Just when we thought we knew everything about ALEC and for-profit detention centers, we come across this shocking story from The Nation. Thanks to the legislative efforts of ALEC, yet another private corporation with a fitting acronym has received added support. PRIDE (Prison Rehabilitative Industries and Diversified Enterprises) introduces manufacturing work programs for prisoners. At a whopping twenty cents an hour, inmates at the Union Correctional Facility in Florida work to produce tons of processed beef, chicken, and pork, among other general products such as eyeglasses, apparel, and office furniture.
Since when did American prisons become the new sweatshop factories? The Nation explains that prison labor for the private sector was an illegal practice for years, that is, until ALEC cooked up this little-known federal program called PIE (Prison Industries Enhancement Certification Program). This law basically allows prisoners to earn wages and “develop marketable skills that will increase their potential for rehabilitation and meaningful employment on release”.
So, in addition to international low-wage workers, it looks like American manufacturing laborers now have to compete with prison inmates for jobs. This certainly adds a whole new perspective to the classic GOP argument that billionaires and their corporations deserve large tax breaks so that they can facilitate job creation.
To learn more about this surprising story, check out the article by Mike Elk and Bob Sloan, The Hidden History of ALEC and Prison Labor.