The 13th: Prison Labor is Slavery

By Carlo

February 25, 2020

It is no secret that the foundation of the United Snakes of America was made possible by the enslavement of Native Americans and Africans, and the colonization of the continent by European powers. However, it is commonly thought that colonization and slavery have ended, when the truth is that through the political machinations of the ruling elite, neither have ended; they have simply changed names. The 13th is a documentary on the 13th amendment of the Constitution of the “United States”, the amendment that limited forced labor or enslavement to the lumpen incarcerated in the state penitentiary system. Due to the internal contradictions of capitalism, racism is prevalent in the American injustice system. Research from PCARE (Prison Communication, Activism, Research and Education) shows that the prison industrial complex has grown substantially to accommodate the rising trend of exploiting slave labor in American prisons.

The modern trend in the prison industry is known as mass incarceration. Prison populations have exploded with Black, Brown, and poor White people since the 1970’s. The research from PCARE suggests the population has grown by approximately 10x pre-1970’s levels, in the last 30 years. This has resulted in the loss of voting rights, job and housing opportunities, for approximately 5 million people in total, and the number grows every year. That is 5 million people immorally forced into slavery on the prisons terms. 1 in 3 Black men compared to 1 in 32 adults in the USA, and of non-violent offenders in the prison system, Black folks make up ~50%(1).

The key to maintaining control over the prison population and the heart of the exploitative practices is the inhumane torture method known as Administrative Segregation, or the Hole. In the back of many prisons is a small, cramped, dilapidated cell, completely isolated from human contact beyond the guard who brings you a meal, and often says nothing at all. This is a form of psychological torture the prison employs against work resisters to convince them that it is better to work for pennies than lose your mind in a dimly lit cell for months on end. The kind of industries that exploit prison labor are clothing/textile, furniture, food production, and call/IT centers. One example of forced labor is CalPIA’s chicken processing in Avenal, California. The slaves are made to process and package chicken for 13 cents an hour, but after child support, and paying debts incurred by imprisonment such as the “Restitution to Victims fund”, usually amounts to nothing.

Pictured Above: Box used for processed chicken, donated for not meeting regulation

CalPIA offers their products to anyone without a conscious and for a lower price than market average. In fact the business model has netted the company $275 Million(2) in gross earnings last year (2019) alone. Yet another horrific example of parasitic abuse by the bourgeois ruling class, while the poor get next to nothing.

While companies like CalPIA offer job training and employment opportunities once emancipated, it comes at the point of a gun. No one should be forced to work, and certainly no one should be forced to accept nothing for their labor. The excessive brutality of the American prison industrial complex is unrivaled in the horrendous appropriation of labor for the benefit of the white bourgeois ruling class. To combat the propaganda, a student led group in Baltimore, MD known as Chuck the Chains is organizing prison awareness and resource outreach events for felons and family. Our events seek to challenge the media’s representation of criminals and prison.

Please join us April 3rd

8000 York Rd, Towson, MD, 21252

College of Liberal Arts Rm 2310

  1. PCARE (2007) Fighting the Prison–Industrial Complex: A Call to Communication and Cultural Studies Scholars to Change the World, Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, 4:4, 402-420, DOI: 10.1080/14791420701632956