Plantation Industries/Prison, Inc.

Richardson, Corey John



Corey John Richardson 1130 W0TdS 151152 / 200 Road to Justice West Liberty KY 41472 Plantation Industries / Prison, Inc. When I first arrived at prison, years ago, I overheard many refer to Prison Industries (P.I.) as "Plantation Industries." The ribald humor was lost on me, and actually made me feel a little uncomfortable. P.I. may go by many different names depending on the state, but the policy is the same: private businesses contract, or "outsource," some of their work to prisons. The work may be making soap or processing data, and the prisoners are paid ten or twenty cents an hour. It seemed to me at the time that most prisoners received little money from home and the yard "hustles," like drugs or gambling, only brought trouble. When a man is doing long stretches in prison, the extra money makes it more tolerable. A man who was to become one of my best friends was a shop leader. He referred to himself as "H.N.I.C." or "Head N. In Charge." Yes, he's Black, and though the jokes seemed a little rough, I am ashamed to admit that it was not until many years later that those words took on a very different meaning while I was researching the history of the U.S. prison system. Let me quote from that paper: With the powerful forces of the Industrial Age in full swing and the abolition of slavery finally realized, the U.S. observed a sharp increase in PTiS0D populations, particularly among African- Richardson Page 2 Plantation Americans. It is the sad confluence of great knowledge and enthusiasm for the science of mass production, which includes fields such as logistics and operations management, and_a group of vulnerable persons. Communities, particularly in the South, found much to be had by incarcerating the former slaves in significant numbers. The birth of large facilities occurred, called reformatories and penitentiaries; nearly 75 percent of all prisoners in the late 19th Century were African—American. Though abolished, the image of slavery continued to live in the use of "chain gangs" hired out to local farmers; these naturally consisted in large part of the recently "freed" slaves — but now these incarcerated men were being housed, fed, and maintained, though poorly, by the taxpayer, not the plantation owner. A veil had been lifted from my eyes. We are still part of that venal system. I wondered if all the wise—cracking convicts knew how accurate their quips truly are. It would be just one of many bone—crushing discoveries which I would make during my years of incarceration. First, we can begin to appreciate the disproportionate rates of arrest, conviction, and incarceration among the African- American community. While only one out of every 17 white men should expect to spend time in prison, one out of every three Black men should. Shockingly, the U.S. is still only about 12 percent African—American, but the prison population is over 50 percent Black. The numbers for Latinos are little better with about one out of every six males finding themselves behind razor—wire over the course of their lives. Though this phenomenon is not a purely racial one due to the fact that poverty is an important factor in predicting incarceration, race has been shown in isolation to be an important factor, and with the bulk of the nation's poor made up of ethnic Richardson Page 3 Plantation minorities, we attribute the disparity within U.S. prisons to an additive effect. As such, when I hear people claim that we live in a post—racial society evinced by the election of the country's first African—American president, I shudder. We are so very far from being color—blind and egalitarian. Second, we are discussing powerful incentives to incarcerate men and women for extraordinarily lengthy prison sentences with numerous disincentives to release Via parole or good time awards. Prisons not only depend upon prisoners to perform innumerable duties to keep these monstrosities of steel and concrete running, but the millions of dollars generated by P.I. contracts are essential to fiscal solvency. These are powerful companies with influential lobbies in Washington, and they are the names you find in any kitchen cabinet, like Procter and Gamble, Kroger's, Nestle, and so on. Outsourcing to prisons is a much cheaper method than paying a living wage to a free U.S. citizen. The taxpayer has subsidized the company in effect. And it is still cheaper than shipping the work abroad to India or Malayasia. Rain, sleet, or snow. Often during evenings and holidays. Plenty of hours over the usual 40 per week. I see the P.I. workers hard at it. It is sad to think that the very work which they perform to keep a little food in their lockers may be the very work that is keeping them in prison. I see the bloated prison guards escorting them about and supervising their duties reminiscent of the plantation owners of the ante-bellum days. I often wonder what would happen of all the prisoners just quit. The whole operation would shut down. No P.I. No trash pick—up. Richardson Page 4 Plantation No floor—mopping. No library workers. No legal aides. No anyone doing anything. The judge sentenced us to time, not work to keep the entire system propped up. That's Change you can believe in. As you know, the financial incentives go well beyond P.I. The media produces television, movies, news reports, and music which all sell an idea of crime and prison. Struggling rural communities and their respective businesses jockey for more prison construction to lift them out of penury since the factories and coal mines aren't coming. Private prisons, like Corrections Corporation of America and Wakenhut, contract with the state to cheaply hold prisoners for a profit with little oversight to how these men and women are treated. Huge corporations, like Aramark and Keefe, service prisons nationwide. And the list goes on and on. So, we must ask ourselves this: Can a "Just Society" ever allow a profit to be gained from the imprisonment of its citizenry? Clearly and unequivocally, the answer is always No. The monetary profit gained from the lives of men and women is an ill—gotten one and disqualifies any claim to proportionality or fairness in our sentencing laws and claims of rehabilitation. Prisoners, who are primarily the ones from the most disadvantaged communities of our society, are now further abused within a system which can only be called evil. When the profit motive is added, the equation is forever changed. These men and women are treated little better than common livestock, and the incidences of abuse and neglect continue. Richardson Page 5 Plantation Their efforts do not further their desire their families, Prison Industrial Complex — of which U.S. role. training, and rehabilitation to those who chance at a quality of life assumed to be by the middle class, but don't pretend to in prison that. Particularly when we look be brave enough to call it exactly labor, Day Slavery. It is noble and right to proffer education, to return home to but merely feed the insatiable beast of the commerce plays a heavy vocational have hardly had a an innate right call what happens at prison contract what it is: Modern

Author: Richardson, Corey John

Author Location: Kentucky

Date: August 17, 2016

Genre: Essay

Extent: 5 pages

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