Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Slave Labor - In the trenches comparing treatment between the Haves and Have-Nots...

I think we should all step back for a moment and take a closer look at the manipulations that have occurred over the past two years involving our collapsing economy, corporate involvement and how that relates to the current tensions in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio and elsewhere. Today there is no doubts left in anyone's mind that corporations such as JP Morgan, Bank of America, Leahman Brothers and other financial institutions were responsible for the collapse of the housing bubble, and the economy in general. Many of us lost our retirement savings, 401K's and other investments due to these machinations that collapsed everything.

The Government bailed all of these corporations out, feeling that unless they did - with our money - the financial sector would completely dissolve bankrupting the rest of our economy and creating a financial chaos in the U.S. of previously unknown proportions.

Now I have to admit I'm no economist and this is probably an amateurish description of how all this came about and resulted in where we are today. That being said, please follow this train of thought a moment of two longer before hitting the back button...

We bailed out these banks and investment corporations to the tune of more than 3/4 of a trillion dollars. This was money belonging to the taxpayers. Much of it has been transferred to our children and their children and this will be paid for by them in the future. Instead of loaning that money out to those in need of loans, the banks and investment firms used the money to acquire other financial companies or corporations that were floundering. At the same time they rewarded themselves with huge bonuses paid to top executives out of the "bail-out money" the government made available to them.

I believe that another use of the billions we've provided to these corporations has been used to fund lobbying and many campaigns of predominantly conservative Republican politicians that advance the agendas of these corporations at the state and national level(s). As I wrote earlier this week, Koch Industries had an unusual and cozy relationship with Kathleen Sebilius in Kansas when she was Governor, going so far as to "loan" her an economist to provide advice on cutting government spending in that state. As that diary also reported, Sebilius as our Secretary of the U.S. Health and Human Services subsequently approved an application submitted by Koch Industries for a cut of the $5 billion set aside for the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program offered under President Obama's Healthcare initiative. After fighting against the healthcare program from the start, Koch was one of the first in line with their hands out to take money available from that very program. At the same time they continued to fund conservative efforts of repealing the program altogether through direct individual political donations, lobbying and support of candidates that share the same conservative ideology as the Koch brothers.

Throughout it appears that our money provided to these corporate interests (such as Koch Industries) in the bail-out and other initiatives, is being used to further the goals of those corporations against us. Where Republicans have taken office - swept into Governorships, Senate and House seats in 2010, there has been a concerted effort of furthering the goals and agenda of the likes of these corporate elite. One of the more important parts of that agenda is the elimination of Unions and collective bargaining. Another is the matter of abortion and freedom of choice issues. Conservatives have continued battles on these issues for years now. They refuse to accept the opinions of the Court in actions such as Row V. Wade and those involving Unions and collective bargaining and right to work initiatives. They have managed to keep their views and arguments before the public for many decades now as they pursue a reversal of the laws pertaining to both.

In the run-up to the election last year, and even today, both of these key issues remain at the core of the Conservative agenda. Now some may ask how can the issue of fair wages and collective bargaining be related to prison privatization and prison industries - and my least favorite topic, Slave Labor? It is connected in a couple of ways that may not be immediately apparent to most.

First, since the mid 1990's corporations have been using federal laws to merge their production and manufacturing with prison industry operations. Under the PIE program they have been allowed to "partner" with those various state prison industries to use cheap inmate labor to manufacture their products. As these partnerships increased, more and more operations were moved out of the private sector and into the prison environment. This removed jobs from the private sector and put them in the hands of inmates. The prison setting prohibits unionizing, collective bargaining and striking for better or even fair wages by the inmate work force. They are paid no benefits; health insurance, unemployment protection, paid vacations or paid time off. In many states OSHA is not allowed to inspect or become involved in work-place safety or investigate accidents. Inmate workers hurt on the job are treated by the prison medical staff - not by outside work comp physicians or facilities (at the expense of the state taxpayer). In short, all of those things sought by corporate employers and fought for on their behalf by conservatives were found in the prison industries. This was recognized by companies as the nirvana sought by them; low wages, no unions, no benefit or retirement packages and responsibility for worker injuries and upkeep subsidized by the taxpayer. Does all this not sound exactly like what their end goals are for American workers?

How good are the products produced by prisoners in these industries? Are their products efficient and of the same quality as those produced in the private sector? Should we be afraid to fly on aircraft manufactured by Boeing that has dozens of sensitive electronic and cabling products made by prisoners? I say no to the quality and yes to the question of safety. Let's take a look at one example of why I answer these questions as I have.

Republicans - and in general, all politicians and the general public proudly profess that we support our troops fighting in Afghanistan and Irag. As I wrote in a previous diary, many - in fact most - of the equipment and materials being used by our troops today are made in prison. The Federal Prison Industries (UNICOR) has a near monopoly on armed forces gear and materials. Many of these products are manufactured in the prisons, wholesaled to Halliburton (or similar companies) and then retailed to the Department of Defense. One of those products made by the prisoners and distributed to the military serving overseas now, is helmets. Of course helmets have been a necessary part of any armed force, army or military body since the first World War.

Recently a private manufacturer received a government contract to manufacture some of those products for the Army and nearly all of them for the Marines. The contract called for this private manufacturer to utilize UNICOR to manufacture part of the orders (obviously to reduce costs) and it did so, using one of the factories owned by UNICOR in Texas. When many of the helmets made by the prison industry were inspected they immediately failed ballistics testing. Forty-four thousand of more than 600,000 such helmets were immediately recalled. Then it was learned that in 2007-08 UNICOR was awarded non-competitive contracts by the government to manufacture all of the helmets for the U.S. Army and Marines. Questions of safety were raised - along with those of using inmate labor at a time when our economy is in the tank, and millions of American workers were out of jobs and needed employment. Here is a quote taken from an article written by Derek Gilna that came out today in Prison Legal News:
"It is not widely known that UNICOR utilizes poorly paid and often indifferently supervised prisoners to manufacture not only goods for use in the federal prison system, but also products that are in direct competition with private-sector businesses. In the past UNICOR has obtained multiple contracts to make ballistic helmets for the U.S. military, and in 2007 it was awarded a non-competitive Army contract pursuant to a provision in federal procurement regulations.

"UNICOR was awarded another non-competitive contract in 2008, which comprised 100% of the helmet needs for the U.S. Marine Corps and effectively shut out private industry. According to Rep. Carney’s office, in both cases UNICOR’s products failed to pass first article testing – the process that is designed to ensure the equipment meets specifications – and after an 18-month delay, not a single acceptable helmet had been delivered.

“Because the inmates were making the helmets, the cost was down, but the main concern was the product being substandard,” said Rep. Carney. He also was critical of the fact that UNICOR was awarded the contracts during a time when the industrial and manufacturing sections of the U.S. economy were shedding private-sector jobs. “At a time when our economy is rebounding, there are other private firms eager and able to take on this important work, which will lead to the creation of crucial jobs in the United States,” Rep. Carney noted."

Even in the face of issues such as safety for our military personnel, the government is comfortable with awarding such non-competitive contracts for the manufacture of such important and critical equipment as helmets, necessary to keep our troops safe - to prison inmates. This is the federal prison side of the slave labor topic. The PIE program is the state side of the same subject and the government - specifically the Department of Justice is bullish on using state prison inmates to manufacture private sector products that all of us use daily. As I've done previously, here again is the link to the recruiting video used by the National Correctional Industries Association, the Bureau of Justice Assistance and the DOJ to recruit and encourage more private sector manufacturers to move their operations into a "nearby prison industry" to take advantage of highly skilled and willing prisoners...

This PIE Program allows private U.S. corporations to gain access to the vast number of prison inmates as a labor source. It not only allows it, the DOJ and the prison industries encourage it by informing companies that they don't have to outsource jobs overseas where shipping of their products back to the states cut into their profits. Instead they tell them to simply move entire operations into prison industries in the U.S. to take advantage of cheap but skilled labor and allow them to continue to use "Made in the U.S.A." labeling. At the same time the DOJ works hard to hide the use of prison labor by these participating corporations by not enforcing requirements that prison made goods be clearly marked as "Made in Prison by Prison Labor" labels on packaging.

By being allowed access to this captive work force, more and more jobs in the private sector have been steadily lost over the past 15 years. Private sector companies and businesses competing against those using slave labor have slowly been disappearing from the job and sales markets as pricing for their products were underbid or undercut time and again. Another example of this is occurring in Montana as I write this.

Because these same corporations that are using foreign labor to make their products are tiring of paying for shipment of those products back to the U.S., they moved operations into the high profit arena of prison industries to eliminate those costs. At the same time they are supporting an agenda to lower wages and eliminate any form of collective bargaining - public and private - in the U.S. so they can move their operations from inside our prisons and back from China and elsewhere. The obvious purpose of eliminating any form of unionized labor in America is to implement the same wages and conditions they enjoy from those other sources of labor. Just today MSNBC had a report on jobs in the U.S. and reported that jobs are available now, but the wages are much lower and the good paying jobs will never return. This clearly shows how effective this conservative agenda on behalf of their corporate sponsors has been.

As Conservative Republicans win governorships, senate and house seats across the U.S., this agenda I'm speaking of, has been promoted by the likes of ALEC and the Koch brothers and introduced in each state where they prevailed. No need to discuss Wisconsin here, we already know the agenda is in place there and that a phone call from a "Koch" will be quickly answered by Governor Walker as demonstrated yesterday. Down in Florida, Rick Scott won the gubernatorial election there last year and is calling for privatizing most/all of the prison system in that state - even with 8,000 empty beds in state run facilities - and privatization of education and other state programs. Same thing is happening in Indiana and Ohio regarding right to work legislation, union busting and privatization. In these states, conservative leaning media trumpet the benefits of passing such legislation with articles filled with statistics, facts and statements from supporters. Many of these facts and statistics are questionable and avoid informing us of the impact upon wages and employment is such legislation becomes law.

This site provides much information on the progress of privatization of state assets and programs, and the problems that followed. The truth is we have been involved in a war over wages and privatization for more than two decades now but the public has been blissfully unaware of the actual implications of what the issues mean to them as taxpayers and workers. With the explosion of protesting and demonstrating across the Midwest, many have finally been awakened and realize what is being jeopardized by the privatization and right to work initiatives advanced by the Conservative factions in their states.

What many still do not realize though, is that the assets owned by the states are the property of the taxpayers. This includes prisons and prison industries. Once an asset belonging to the citizens is sold, it is gone. It now becomes the property of the buyer to do with as they please. With prisons that cost millions of tax dollars to build, the transfer of those facilities to corporate ownership removes that asset from state ownership, but the taxpayers continue to pay the costs of imprisonment of inmates, but the money goes to the owners of the prison. Once they have control of the facilities it's a done deal and from there on out, the state and taxpayers are held captive to calls for increased spending to continue to house and provide care for the state inmates. While in this time of corporate driven economical downturn, the last thing we should be doing is giving/selling/transferring more and more taxpayer owned assets over to these corporations. We've already given them more than they deserve and they continue to stand before us with their hands outstretched, not satisfied until we also relinquish all right to our jobs and fair wages.

Now Louisiana is proposing to turn two of the state's prison facilities over to county Sheriff's to reduce state costs of incarceration while two more are about to be sold to private prison corporations that already run them under contract. A Google search about privatization efforts of state prisons returns numerous articles informing that this trend is widespread. There is no benefit to these privatizations to either the state or their taxpayers. Many articles, reports and other studies reveal time and again that there is no real savings through privatization and recidivism is not reduced by using private prison operations. Additionally, most states are now suffering serious financial and budgetary shortfalls and as many now realize the first cuts that are made are within the prisons themselves followed quickly by cuts in education, health programs and finally senior programs. Colorado is no exception and as this article informs, at the top of the list are cuts to prison programs.

At the same time these budgetary measures are being made, reducing private sector jobs along with rehabilitation programs to the inmates, each state is increasing their corrections budgets, led by Arizona. Governor Brewer turns every spare penny available in that state over to the DOC and the private prisons operated in that state. Even as lawmakers and Governors promise reducing their prison costs, they increase the budgets more each year. Today Corrections is one of the largest line item expenditures in most state's budgets, yet the "return" on the money spent is negligible as recidivism continues to climb. We're just not getting the bang for our buck that is necessary to impact upon reducing incarceration. We've already decreased arrests and crime in the U.S. since 1990, but can't get a grip on incarceration. The number one reason why is the involvement of corporations and profits derived by keeping prison populations at an all time high. There is absolutely no incentive for corporations to want to reduce the rates of incarceration and put themselves out of business. Why can't our Democratic lawmakers and the public see this?

In conclusion it boils down to simple terms. To drive down wages, companies have moved their operations overseas and into prisons. As the jobs disappeared, more and more Americans have been put upon unemployment and other social programs. This is all driven by the top 1% in the U.S. who hold all the wealth. They use the funds generated from profits to pay lobbyists to buy our legislative members to further their goals. Their bought lawmakers - mostly conservative - use ALEC (funded in part by Koch Industries and their foundations) to propose and enact legislation favorable to the corporations. These legislative efforts include(d): increased criminal laws, truth in sentencing, mandatory minimums, abolishing parole, and expansion of prison industries among others. Using the inmates those laws incarcerate, the companies move operations into the prison industries to take advantage of that large workforce to avoid having to pay standard wages to American workers. Conservatives have worked overtime to put their corporate masters in the cat-bird seat regarding imprisonment and profiting from that incarceration through privatization of prisons.

Now, again using the profits generated from a captive work force, the same companies fund conservative efforts of stifling private sector wages through initiatives proposed by the same lawmakers they always rely upon. They are funding the current legislation to increase privatization, eliminate Unions and collective bargaining rights. In the place of those they are promoting right to work legislation to now make it possible to have access to civilian labor at far reduced wages. All of this is in pursuit of more profits to make themselves richer and richer...and us poorer and poorer to the point we will be willing to work in skilled jobs for minimum wage. But wait, they're even pushing for the elimination of minimum wages in many states. So even that safety net is in jeopardy to workers. Now they believe the time is right to take over for our governments - state and federal - on most issues, believing there is no real need for government involvement in our society, as corporations can run it better.

Somehow we must realize that giving this cabal more and more tax dollars and the power and influence they purchase with those dollars is self-defeating. We should never have bailed out the banks and Wall Street as they brought the entire thing down around their own necks. We now see the kind of reward they have for our bailing them out - enslavement.

We have to wake up to the threats to our freedoms, jobs, livelihood, wages and fundamental rights before we're all working as slave laborers at wages comparable to China...for that's what these insidious bastards want for all of us. In the current the Unions go, so go we. Hate 'em or love 'em, without 'em we lose all voice in opposition to the course planned for us by the likes of Charles and David Koch, ALEC and their conservative lawmakers serving as lackeys...

Slave Labor-Gerrymandering, Redistricting, ALEC, Koch Brothers and their Conservative Agenda...

I recently read an informative article about Arizona's private prison industry and the impact upon communities by the way the political districts are drawn to allow small rural, communities with predominantly white populations to enjoy financial benefits of having large inmate populations counted in their census. This also allows small communities to appear to have populations that represent African-American and Hispanic ethnicities, where that representation is all behind bars.

The impact of all this is a drain of financial money away from the large urban areas of Arizona when those funds are redirected to the smaller rural communities. In addition this system allows for an increase of representation from those small communities, based on populations inflated by the inclusion of thousands of prisoners, many that come from other states as far away as Hawaii.

This Article in the Phoenix Magazine shines a light on how small, mostly conservative white communities receive their political and financial clout in Arizona. A sad fact of this is that many other states do the same thing. With almost 2.5 million of us in prisons today, redistricting based on the inclusion of inmate populations, enables rural prison communities to appear to have much larger and more diverse populations and to receive millions in state and federal tax dollars because of that. Former Arizona state Representative Pete Rios says it better than I:
"Today, the town (Florence) and its neighbor, Eloy, are Arizona’s major prison towns. There are two large state prisons and eight private prisons in the area that, together, house more than 24,000 prisoners. They are bused in from the Valley and throughout Arizona or imported from other states, including Hawaii and Alaska.

"Those prisoners aren’t really Eloy or Florence residents or constituents of Pinal County in any sense of the words. They can’t vote, and they may never step foot in the county beyond the prison walls. Most of them will be released in a few years and will return to homes elsewhere. But when the U.S. Census Bureau counted Arizona’s population last year, all those prisoners were counted as if Pinal County were home. That means millions of dollars in additional tax revenue sent from the state to governments in Pinal County. It also could mean a louder voice for local residents in state elections.

"This year Arizona and every other state will redraw political boundaries. The redistricting process is tedious but hugely important. It occurs every 10 years and guarantees the fundamental principle of “one person, one vote” in our representative democracy.

"But as that process kicks off, some experts are warning that the sheer abundance of prisoners in Pinal County and in large prisons throughout the state could impact the basic tenet of equal representation. How prisoners behind the walls are counted when Arizona redraws the lines could distort political power in the state, enhance the clout of the controversial private-prison industry and dilute the voice of Phoenix residents in state politics in favor of other areas with prison “residents” who aren’t really residents at all.
Peter Wagner, executive director of the Massachusetts-based Prison Policy Initiative, which helped push recent reforms in New York, Maryland and Delaware, says:
"The impact of prisoners on Arizona’s political landscape could be among the most dramatic anywhere in the nation. “We have enough people in prison in this country and enough people in prison in Arizona to change how our democracy works, to change the decisions that the Legislature makes.”
This situation in Arizona is also replicated in many other states, coast to coast and represents another way in which prison inmates are used by Republicans to impact upon tax dollars and political issues and influence. With this kind of system used to falsely increase true populations of small, White communities that are predominantly conservative provides them with more tax dollars, representation and allows the larger urban cities to lose both in the process.

As this article reports, prisoners from large cities are sent to prison facilities in distant rural settings - far from where they lived and their families remain. Gerrymandering allows these prisoners to count toward tax subsidies - state and federal - in amounts disproportionate to their actual ethnic makeup and true population(s).

If nothing else this clearly demonstrates that the Conservatives have all issues involving prisoners, prison industries using those prisoners and private prisons mapped out. In Pinal County, Arizona, the largest employer is Corrections Corporation of American that operates no less than six private prisons in that county alone.

If we think or believe that CCA is not a dominant presence in Arizona and get their way through the community's reliance upon the increased tax dollars from incarceration and tax subsidies, one has only to look at this article about Eloy, Arizona's recent council meeting concerning three agreements presented by CCA. In the face of facts and figures presented by those attending with knowledge and experience in prison issues, informing the council that using private prisons did not reduce costs and the impact upon community infrastructures (water consumption, roads, etc.) the city council unanimously passed everything CCA wanted (of course it didn't hurt CCA's position that they had already awarded a lucrative landscaping contract at the prison to the city Mayor). In many similar small communities where CCA and Geo Group have a presence the outcomes are usually preordained. In Arizona, Governor Brewer's repeated statements of support for CCA and other private prison corporations - along with her propensity to funnel every spare dollar the state treasury has to corrections and private prison operations - leads to such unanimous approval of everything CCA and prison.

Take a quick look at the 15 or so prison industries located at or near the city of Florence here. Also the prison industries have a retail outlet store - where anyone can buy goods if they don't inform the staff that items purchased will not be removed from Arizona. Right.

Florence Arizona is representative of what's wrong with prison privatization, prison labor, gerrymandering and the overall conservative agenda to capitalize off of all three. As I've written in the past, CCA and the number two private prison company, Geo Group are both members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and sit across from conservative legislative members in each of the nine (9) "Task Forces" of ALEC. There they jointly determine new laws or amendments to existing laws that benefit corporate interests. One corporation above all others has great influence upon both the agendas of these task forces and the 2,400 state conservative lawmakers involved in the manipulations of law - and that is Koch Industries, represented by their director of public and government affairs, Mike Morgan.

ALEC, Koch and CCA's interests, influence and intentions were clearly represented last year in the implementation of SB 1070 there in AZ. We've all been made aware of the involvement of all three in the illegal alien and immigration issues in that state by reports by such as NPR, compiled by Laura Sullivan and others, that informed us about the money to be made off of detention of those apprehended by CCA. Today we are once again faced with the involvement of ALEC and the Koch brothers in issues also involving corporate interests in wages and other labor issues all across the U.S. I believe the latest debacle unfolding in Wisconsin, Ohio, Virginia, New Jersey, Montana and Indiana are happening because Koch brothers, ALEC and other corporations profiting off the exploitation of inmates to eliminate civilian jobs and depress wages, were emboldened by the quick passage of SB 1070 last year. The conservatives led by Koch and ALEC are doing exactly what PRIDE Enterprises did in Florida - overwhelming the public and government resources by forcing both into a battle over issues important to corporations. More of their divide and conquer initiative.

In this economy, with individuals fighting to put food on their tables, states seeking ways to reduce their deficits and the federal government being attacked on all sides about spending, the situation is rife for those with unlimited capital reserves to wage a war of attrition against labor, government and wages. With the exception of corporations, big businesses, banking and investment firms the rest of the country and state governments are hovering on bankruptcy. In that environment, rich business owners find they can use their money to influence the passage of legislation favorable to them. It is now relatively easy to understand that in the run up to the 2010 elections we heard all about the influence of the Koch influences upon campaigns in key states across the country and their funding of the Tea Party. In Wisconsin alone, they contributed $43,000.00 to Walker's gubernatorial run, money to Kasich in Ohio, possibly Snyder in Michigan and to the campaigns of numerous conservative legislative candidates in many states. The end result was that through the use of vast reserves of cash, the Koch brothers were able to "buy" political slots across the country. The Tea Party successes were not so much about the issues and "values" they presented, but rather the amount of money and influence used to buy them a position within our government. Only in those campaigns such as O'Donnel's in the Northeast and Angle's in Nevada was the money simply not enough to overcome the candidates ludicrous platforms.

Once January rolled around and the Koch funded "winners" were sworn in, Koch and fellow conservatives in ALEC began to immediately advance their attacks on labor and wages in several key states where they won big. Governor Walker is so indebted to the Koch money that he was willing to use violence by introducing "troublemakers" into the demonstrations in Wisconsin in an attempt to prevail at passing legislation to end collective bargaining and implementing right to work laws. Both of these are within the conservative agenda pressed by Koch and ALEC's membership.

Senator John Ensign (R) of Nevada introduced a bill last month to require all low-security prisoners to work 50 hours a week. Creating a national prison labor force has been a goal since he went to Congress in 1995. Wonder what the position of ALEC and the Koch's are regarding this legislation?

Check out this statement made in the article linked to above:
"Technology has made it easier to coordinate. In Hunterdon County, N.J., nonprofit organizations and government agencies can view prisoners’ work schedules online and reserve them for a specific task on a free day. (Coming tasks include cleaning up after a Fire Department fish fry and maintaining a public park.)"
I have to wonder if all these indicators here - and in previous diary posts - have served to awaken all of us to the fact that we are definitely in a class war here in the U.S.? It is no longer Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and other far away countries that are suffering from - and protesting against - the rule of the rich through depressing citizen's wages, education and incarcerating those who object. Many of us now know if we merely stand up and look around us with critical vision, we can see the same machinations ongoing all around us. Instead of dictators with their pictures splashed all over every flat surface to remind us of their omniscience, we find billboards for AT&T, Boeing, Victoria's Secret, Shelby Muscle Cars, Burger King, Wendy's, McDonalds, and hundreds of other corporate advertisements for the corporations making huge profits from incarceration and prison slave labor. The pictures are different, but the concept and agenda is the same.

We have to give credit where credit is due - whether we want to or not - by acknowledging that the Koch family empire has thought all of this out well, doing their homework and putting their influences within ALEC to good use. They rub elbows with the two top private prison corporations in the world as well as three hundred or more other influential corporate members all belonging to ALEC. Together Koch and ALEC's corporate and conservative lawmakers are now holding the steering wheel representing our nation as it moves forward in history. Their hands grip the wheel so tightly it is nearly impossible to tear it from their grip as they firmly turn the wheel and head our country toward the roadside ditch - a deep, dark hole from which we will have great difficulty extricating ourselves. Time is running out and we are steadily approaching that abyss at their hands.

As this diary and the links provided demonstrate, conservatives led by General's such as David and Charles Koch, with officers comprised of the likes of ALEC's Public Board of Directors led by LA. Representative Noble Ellington lead an army of Conservatives in this class war. The soldiers led by these capable officers are the likes of Governors Walker, Daniels, Kasich, Snyder, Scott, Christie and the conservative heavy legislatures of those and other states. In this battle we are led by...well, our President has chosen to sit on the sidelines and let the workers and the unions that represent them fight this battle without his guidance or assistance. In his place Americans are now led by Unions such as the AFLCIO, UAW, SEIU, and dozens more who are fighting alongside Democratic Senators from Indiana, Wisconsin and elsewhere. So far they have only been able to forestall the inevitable money funded outcome, fighting the Kochs and others to a temporary standstill. How one leads when their citizens are faced with nearly insurmountable attacks upon them on important issues, is part of the legacy left by world leaders. President Obama's standing silent as our country is attacked from within, while professing to be a world leader and involving us in the protests and demonstrations ongoing world wide is puzzling to me. I voted for him and the changes he promised. I've continued to support him as others began to throw up their hands and turn their backs on him, but it's becoming harder and harder to continue that support as our jobs disappear into prisons and the likes of the Koch brothers and their cabal tear at the fabric of democracy with the long knives of insurgency and their actions are ignored by him.

How much longer will this go on with President Obama remaining silent on the sidelines, offering neither guidance or getting up and actually standing with them in this all-out assault upon American workers? I don't know and can't speak for our President but I can make a prediction as to the outcome if he doesn't weigh in on these issues - and soon: we'll all be working for these Kochsuckers...for pennies on the dollar, whether in prison or out. There really will be no difference if these bastards prevail. America is now in the same position of "Middle Earth" (for those J.R.R. Tolkien fans) and Mordor and Sauron are nearly upon us - where in the hell is our Gandalf?

Slave Labor - Koch Links to Greenberg Traurig, Palin and the theft of our jobs!

With the tanking economy of late, many municipal, county and state authorities are looking for ways to reduce their budgets. At the top of the list of ways to save money is the replacement of civil service workers and contractors that traditionally maintain public buildings, facilities and grounds. While corporations try and hide their use of prison labor from their customers and consumers in general, politicians are trumpeting their reliance upon cheap slave labor provided by prisoners to reduce taxpayer funded jobs.

Today we have a situation where the new "slavery" is in fact the "old slavery" under a new name and with a diverse ethnic makeup. Before and during our civil war, slavery was the major cause of the secession of the Confederate states from the Union. Southern states wanted to continue to use humans as chattel and slave to work their fields, small industries and for other cheap labor. It is funded and supported by many within the Tea ("Traitors Enslaving Americans" thanks to the wife for this definition) Party and their funders.

Our nation fought a war over this concept that resulted in the loss of millions of American lives. Sadly slavery is still alive and well in the U.S. but it has had it's name changed since that dark time. Now it's called "prison labor" and has its roots in using prisoners to provide cheap - and in many instances, free - labor in many public sector areas. The use of this new form of slave labor is so profitable that in 1979 the U.S. Congress was swayed to enact legislation to allow private companies to use inmates in the manufacture of products or to provide their services. This is the Prison Industries Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP) and simply stated it exists to allow for the "training" of prisoners while incarcerated to make them more employable upon release back to their communities.

While this is a genuinely necessary and needed tool in reducing recidivism, as with most other programs or laws that have attracted the attention of corporate entrepreneurs and CEO's, those interested about this program began finding ways to participate and get free or cheap prison labor. They weren't satisfied with the mandatory requirements of the legislation, so they formed the National Correctional Industries Association (NCIA, sort of their "union") to represent the themselves, participating corporations, prison industries and the vendors and suppliers involved in the PIE program. Then they managed to get the NCIA "chosen" as the enforcement and compliance arm of the program. Part of the compliance aspect is the "policy advisory" position, whereby the NCIA suggests amendments to or new policy initiatives to the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and the DOJ who actually have responsibility for the program.

Using their policy advisor position, participants have been able to overcome many of the mandatory sections of 18 USC 1761(c); reducing prevailing wages to minimum wage rates, prohibition of using training programs and setting "entry level" wages at below prevailing wages, worker's compensation and the requirement that packaging have clear markings identifying the shipper, consignee and the prison industry where the products were manufactured. In addition the corporations saw no reason why allowed deductions taken for room and board should be given to the states to offset the costs of incarceration paid for by taxpayers. They lobbied for and received state laws or regulations that allowed all that money to be retained by the prison industry that deducted the money from inmate wages, to use those funds to offset the costs of running the PIE program operations.

Today PIECP and prison labor bears no real resemblance to the program as it was enacted and the legislative intent behind the law. It has been so manipulated that any company wishing to make use of free or cheap prison labor can do so with little effort or public notoriety. I wrote last week about a situation in Montana whereby this program is being used to provide a financial advantage of one company over another by the use of prisoners paid between $2.00 and $7.00 per day. I now have a copy of the legislation proposed by Montana Congressman Ed Greef to address this situation there in Montana. Of course the Bill died after being tabled in the Judiciary Committee. Rep Greef (R) has probably drawn the ire from fellow Republicans by his presentation of this legislation that brought attention to the contract he wanted stopped and PIECP.

Also today we are faced with the situation in Wisconsin about right to work and union busting legislation offered up by the Republican majority and Governor Walker (a puppet with one or both of the Koch brother's hands up his ass). Wisconsin also enjoys a place within the PIECP program, having been certified in 1993 and currently certified as participating in the program. Many are not aware that the Junior Senator from Wisconsin, Ron Johnson (a Tea Party supported candidate) who beat Russ Feingold in the last election, himself uses prisoners in his privately owned and run businesses; Pacur Inc. and Dynamic Drinkware LLC, two companies run by Johnson. These companies employ up to nine inmates at a time through a state Corrections Department jobs program.

John McCain benefited from the use of prisoner labor during his campaign appearances in Alabama during the 2008 Presidential campaign.

Maybe now it is becoming clearer that many states and their politicians are actively pursuing replacing civilian workers with prison labor. Let's take a quick look at the evidence of this:

1) Georgia - Atlanta, Gwinnet and Clayton Counties.
"Clayton prison already sends about 180 prisoners per day out on work details, saving the county roughly $2.8 million a year – after housing and other costs are factored in – that it would otherwise spend on county payroll.

“It helps offset the costs of county government,” the warden said.

About a dozen inmates work for the Clayton County Water Authority, doing everything from grounds maintenance to equipment repair and maintenance, general manager Michael Thomas said.

The authority isn’t a county department, so it pays the county prison $30 a day for each inmate. Thomas said there are additional costs to supervise the inmates (none have escaped in the last five years said Smith), but it’s still worth it.

Each inmate costs half as much as a regular employee when such things as medical benefits are considered, Thomas estimated.

“Obviously, they’re a lot cheaper than hiring somebody,” Thomas said. “We’re always trying to squeeze a nickel. So it helps.”
2) New Jersey
"The Division of Corrections utilizes inmate labor in various work details to defray their cost of incarceration. Inmates are utilized in the jail laundry, kitchen and internal maintenance jobs. Inmates who are not security risks are also utilized on outside details such as mowing lawns, painting and other outside details as necessary.

"On May 13, 2008 the Division of Corrections instituted the Labor Assistance Program as an alternative sentencing option for qualified individuals. This program was designed to divert low risk offenders sentenced for motor vehicle violations, disorderly person’s offenses and non-violent crimes from the jail. All participants must undergo and pass a background clearance to be accepted into the program.

"Offenders sentenced to the Labor Assistance Program pay an application fee that defrays the cost of processing and a background check. In addition, participants are required to pay a per diem fee for each day of sentence.

"The Labor Assistance Program operates on Saturdays and Sundays from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The program participants are required to report to the jail property at 7:45 am to prepare for the day's work and are returned by 3:30 pm to clean and put away any equipment used. All work details are supervised by an officer who directs the inmate work and insures compliance with all rules and regulations.

"Request for Labor Assistance are accepted for County Departments, Courts, Schools, Municipalities and their respective agencies as well as non-profit organizations within Hunterdon County.

"An online calendar has been set up from which you may view the types of work currently being done by the inmate work programs and request a work detail. All requests for work details must be scheduled through the online calendar using the “REQUEST WORK DETAIL” button located beneath Division’s Logo. You may access the calendar at the following web address:
3) Kansas -
"The Kansas Department of Corrections is considering putting inmates to work constructing low-income housing.

"He added that the type of housing inmates would build is not the kind being built by construction companies in Kansas right now. Instead, inmates would work on manufacturing homes inside the prison gates that would be sent out after completion.

“What has been under discussion previously has been building small, single family housing units,” Miskell said. “I’m not aware of anyone in Kansas in the private sector who is building these houses.”

"But Martha Smith, with the Kansas Manufactured Housing Association said they favor employing prisoners in work release programs while they serve their terms. A work release program would employ inmates within private industry instead of producing homes within prison walls.

“At this point in time with jobs so scare, there really isn’t a need for that kind of a program,” Smith said. “The work release program is a better program for everyone because it doesn’t take jobs away, it still provides training and if it works out, the prisoners have a job after they’re released,” Smith said.

"Last year, through a partnership with the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, inmates constructed small cabins that were placed at Scott Lake and Prairie Dog State Park. The program is looking to expand this year and build five cabins.

“It’s a solid structure with bedrooms, kitchen and dining room but it’s a relatively small structure and they have been transported for placement at one or more of the state parks,” Miskell said.

The benefit of using inmate labor is two-fold, he said.

“It is helping teach extremely marketable skills for when they are released and it is designed to fill a niche for housing that doesn’t currently exist in communities that need this kind of housing,” Miskell said."
4) Maryland -
"Something like this is bound to make Lou Dobbs' head explode: A shortage of foreign crab-pickers in Maryland is forcing the seafood industry there to consider using state prisoners to do the hard, nasty, low-paying work.

"At issue is finding workers willing to spend their days picking the meat from pile after pile of steamed crabs so the product can be packaged for sale in little plastic tubs," writes the Baltimore Sun's Stephanie Desmon."
5) Nevada -
"CARSON CITY -- The Division of Forestry could save hundreds of thousands of dollars on approved and pending construction projects if it used more prison inmate labor, an audit released Tuesday said.

The Division of Internal Audits said a conservative estimate puts the savings at $620,000 if selected portions of the work on several proposed projects, from nursery renovations to dispatch center repairs, was done by inmates at state conservation camps."
6) New York -
"Two busloads of prisoners from Rikers Island — wearing matching red- and white-striped jumpsuits — have been setting up and breaking for Borough President Markowitz’s controversial concerts in Coney Island’s Asser Levy Park.

The inmates aren’t a threat to public safety, according to the city — but they are a heck of a bargain for Markowitz.

“It saves me money, that’s the motivation for having them!” said Debra Garcia, who is in charge of the Beep’s concerts. “It saves about a few thousand dollars a week.”

"Under the “Cool Hand Luke”-style program, the inmates set up 2,000 seats at the front of the park’s bandshell near Surf Avenue and West Fifth Street hours before the show. The next morning, the inmates are returned to the spot to collect the chairs.

"The work detail for prisoners — which also takes place at Wingate Field in Crown Heights as part of Markowitz’s Martin Luther King Jr. concert series — appears to be the only one of its kind in Brooklyn.

"A Department of Correction official said that there are only two other chain gang-style work crews in the city — both near Rikers Island.
7) WA. State

The foregoing represents only a small number of articles on this issue and the loss of thousands of public sector jobs to inmate workers. It's been happening all over American for several years now, but has become a plague of late. This is simply part and parcel of those with an agenda of cutting employment in the private sector markets by replacing workers with prisoners to save money and drive down wages and eliminate Unions and that terrible term "collective bargaining."

During the 2010 elections we all heard about Meg Whitman's use of illegal aliens at her residence. Of course, she later claimed no knowledge of the illegal status of her "maid" or housekeeper. Time and again Conservatives like Whitman and Ron Johnson in Wisconsin have been caught exploiting prison labor...then there's Texas state lawmakers. This article is from the Dallas Morning News. The link is no longer accessible from their archives (wonder why) but I have it and a link to where part of it is found. Here is an excerpt from it:
"Perk of public office: discount furniture
Critics fault officials' exclusive deal with prisons

10:10 PM CST on Tuesday, February 7, 2006By DAVE MICHAELS / The Dallas Morning News

AUSTIN – When Sen. Eddie Lucio built his South Texas dream home in 2003, he chose an unusual place to shop for furniture: Texas prisons.

For the dining room, inmates fashioned a table with the state seal on it, 10 chairs and six bar stools. For a private chapel, they constructed four kneelers, 12 chairs, a holy water font and two altar chairs. Total cost: $6,319.

"I liked the idea of getting things done handcrafted and by prisoners," said Mr. Lucio, a Democrat. "That is unique. It is a subject of conversation when people come visit me. I say, 'I ordered it from our own prisoners here.' "

"Mr. Lucio is one of dozens of lawmakers to buy items over the last three years from Texas Correctional Industries, a division of the state prison system that manufactures, among other things, furniture, signs and clothing. It gives inmates a chance to develop a trade or skill and saves state agencies money because, with no labor costs, items sell for far less than those from private businesses.

"And for lawmakers, buying the discounted goods is a perk of office.
Mr. Lucio is one of dozens of lawmakers to buy items over the last three years from Texas Correctional Industries, a division of the state prison system that manufactures, among other things, furniture, signs and clothing. It gives inmates a chance to develop a trade or skill and saves state agencies money because, with no labor costs, items sell for far less than those from private businesses.

"Allowing lawmakers to take advantage of not having to pay what they would pay at a retail store, and using it strictly for personal use, does not look good," Ms. Woodford said.

"Rep. Tony Goolsby, a Dallas Republican who is close to Mr. Lucio, said there's nothing wrong with personal purchases. Mr. Goolsby has an $1,100 replica of a historic desk from the Texas Capitol in his apartment in Austin.

"We're all born the same way, but we're not equal," he said. "Everybody gets perks."

"Many of his colleagues used campaign funds to buy items such as barbecue grills and bedroom furniture at prices far below retail.

"Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, had a bed frame, a dresser and a nightstand refinished in November for $219. Mr. Williams did not return phone calls seeking comment.

"Nate Crain, whose wife leads the criminal justice department's board, placed three orders together worth about $1,000 from Texas Correctional Industries in 2004 and 2005. Mr. Crain, a former Dallas County Republican Party chairman who is exploring a run for the chairmanship of the statewide party, reported in campaign records that he bought items as gifts for his volunteers and a Republican women's group.

"Board Chairman Christina Melton Crain said it was acceptable for her to order the items for her husband.

"I am allowed to order them and, as my spouse, he is allowed to pay for them," Ms. Crain said."

It isn't just the private sector that is experiencing these job losses, the Federal Prison Industries had to close several prison factories last year and lay off civilian supervisors and thousands of inmates. I have no sympathy for them because they brought about the collapse by undermining our wages and taking our jobs at every turn since 1995. However the FPI have a very influential "lawmaker" on their side and since the closings they have managed to re-open some of the closed plants and put many of the inmates back to work. This is because of the efforts of getting all federal purchasing agents to rededicate their efforts of purchasing every possible product from FPI under a "request" from U.S. Attorney General Holder.

Now some have called me crazy for implying that slave labor can be taking place under the Administration of our first African-American President. I have to say I wish that were the case but several factors just keep that from being factual. First the above memo from AG Holder in October of last year. Secondly there is the connections between the Koch Industries and Secretary Sebilius going back to Kansas when she served as Governor and the Kochsuckers loaned her an analyst to help her cut government spending - and just last year when she approved their application for a large chunk of Early Retiree Reinsurance Program after fighting President Obama's healthcare initiative before and after that approval. When we factor in that this attack on wages and unionization is being conducted by those capitalizing off of using inmate labor for profits while wanting to reduce our wages and Union busting and the President's refusal to become involved in the discussion, the situation becomes darker with implication. The fact that many of us have written to the President requesting a review of PIECP and how it is being used to take civilian jobs - without an acknowledgement or response from him or his administration, one has to question why he is refusing to join in the battle as he said he would do when campaigning? Now he has picked a Daley for his staff after making many statements that he would not have lobbyists in "his" administration. Now after more than two years of office, D.C. and the Obama Administration is top heavy with lobbyists and those who clearly support and lobby for corporations and laws such as the ones being attempted in Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida and elsewhere.

Sebilius made known the involvement of Koch Industries and Wal-Mart in donating to bringing some Kansas troops home for the holidays in 2007 and since then we see more and more indications that both Kochsuckers and Wal-Mart are involved in Conservative politics and their agenda. In Florida new Governor Scott chose a Wal-Mart executive, Bryan W. Koon as part of his staff (Emergency Management Chief). In addition Scott also chose a member of a high profile law firm as his Special Counsel to the Governor. Hayden Dempsey from the firm of Greenberg Traurig (Jack Abramoff's old lobbying firm) was chosen for this important position. Greenberg represents PRIDE Enterprises (the non-profit corporation that runs Florida's prison industries), lobbies for PRIDE and also lobbies on behalf of Koch Industries. How about this connection between John McCain, Koch Industries and Greenberg Traurig? It goes on and on with the Kochsuckers and their ilk such as Greenberg Traurig and Wal-Mart all interrelated and interconnected on a conservative agenda, with all of their names appearing linked to today's legislation, our lawmakers and of late...Wisconsin and the Union busting and RTW laws. Here's a Google Search that returned Koch Industries and Greenberg Traurig results (4,980 results).

Just what kind of law firm is Greenberg Traurig? Check out these links: Wikipedia (see controversies), Chicago Lawyer (GT) arrested for stealing $1 million. Then there's this about a Greenberg Partner under SEC investigation, just published last month.

How about connections to the Tea Party's favorite, Sarah Palin? Here's one link that says her career has been helped by a Greenberg Traurig partner and this one shows the involvement of GT in oil and gas issues on Alaska's north slope supported by Palin. This one reports the Koch brothers hiring Palin to help with PR after the Wisconsin demonstrations began. Here she spoke at an Americans for Prosperity event in April 2010, sponsored and funded by Kochsuckers.

As can be seen from the foregoing, many states and municipalities are now replacing civilian workers with inmates. There are dozens of articles out there exposing this new concept and those implementing programs such as outlined above. A dozen here, a couple of dozen there...fifty or so here, a few private contracts there, they all add up to more and more jobs going away from the private sector and into prison. At the core of most of this are those I mentioned or linked to above. Some like GT and the Kochsuckers are the biggest names in their particular field or arena and have combined their efforts to reduce wages, expand use of prison labor and bust unions, as shown.

While corporations and companies exploiting prison labor make every effort to hide the fact that their labor or work force is made up of inmates from the public, those municipal, county and state agencies replacing civilian workers with inmates are quick to advertise this fact. They want the public to see them as being frugal with tax dollars and wisely spending only those dollars they have to on wages.

This ties in grandly with the ongoing demonstrations from coast to coast as conservatives push for more and more cuts to budgets, right to work legislation and an end to collective bargaining and unions. As my previous diaries - and those of other DK bloggers reveal - the Koch brothers (Kochsuckers) are funding most of these conservative wage and labor efforts through their foundations, along with other sympathetic PAC's and groups such as ALEC.

Conservative lawmakers belonging to ALEC and in the pockets of the Kochsuckers or others just like them, eagerly propose and support state legislation that benefits both their corporation and conservative agendas. Once these laws are put in place, they all profit from it - lawmaker and corporation alike - either through actual use of prison labor, lowered wages or from the dollars put in their pockets by lobbyists.

When all of this is put together we can see that slavery never vanished from the landscape of the U.S. The 13th Amendment left a loophole large enough to fly an Airbus 300 through it with plenty of clearance for each wingtip. It has simply been re-branded. Now it is no longer called slavery - its called "training." It still impacts upon African-Americans and other minorities especially. This training still allows the exploitation of other humans for the profit of individuals, companies, corporations and lawmakers nationwide. Our elections now have candidates taking advantage of "free" slave labor as John McCain did in Alabama in the '08 election cycle and New York's borough President Markowitz has more recently.

It is - as I've said numerous times - class warfare that is occurring and the "Haves" now have access to all the free or cheap slave labor they can use to increase the already substantial gap between the middle and upper classes in the U.S. Unless you're connected with the likes of the Kochsuckers you have no access to that free labor and the jobs some of us still have are in jeopardy of following those that have already disappeared inside prisons or overseas. Unless we as a working class society allow the Republicants and Kochsuckers to depress our wages and turn back the labor clock by 100 years, they're saying they'll take their ball and leave the game.

Those of you who have civil service jobs are in the most danger of being replaced with prisoners or being forced to accept substantial pay cuts. You and your jobs are the ones on the cusp of the abyss. You have to continue to fight for yourselves and the others in your community, while not as vulnerable as you, are still in jeopardy.

Those aligned against us have all the money and influence on their side. We have our dignity, desire to work for a living and fair wage, the ability to collectively bargain and to cast our votes as we see fit. I believe the latter is what is needed to replace the lawmakers who serve as paid servants of the likes of Koch, GT and other large corporations to steal our jobs, way of life and fair wages. Democrats this is your sign to come together and form a united front against the exploitation - of politics and prison labor - to steal America's legacy and meaning from us. Time's a wasting folks. The GOP funded agenda is in high gear and already planning "big things" for the rest of us after the 2012 election cycle. We outnumber them in registered voters and American principals. It's time for the first to fight for the latter or all of us will have to polish up our Chinese so we will be able to communicate with the Kochroaches...

Slave Labor-R's start replacing public workers & critical technical positions with prisoners!

Over the past couple of weeks there has been a substantial - but quiet - push by Conservatives. While they are loudly yelling to reduce wages, eliminate collective bargaining and replace them with right to work laws, they have been working to replace public sector workers with prisoners at the local levels; city, county and state.

A recent article in the NY Times reports that "Enlisting Prison Labor to Close Budget Gaps" is now on the agenda in Red states.

The article says in part:
"Prison labor — making license plates, picking up litter — is nothing new, and nearly all states have such programs. But these days, officials are expanding the practice to combat cuts in federal financing and dwindling tax revenue, using prisoners to paint vehicles, clean courthouses, sweep campsites and perform many other services done before the recession by private contractors or government employees.

"In New Jersey, inmates on roadkill patrol clean deer carcasses from highways. Georgia inmates tend municipal graveyards. In Ohio, they paint their own cells. In California, prison officials hope to expand existing programs, including one in which wet-suit-clad inmates repair leaky public water tanks. There are no figures on how many prisoners have been enrolled in new or expanded programs nationwide, but experts in criminal justice have taken note of the increase."
The reason why there are no figures to tell us how many prisoners are now being used, is because they don't want the public to realize just how many jobs are being farmed out to inmates, to replace public workers.

In New Jersey you can even look up the schedules of inmates and pick a day to use the inmates and schedule for their use! I don't know about you folks, but doesn't it seem too damn coincidental for this kind of effort to be happening at the same time the Conservatives are also pushing for right to work laws and elimination of collective bargaining for public sector workers? A little too coincidental for my liking.

Yesterday the Executive Director of the Correctional Association of New York, Robert Gangi wrote a letter to the editor opposing this use of prison labor to replace public sector workers. Gangi opened his letter with:
“Enlisting Prison Labor to Close Budget Gaps doesn't touch on the serious relevant concern that using prison workers to defray government costs represents a form of modern-day indentured servitude."
and he's right. As I wrote last week, banks are being allowed to use prisoners to ready foreclosed homes for sale and to cut the grass and do the landscaping to keep the property looking lived in. This is being done in Georgia and Texas now - and may be going on elsewhere. How the banks managed to get in on the use of inmate labor to fix up the properties they've stolen from hard working civilians who fell on hard times, but after what they did to our economy, the last thing they should have access to is free or cheap slave labor to offset more of their costs.

There are more prison labor issues on the radar today. In Oklahoma state lawmakers are getting set to take $5.3 million dollars from the prison industry fund set aside for running the industries, paying inmates and ordering materials. The need for this money? To pay prison guards so they won't have to be furloughed! Guard's while the rest of us are struggling to even find a job, the staff at Oklahoma's state prison facilities won't have to cut back more than one day a month via unpaid furloughs. As expected, officials warn that they have to have this money to keep the staff in place to control the inmates, as programs for the prisoners have already been cut way back and they have less to do, so need more supervision. This is always at the crux of their arguments for more tax dollars for incarceration - but it always goes to pay for staffers. Simply a continued unnecessary waste of tax dollars and reliance of incarceration to solve all the woes of our society.

How about remodeling Courthouses and other government buildings? Or Prisoners as "early responders" in community emergencies? Constructing low income housing in Kansas? How about Utility service positions in Florida? Or how about prisoners doing maintenance work at U.S. military bases as "Civilian Inmate Laborers"? And speaking of military...

...let's take a look at some corroborating information that has just come to light concerning the Federal Prison Industries - UNICOR - and the use of prisoners to manufacture missile and aircraft components. I've written about this previously but here are the facts from another independent source. Of course it calls into question the"safety" of using inmates to manufacture such parts...but it does not address the loss of such high-paying technical jobs to the civilian sector.

Here are some troubling yet informative words taken from the article:
"Right now, federal prison inmates in correctional institutions across America are making parts for Patriot missiles.

"They are paid $0.23 an hour to start, and can work their way up to a maximum of $1.15 to manufacture electronics that go into the propulsion, guidance, and targeting systems of Lockheed Martin’s (LMT) PAC-3 guided missile, originally made famous in the first Persian Gulf conflict."

I've been saying this for years now, but can't seem to get the right individuals in the right position to take notice. Here's more from the article:
"For the record, federal prisoners are making more than missile components. Inmates also make cable assemblies for the McDonnell Douglas/Boeing (BA) F-15, the General Dynamics/Lockheed Martin F-16, Bell/Textron’s (TXT) Cobra helicopter, as well as electro-optical equipment for the BAE Systems Bradley Fighting Vehicle’s laser rangefinder.

"Despite repeated requests, Unicor would not disclose how many inmates are currently assigned to such defense-related jobs, but public records show Unicor electronics factories located at no fewer than 14 federal correctional institutions."
Of Course, the ultra conservative Heritage Foundation was interviewed for this article and their policy "expert", Mackenzie Eaglen responded; "Building one piece of one part of one missile is not going to give away the nation’s crown jewels"..."My assumption is, this program is confined to basic manufacturing. There’s a big difference between a highly-skilled worker and someone who inserts a widget." it just me, or is this being deliberately downplayed (the skill necessary for manufacturing aircraft and missile components)? The DoD keeps saying they have such a large budget that increases year by year partly because they need to have a highly-trained, highly-skilled workforce “warm” and ready to gear up on a moment's notice - like we did in WW II, Korea and Viet Nam.

If having a highly trained and highly skilled workforce is necessary for the safety of this country, why isn't that workforce comprised of working Americans who have not broken laws and are in dire need of employment? I'll tell you why - just as this article explains; The prison workers are paid $0.23 an hour to start with a maximum wage possible of $1.15 an hour! How many of us are going to volunteer to do such a job for pennies an hour? Not very damn many, because we have families to support and want a fair wage for our labor. This is just more glorified bullshit spewing out of the mouths of our Conservative lawmakers on behalf of large corporations such as Boeing, McDonnell Douglas and others like Koch Industries, AT&T, etc.

This is the hidden issue that demonstrators across the U.S. at each and every statehouse and town hall meeting need to be shouting about. It is becoming more critical by the day as more and more public and private jobs are being taken from them and put in the hands of prisoners - oh, year for valuable and necessary "training!" It's valuable and necessary because they do the work for next to nothing, have no voice, cannot complain, strike or collectively bargain. They are the true slave labor of the new millennium...and those supporting this are coming for YOUR JOB NEXT.

Even Canadians are now being placed in jeopardy regarding the use of prison labor. At least in that country they're civil enough to allow the inmates to form a labor union to address worker issues in their prison industries.

How is all this "training thingy" (as Palin would ask) working out for us? Not very damn well. Released offenders are having more and more difficulties trying to land jobs once released. They can't find work, housing or community support programs and assistance, and wind up back in prison and back to work for the corporations. Incarceration and prison industry for profit is tearing our nation apart - even as the Conservatives work nationwide to decrease wages and destroy Unions.

This issue is not about training inmates, reducing recidivism, criminal justice or incarceration. Not at all. What it is about is the dollar and how many $$$'s governments can save and put into the pockets of their corporate partners. Unless and until we realize and understand this, nothing is going to change.