prison industry operations. This latter issue of prison industries is one that most prison operators would argue costs the taxpayers nothing to operate, but that is not factual, as I'll demonstrate later on.
Re-Entry Programs -
Just as taxpayers are funding the construction and operation of more prisons, they are also funding re-entry programs - whether they know it or not. The US Department of Justice for fiscal year 2010 is allocating $114 million tax dollars for prisoner reentry program grants. In addition the Recovery Act has set aside $4 billion dollars for the states. Much of this huge lump sum of tax dollars is earmarked for corrections, crime and associated fields. This kind of tax allocations for reentry programs has occurred over and over again for years. Billions spent on reentry, yet our recidivism rates continue to climb and prison populations grow annually. These dollars are your dollars. Earned by you and provided to the government by way of taxes. As a tax payer I don't believe I'm getting my money's worth.
Prison Industries -
"We're self-sufficient and receive no funding of tax dollars to sustain our operations," is a favorite claim made by prison industry administrators. It sounds too good to be true...and as is often the case, it is not factual. While prison industries operate in such a manner that the sale of prisoner made products covers their overhead and allows a profit, they are not operating without tax dollar support. There are minor costs where tax dollars are used, such as when a prison industry operation has need for an experienced welder. If/when an inmate with the experience and skills sought by the prison industry is found at another institution or facility, that inmate or inmates are transferred to the facility where they are needed. This secure and thus expensive transportation is a cost that is paid for with tax dollars. In Florida alone, dozens of these facility to facility transfers are accomplished yearly.
A larger consumption of tax dollars is simply the cost of housing, medical care, feeding and custody costs of those inmates working within the prison industries. Sure, they work 5 to 8 hours per day, 5 days a week for the industry but you bear the cost of feeding those inmates while on the job. In some industries food is prepared and brought to the inmate work force where they're working. This requires escort by prison staff - at a cost not related to or paid for by the industry. Your tax dollars pay the wages of custodial staff who are assigned to maintain security within the prison factories and for staff to count the number of inmates at the prescribed times. Inmate counts taken at shift change are problematic and can be costly due to the prison industry operation. If a mis-count at the factory results in one or more recounts, the on-duty shift officers must remain at their posts until the count is finally cleared and the on-coming shift assumes their assigned duties. The recounts result in overtime being paid to those officers who were required to remain after shift end. This expenditure of overtime is not paid for by the prison industry, it's paid for by you, the taxpayer.
Another fictional claim by prison administrators is that participation in industry training operations under federal PIECP results in wage deductions from inmate pay to offset the cost of incarceration borne by the taxpayers. This is reported time and again as justification for continuing prison industry operations as a claim of savings to the state and taxpayers. An example of just how inaccurate this claim is you only have to look to Florida where PRIDE proudly informs the public that 40% of all money earned by the inmate is taken out of their checks and given to the FDOC to offset the cost of incarceration. This "room and board" deduction is authorized under PIECP through 18 USC 1761(c). The intent of the deduction is to do what PRIDE and other industries claim they're doing - helping to pay the costs associated with imprisonment. This is untrue in Florida, and possibly other state prison industry operations. The real truth to this issue is that in Florida the money authorized to be deducted from inmate wages is not paid into the hands of the FDOC to offset operations costs. No, it is put into a Prison Industry Trust Fund established by Fl. Statute 946.522 Prison Industries Trust Fund.— Once received into the fund the deductions from inmate wages are then taken back out by PRIDE and used by the corporation to offset their PIECP operating expenses. So none of the funds taken out of inmate earnings are or have been used to reimburse taxpayer funding for incarceration costs. Instead it is being used to offset industry expenses and this translates into profits to PRIDE. To date in Florida this diversion of funds earmarked for offsetting prison operation costs exceeds $3.5 million dollars and counting. This manipulation results in the necessity of appropriations of tax dollars to offset this loss to the FDOC.

Profits made by the prison industries under PIECP and normal product sales does not go into the state general revenue fund. In most cases that money is kept by the prison industry and used for R&D, equipment upgrading, staff salaries and other costs associated with prison industry. They claim to be self-sufficient, not that they share profits with taxpayers.
Double Dipping -
This is a procedure I believe to be the most onerous of them all. Corrections staff who complete enough time on the job to qualify for retirement and a state pension from the DOC are allowed to retire with huge benefits provided by the taxpayers. Staff with an average annual salary of $70,000.00 - due to tenure, length of service and rank acquisition - can retire with an annual pension of more than 60% of their gross salary, or approximately $42,000.00 per year. In many cases this is not the end of their employment with the DOC. After a required amount of time "retired" (usually as little as 3 to 6 moths) these individuals are rehired by the DOC and go back to work at the same pay grade and rank that they held upon retirement. This allows these double dippers to not only receive their monthly pension payments, but full salary of around $70,000.00 in addition. The same job where they earned $70K a year now pays them over $110K. Same job, same staff member, but taxpayers now pay him/her an extra $42K a year.
With the starting wage for a COI now hovering around $36,000 per year, it is easy to understand the impact on taxpayers for allowance of this kind of personnel manipulation.
Proponents of this procedure claim that the experience and knowledge held by those who take advantage of this double dip system is needed for the security and smooth operation of the prison facility. This forces us to question whether the training provided to staff during their tenure is working to our advantage or not. I mean, if this kind of thing is necessary how are other staff members with less knowledge and training ever going to receive promotions to take the place of those who retire? They can and await their turn in the barrel to follow suit, retire and be rehired to earn more money like their predecessors did.
This procedure does nothing more than require an annual increase in funding of tax dollars to keep the status quo of those long time DOC employees and "reward" them by their receiving pensions and a substantial annual salary, for no more work then they were performing prior to retirement. An additional fact that can't be denied, is that DOC staff who retire are in worse physical condition than the younger staff members. They are mostly out of shape and of an age that quick responses and reactions to situations reduces their ability to respond to an emergency situation in a timely and efficient manner. Not only are they being overpaid, but they're efficiency is not up to the standards required for working inside a prison facility.
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The national drop in crime rates are offset by state and federal laws that now require inmates to serve as much as 85% of their sentences, put in place mandatory minimum sentences for drug and gun possession and use, truth in sentencing and similar laws that have been enacted over the past two or three decades. Each of these laws were designed with one purpose in mind - create the need for more prisons, more staffing and a way to keep beds full for the longest possible time. I know, you want to respond with: "but we were told it was necessary to protect us from escalating criminal acts". Not so. The Bureau of Justice Statistics is a pretty well informed agency that keeps tracks of crime and crime rates, and they disagree with the claims of increasing crime and crime rates. It is just not so.
Why are we being misled and to what purpose? Simply put it is for profits to private US Corporations. I mean, after all the state has no interest or desire to house more and more offenders and provide them with longer sentences, in the face of diminishing crime rates. Their purpose is to rehabilitate offenders and release them back into their communities as productive citizens. Warehousing offenders without any attempt at rehabilitation is simply too damn costly and disrupts state budgeting - and serves no real social or community purpose. No, this is being done by corporations and their lobbyists through conduits into state Legislatures through outfits such as ALEC that I've mentioned previously.
To them warehousing of prisoners is a money making enterprise and they just can't get enough of them. With each new inmate entering the prison gate of privately owned or operated facilities,these corporations hear the melodious cha-ching of money flowing into their left pockets. Using inmates in their prison industry operations causes another cha-ching of money flowing into their right pockets.
Government subsidies for incarceration are paid through tax dollars, period. The states pay these corporate interests, but it is with the money taken out of your paychecks in the form of taxes. Federal detainees are another "product" for these private prison corporations. A louder cha-ching is heard with each one brought to a detention facility. Ahhhh...enter SB 1070 in Arizona where CCA has been losing money due to a drop in immigration apprehensions. Something was needed to boost apprehensions and fill the beds - wallah a new state Immigration Law!
All of us read the paper, listen to the news or watch it on TV. We know that with the economy in the situation it's been in for the past 18 months, money is tight from coast to coast and every facet of business and social programming are feeling the squeeze. Everything except the prison industrial complex, which is booming and expanding like never before, as we continue to flood their facilities with more and more of our neighbors, friends and family members.
Jobs are disappearing like never before. Along with their homes, cars and material possessions are are also disappearing at an alarming rate. In some cases this results in law abiding citizens turning to some form of illegal activity - drug dealing, stealing, fraud and other criminal acts - to put food on the table for their families. Sure, they all tried unemployment and other social programs to make ends meet and provide for their families, but the jobs just haven't materialized and their benefits have run out. Kids have to eat, there has to be money for heating and transportation, schooling and medical care. So it's no surprise that some have found it necessary to break the law to simply survive.
Once that step is taken those who engineered or helped our economy to collapse - and profit from the outcome - smile serenly as they await the arrival of each new "inmate" and the accompanying cha-ching, cha-ching's.
Now we as tax payers are footing the damn bill for apprehension, prosecution and incarceration of our community law breakers. Some percentage of those funds should be going toward reducing the prison inmate populations, rehabilitation and other programs to alleviate the burden placed upon us for this continuing revolving door policy. But those funds are going right along with the rest of our tax money into the left and right pockets of the profiteers.
Think for a moment about prison and think back to the articles and shows highlighting what impact our economy has had on prison facilities. As usual, the current situation demanded cuts in Corrections appropriations (your tax dollars). First to go were basic and secondary education programs funded with tax dollars to educate prisoners while in prison to provide an opportunity for them to become better able to be employed upon release. Second to go were the substance abuse and similar programs funded by tax dollars. Next went vocational and other training programs funded with tax dollars (they left prison industry operations in place though). Next several states took the unprededented step of deciding the inmates received too many calories in their diets, so 2800 to 3200 per diem diets were cut back to 1800 to 2200 calories per day (hell we pay for their food, we ought to be able to determine what they get and how much of it, right)? Now the daily caloric intake consists mainly of items such as meat substitutes consisting of soy and soy byproducts, all but eliminating most meats and natural proteins.
With all the foregoing programs and benefits eliminated and diets cut back you'd think us tax payers would be saving a bundle of money, right? Uh, no. You see we allowed widespread privatization of all things "prison" over the past thirty years - mostly during the era of Bush as Governor of Texas, and Jeb Bush in Florida, then George W. as President. Everything that could possibly be turned over to private corporations were gladly given to them with the blessings of our state governments and without any real interst on our parts. This privatization means prison healthcare is now private and provided by companies like Prison Health Services. Food is "catered" by DOC contracts with the likes of Aramark and Trinity Food Service. Profits from the sale of hygiene and food items no longer go into the general revenue funds, instead they are received by companies like Keefe Commissary Network where prison canteen operations were privatized and sold. Inmate housing has become more and more dependent upon private prison corporations, so if there are any savings to be had from reducing programs - or diets - to the inmates, it goes to those private corporations. Something as simple and everyday as phone calls from prison have also been privatized, with phone services provided at exorbitant rates by AT&T, MCI and comparable private corporations. In Florida in 2005 the DOC received 53% $18 million dollars) of all profit made under their phone contract with MCI.That figure represents the increased costs borne by family and friends of prisoners. They were forced to pay those rates or lose contact with fathers, sons, brothers, sisters and mothers.
So no, the cost of incarceration doesn't decline, in fact it is increasing even while crime rates continue to decline. Profits are set and margins must be maintained. If these corporations are to make profits and pay ever-increasing dividends to their investors, the money has to come from somewhere...and the taxpayer's pockets fill the bill nicely.
What does all this mean? It means we're not getting our money's worth. Funding for those programs research has shown us works to reduce recidivism - education, training and substance abuse - have been diverted to paying the corporations for merely housing and feeding inmate populations. Rehabilitation is no more. You commit a crime, you go to jail, then prison and work for a corporation, get released without any money, training or education and then reoffend and go back to prison and your old job. This cycle repeats over and over tens of thousands of times per month across our country. Double dippers, corporations and their investors and the lawmakers in the pockets of both reap the benefits.
I suggest it's time that we really evaluate the cost of prison and demand that the tax dollars that we provide are used for something other than fattening up semi-retired corrections officials and corporations and campaign contributions to lawmakers. Money needs to be used to prevent crime, reduce recidivism and turn the lives of offenders around and provide them with an opportunity to become a supporter within their communities instead of a pariah upon them. Let's face it, the system is broken and does not work as it is now operated. The millions and millions of tax dollars now being used for all forms of incarceration are dollars diverted from education and healthcare programs in every state. The amount of funding for prisons exceeds the expenditures for education and healthcare in almost every state.
To continue to defund education in order to pay for the housing of more than two million of our citizens - with no hope of that ever turning around - is simply non-productive and a waste of our money and resources. Similarly we yell and scream about healthcare and how we're supposed to pay for it, while we continue to use that money to warehouse criminals.
Unless and until we make a conscious decision to attack crime and recidivism head on by educating those offenders without an education and providing programs to reduce dependence upon drugs and alcohol - in place of incarceration - and really address the mental health issues suffered by millions (instead of simply sending them to prison to get them off the streets) we will continue to spend billions with no return on our investment(s). If prisoners go to prison and are released with the same addictions, education and behavior that put them there in the first place, what has been accomplished? Nothing but the rest of us footing the bill for their housing, food and care for whatever term of imprisonment handed out.
I say it's time to take private corporations and their ilk off society's tit. Let us invest instead in programs and actions that really reduce crime and incarceration instead of encouraging it by continuing to fund non-productive systems and programs that simply increase the costs without providing a resolution or single benefit in exchange for our funding. In the face of articles warning us about the need for more prisons and tax dollars to pay for them, do you feel safer in your home? Or at work? Are you confident enough of our criminal justice system and prisons to allow your children to play in the street in the evening, or walk to and from the store around the corner now? No, and that's a direct result of allowing this problem to continue as is. In order to actually be safer in your home or office, it's necessary to correct the behavior of those who you perceive as a threat. That cannot and is not being done currently with warehousing of those who commit a crime. Instead our tax dollars should go toward eliminating the drug dependency that caused the behavior in the first place, or to get the perpetrator off of days filled with alcohol consumption that led to domestic violence. Those who are just not educated enough to avoid doing something stupid, need education instead of imprisonment.
Once we change direction and put those millions of tax dollars to use preventing crime and prison sentences and identifying and then addressing the causes of such behavior, we'll all be safer, more at ease and have more money in our collective pockets. Corporations now profiting from incarceration and prison labor can go someplace else to find their "gold at the end of the rainbow..."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Corporations, Prisons and Politics
Think You're Not Affected? Read Below and Think Again...
By Bob Sloan(C) 2010

After more than seven years of research into state prison industry operations, inmate wages, sales and laws pertaining to these facilities, I have discovered certain troubling facts that have little to do with prison labor. Corporations have found a way around controlling federal laws to increase sales, reduce wages and thus increase profits. For my blog, this is the same old grist I’ve expressed before but I urge you to read on and become worried about our future as a country and a society.
By removing the fa├žade of prison industries and labor, layer by layer I discovered how programs such as PIECP and concurrent state programs and laws came into being. I learned how they work, why they work and those responsible for all of it. PIECP has become an often used corporate tool to reduce private sector jobs and force a reduction in hourly wage to those few jobs that remain outside prison fences.



Thousands of private sector jobs have virtually disappeared over the past two decades. At first the loss to the private sector was negligible, and then more and more became unemployed as manufacturing jobs simply were no longer available. Service jobs began to follow suit with call and service center positions also disappearing. Media reports informed us that the lost jobs were going overseas or moving to Mexico. Elected officials claimed they were doing all they could to stem this continuous flow of jobs “offshore”. What the corporations and politicians did not tell us was that an increasing percentage of manufacturing and other jobs were going to prison, literally and they were not working to stem the flow of jobs to other countries – just the opposite.

In order to fully understand how this is happening and why, I began following every link available to me. I perused links on inmate wages, PIECP, private sector job losses, laws and ordinances pertaining to prison industry, private prison operations and corporate activity involving prison labor.

What I discovered has scared the hell out of me and I’m assuming it will have the same effect upon others in our society – once you become aware of how critical the problems really are and the process and procedures that work against each of us as we seek employment. In order to be competitive in the jobs market, one must be informed. You have to know what you’re up against in this competitive endeavor. To this point, we are all only half informed.
To become fully informed we must travel back three decades and look to where the path our society is on became altered. I’ll try and put my findings in order and proper perspective and explain my findings in layman terms that are easier to comprehend than the words spoken by some of our politicians on these issues.

A few basic concepts must be explained before we begin this sad journey.

· Corporations generally have one priority – profits.
· Politicians have one primary priority – election and re-election.
· Corporations – despite the recent Supreme Court ruling on campaign contributions and funding elections – are not individuals.
· The line between Corporations and Politicians is distinct and until the late 70’s separated the two.
· Our governments, federal, state and local, are made up of individuals we elect to office and others those public representatives appoint to work on behalf of society.
· A distinction must be maintained between politicians, individuals, corporations and society as a whole. When those lines begin to blur the needs of individuals decrease as the wants and desires of corporations and politicians increase exponentially. A gap is formed and widens as society’s rights and needs are abridged in favor of corporations and those politicians they support – and are supported in return.
· The public can be supportive of an agenda that benefits corporations and has a negative impact on society, if they are falsely informed that such an agenda is necessary to protect them from some evil or disaster.

In the late 70’s our government was just getting over the Vietnam War. Millions and millions had been spent on that failed effort. During the war years our military industrial complex worked around the clock making the tools of war while hundreds of thousands of our young men fought overseas. Corporations had fewer young men to draw upon for their labor needs.

One way to keep labor needs filled was the creation of the Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP). This program allowed private corporations to partner with prison industries and use inmate labor in place of private sector labor. The program was designed to “assist” manufacturers by allowing them to supplement their existing “free” labor force with inmates to keep up production. While PIECP required corporations to maintain their private sector employees and not reduce their wages or benefits, corporate owners ignored this provision. Private sector manufacturing plants were closed, the workers laid off or terminated as operations moved entirely behind prison fences, exclusively using inmates for labor. At the same time ways were found around PIECP’s mandatory prevailing wage requirement and by this, inmate workers received minimum wage scale for their efforts. In addition the prisoners received no medical or other benefits and employers were not required to pay unemployment insurance (this benefit was originally required but later legislation dropped it) on them. Prisoners were required to show up for work on time, had no paid vacations or other time off.

With a taste of increased profits from using cheaper inmate labor, corporate owners expanded operations, sometimes having more than one industrial facility in operation at a time. Many prison industries opened their own operations, making and selling many products without partnering with private corporations. They found through a loop hole that markets previously unavailable to them had opened under PIECP (in Florida alone, PRIDE operates more than a dozen individual PIECP operations throughout the state). Additionally corporations sought a way to move other manufacturing and industrial facilities to Mexico, India and China to capitalize from lower wages paid to workers there and to avoid paying higher US taxes.

Corporations wanted more factories and more profits – enter the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Alec began in 1973 and was little more than what is now referred to as a Political Action Committee (PAC) but by 1980 they had grown by leaps and bounds. Their membership was a mix of 2000 (1/3 of all state lawmakers nationwide) mostly conservative state Legislators and 200 or more US Corporations. ALEC’s primary mission was to bring together corporations and lawmakers in an effort of developing proposed state legislation that benefited the corporations. This was accomplished through a duality: Board of Directors (see: http://www.alec.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Board_of_Directors&Template=/CM/HTMLDisplay.cfm&ContentID=11888) composed of lawmakers from each state and a Private Enterprise Board (see: http://www.alec.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Private_Enterprise_Board&Template=/CM/HTMLDisplay.cfm&ContentID=13256) composed of ALEC’s corporate representatives. These two boards meet jointly and develop what is termed “Model Legislation” (see: http://www.alec.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Model_Legislation1), proposed laws the corporation wants put in place. The two Boards receive advice and other support from a third “Board” – a Board of Scholars (see: http://www.alec.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Board_of_Scholars&Template=/CM/HTMLDisplay.cfm&ContentID=11486 for a listing of these individuals and the firms or entities they represent). These scholars are a mix of individuals with a dedication to ALEC’s belief and agendas and work to facilitate the creation and ultimate passage of legislative bills favorable to the corporate membership. Scholars are well positioned within legal firms, media outlets and other important entities ancillary to ALEC’s agenda.

ALEC has nine (9) “Task Forces” set up to address important issues such as public safety, environmental protection, taxes and telecommunication.

Corporations pay annual dues to ALEC to belong. These “dues” range from $7,000.00 to $50,000.00 depending upon the amount of influence the corporation needs or desires. In addition corporate members buy positions upon the task forces offered by ALEC. The cost of seats upon these important “committees” range from $2,500.00 to $10,000.00 per seat per year and a corporation can purchase as many seats on each task force as are vacant or available (see: http://www.alec.org/am/pdf/Corporate_Brochure.pdf).
No Model legislation leaves ALEC without consideration by and approval of the Private Enterprise Board. So any legislation by ALEC’s 2000 has no chance of leaving a task force and becoming law unless authorized by the corporate side (see: http://alecwatch.org/chaptertwo.html).

I could report more on ALEC but I believe you have the gist of what and who they represent. I will however point out some of the legislation they have been responsible for and take credit for:
· Legislation limiting tort claim awards for medical and other professional malpractice violations.
· Three Strike laws.
· Mandatory Minimum sentences for criminal Gun charges.
· Mandatory Minimum sentencing for drug charges.
· Habitual Offender laws imposing up to life terms upon conviction.
· Legislation relaxing environmental protection laws on behalf of manufacturing and industrial corporations.
· Legislation authorizing privatizing of state and federal prisons and prison industries.
· Legislation allowing huge corporate tax cuts/credits (such as the Bush Tax cuts of 2000).
· Legislation awarding tax credits to US Corporations who moved industrial and manufacturing operations offshore.
· NAFTA legislation.
· Legislation allowing drug manufacturers to advertise their products directly to the public through the media and a denial of Medicare to negotiate drug prices for Medicare members.
· Legislation limiting the amount of damages and fines to be paid by Oil companies in the event of spills or environmental contamination.


Some of the foregoing legislation was necessary to increase incarceration to provide a steady flow of warm bodies for prison labor needs. The resulting increase in prison populations bears a direct link to these state laws. Tax dollars for the building of more and larger prisons were funneled into private corporate coffers through privatizing of these prison facilities – you and I paid for these expensive construction projects.

In order to get the tax dollars necessary for all of the foregoing, it was necessary to secure the acquiescence of society. This was accomplished through disinformation campaigns funded by corporations. Society was informed time and again of increasing crime rates and the need for more prisons. We were told hardened criminal murderers, rapists and child molesters were going to be released and walk among us without more prisons, and we approved tax dollars.

Move forward to the present and examine the current situation involving Mexican Nationals and other alien immigrants. Disinformation campaigns tell us that we are at risk from an influx of illegal immigration into the US. Drug cartels are killing our citizens at an alarming rate, even beheading some of us. We are told they are the primary reason for our lost jobs and want to come to the US to have babies that will be US citizens.

Once again we acquiesced to the “facts” presented to us and became frantic to stop illegal immigration. In response we demanded the US Government take affirmative steps to stop the border crossings. We funded the building of a nearly useless fence, and are paying for the increased presence of National Guard units along the border and the introduction of stealth drones to surveil the border between Mexico and the US. We were told none of this was working. Illegal immigration was on the rise and something had to be done to stop it.

The result was public support of Senate Bill 1070 in Arizona – and subsequent proposed legislation in as many as 12 other US states. When SB 1070 was introduced we were not fully informed about the situation or real reason for the hysteria that resulted from deliberate disinformation. Illegal immigration was down by more than 40% - while we were being told it was increasing – and private corporations who hold US contracts to house illegal immigrants and other federal detainees found their facilities with more and more vacant beds. The two corporations involved and holding these contracts…? - Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and Geo Group (formerly Wackenhut). Both are members of ALEC and provide millions in funding and dues to ALEC annually. They were losing money every day for each empty bed and needed legislation as a stop-loss measure. ALEC’s Public Safety Task Force went to work on proposing legislation to assist CCA and Geo Group in filling their beds.

To promote more detainees, it was first necessary for the public to be falsely informed of a need for more arrests to protect them from these aliens. To accomplish this, the media was employed to carry stories of violence and crimes committed by illegal Latino immigrants. This media blitz was led by Fox News outlets nationwide as ALEC worked on the formation of the proposed legislation. CCA lobbyists on the staff of Arizona Governor Brewer worked behind the scenes to secure the assistance of Brewer to further complain of how her state was being overrun by Latinos while US authorities drug their feet in assisting her in closing Arizona’s borders.

When the Public Safety Task Force finished their proposed legislation, it was given to ALEC member, Senator Russell Pearce (R) of Arizona. He took the proposed bill back to Arizona and re-wrote it in his own words. When he finished, he took the bill back to ALEC for review, amending and tweaking. When that was finished, he was sent back to Arizona to introduce the proposed legislation. His task was supported by an additional 36 Arizona legislators who were also members of ALEC. Pearce and his friends were successful in getting the bill passed and Governor Brewer quickly signed it into law

Only after passage did we discover who Pearce was and that ALEC was involved in modeling the legislation to the benefit of CCA. Similarly, we were without knowledge of the presence on Governor Brewer’s staff of CCA lobbyists until after the deed was done. Of course CCA immediately issued statements that they had not lobbied Governor Brewer or any other legislator on the SB 1070 measure. However, immediately after that statement it was discovered CCA had been a contributor to Senator Pearce’s campaign efforts for some time and that in 2009 Pearce spearheaded an effort to privatize Arizona’s entire prison system!

You may think that there can't be that much money in housing illegal aliens, huh? You'd be wrong. ICE and Immigration and Naturalization authorities advise that ideally an illegal immigrant is detained in a CCA facility for only 20 days before a hearing and possible deportation back to Mexico or country of residency. The cost for these 20 days of detention is approximately $2,900.00 per detainee. However, for some reason there is a "back-log" involved with getting these cases before the judge or deportation. The average detention is 423 days instead of 20. The cost for 423 days is $60,000.00+ per detainee - paid to CCA under their federal contract. Currently CCA receives $11 million per month for housing of prisoners/detainees and if/when SB1070 is found constitutional, they're in a position to see a substantial spike in their monthly revenue. Now imagine how well they're positioned if the other states pass similar legislation and start stopping everyone they suspect of being illegal, and putting them in detention facilities? Think the price of their stock is going to go through the roof?

In summation of this single incident the explanation goes something like this: immigration detention had fallen off. The corporations with federal contracts to house detainees were losing money. They needed a way to increase income and as members of ALEC they had their assistance and the assistance of fellow ALEC members, Senator Pearce and 36 other Arizona lawmakers. CCA has two paid lobbyists well placed as “sleepers” on the staff of Governor Brewer so with the assistance of a media blitz led by Fox News, it was such an easy accomplishment, they decided to take the same legislation nationwide. Why only limit arrests and detention to Arizona when there were so many other states with ALEC lawmakers willing to promote the same laws?

BP also supports ALEC. In the Event Horizon rig explosion and subsequent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, BP informed us that they would pay for the damages and environmental contamination from the oil. They initiated an expensive media campaign to inform that they were responsible and would pay damages to those who lost income due to the spill. However, when it came to the actual clean-up who did they hire for the work? Not those unemployed due to the spill, no they hired state prison inmates to do the work. Most of these inmates were not paid – the work was part of their sentence and they were assigned by DOC officials to that job. If they refused they were sent back to prison and lost good time.

After all the hysteria surrounding the “worst oil spill in history” and government claims that it would be decades before the impact upon the ocean and environment would be reversed, BP agreed to deposit $20 billion dollars into a fund for damages and recovery efforts. Despite reports that it would be years before fishing and collection of shell fish would be safe for human consumption, within a few weeks of the capping of the well, our government officials and the media now informs us they can’t find any more oil! It has vanished. To me this demonstrates quite clearly that when corporations comply with monetary demands made by the government, the government is willing to assist in limiting the cost to that corporation, again by promoting a disinformation campaign to manipulate the public.

What does all this tell us? It tells me that our governments – state and federal – are no longer subject to the will of the people they represent. Rather they are supportive of corporations and rich individuals who pay to play. If laws are required on behalf of these ultra rich corporations and corporate owners, lawmakers see that it is done. These legislative members answer to the dollars put into their campaign coffers and no longer represent our interests. Legislators, government authorities and corporate owners have discovered that by manipulating the public through our media outlets, we can be convinced to accept any plausible explanation for their action, for laws imposed upon us and for huge expenditures of our tax dollars to the benefit of corporations.

Until the latest fiasco involving Arizona and BP I had hopes that the despicable acts complained of were committed by the previous administration and the present one would adopt procedures to erase the acts committed under Presidents Bush and Clinton. However it now appears that President Obama and his Cabinet are once again only the puppets of corporate America, subject to the will of their contributors and their paid power brokers and lawmakers. Whatever agenda they support issues they present or laws they want passed, Congress will endeavor to accomplish – for a price, of course.

The end result of all the manipulations, relaxed regulations and imposed laws upon us is the imprisonment of more than 2 million Americans and Lord knows how many immigrants. From privatization and incarceration, many states are deeply in debt and if not on the verge of bankruptcy (such as California) close to it. Many states have begun to find ways of reducing their prison populations through alternative sentencing options, early release and other programs such as substance abuse alternatives.

All of this financial strain and burden upon the states – and we as their citizens – is the responsibility of those corporations linked to and funding organizations such as ALEC. To them there is no such thing as compassion of loyalty to their employees, only to the bottom line on their financial statements. If it’s profitable to move operations to another country and subject entire communities depending upon them to unemployment, loss of homes through foreclosure and an inability of parents to provide medical care to their children, those corporations could care less. They are looking forward to the next item on their agenda and what laws have to be created or amended to allow them to check that off their list and move on to the next.

Without the huge financial contributions from corporations, lawmakers would actually have to concentrate upon service to their constituency in order to gather supporters and contributions for election or re-election. That is one reason why the Supreme Court decision to allow unlimited expenditures by corporation in election cycles is so detrimental to us as a society. Corporate America has already reduced our national manufacturing and industrial capabilities to a dangerous level – by moving operations behind prison walls or across borders. Their needs have resulted in mass incarceration and increased detention of those who come to the US for a better life and sanctuary from an environment that is depressed and lives in poverty. The decreasing but steady influx of Mexican Nationals into the US while our industrial and manufacturing companies are moving there to take advantage of the lower wages, clearly demonstrates though willing to work, most Latinos decide on risky illegal immigration rather than stay and submit to slave labor in the country of their birth. Unfortunately, our loved ones in US prisons don’t have that choice. They continue to work daily for the corporations partnered with their prison industries. Any laws beneficial to them are stopped in their tracks at the state level. Every attempt to exercise their rights of access to our judicial system are also stopped by recent laws limiting pro se law suits. These men and women are trapped within a system created and managed by private corporations and under rigorous laws enacted on behalf of those corporations by lawmakers representing those corporate interests.

Unfortunately in today’s world it really is “Pay to Play” and in these financial times the only ones who can “Pay” are the top 2% or our society and their corporations. Lawmakers have outgrown our ability to pay them to represent us, so it has come down to an “Us against Them” environment. As long as we continue to elect and place the same set of individuals in positions of making our laws and looking after our interests we’ll continue along the same path. It’s time for all of us to make a stand and make our presence known.

Whether a candidate is Republican, Democrat, Independent or Libertarian – if they are part of the problem of supporting corporate interests over those of the public, they have no place in our Legislature or Judiciary. The trend that started more than three decades ago must be stopped in its tracks and the effects of that trend reversed. If not, our future is bleak. More and more of us will wind up without jobs, income or support and find ourselves in prison alongside those we were supposed to be protected from. The jobs stolen from us are already there and as inmates with experience we’ll be welcomed back to our old machines and equipment, consigned to work there as slaves for the corporations that are driving our economy and profiting the most by our continued refusal to stop them.

We’ve all been warned and are now informed. What we do with that information is up to us…as is our future and the future of this great Country.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


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.

The Cabal

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:
• Boeing
• Microsoft
• Northern Telecom
• AT&T
• Honeywell
• IBM
• Pierre Cardin
• Compaq
• Nordstrom
• Texas Instruments
• Chevron, McDonalds
• Target
• United Vision Group
• Starbucks
• Victoria's Secret
• TWA
• Costco
• US West
• Nortel
• Lucent Techhnologies
• Intel
• 3Com
• Hewlett Packard
• Siemens
• Kaiser Steel
• J.C. Penny
• Hawaiian tropic
• Spalding
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
represent.

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
• UPS
• Bayer Corporation
• American Bail Corporation
• Centerpoint 360
• Energy Future Holdings
• Johnson and Johnson
• PhRMA
• Kraft Foods
• Coca-Cola Corporation
• Pfizer Pharmaceuticals
• Diageo
• Peabody Energy
• Intuit
• 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.

Conclusion

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.