Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Prison Inmates Earn $2 a Day Fighting Wildfires

These guys get paid almost nothing doing a hard and dangerous job so that the state can save money instead of paying more people $34 an hour, which seems like something close to an appropriate wage for such work.

NPR puts a positive spin on this, saying that the prisoners are actually treated like, you know, people! Because the default is to treat them like shit.

These are low-level offenders, mind you, so I'm not sympathizing with murderers and rapists. Yes, these are Orange is the New Black type prisoners. Drug offenders. Mostly men of color.

Really, though, this is par for the course. Prisons everywhere use inmates for extremely cheap labor. Fact is, slavery is only outlawed except in the case of convicted criminals. I'm not sure if they have to pay them something or if they just do it to keep prisoners from rioting all the time. But this is a big part of the reason for the huge and rapidly growing prison population in the US. It's not just the state exploiting prisoners now, but private prisons that make billions off the backs of people thrown behind bars for minor drug offenses and other common crimes of the poor and desperate.

What do you get when you allow people to profit off prisons? Overcrowding. Horrible conditions. And serious incentive to encourage the severe criminalization of things like drug possession. Three strike laws = big money for corporations that are currently building massive prisons to house the millions more prisoners they hope to create. Not to mention the school-to-prison pipeline.

This is why legalizing marijuana is so hard. Get on this, hippies. And where are the Christians? You guys were the ones who fought for decent conditions for prisoners in the first place.

These people are human, and exploiting humans is wrong. But so many more will be exploited if things keep going the way they are.

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