Profit seeking businesses have always sought out those among the indigenous population they could exploit the most where labor is concerned. Reduced labor costs means $$$ in the cash registers of the already affluent. This was the case in post-Civil War America as those rebuilding the South used Black Codes to provide slave labor to both government and private business. This same kind of exploitation was used by Robber Barons in the U.S. when they pursued building the first Transcontinental Railroad during the same period. African-Americans in the west were scarce, so for the project's Western approaches the wealthy entrepreneurs used Chinese and Irish immigrants.
In world history there have always been slaves - prisoners of war, captured civilians from warring tribes were taken in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Egyptian Pharaohs enslaved the Jewish - as Mankind evolved. Man has somehow always found a way to exploit others as they pursued wealth, influence and the power that comes from both.
Today in "our" world this has not really changed with regard to exploitation of humanity for wealth accumulation through cheap labor and other means. The road to Civil Rights in the U.S. is littered with the blood of thousands and the bodies of hundreds as America struggled to free itself from the chains of servitude - indentured as well as basic human rights.
Historically those enslaved have been those with the least public support, the smallest voice to object to their treatment and those with the least access to legal recourse. This has been the plight of African-Americans in the U.S. since slavery began centuries ago. They have been one of the most exploited minorities in our history. There have been other classes, races or groups subjected to exploitation, but not to the extent, depth and consistency as that visited upon African-Americans. With the implementation of the Civil Rights legislation of the 60's and 70's many believed this racial disparity had changed. It really didn't, rather it was pushed underground much as the 13th Amendment prohibitions were a hundred or so years earlier.
What has changed since the racial turmoil of the 1960's and early 70's, was the process used to wring free or cheap labor from those most vulnerable. After centuries of slavery most in the civilized world have come to denounce the term as inhumane and unacceptable under any circumstance. Still it remains alive and well in the United States and other countries such as China but it is no longer called "Slavery" by those advocating it and using it to pursue personal or corporate wealth...now it is called incarceration and is allowed under the same 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:
Section 1: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.This Amendment followed the issuance of President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, when it was voted into acceptance in 1865.
"Section 2: Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."
This Constitutional Amendment was merely a speed bump to those wanting to oppress those they perceive as belonging to a "lower class". Using this "law" those wanting to exploit the labor of others merely concentrated on the second section of the 13th Amendment to push for the creation of laws by Congress to enable incarcerating more and more African-Americans and those considered "Poor White Trash."
In the mid 70's along came Illinois State Representative Henry Hyde, activist Paul Weyrich, and Lou Barnett, a veteran of then Gov. Ronald Reagan's 1968 presidential campaign, together with a handful of others, launching the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Among those who were involved with ALEC in its formative years were: Bob Kasten and Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin; John Engler of Michigan; Terry Branstad of Iowa, and John Kasich of Ohio, all of whom moved on to become governors or Members of Congress. Congressional members who were active during this same period included Senators John Buckley of New York and Jesse Helms of North Carolina, as well as Congressmen Phil Crane of Illinois and Jack Kemp of New York.
"A nonpartisan membership association for state lawmakers who shared a common belief in limited government, free markets, federalism, and individual liberty. Their vision and initiative resulted in the creation of a voluntary membership association for people who believed that government closest to the people was fundamentally more effective, more just, and a better guarantor of freedom than the distant, bloated federal government in Washington, D.C."
This was the beginning of "real" Conservatism in the U.S. and this group and the individual members had one main goal in mind - create legislation beneficial to business. They understood that in order to garner membership and financing, they had to offer an attraction to those with the money. They chose to pursue legislation to create harsher criminal laws to incarcerate thousands as a means of providing a way for corporations to flourish. Coupled with their pursuits of criminal justice "reforms", ALEC sought legislation to allow private corporations to capitalize off of the growing number of prisoners - predominantly African-Americans - in our prisons, a direct result of ALEC's Criminal Justice "Reforms". As with many of today, the rhetoric spoken by ALEC about "individual liberty", "free markets" and "federalism" in the 70's and 80's was not intended for the masses. Rather it was for the corporate elite, businesses and companies looking to shed the shackles of regulations that limited their pursuit of wealth and profits.
ALEC sought and prevailed in proposing and enacting laws beneficial to those fighting America's "Drug War" in every state and at the federal level. While pushing for the enactment of these harsh oppressive laws, they also sought out legislation to allow for privatization of prisons. This would open the door to corporate use of prisons for profiting from incarceration created by ALEC. In 1979 Congress passed the Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP) as part of the Justice System Improvement Act. PIECP was a new federal law allowing private corporations access to prison labor by allowing partnerships between those private manufacturers and state prison industries. The Bill titled Justice System Improvement Act, was introduced in the Senate by Senator Edward Kennedy and had 12 co-sponsors:
Sen Baker, Howard H., Jr. [TN] - 1/3/1979
Sen Baucus, Max [MT] - 1/3/1979
Sen Bayh, Birch [IN] - 1/3/1979
Sen Cochran, Thad [MS] - 1/3/1979
Sen DeConcini, Dennis [AZ] - 1/3/1979
Sen Dole, Robert J. [KS] - 1/3/1979
Sen Glenn, John H., Jr. [OH] - 1/3/1979
Sen Hatch, Orrin G. [UT] - 1/3/1979
Sen Javits, Jacob K. [NY] - 1/3/1979
Sen Laxalt, Paul D. [NV] - 1/3/1979
Sen Leahy, Patrick J. [VT] - 1/3/1979
Sen Thurmond, Strom [SC] - 1/3/1979
A companion bill with the same title was introduced in the U.S. House by Rep. Peter W. Rodino, Jr. and there were two co-sponsors:
Rep Mazzoli, Romano L. [KY-3] - 1/3/1979This legislation originally had nothing in it pertaining to the production of prison made goods, a program to allow corporations to partner with prison industries to use inmate labor or shipping of those goods across state lines. That part of the Justice System Improvement Act did not surface until well into the legislative discussion on the Bills. In May of 1979 the first mention of such a program was introduced into the legislation.
Rep McClory, Robert [IL-13] - 1/3/1979
By the mid 1980's incarceration had begun to explode as prisons and jails filled with the many men and women caught up in the new laws proposed by ALEC began to be enforced. Some of these laws were deliberately written to allow African-Americans to be targeted by law enforcement, prosecutors and judges. Disparate laws such as those involving powder cocaine and crack cocaine - Whites were attracted to and used the more expensive powder form as a "recreational" drug, while African-American's with less financial resources turned to crack cocaine as their choice. Legislation was enacted that made it possible to target Blacks and Latinos using crack with laws 100 times more harsh than the laws on powder forms of the same drug:
"In 1986 -- at the height of the inner-city crack cocaine epidemic and the fears it sparked -- Congress rushed the passage of legislation that required mandatory minimum prison sentences of at least five years for the possession of just five grams of crack cocaine. The same law, though, said that someone would have to possess five hundred grams of powder cocaine to receive a comparable prison term -- a ratio of 1 to 100. This massive sentencing disparity between crack cocaine and powder cocaine set in motion the mass incarceration of African Americans and Latinos. With mandatory minimums and measures such as three-strikes laws, the trend has spread to working-class whites, as well.
There's no reason our society should shoulder this injustice. Mandatory minimum sentencing violates Fourteenth Amendment guarantees of equal protection, since the law's burden falls disproportionately upon racial and ethnic minorities. While in 2006, more than 66% of crack cocaine users were white, a full 82% of those sentenced under the federal crack cocaine law were African Americans -- even though blacks were estimated to represent less than 15% of crack users."
Other laws pertaining to firearms - possession or use - have been used to incarcerate larger segments of the African-American communities. The list goes on and it is all disproportionate when compared to ethnic percentages in the U.S.
While our lawmakers were enacting these harsh drug laws, they were also working on limiting the discretion of prosecutors and judges. ALEC suggested and their members successfully got the U.S. Congress to pass new Sentencing Guidelines in 1984 as part of the Sentencing Reform Act. Part of this "Act" abolished parole in the federal system and most states enacted similar legislation adopting this federal guideline as state law and abolishing parole at the same time.
All of these legislative efforts by ALEC and their corporate members and funders created a bulging prison population from coast to coast. In 2007 the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reported that African-American incarceration rates are 6.5 times that of Whites incarcerated. Perhaps this disparity is better understood when given in graph form? Below is a graph distributed by the Project America:
ALEC and their corporate members rubbed their hands expectantly as they sought - and received - contract after contract from the feds and many states authorizing the privatization of prison facilities. Between then and now in Texas alone, they were able to establish 60 private prison facilities housing men, women and juveniles - mostly of African-American descent. Arizona has many of these privately run prisons as does Florida and several other mostly Southern U.S. states. A large number of these private run prisons have prison industries attached and the inmates are put to work in those operations. Most are partnered with companies allowing them access to this labor.
This disparity reflects the efforts of legislation proposed and presented to the state and federal assemblies by ALEC and their lawmakers. They created Truth in Sentencing (TIS) laws, minimum mandatory drug and gun laws, a Prison Industries Act, and proposed more legislation to exploit PIECP. Here are the initiatives presented by ALEC's Public Safety and Elections Task Force:
Courts and SentencingThen there are initiatives on prison:
Electronically Issued Warrants Act
Minimum-Mandatory Sentencing Act
Exclusionary Rule Act
Open Parole Hearings Act
Hearsay in Public Hearings Act
Remote Video Court Appearance Act
Insanity Defense Reform Act
Shock Incarceration Act
Judicial Sentencing Disclosure Act
Third Theft Felony Act
Mandatory Demand Reduction Assessment Act
Truth in Sentencing Act
Alternative Method of Court Appearances Act
Bail Fugitive Recovery Persons Act
Anti-Crime (Secured Release) Act
Bailable Offences Act
Bail Agent Education and Licensing Act
Uniform Bail Act
Bail Bond Expiration Act
Conditional Early Release Bond
Bail Forfeiture Notification Act
Citizen's Right to Know: Pretrial Release Act
Bail Forfeiture Payments Act
Crimes With Bail Restrictions Act
Bail Forfeiture Relief and Remission Act
Criminal Justice Drug Testing Act
Prescription Non-Narcotic Assured Access Act
Drug Dealer Liability Act
Publication of Drug Offender Photographs Act
Drug-Affected Infants Act
State Employee Drug Free Workplace Act
Drug-Free Housing Project
Suspension of Professional Licenses Act
Drug-Free Post Secondary Education Act
Treatment Center Accountability Act
Drug-Free Schools Act
Use of a Minor in Drug Operations Act
Drug-Free Workplace Act
Workplace Drug Testing Act
Methamphetamine Reduction Act
Juvenile Justice and miscellaneous legislation:
Housing Out-of-State Prisoners in a Private Prison Act
Prison Industries Act
Inmate Labor Disclosure Act
Resolution on Prison Expenditures
Model State Bill Prohibiting Wireless Handsets in Prisons
Targeted Contracting for Certain Correctional Facilities and Services Act
Prevention of Illegal Payments to Inmates Incentives Act
The foregoing represent merely some of the legislation described as "Acts" proposed by one of ALEC's nine "Task Forces" comprised of lawmakers and 300 of the largest and most influential corporations in the U.S. - Including Koch Industries, of course. All of the legislative efforts of ALEC are geared to making money for their corporate partners - period. This is what they exist for. Oh, sure they have much rhetoric about Jeffersonian Principles, federalism, etc...but the bottom line is that for ALEC to continue to exist and wield influence, they must have the funding necessary to carry their efforts forward.
Habitual Juvenile Offender Act
Parental Accountability Act
Juvenile Identification Act
Comprehensive Asset Forfeiture Act
Resolution In Support Of The Second Chance Act
Disarming a Law Enforcement Officer Act
School Violence Prevention Resolution
DNA Profiling Act
Resolution Calling on States to Defund ACORN
Criminal Record Reporting Act
Habitual Violent Offender Incarceration Act
Electronic Home Detention Act
Intensive Probation Act
Part and parcel of securing continued funding from the likes of Koch, AT&T Corrections Corporation of America, Geo Group and hundreds more is pursuing that which makes those corporate elite rich. This "elite" is described in Eric Heubeck's 2000 Essay and today serves as the Treatise of Alec. It is titled: "The Integration of Theory and Practice: A Program for the New Traditionalist Movement." It describes this "Elite" in several forms throughout the Treatise, using that term no less than 15 times. Most often the term is used to describe a "Cultural-elite" opposed to a "non-Cultural-Elite." I believe Heubeck clearly intends that this non-cultural-elite term represents most minorities in the U.S. that typically vote Democratic. Which brings us back to the ethnic issue of exploitation of such minorities.
Prison privatization - as I mentioned previously - is a part of the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC). These privately run prisons earn billions of dollars for the owners of, and investors in, those corporations. Along with private prisons comes the peripheral privatized services; food service, medical and healthcare, banking, canteens and commissary operations, phone contracts, cell and housing products - and again the list goes on and on. The largest profits are not from any of the above privatized services or even housing. No the largest profit is derived off of the labor of those incarcerated. Today hundreds of thousands of prisoners are working in prison industries nationwide. These men and women are disproportionately African-Americans. They are worked for as little as $.13 cents an hour in state and federally run prisons. ALEC's "Acts" created this huge workforce with the assistance of their lawmaker members. Also with the assistance of the same lawmakers they developed their "Prison Industries Act". In addition they promoted expansion and corporate involvement in the PIECP program as mentioned elsewhere herein, at their Summits and Annual Conferences from 2000 through 2003. The goal of ALEC regarding their Prison Industries Act and pursuit of PIECP operations was to make this large captive workforce of prisoners available to those corporate interests involved in manufacturing that are associated, affiliated or members of ALEC.
Once this huge labor force was available and put to work in prison industries making products for the U.S. government and private manufacturers, they began to complain about the working conditions, wages and abuses they received at the hands of their warders and employers. Lawsuits were filed in state and federal courts by African-Americans imprisoned and worked as slave laborers. ALEC and their corporate elite could not allow this kind of "voice" of the workers to find it's way to the public. So they and their lawyers went to work silencing even the whispers heard from within the prison walls. They were able to pass legislation that allowed state and federal courts to find that the complaints made by prisoners as to wages and working conditions were "frivolous" and as such these courts could dismiss the cases without considering the merits of the issues. When prisoners continued to press these issues, federal courts issued rulings that even though prisoners were considered "employees" for purposes of deducting taxes and "voluntarily" participating in PIECP and other work programs, they did not qualify as "employees" for purposes of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). In a recent Federal 5th Circuit Appellate case (Williams v. Henagan, et al., No. 07-30997, 5th Cir., 2010), the Court ruled that even an offender working on supervised release was not entitled to even minimum wage due to the fact he had been sentenced to hard labor, and the portion of his sentence being served under supervised release removed the FLSA protections. In addition Williams was worked overtime weekly and his employer not required to pay him for such overtime. Of important note this article was found at Business Management Daily and was written to provide business owners with information advising them to look to jail and prison release programs in their area they could use to work around FLSA provisions.
Today state and federal courts routinely dismiss cases and after finding the issues presented by prisoners to be "frivolous" they order that the prisoner is prohibited from petitioning the court in the future on even unrelated issues. So even this door through which whispers can sometimes be heard have been slammed shut on prisoner's voices.
There is no doubt that pursuing cheap or free labor is done every day by companies and businesses owned by the wealthy as they look for ways to reduce costs and increase profits. In the 80's through the mid 2000's they took our jobs overseas to countries where cheap labor was plentiful, regulations were non-existent, EPA requirements have never been heard of, vacations, sick leave and health care insurance was not required and where the number of hours worked by laborers were dictated by the companies - not government regulations or restrictions. During this same period these companies also turned their eyes filled with dollar signs upon the prison workforce nearer to them here in the U.S. The same workforce created by the likes of ALEC and their corporate benefactors. Using the laws created in 1979 under the Justice System Improvement Act (sounds like something beneficial to society, huh?) and the agencies created by that legislation - the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Bureau of Justice Statistics and the National Institute of Justice - corporations were able to tap into that huge captive labor force. Remember, the Department of Justice today controls or has authority over 100% of the federal prison industries and the labor of federal inmate workers and they also control the operation of 43 state prison industries partnered with private industry to allow access to inmate labor by privately owned companies and corporations. Without the DOJ authorization and manipulations, none of this would be possible.
With all of the provisions of PIECP to not require the payment of benefits, vacations, etc., companies were still not satisfied so they found a way to further reduce inmate wages to minimum wage or less. Together these corporate interests with the willing cooperation of the Department of Justice, the BJA and the National Correctional Industries Association (NCIA) completely twisted the laws involved in PIECP to the point where it has no real resemblance to the legislation actually passed in 1979. They were able to get the BJA to outsource all oversight of the program to those participating in the program itself! The NCIA is nothing more than a country club of the good ol' boys involved in prison industries sitting as the only oversight and authority over the program. The entire NCIA Board is made up of prison industry administrators participating in the program. Other members are those corporations partnered with the prison industries, those that supply parts and materials to the various industries and lesser employees of all of the above. All of these companies, organizations and government agencies working together have created an atmosphere favorable to corporations. Their combined efforts have served to reduce civilian jobs - sending them behind prison fences where profits abound for those with access to these captive workers. As we look for jobs to support us and our families, they only place where employment is available are in the prisons.
Please check out the above-provided link to the NCIA and pay particular attention to the ethnicity of all of those that sit upon that board...there is only one race depicted among those representing such state prison industries as: Tennessee, Virginia, Montana, North Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Arkansas and all the rest. I believe if this were 150 years ago, the same kind of ethnic makeup would be seen in magazines and news articles describing those supporting slavery and secession from the U.S.
Today it is no longer just the African-American population these despicable laws and corporations are going after. No, the Black communities have worked for years to instill their children with the real facts about crime and have made great strides in attempting to reduce the numbers within their communities and families that wind up in prison. From the mid 2000's on there has been a low but steady reduction in incarceration involving African-Americans. It has escaped the notice of most Americans but not the analysts at companies like Geo Group, Corrections Corporations of America and those belonging to ALEC. These companies and ALEC take great interest in trends and behavioral changes that would impact upon their interests.
In 2009 the trend became more noticeable as many privately owned prison beds began to sit vacant. Something had to be done as federal prison industry factories began to close due to the economy. Never fear, ALEC again came to the rescue with a solution to filling those beds...they began working on laws related to illegal immigration! Black prisoners were diminishing so Brown ones would take their place. ALEC proposed the SB 1070 legislation that wound up being introduced in Arizona in early 2010. Now just over a year later, similar laws are upon the desks of many state Assemblies in the U.S...put there by ALEC's lawmaker members in each state and supported fully by fellow Republican lawmakers that see this as part of the GOP agenda.
Just as African-Americans have been targeted by legislation designed to put them in prison, work them hard and keep them as long as possible...illegal aliens, most of Hispanic or Latino descent are now centered in the cross hairs of ALEC as the new captive workforce. Since ALEC's members CCA and Geo Group hold the largest number of state and federal contracts to house federal immigrant detainees, they are poised to make a fortune off of housing those the laws are targeting. These contracts call for U.S. taxpayers to fund as much as $62,000.00 per year, per bed in each of these privately owned or operated detention facilities! Why so much? Immigrants are not per-se criminals, instead they are not charged with felony crimes, so they have to be treated differently than incarcerated inmates. Of course where corners can be cut, they're cut to increase the profits. Many articles of today reveal the horrors visited upon those housed within a Geo or CCA facility.
In conclusion it doesn't look good for the immigrants representing this new "Treasure" sought after by corporations and ALEC. Just as ALEC and others lined up to create legislation targeting African-Americans over the last few decades as a means to wealth, they have of late moved the focus of their targeting upon Mexicans and others of similar heritage. This is why it is important for all of us, Black, White, Brown or Yellow to stand together and put an end to this exploitation for profit through incarceration. All of us have to close our ears to the rhetoric spewed by ALEC and their ilk that the laws they propose, initiatives brought before state Congressional members and other efforts combined with evangelical overtones are necessary for America. If we stop listening and vote with our hearts instead of upon the slick campaign ads, we can get through this. Not unscathed, but enlightened to the agenda these individuals, corporations and those organizations bought and paid for by the likes of Charles and David Koch propose for us.
Once we defeat this pariah at the polls in 2012 and send them home counting their losses in seats and money we must then turn our attention to freeing those still incarcerated with little reason to be there - except for the fabricated laws enacted to enrich those who created the laws in the first place.
Don't forget the Anti-ALEC Rally in Cincinnati on April 28th and 29th! Please try and attend and lend your voice in opposition to their manipulating our laws to increase profits for their corporate members! Many Teach-Ins are scheduled to provide us with ways and means to stop ALEC and begin combating those laws they've put in place over the years to exploit our society...