American Prison Labor Camps

5 mins read

American prison labor camps

The $80 billion prison industry enriches the powerful while exploiting and disenfranchising the poor.

Prisons can force inmates to work for little or no wage per the 13th Amendment. Once you’ve been convicted of a crime, you are in essence a slave of the state.

Private prisons, corporations profiting from cheap prison labor and some politicians benefit at the expense of the poor. Lets follow the money to see how American ‘prison slavery‘ works.

Private prisons, corporations and politicians exploit the poor and vulnerable

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Prison labor camps

“There are over 870,000 inmates working full-time in American prisons. Their median wage in state and federal prisons is around 20 and 31 cents an hour, respectively. In Texas, Georgia, and Arkansas prisoners are forced to work for free. “Inmate workers are not considered “employees” under the law. No disability or worker’s compensation in the event of an injury. No Social Security withholdings, sick time, or overtime pay.” – Prospect

“Targeted mass incarceration policies and racial bias, have led to more people of color in prisons and jails.” – Talk Poverty

“America spends over $80 billion annually to incarcerate 2.2 million people in deplorable facilities. The social costs of our failing criminal legal system are carried largely by low-income and minority communities. Private and public actors financially exploit our criminal legal system. They make money of each segment of our punishment system. They have created a legal form of human trafficking that targets the poor.” – Worth Rises

Exploiting the prison system

How the prison-industrial complex incarcerates the poor and Blacks is a complex issue. We used several expert sources including: Prison Policy InitiativeWorth RisesMarket RealistCorporate Accountability LabEqual Justice InitiativeTalk PovertyQuartzThe American ProspectA History of America in Ten Strikes and The Atlantic.

A StoryMap is a visual story that’s easy to follow and share. It is a launching pad to more information. The prison-industrial system may be complicated, but at the end of the day it is about money and power. A StoryMap helps connect the dots about why it is that Black Americans are more likely to be imprisoned? How private prisons make money of inmate labor? Why corporations and lobbying groups like ALEC donate to politicians who perpetuate this injustice? How incarceration is a means of voter suppression.

Forget the sloganeering about ‘Law & Order’. Follow the money.

StoryTelling with a mission

We first created a map with ArcGIS that shows the scope of the problem. It shows details of prisons around the country and each state’s policies of paying its inmates. It is color coded so you can easily spot states like Texas and Georgia that do not pay their inmates at all. This map can be freely share with this link or embedded in a website with this code:

< iframe width=”300″ height=”200″ frameborder=”0″ scrolling=”no” allowfullscreen src=””></iframe>

Map of prison industrial complex and each state's policies of what it pays inmates

Perspective on the Prison Industrial System

Next we added excellent information from the Prison Policy Initiative and other sources to provide more details.

How many people are locked in the United States

Show how the money flows

DemLabs created this relationship map with Kumu (a free app) to show the connections between private prisons (like GEO and Corrections Corpn. of America), the Koch Brothers funded American Legislative Exchange (ALEC), The Republican National Committee and Mitch McConnell. It also shows the devastating impact it has on the poor and especially communities of color.

Corporations, billionaires and politicians benefit from harsh prison labor policies.

Use infographics to make the complex easy to understand.

Racial disparities in imprisonment

TakeAway: Corporations and private prisons are being used to exploit the poor and vulnerable and deny them their right to vote. Forget the soundbites – follow the money to see it is being done and demand change.


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Originally posted on DEMLABS BLOG

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