Sheriff Wants "Good Ones" For Prison Labor
arlier this month, Steve Prator, who heads the sheriff’s office in Caddo Parrish, one of the largest in Louisiana, held a press conference in which he bemoaned the state’s newly passed prison reforms, which could reduce the inmate population by as much as 10 percent by gradually releasing nonviolent offenders who would be eligible for a new early-release program.
Why? Apparently, he didn’t want the parish to lose its captive labor pool.
“That’s the ones you can work,” Prator said of the people who could be soon be let go under the plan. “That’s the ones that can pick up trash, the work release programs. But guess what? Those are the ones [the state is] releasing.” He added, “In addition to the bad [prisoners], they’re releasing some good ones that we use every day to wash cars, to change oil in our cars, to cook in the kitchens, to do all that where we save money—well, they’re going to let them out.”
In 38 seconds Steve Prattor, Sheriff of Caddo Parish in Louisiana, tells you why he REALLY likes keeping "good" Black men in jail. pic.twitter.com/7YtxixE1rU
— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) October 12, 2017
About 700,000 of America’s 1.5 million prison inmates have jobs, and they work for as little as 12 to 40 cents an hour with few workplace protections.
...In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, prison labor was largely regulated or prohibited, due in part to efforts by labor unions to prevent competition with low-paid inmates. But beginning in the 1970s, as the prison population began to rise, businesses lobbied to gut these regulations, says Thompson. In 1979, Congress created a program that gives incentives to private companies to use prison labor. Currently, the federal prison industries program produces items ranging from mattresses to prescription eyewear. Some inmates are employed as call center operators (“It’s the best kept secret in outsourcing!” says the program’s website.) Last year, federal inmates helped bring in nearly $472 million in net sales—but only 5 percent of that revenue went to pay inmates.
The CEPR study observes that US prison rates are not just excessive in comparison to the rest of the world, they are also "substantially higher than our own longstanding history." The study finds that incarceration rates between 1880 and 1970 ranged from about "100 to 200 prisoners per 100,000 people." After 1980, the inmate population "began to grow much more rapidly than the overall population and the rate climbed from "about 220 in 1980 to 458 in 1990, 683 in 2000, and 753 in 2008."