America’s Private Prisons: Capitalism’s Forced Labour Camps?

In this clip from the Jimmy Dore Show, the American comedian and his co-hosts, Ron Placone and Steffi Zamorano, the Miserable Liberal, discuss the use of convict labour supplied by the American prison system by businesses and the state. Many of the fire fighters now tackling the fires raging in California were female cons. Dore points out that this is skilled, dangerous work. But nevertheless, these women were sent to do it, and some of them have been killed doing so. He goes on to discuss Kamala Harris, who repeatedly refused to release prisoners when their time was up and they were due to go back to civil society. Eventually, she was sued and said in court that the reason she wasn’t releasing them was because they were too useful as workers. Now Steve Prettor, the sheriff of Caddo County in Louisiana, has appeared to tell the American public why he doesn’t like releasing good, Black prisoners either: because they’re too useful as workers for the prison system.

Dore calls this system exactly what it is: slavery. And there is a whole slew of firms using unfree, unpaid convict labour. These include McDonald’s, Walmart and a contractor for Starbuck’s. Dore makes the point that this is what used to happen in Communist countries like North Korea, which we – the West – denounced. Now it’s being done by capitalism in America.

In one of the many interviews with the radical American journalist Chris Hedges on YouTube, Hedges talks about the massive poverty and unemployment created by capitalism and neoliberalism. He states that in American towns which have particularly suffered, the prison population has expanded immensely. This is because the state and capital have no use for these men in normal business. However, they are immensely valuable as a source of contracts for the private prison system.

And Dore is exactly right when he compares unfree convict labour in America with the forced labour systems of the Communist bloc. I’ve blogged about this before. Stalin industrialised the Soviet Union using the forced labour of millions of Soviet citizens. Businesses and enterprises needing particular types of worker would send shopping lists of how many they needed to the KGB, who would then round them up as traitors and enemies of the Soviet state, and then send them to the Gulags. Where they would be put to work building some new industrial plant.

The Nazis also had a similar system using Jewish slave workers in the concentration camps. Skilled Jewish craftsmen were put to work in a company owned and operated by the SS producing luxury products. They even produced a catalogue.

As neoliberalism privatises and takes over more of the functions of the state, so contemporary capitalism increasingly takes on the features of the totalitarianisms of the 20th century.

I don’t think we in Britain have any cause to be complacent about this, as I can see the same system easily taken over by the outsourcing companies like G4S and Serco in Britain’s privately run prisons.

This is not justice, not punishment nor rehabilitation. It is simply capitalism and slavery. And needs to be stopped.

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3 Responses to “America’s Private Prisons: Capitalism’s Forced Labour Camps?”

  1. Florence Says:

    There was a programme about the scandals of the penal system in the USA recently broadcast as part of the America’s Book of Secrets series. While some of the programmes are of a slightly tinfoil-hat world view, some are interesting and informative – like those on the Klu Klux Clan, biker gangs, the dark state secret armies etc. While not in the same class as the journalism you cover here it is of note that “populist” TV, more likely to be consumed here and there by those who don’t watch serious news, is covering this type of issue.

  2. joanna Says:

    Hi Beast, I think I also heard Jimmy mention Workfare, this homicidal government got the idea from them via Unuum and maximus!

    Personally I blame Peter Lilley for letting such Thugs in this country. I am actually ashamed to be British, I do not have a patriotic bone left in me, not when old people are treated less than human, when children like Baby P are ignored because the Social services do not want to have to spend money healing them and making them whole, where children in care are abused and are threatened into not complaining in a timely fashion, yes you guessed it, my lawsuit collapsed because I was 25 years out of time! If I was in Scotland I probably would have won, because they have abolished that time frame. I am now only existing and one day even that won’t matter anymore, I am not saying this to get sympathy but I have nothing left, I guess I never did in the first place.

    I love helping people but even that isn’t enough anymore, not only did I loose my voluntary job after five or six years, but I have been turned down from 15 charity shops in Hull, one or two were for legitimate reasons such as stairs ( I fell down a flight of stairs when I was six, I couldn’t walk properly then) I have trouble getting down stairs without my legs shaking terribly.

    I don’t even think I can last until, or if this government explodes.
    I have tried to get help, but I can’t have any counselling, I had 17hrs last year, it should have been 20 but the counsellor had 3 weeks off for her holidays! Sorry to be so negative, and thank you for listening, though I have gone off topic!!!

  3. Jeffrey Davies Says:

    ah but they have already started they take sick peoples makes em stacking shelves they take those that sign on to work stacking shelves at those famous shops super markets and charity’s oh its started on the peasants maximus has become also one of these big players oh dear while those working pointing to those taking benefits pointing out they will also become the new meat under universal credits are they too social scroungers theyd better wake up jeff3

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