If you believe that slave labor has been eradicated in modern western capitalist societies, if you think we've successfully exported slave labor, alongside our industries, to far away foreign countries, think again. Slave labor is alive and well just around the corner and we're even funding it through our tax dollars.
We call it the "criminal justice system" or, if we're more honest about it and include the fact that the end station in this series of government agencies and institutions is a privately owned, for profit prison system, we call it the "prison industrial complex". This is a vast machine, built throughout society under the guise of a mixture of government and private institutions aimed at upholding the law, but is in reality producing our modern day slaves: the prisoners who are put to work for no pay at all upward to a hefty 22 cents per hour, that's less than 40 dollars a month for a 40 hour work-week.
It's a slick and well organized effort that starts with the police and their infamous arrest-quotas. Even in states where these quotas are deemed illegal, like New York, they are still used. These quotas work like the "targets and incentives" system used throughout the capitalist economy and I'm sure many of you know how it works through a job you once had or still have. If the state wants to collect federal subsidies they most meet certain targets, a minimum number of arrests, with the expressed goal of making the streets safer again, of course; the quotas are there because the expectation is that police departments will try harder to investigate the crimes and arrest the criminals who commit them. What happens in reality though, and this is true for ANY system of targets and incentives, is that these departments realize it's much easier to file what was once considered a misdemeanor as a crime. Or to expand on the definition of certain crimes. Or to think of completely new ones; in an interview I heard recently there's talk about arrests for "obstructing pedestrian traffic", which means standing still on the sidewalk...
Why do you think it's such a struggle to get marijuana legalized? Alcohol does much more damage to individuals as well as society, ad has been legal forever. It's because this entire system is good for the economy, the capitalist economy to be precise. Federal funding of state governmental institutions has dried up, so the states will do anything to get the subsidies they can still secure. Many departments in many states are funded in large parts through fines: they arrest more to keep their heads above water. And with the ongoing militarization of the police force it is increasingly becoming an integral part of the military industrial complex as well. And now the Democrats have as their presidential nominee the architect of the criminal justice reform bill that has filled prisons like they've never been filled before, mainly with poor black people and others who were powerless to begin with, and can now be put to work for almost no money at all. If that doesn't reek of modern day slavery...
No, this is not a strictly American phenomenon of course. And yes, there are good arguments to be made for the existence of prison labor, it could even be considered therapeutic to be able to work in the otherwise mind numbingly monotonous nature of prison-life, and prisoners who have the experience will have better chances of finding a job when they leave prison. And there's many more good arguments, but they only make sense if imprisonment has rehabilitation as one of its main goals, and it doesn't. And the main argument against all of these supposed benefits of prison labor is the profit-motive that's the common thread throughout this narrative; it's all economy and very little to do with real justice or fairness. Still, I wanted to find a video for you, dear reader, that highlights both sides of this ugly coin, and here it is:
Prison Labor: Modern SLAVERY?
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