Intertwining issues in today’s podcast (CLICK HERE TO LISTEN) are Sinead O’Connor’s discussion of her experience in the Magdalene Laundries, which used slave labor for the Catholic Church in Ireland and the laundries that exist in American prisons today.
Not only that but the modern plantations that the state operates with inmate labor
One of Bob Sloan’s great articles on this http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/01/07/1177065/–INSOURCING-Analysis-Prison-Labor-Competing-For-Your-Job
So is this why the state wants to imprison you for stupid reasons?
Two issues have caught my attention in the blogosphere that I see as somewhat related.
First, Sinead O’Connor has opened up about the abuses she witnessed during her time as a teenager in the Magdalene Laundries operated by the catholic church in Ireland. These laundries utilized the slave labor of women imprisoned often for very petty crimes or no crimes at all. These were places you could send your delinquents, your unwed mothers, etc. Sinead was sent there for shoplifting and held for 18 months and forced to work in the laundry that served the church, hospitals and had lucrative private contracts as well.
People are shocked that this went on in Ireland until the last laundry closed in 1997, but what people don’t know is that this is happening right under our noses here at home. Today.
In North Carolina, Correction Enterprises operates a massive laundry operation using inmate labor. They process over 34 million pounds of laundry annually – and this is direct from their own website, linked in my blog entry on this. Their clients are themselves, which you might expect, but also hospitals, and other state agencies. 34 million pounds. 7 laundry facilities are located across the state of North Carolina, including one in BroughtonHospital, which is a psychiatric hospital.
Laundry is not all we make the inmates do. In the state which boasts the furniture capital of the world, High Point, inmates are making furniture. For $1 a day. There is also a frame shop for custom framing – I just spent a crap ton of money to have something custom framed, but the state has prisoners do that for them. I wonder how my frame shop feels about that. That there are inmates doing their job for $1 a day. And They don’t even get to keep much of that dollar. Much of it goes to restitution and court costs. People, these are slaves.
Slaves you say? Yes. They even own and operate a plantation. I will read right from the website of Caledonia Correctional Institution
About 5,500 acres of farmland are under cultivation at Caledonia. Correction Enterprises manages the farm which contains cattle, chickens and row crops such as corn, wheat, cotton and soybeans. In addition, the inmates farm 300 acres of vegetables like tomatoes, sweet corn, collard greens, sweet potatoes, squash, cucumbers and melons. During the off-season, fresh vegetables are grown in green houses.
Inmates also work in the prison’s cannery. The cannery processes and cans crops grown on the farm for distribution to prison kitchens across the state. It is 12,770 square feet and has the capability of canning about 500,000 gallons of commodities per year.
What does that sound like to you? That’s a plantation. Yes, folks, the State of NC has black men picking cotton today for little to no wages and they’re not allowed to leave. They’re not even allowed to strike. In Georgia, which has a similar program, inmates tried a work stoppage and many were beaten within an inch of their lives, so much for voluntary. And so much for all of this labor going back into feeding the prison population – in Georgia one of the grievances of the striking workers was poor quality of the food including lack of fruits and vegetables. Where are all the vegetables going, if not to prisoners, as is claimed by the agency website?
As far as training and giving inmates skills for out in the workforce, Bob Sloan a journalist published in the Daily Kos on this issue finds that prisons highly favor lifers in their work programs, and those with long sentences. The average sentence of laborers in California prisons is 15 years. Maybe its not about training for the outside, but not wasting training on labor you’re just going to lose.
In North Carolina, Corrections Enterprises reports annual income of close to $100 million a year. Right now they are only supposed to sell their services to other state agencies, but they have active plans to expand their market share through legislation. They want to operate in other industries and increase their customer base. In this economy, that especially means displacing civilian labor with sweat shop labor in prison. Do you think they might also want to increase their labor pool?
Which brings me to the second story I wanted to address – HB34, a bill in NC to criminalize nipple exposure. People are frustrated that the legislature is wasting time on this, that its frivolous and stupid and there are more important things for our lawmakers to be doing. Maybe its more insidious and evil than that. Maybe its just our legislators, at the prompting of powerful forces within the prison industrial complex, looking for more silly reasons to cage people. Maybe law enforcement goes to that topless rally in Asheville every year and sees some women that would make good laundresses, or worse… Maybe they like the idea of having attractive female inmates at their disposal.
HB 34 is scheduled for a vote in the NC legislature Tuesday the 26 of February. It has 12 cosponsors that need to be asked if they are just looking for excuses to incarcerate more women to use as slaves. It’s a $100 million industry. It’s a pretty big deal.
And its also a BIG reason we won’t be getting rid of the drug war anytime soon. You know that as soon as the police make a drug arrest the cash register starts ringing. There are fines and fees, court costs, side industries like attorneys and bail bondsmen that start salivating, and of course asset forfeiture which means all your stuff belongs to the state to auction off well before you’re convicted of anything. Then you get sent to prison. If it’s a private prison, they’re getting paid $40,000 a year to house you. And of course, what I’ve been talking about today – the value of your labor as a slave to the state.
Marijuana is the grass that feeds that cash cow. Just so you know what we’re up against.
Alarmists scream that one day FEMA will operate work camps for American citizens. People, we already do. We already do.