Scheer Intelligence: Prisons Enable America’s Obscene Wealth

The story of Marshall “Eddie” Conway, a military veteran and former Black Panther who was imprisoned for 43 years for a crime he didn’t commit, is one that gets to the heart of systemic racism in the United States. Despite grueling conditions, in prison Conway pursued three college degrees, and was considered an “exemplary” prisoner for starting a prison literacy program and organizing the prison library. On the other hand, his efforts to organize a union among his fellow convict laborers was crushed by the authorities. After being released in 2014 following an appellate court judgment that his jury had been given improper instructions, Conway has become executive producer of The Real News Network (TRNN), a progressive media organization based in Baltimore, MD, with his own show, “Rattling the Bars” that focuses on the many social justice issues that intersect with mass incarceration in the U.S.

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How corporations buy and sell food made with prison labor

In 2011, Leprino Foods, the $3 billion company that supplies all the mozzarella to Papa John’s, Pizza Hut, and Domino’s pizza chains, lost its buffalo milk supplier in India.

Water buffalo milk isn’t easy to find in the United States, especially not as much as a company as big as Denver-based Leprino could use. The animals are finicky, sometimes refusing to give milk at the sight of a stranger, and they produce only a fraction of the milk that cows make.

But Leprino was in luck: One of its existing suppliers, which soon became one of the largest buffalo dairies in the United States, agreed to step in, and the milk began to flow. Leprino trademarked the slogan “with a kiss of buffalo milk” for Bacio, its premium mozzarella line marketed to independent pizzerias.

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Ending Private Prisons Is Not Enough

President Joe Biden, by executive order, directed the Department of Justice to end its private prison use. It’s a step in the right direction and a symbolic moment for this administration to say they are going to take criminal justice reform seriously. While this step decouples the federal government’s relationship with private prisons, let’s remember that such institutions hold just about 9% of the federal prison population — a little more than 14,000 people. 

Profit from incarcerated people doesn’t meet the moral standards of justice. However, private prisons aren’t even where the biggest profits exist. Private companies continue to profit off the labor of inmates in the public prison system, or, the “prison industrial complex.” President Biden must also dismantle this repugnant practice. 

These corporations have monetized crime and punishment with the government’s help.

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Formerly Incarcerated Organizer On February 6 St. Louis Jail Protest

EXPO is an organization of formerly incarcerated individuals and other people involved with the criminal justice system. We are a voice for people adversely affected by this system. We are an offshoot of EXPO Wisconsin, which started in 2014. In just a few years, we have made tremendous strides to address issues that reduce the quality of life for people transitioning after being incarcerated. 

We are leading a few campaigns now. One is Unlock the Vote, which is a fight to restore voting rights for individuals convicted of a felony and who are now on probation or parole. We hope to restore these rights because people who have had a brush with law need to be able to return to society as assets, to be able to contribute in a positive way.

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Forced Labor In The United States

By any measure, the United States has the worst human rights record among the nations called democratic or developed or advanced or “free world” or any of the other labels that rich capitalist countries use to describe themselves. The U.S. has the worst health care system in that group, the worst benefits for workers, and the worst income inequality. It also has the dubious distinction of being the world’s biggest jailer, with some 2.3 million people behind bars. This country which treats its people so terribly is also the one most likely to project its evil doing on to others.

There is a method to the madness.

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UF Students Announce Boycott Against Aramark

Four organizations are taking a stand against UF’s official food service provider to protest its use of prison labor. 

The Gainesville Chapter of the Dream Defenders, UF NAACP, the UF Black Student Union and the Coalition to Abolish Prison Slavery at UF launched a monetary boycott against Aramark, the food service giant, Tuesday. The goal is to pressure the university to contract a new food supplier that doesn’t use prison labor, Dream Defenders member Ava Kaplan wrote in an email. 

UF Graduate Assistants United also announced its support for the Reitz Union Boycott Thursday through a Facebook post. 

Aramark has been UF’s official food provider since 1995…

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Bus Drivers Refuse To Help Police, Prison Labor Replaces Meatpackers And More

With protests erupting all over Minneapolis over the death of George Floyd, cops are attempting to arrest protesters in mass. 

However, some bus drivers in Minneapolis are refusing to use their buses to transport protestors to jail. 

“As a transit worker and union member, I refuse to transport my class and radical youth,” Minneapolis bus driver Adam Burch told Payday. “An injury to one is an injury to all. The police murdered George Floyd and the protest against is completely justified and should continue until their demands are met.” 

While it would be illegal for Burch’s union to call for a wildcat strike, his local union ATU Local 1005 did issue a statement of solidarity with the protestors. 

“In ATU, we have a saying “NOT ONE MORE” when it comes to driver assaults, which in some cases have led to members being murdered while doing their job,” said the union in a statement. 

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Federal Prison Factories Kept Running As Coronavirus Spreads

As the coronavirus spread across the country, Patrick Jones kept reporting to his job in the textile factory at the federal prison in Oakdale, Louisiana.

He’d worked there for years, sewing tidy buttonholes on government uniforms. Though the highly contagious virus was creeping into prisons by mid-March, Jones and his fellow inmates were working without masks, according to interviews with family and prisoners who knew him. He collapsed on March 19 and was taken to a hospital. About a week later, he died from COVID-19.

Shortly after his death, the pandemic’s first in a federal Bureau of Prisons facility, the agency announced a nationwide 14-day “lockdown,” saying inmates would be mostly kept in their cells to decrease the spread of the virus.

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Incarcerated Workers Are Bearing The Brunt Of Extreme Weather

On January 28, an image of Cook County Jail prisoners shoveling snow went viral after it was posted on the  La Villita community Facebook page and then shared by the Chicago Community Bond Fund. The city of Chicago was preparing for an arctic blast and the prisoners were seen working in cold temperatures wearing orange jumpsuits. Thousands of people shared the image and expressed concern about the well-being of the prisoners. This scenario is yet another example of how incarcerated workers—toiling for little or no pay—are on the frontlines of extreme weather.

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Noise Demos Ring In NYE Against Backdrop Of Prison Slavery

This year in over 20 cities across the US and Canada, anarchists, abolitionists, autonomists, and other rebels took part in noise demonstrations on New Year’s Eve, as has become an ongoing tradition within the movement. Demonstrations were organized outside of a variety of facilities, jails, prisons, and detention centers, and occurred against a backdrop of not only continued struggle and action against prison slavery, migrant detention, and child separation, but also growing anger to the carceral State in general.

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New Slave Labor: California Prisoners Fight Fires For Less Than $2 An Hour

The nearly 4,000 incarcerated workers who are trained to fight deadly fires across California often make less than $2 an hour and are not eligible to be hired as professional firefighters after they are released from prison. The work is physically strenuous and, in some cases, fatal. As forest fires ravage California, the state has become increasingly reliant on the program as a cost-saving measure. In July, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation tweeted that 2,000 incarcerated people, including 58 “youth offenders,” were working to fight fires. Bill Sessa, an information officer at the department, said that “all of the juvenile offenders [used to fight fires] have committed serious or violent felonies.” Adult incarcerated firefighters are often low-level, nonviolent offenders.

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The National Prison Strike Is Over. Now Is The Time Prisoners Are Most In Danger

Over the last few weeks men and women across the United States – and even as far away as Nova Scotia, Canada – have protested to demand humane treatment for the incarcerated. In 2016, when prisoners engaged in similar hunger strikes, sit-ins, and work stoppages, their actions barely registered with the national media. As someone who regularly writes about the history of prisoner protests and prison conditions today, this lack of interest was striking. This time around, though, prisoner demands to improve the conditions of confinement have captured the attention of reporters everywhere. Coverage can be found in such major newspapers as The Washington Post and The New York Times. Popular magazines such as GQ and Teen Vogue have also published pieces.

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Keeping The Spirit Of The Prison Labor Strike Alive

This year’s Prison Labor Strike was one of the most amazing mobilizations of liberatory politics in the past decade. It was the latest iteration in the most recent generation of prison rebellions, which has included labor strikes in Georgia prisons in 2010, the three Pelican Bay Hunger Strikes in California 2011-2013, and the direct predecessor of the latest action: the strike against prison slavery in 2016. The authoritarian nature of prison bureaucracies prevents us from compiling a precise chronicle of what takes place behind the walls. However, according to the lead organization in the strike, the network of prisoners known as Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, actions occurred in 16 states and federal prisons. Plus, over 200 people went on strike in the Northwest Immigration Detention Center.

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Prison Labor Is Slave Labor, And We Should Get Rid Of It

Incarcerated workers — who often make less than $1 an hour producing profits for big companies — are on strike across the country. As wildfires rage across California, some of the people risking their lives to fight them are paid only a few dollars a day. They’re part of a 2.3 million-strong underclass of American employees making sweatshop wages: incarcerated workers. Slave wages are just one of the many reasons why incarcerated people around the U.S. on strike. The strike was organized in response to deadly violence at Lee Correctional Institution in South Carolina earlier this year, a result of the prison’s abysmal living conditions. Organizers have a list of 10 demands, which include the need for prompt improvement of prison conditions and policies. They also call for the “immediate end to prison slavery,” which is legal thanks to a constitutional loophole.

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