Every day in the United States, over a million people go to work and make as little as two cents an hour or sometimes nothing at all. They're forced to produce and get punished if they refuse. Today, private corporations are profiting off a new form of slavery: the private prison labor industry is growing at a rapid rate in America, and legislation exists to continually increase the sentencing of prisoners.
The corporations that employ prisoners will surprise you. The problem isn't limited to brands with bad reputations. Starbucks, Victoria's Secret, Whole Foods, and Nintendo have all used prison workers to increase corporate profits. And if you've complained about bad customer service, you might be surprised to learn that many call centers are staffed by inmates.
After the Civil War, the 13th Amendment banned slavery - except among inmates. "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” But with all the problems in the justice system, including mass incarceration, racial bias, and harsh laws that force mandatory minimums and three-strike rules, are America's prisoners really "duly convicted?"
The United States makes up less than 5% of the world's population but has nearly 25% of all the prisoners in the world. And it gets even worse: the 340% increase in Americans behind bars was funded, in part, by corporations looking for cheap labor. Dozens of respected companies funded the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which passed the "Prison Industries Act" to expand inmate labor.
Today, even the federal government brags about the "business opportunities" at dozens of federal prison factories across the country. Companies and prisons are working together to force inmates to work for pennies a day just to increase corporate profits.