by Kilaika Anayejali Kwa Baruti Shakur, Executive Coordinator of George Jackson University
Today, Sept. 9, 2016, is the day that many people in America are wholeheartedly organizing, mobilizing, taking action, standing and locking arms in solidarity against what we know as prison slave labor – yes, legalized slavery – and people are saying, “No more!” What is most compelling about this day is, even though there are many taking action and answering the call to cure this particular ill of society, there is still an overwhelmingly larger portion of the U.S. population who are absolutely clueless to the fact that slavery still exists.
I am not shocked, I am not appalled, but every time this fact clicks in my brain that people don’t know, it truly takes me into an OMG moment. This is one of the biggest wow factors that I have ever experienced. Just think about it. Scenario: I am looking you square dead in your eyes and I am telling you that SLAVERY STILL EXISTS.
OK, it may take some time for you to register this information because what you see around you are shopping malls, schools, restaurants, libraries, game rooms, beaches, hotels, grocery stores, highways, camping sites, resorts, schools, movie theaters, night clubs, gas stations, amusement parks – you see a functioning society full of all of life’s joys and people who are moving about freely. Some are going left, some are going right, and some are going north, some are going south, some are walking, some are driving, some are traveling by plane, bus and train, and some are even sitting still. You see them and they exist all around you.
A large number of them are New Afrikan (Black people), and they don’t have to go to the back of the bus or even use separate bathrooms; they are enjoying life’s pleasures right along with everyone else. You see them in motion and you don’t see anyone in chains, shackles, or torn and tattered clothing. This is not what you see.
The idea that slavery exists doesn’t fit in the equation of what you see around you. After processing my statement and your present reality, you turn to me and ask me, “What the hell are you talking about? I’m free. I am not a slave.”
I proceed to tell you that what you understand is an illusion and it can change in the blink of an eye. Just one incorrect move can alter your “Amerikkkan dream.” Now I have your full attention because you enjoy driving your vehicle that you work so hard to make the monthly payments on. You enjoy your two-bedroom apartment full of nice furniture that you worked overtime to get so that you can impress and entertain your family and friends, inviting them over for snacks, card games and on holidays like every family should be able to do.
You enjoy that and, most importantly, you worked your ass off for it. To think that it could be gone in a blink of an eye and to think that you could be a slave is laughable: Ha ha ha. It’s unheard of, right? NO. I hate to be the bearer of bad news – i.e., the party pooper – but I have to be.
My freedom depends on your understanding this undeniable fact. “We aren’t free until we all are free” is a saying not utilized by capitalists – in this case, slave owners. It is a saying used by freedom seekers and those who seek not to exploit the labor of others, those who wish to live in a just society.
All must understand that YES, SLAVERY STILL EXISTS. So now you are all ears. Good. The United Snakes Constitution is a legal document which lays out the system of fundamental principles according to which the U.S. is governed. I would like to bring your attention to the 13th Amendment of 1865, the law that abolished slavery, or so we are taught.
Unfortunately, many overlook the clause that tries to make continued slavery acceptable to the daughters and sons of our ancestors who were enslaved and those who fought like hell not to be. The 13th Amendment states in full, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
Now this is pretty much in layman’s terms; it’s simply saying that if you have been convicted of a crime and you are captured you can and most likely will be subjected to slavery regardless if you like it or not. Why? Because it is the law. Get it? Got it? Good.
So now you say: “That’s wrong. That’s insane. That’s horrible. Why would they do that? Why would they have that there in the Constitution?” The answer is this: Slavery was the best thing to ever happen to the United Snakes of Amerikkka. Slavery was and is today its bread and butter.
To understand the U.S. and how it functions, you must understand capitalism. Capitalism at its core is a system built off and maintained on profit – profit and wealth for the individual and not the masses. In order for capitalism to exist, the people, we the people must remain powerless, while a few individuals, stakeholders, corporations control the wealth of nations.
The mode of production is fueled by human labor. This mode of production became rampant and well defined with the rise of slavery, particularly with the enslavement of African people. As production and goods began to serve the interests of the few and wealth was being made, MORE, MORE and MORE became the desire of those who were benefiting from slavery. They then contemplated on ways to become masters of the economy, and with the growth of industrialization and the supposed abolishment of slavery, they moved to wage slave labor, which most Americans unconsciously commit their daily lives to when they go to work every day.
For the Afrikan in America who was supposed to be free, there were still great and many challenges. Jim Crow laws enforced and justified plenty of reasons to capture and imprison men and women, who were officially considered free, for crimes of all sorts. You could be captured and imprisoned for things like looking at a European (white person), spitting on the sidewalk, talking too loud or walking on the wrong side of the street – almost anything would give way to your imprisonment.
Lawmakers and those who were displeased with slavery being supposedly abolished understood that they would lose money. Who would harvest their crops? Who would till their lands? Who would be the mammies for their children? Who would they release their sexual desires on? Who would they enjoy torturing? Who could they maim? No more slaves meant an end to the lifestyle they so enjoyed. This made them angry and furious.
There has to be a way around this, they figured. With anger, rage and a well thought out plan to imprison former slaves, they won again. Imprisoned people, particularly those of African descent, would be forced to work in coal mines, railroads, as indentured servants for alleged unpaid taxes or debt, and things of that nature for all the days of their lives.
Many of us were subjected to convict leasing, a system of penal labor practiced in the Southern United States. Convict leasing provided prisoner labor to private parties, such as plantation owners and corporations, such as the Tennessee Coal and Iron Co. The lessee was responsible for feeding, clothing and housing the prisoners just as they had in the centuries that they held slaves.
The state of Louisiana leased out convicts as early as 1844, but the system expanded all through the South with the emancipation of slaves at the end of the American Civil War in 1865. In 1898 some 73 percent of Alabama’s entire annual state revenue came from convict leasing. Capitalist wealth since then has continued to grow due to prison slave labor.
As of 2014, 37 percent of the prison population consists of New Afrikans. This is not by chance. Mass incarceration is steadily increasing as the laws are strategically in place to incarcerate men and women on a daily basis – just the same as the Jim Crow laws that were in place not so long ago.
The slavery-for-convicts clause in the 13th Amendment safeguards, protects and gives the right to profiteers, stakeholders, corporations and government entities to use slave labor for profit and refuse to be morally responsible for the injustice of slavery. They lose no sleep at night behind the idea that we are still slaves just like the old days.
Another example of the past that wasn’t so long ago operating under the same amendment are chain gangs. A chain gang is a group of prisoners chained together to perform menial or physically challenging work as a form of punishment. Such punishment might include repairing buildings, building roads or clearing land. This system also existed primarily in the Southern United States and by 1955 had been phased out nationwide, with Georgia the last state to abandon the practice.
Chain gangs were reintroduced by a few states during the “get tough on crime” 1990s, with Alabama being the first state to revive them, in 1995. The experiment ended after about one year in all states except Arizona, where in Maricopa County inmates can still volunteer for a chain gang to earn credit toward a high school diploma or avoid disciplinary lockdowns for rule infractions.
The introduction of chain gangs into the United States began shortly after the Civil War. The Southern states needed finances and public works to be performed. Using prisoners as slave labor was a way to do it for free. This information isn’t hard to find; I got the above on Wikipedia.
I hope that you are uncomfortable now, but I am not done. So that wasn’t so long ago. America is built off of big business. Here are a few of big businesses that are a part of most citizens’ everyday lives and that use prisoners as slave labor, legally: Victoria’s Secret, BP, Whole Foods, AT&T, Bank of America, Bayer, Cargill, Caterpillar, Chevron, Chrysler, Costco, John Deere, Eli Lilly and Company, Exxon Mobil, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson and Johnson, K-Mart, Koch Industries, McDonald’s, Merck, Microsoft, Motorola, Nintendo, Pfizer, Procter & Gamble, Pepsi, ConAgra Foods, Shell, Starbucks, UPS, Verizon, Walmart and Wendy’s.
Most men and women in prison make anywhere from 25 cents per hour up to $1.15 per hour. This is the true meaning of “Made in America” when we see it on many of our product labels. This legalized slavery is often called insourcing. Insourcing is the most cost effective way for the capitalist to keep production costs low and profit high, without suffering criticism for outsourcing, sending jobs overseas.
They can keep America great by utilizing that slavery-for-convicts clause in the 13th Amendment. McDonald’s, known for serving over 68 million customers a day, is the world’s most successful fast food franchise. Did you know that prisoners manufacture the plastic cutlery, containers and uniforms? McDonald’s also uses prison slave labor to produce frozen foods. Prisoners process beef for patties. They also process bread, milk and chicken products.
Another added incentive for the greedy amongst us is the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC), which gives employers a tax credit of $2,400 for every work-release inmate they employ as a reward for hiring “risky target groups.” It’s also an added plus when the employer doesn’t have to provide things like vacation days and sick days, 401k retirement plans, or medical and health benefits.
Look at all the money that is being saved by using the slave labor of prisoners instead of using the labor of ordinary wage slaves in the work force. Prison slave labor is the way to go for greedy employers. For workers trying to support their families, it means depressed wages or unemployment.
Guess what else is made in prisons – U.S. military equipment, a billion-dollar industry. There are also all sorts of everyday items; the list goes on and on. Word on the street is that prisoners are even raising seeing-eye dogs for blind people.
Aside from the private corporations, there are even larger entities profiting off prisoner slave labor that you must be made aware of. One is UNICOR, a very guilty party in this modern day slavery here in Amerikkka. Federal Prison Industries, also known as UNICOR or FPI, is a corporation created in 1934 and owned by the federal government to oversee prisoner slave labor and set the condition and wage standards for prisoners working in federal prisons.
UNICOR’s official reason for being is that in exchange for their slave labor, prisoners are given “vocational training.” Yet the workplace conditions are often appalling, and the transfer of skills to the private sector is dubious. UNICOR operates many call centers. “When you call a company or government agency for help, there’s a good chance the person on the other end of the line is a prison inmate,” NBC News reports.
In the first half of 2016, UNICOR generated $231 million in sales. Since 2014, UNICOR has focused on employing prisoners within two years of release; in 2015, 24 percent of the Bureau of Prisons population was that close to release, and UNICOR’s workforce was approximately 30,000. The workers produce about 175 different types of products and services, including clothing and textiles, electronics, fleet management and vehicular components, industrial products, office furniture, recycling activities, and services including data entry and encoding.
According to Prison Policy Initiative, UNICOR pays from 23 cents to $1.15 per hour. Workers in state prisons make an average of 59 cents an hour. Prisoners in two state, Georgia and Texas, are paid nothing at all. A 1977 Supreme Court decision made it illegal for prisoners to form labor unions.
So I ask you, if UNICOR in federal prisons and the state prison systems are supposed to be about vocational training and reentry into society, why are prisoners making under $2 an hour? Why aren’t they at least making minimum wage with that money put away in an account to be there upon their release along with other earned incentives? The answer: That would be a service to humanity and a service to humanity would be a blow to capitalism. The cheapest way is the best way.
Cheap and free labor keeps capitalists’ bellies fat and pockets full while we the people starve and stay broke and live off of crumbs like, you know, slaves. That is the way the system of slavery works. Get it? Got it? Good.
Lastly, I must mention Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). CCA owns and manages private prisons and detention centers. One of its founders is Thomas W. Beasley, a leader in the Republican Party. It received its initial investment in 1983 from Hospital Corporation of America founder Jack C. Massey, the Tennessee Valley Authority and Vanderbilt University.
As of 2015, the company is the largest private corrections company in the United States. It manages more than 65 correctional and detention facilities with a capacity of more than 90,000 beds in 19 states and the District of Columbia. The company’s revenue in 2012 exceeded $1.7 billion, according to Wikipedia.
“The High Cost of Cheap Detentions” by Edwin S. Rubenstein, quotes Prudential Securities saying about CCA: “It takes time to bring inmate population levels up to where they cover costs. Low occupancy is a drag on profits … Company earnings would be strong if CCA succeeded in ramping up population levels in its new facilities at an acceptable rate.”
CCA’s prime objective is to KEEP THE PRISON FULL! They are needing you to be there. You are to be locked behind bars. This is the goal. This is the mandate. In 2012, CCA sent a letter to prison officials in 48 states, offering to buy prisons from these states in exchange for a 20-year management contract and a guaranteed occupancy rate of 90 percent. Community organizations have criticized the proposals, arguing that the contractual obligations of states to fill the prisons to 90 percent occupancy is poor public policy that could force communities into creating criminals, writes Chris Kirkham in “With States Facing Shortfalls, Private Corporation Offers Cash for Prisons,” a story posted Feb. 14, 2012, in the Huffington Post.
THE RALLY CRY IS KEEP PRISONS FULL – maintaining and increasing mass incarceration. So I urge you to not only open your ears and your eyes, but I urge you to open your mouths and use your hands and your legs and all of your might to abolish the slavery-for-convicts clause by amending the 13th Amendment.
I beg of you, if you have any sense of right from wrong, to challenge this system and bring an end to slavery once and for all. You must get involved, and there are many things that you can do.
- You must support the strikers right now. They need you. They need us.
- You must deliver a gut busting blow to corporations like McDonald’s and continue to expose their fallacies so that people will stop buying their products and take off their mask. It is our duty.
- You must remember that if not you, your child and/or other loved ones will be next.
Write us a letter at George Jackson University and ask about other ways you can get involved. Call and ask what’s to be done.
You can very well be pulled over, forced to get out of your car, and the next thing you know you are dead or in jail. If you are imprisoned, you just may become a 2016 slave; it’s real in the field. Tim Anderson reminds us that this is “The Unites States of Incarceration.” The U.S. has a huge per capita prison population, second only to the Seychelles, a group of islands in the Indian Ocean with a total population of 92,000 which imprisons many Somali pirates.
Although only 5 percent of the world’s population lives in the U.S., this country incarcerates 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. Racism, drug laws, mandatory minimum sentencing and, of course, privatization of prisons all play a part. The partnership of the U.S. government with big business allows prisoners to be used as slave labor, another great incentive for filling prisons. Prison overcrowding is common.
Instead of helping and rehabilitating people, the U.S. uses them for profit – another grotesque feature of a capitalist system fixated on making money over everything else. You must remember this as you go about your daily routine. Don’t be comfortable. You should be mad; you should be angry. Michael Leibowitz writes about the nature of capitalism in his book, “The Socialist Alternative: Real Human Development”: “The logic of capital generates a society in which all human values are subordinated to the search for profits. … Rather than building a cohesive and caring society, capital tears society apart. It divides workers and pits them against one another as competitors to reduce any challenge to its rule and its bottom line. Precisely because human beings and nature are mere means to capital’s goal, it destroys what Marx called the original sources of wealth – human beings and nature.”
Don’t let capitalism make you into a monster. The monster of all monsters is ignoring that there is a problem. If you don’t work to eradicate these crimes against humanity and you consciously know they exist, doing nothing at all … SHAME ON YOU. Amend the 13th Amendment by striking the slavery-for-convicts clause. Support the Sept. 9 strike against prison slavery.
Amend the 13th Amendment by striking the slavery-for-convicts clause. Support the Sept. 9 strike against prison slavery.
My name is Kilaika Anayejali kwa Baruti Shakur and I am of service to you. For more information on George Jackson University and how to get involved, please feel free to call me at 214-861-8068, email firstname.lastname@example.org or write 600 S. Haynes Ave., Fort Worth, Texas 76103. Our website is www.georgejacksonuniersity.com. Tell your love ones to visit the site too to learn more. Uhuru sasa!