The Prison Industrial Complex

In 2016, the Obama administration issued a directive that would phase out the use of privately run prisons. One company which runs these prisons is CoreCivic. The day after Donald Trump was elected President, its stock shot up 46%. Obviously, stock market investors knew what was in the mind of the new administration because one of Attorney General Jeff Session's first official acts was to cancel that directive. There is big money to be made in the prison industrial complex. Perhaps the easiest way is through the use of prison labor.

The 13th Amendment to the Constitution prohibits slavery "except in punishment for a crime." This plays out practically in the way the Bureau of Prisons operates a program known as Federal Prison Industries. FPI hires inmates, paying them roughly 90 cents per hour to produce mattresses, eye glasses, body armor and, in the case of Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp, to retrofit SUV's and ATV's for the Border Patrol, ICE, the National Park Service and other governmental agencies. In 2016, according to The Economist, FPI earned a profit of $500 million, doing business under the innocuous name of Unicor. No doubt this number would be higher, but for BOP mismanagement. We have to remember that the Bureau doesn't exactly hire the best and brightest. One small example is the $300,000 recently spent here on ATVs that were the wrong color. Had the mistake been discovered within 6 months, they could have been returned. Unfortunately, Unicor missed the return period by a month.

Logic says that the best defense against criminal recidivism is employment upon an inmate's release. So one of the BOP's justifications of prison slave labor is that they're teaching inmates a marketable skill. However, the vast majority of prison labor, and 100% of it at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp, doesn't even play lip service to the idea of rehabilitation. In the case of Unicor jobs at this camp, there is no job training, and the skills acquired through osmosis are mostly for jobs which left this country 20 years ago. That was probably the last time anyone in Congress looked closely at Unicor.

Unicor is another brick in the wall of the prison industrial complex that makes any meaningful prison reform difficult, if not impossible. There are simply too many people making too much money from the status quo. At least none of them are inmates.