A fact of our economic system that many white allies are grappling with today is the Prison Industrial Complex. As defined by the grassroots justice organization Critical Resistance, “The prison industrial complex (PIC) is a term we use to describe the overlapping interests of government and industry that use surveillance, policing, and imprisonment as solutions to economic, social and political problems.”
In other words, profit-driven companies in the United States are using imprisoned Americans (overwhelmingly black male Americans) for free labor, thereby reinforcing the demand for prisoners and enforcing the cycle of racial oppression at a systemic level.
To see this in action, we can look at how the federal government markets its prisoner workforce to profit-driven businesses. The prison labor program UNICOR offers its “skilled” but “cost effective labor pool” with “Native English and Spanish language skills” to private sectors in this marketing brochure.
Today’s blog post highlights three major corporations that directly benefit from this oppressive cycle.
This mammoth retail corporation serves up some of the most competitive prices on the market – and makes a profit off the prisoners it employs. Wal-Mart has been called out for using prisoners to strip bar codes from products, as well as cooperate with and fund vendor partners who use forced labor.
America’s favorite fast-food chain is guilty of more than high cholesterol. The Malta Justice Initiative found that McDonalds uses inmates “to produce frozen foods” and “process beef for patties.”
3. Sprint & Verizon
Both of these massive companies use prison labor to offer telecommunication services. This is done in an effort to keep labor prices down and turn a greater profit.
We have a responsibility to call out these companies and refuse to grant them our business until these civil rights issues are resolved. You’ll find below a list of resources that will shed more light on the issue – study up, share, and speak out. See you soon.