Prison Radio
Omar Askia Ali

The name of my topic is “The Business- The Business of Prisons.”

Picture a multi-billion dollar industry with corporate ties ranging from Boeing, Macy’s, Nintendo Starbuck, and Victoria’a Secret. Picture an industry [inaudible] with sizeable strings to pull in Washington. Picture an industry where CEOs receive 5.7 million in executive compensation.

If you’re envisioning an investment bank or Wall Street, think again. “Orange is the new black” is more on the right track. Private prisons are a cash cow. Private companies rake in billions of dollars in revenue each year due to United States inmate population. In fact, this tread is so widespread that it has its own term: the prison-industrial complex. Critical Resistance, a national grassroots organization working to dismantle the prison-industrial complex, defines the complex quite eloquent: the prison-industrial complex is a term we use to describe the overlapping interests of government and industry that use civilians, policy, and imprisonment as solutions to economical, social, and political problems. Corporations can benefit from the prison-industrial complex in several ways, many including technology and food companies do so to contract prison labor.”

Starbucks uses subcontractors, Signature Package Solutions has hired Washington state prisoners to package holidays [inaudible]. Spirits has used inmates in call centers. Inmates have sewn Victoria’s Secret products, including “Made in USA” tags.

Not only is this behavior completely legal, but it is also quite easy and actually encouraged by government policy under the work opportunity tax credit, employer receives a 2,400 tax credit for every work release inmate they employ as a reward for high-end risky target groups. This process is called [inaudible] and companies who participate in it are free to avoid paying for benefits such as health insurance or sick days. And then do not have to bother with [inaudible] issues like unions, vacation requests, or flexible work requests.

Some companies profit simply from the existence of prisons. These companies such as the [inaudible] and Corrections Corporation of America have been profiting off of thousands of state and federal inmates. GEO, as of 2010, contracts with 13 States, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, United States Marshall Service, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

That same year is 60 cents- percent, 842 million dollars of GEO’s revenue came from U.S. corrections contracts. Private prisons, companies like GEO have little incentive to rehabilitate prisoners or work towards leaving alleviating social problems. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Private prisons operate properly from society’s woes.

This has undoubtedly contributed to the country’s skyrocketing prison populations. Put simply, more prisoners means more cash for private prisons, corporations. In 1980, they were 319,598 people in federal state prisons. By 2013, that number had exploded to 1.57 million. The private prison industry and other members of the prison-industrial complex have doggedly lobbied in D.C. aNd State Capitols across the country for laws that increased the prison population under the disguise of tough-on-crime. Many states have passed so-called mandatory minimums, which strip judges have the ability to determine the length of an offender’s sentence. These laws set an automatic minimum length for given sentences, guaranteeing lengthier prison terms and thus greater profits for companies in the prison-industrial complex. My name is Omar Askia Ali AKA Edward Sistrunk. Thank you very much.

These commentaries are recorded by Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio.