Is Prison Labor Good for America? Essay

1168 Words Jan 12th, 2011 5 Pages
Luke House
October 30, 2008
Lit Essay
Prison Labor In America

Is Prison labor good for America?

Introduction: The Benefits and Problems
Due to the tight labor market, companies are relying on prisoners to provide them with labor. As of now, private prisons have become one of the largest powers in the “prison-industrial complex.” There are approximately 18 private prison corporations, which guard 10,000 prisoners, and more than 37 states have legalized the contracting of prisoners by private companies (Prison Slave Labor: Fascism U.S. – Style). For both the prisons, and the companies, it’s a good deal. Whyte and Baker list the benefits for those who utilize prison labor: no unions, strikes, health benefits, unemployment
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Prisons depend on this income. Corporate stockholders who make money off prisoners' work lobby for longer sentences, in order to expand their workforce. The system feeds itself." (qtd. in Pelaez). There is also the issue on how the prison work programs have stolen employment from outside workers, as well as holding down wages for low-paying jobs. (Leonhardt)

Costs of Imprisonment:
As of now, the cost of operating prisons is on the rise, along with the number of people in prison. Currently, taxpayers are spending between $20,000 and $25,000 annually on each individual prisoner (The Third Branch, Costs of Incarceration and Supervision). A proposal to reduce the cost of imprisonment is to put the prisoners to work. Within the next five years the prison population is expected to increase and is estimated to cost an additional 1.6 million dollars (The Economic Impact of Prison Labor). “If half of the prisoners could be employed by private enterprise during that time, their work would reduce taxpayer costs by almost $9 billion per year.” (The Economic Impact of Prison Labor)

Impacts of Prison Labor on Reform:
In the 1950’s prison authorities, unions, and private companies reached an agreement regarding prison labor. Prisoners were to work as a form of rehabilitation, but the goods created by the prisoners would be used inside of prisons, or be sold to government…