Prison Labor for Private Industry- An Incentive for Mass Incarceration?

    Some inmate labor is cleaning, preparing food, and upkeep of the prison grounds. But through a program called Federal Prison Industries (UNICORE), prisoners also work on behalf of private sector employers. These arrangements are often called rent a convict or factories with fences. These jobs can be doing nearly anything, from staffing call centers to producing body armor for the military.

    Under this arrangement, prisons rent inmate labor to private industry which is required to pay the prison prevailing wages. Then the prison keeps approximately 80% of the inmates’ wages for itself, leaving the inmates a pittance.

    This arrangement clearly has benefits for prisoners. They gain job skills and outside work breaks the monotony of prison life. But is the government leasing out prisoners to private, for profit employers and retaining their pay different than what slave owners have always done? And does profiting from prison labor provide an incentive for mass incarceration?

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An examination of the ethical problems caused by prisoners working for private industry from Al Jazeera.

An explanation of the vast number of prisoners working for Unicore from Salon.

Three Strikes and You’re Hired!- An explanation of the human rights issues raised by Unicore from the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights

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