Is Prison Labor Good for America?

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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 insurance/workers compensation, and there’s also the perk of minimum wage being 21 cents an hour. Prisons on the other hand receive a guaranteed payment for each prisoner.

Private companies and prisons aren’t the only ones benefiting from prison labor. According to Pete Waters, the warden of the Maryland Correctional Institution in Hagerstown, MD, giving the inmates jobs and keeping them active makes the prison run much smoother. “Keeping inmates busy helps us internally to manage the institution a lot better. Idle time is not a good thing in prison.”(Korch) Many sources attribute well-behaved inmates with active inmates, and prison labor is one way of keeping prisoners active. Even inmates appear to believe that the work is beneficial. Mark Rowley, an inmate, says, “Really it's [prison labor] benefiting us. It gives us an opportunity to gain those skills that are going to be necessary when you get out of here.” (qtd. in Korch)

There are also problems that are associated with prison labor. According to Leonhardt, “inmate labor is both a potential human rights abuse and a threat to workers outside prison walls.” Leonhardt also claims that the inmates are easily exploited. Another problem associated with prison labor is the fact that...
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