immigration laws

How US prison labour pads corporate profits at taxpayers’ expense

Thanks to right-wing lobbying, companies can use a loophole to exploit a scheme designed to give offenders work experience

In 1979, Congress created the Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program (known as PIE; pdf) to establish employment opportunities for inmates “that approximate private sector work opportunities”. On the surface, the program is a great idea. It gives prisoners something to do, allows them to contribute to their own upkeep and, hopefully, gives them a better shot of getting an actual living wage job upon release. Such was the intention, anyway.

Unfortunately, and perhaps unsurprisingly, this is not how the PIE program has worked out. Instead, it has become little more than a tidy profit-making scheme for corporations and other entities willing to exploit the captive labor force – often at the expense of private sector jobs.

Not exactly what you would call an “employment opportunity that approximates private sector work opportunities”. And the prisoners assigned these jobs do not count themselves as lucky.

To read this article, on which Bob Sloan collaborated with the author, please click here

 

What the Defections from ALEC Really Mean

You should all be aware of the group Color of Change, mentioned in conjunction with the ALEC corporate defectors along with Common Cause and other large national public interest groups sharing in the limelight.

What Color of Change did was to go to Coca Cola, for example, and say “we can’t have you selling your products in our black neighborhoods if you are going to be involved in legislation like Voter ID laws which prevent a lot of black people from voting”.  So Coke, not wanting to be shut out of black markets everywhere, says “oh my.  We didn’t know ALEC was writing legislation like that.  We quit them.”

Well, don’t believe for a second that Coca Cola participated in ALEC meetings and never heard a word about Voter ID laws or immigration laws, or women’s health laws, or any number of other radical right wing model legislation.  I can’t prove this because Coca Cola’s PR department is not taking questions on this subject and I wasn’t allowed into any of the ALEC meetings.  But none of the photos and videos we have of Coca Cola members at ALEC meetings—in social situations or in task force meetings–show them wearing blinders and ear plugs. 

So what exactly did Coca Cola do to get their “get out of jail free card” from Color of Change, MSNBC and Current TV commentators, big national public interest groups like Common Cause, and the written press?

Are they making any sort of amends for the ALEC written model legislation they voted for?  No. 

Are they making any sort of restitution to those directly hurt by model legislation that ALEC passed? No.

Did they make any apologies for what they did? No. 

Are they encouraging legislatures not to pass these hateful bills?  No. 

Are they now doing anything to help black voters register to vote?  Again, No.

Coca Cola issued a statement that “Our involvement with ALEC was focused on efforts to oppose discriminatory food and beverage taxes, not on issues that have no direct bearing on our business.”

So apparently Coke’s involvement in pay-to-play influence peddling is okay.  What do you say about that Jack Abramoff?

Granted, this is the first crack in the wall of silence that has enveloped ALEC for more than 35 years, and that is very significant in and of itself.  We all sincerely hope that it leads to more.  But I’m not quite sure why many are touting these corporate defections as victories—especially because, and you’re not going to like this, because these corporations that are no longer bankrolling ALEC continue to engage in stealth lobbying through other Cabal members.   CSG, The Council of State Governments is such an organization.  This group, like ALEC, is a bill mill, in many cases writing very similar model legislation to that which ALEC writes.   Truthout has done some excellent reporting on CSG and how they are picking up the baton on ALEC legislation.

Coca Cola, which is being used as an example here but which is not alone among the defectors, belongs to CSG, as Truthout has reported

Then, there is the National Center for Public Policy Research, as recently identified by Rachel Maddow.  You have read here and elsewhere–like PR Watch–that because of the public outcry over the Stand Your Ground legislation and the murder of Trayvon Martin, ALEC has shut down the Task Force that wrote that legislation—their Public Safety and Elections task force.  Well, don’t get suckered in by the incredible PR of the Cabal.  Here is the lead on a press release by NCCPR:

New Voter Identification Task Force Announced

Voter ID Project Created in Response to Leftists’ Claim that Ten Corporations Joined Them in Successful Effort to Pressure ALEC to Stop Supporting Voter Integrity

Washington, D.C. The National Center for Public Policy Research today announced the formation of a “Voter Identification Task Force,” intended to continue the excellent work of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in promoting measures to enhance integrity in voting.

The Cabal is extremely well funded and prepared, so as ALEC steps away from a key radical right wing political issue, up pop its replacements, organizations which Sourcewatch  has identified and which we at VLTP continue to research.  The National Center for Public Policy Research.  Or the Council for State Governments.  Or the Heartland Institute.  Or The Heritage Foundation.  Or the Mont Pelerin Society—trust me, you don’t want to know about the philosophy and the international reach of this uber conservative group.  Or the State Policy Network.  Or the Center for Civic Innovation.  Or the Cato Foundation.  And there are many more.  The cabal is financially and organizationally prepared to play whack-a-mole all day long with those of us who are trying to uncover it.  And you’ve got to give them a lot of credit for the way they frame everything they do, just listen to how noble these group names sound—why don’t Democrats learn from this? 

So, to come full circle with my argument, just what do these defections from ALEC really mean?


Proof That America’s Criminal Justice System Discriminates Against Minorities

written by VLTP’s Bob Sloan for PolicyMicWith criminal justice legislation, statutes, and applications of both, the wording of legal documents and proposed bills have been used to basically disenfranchise minorities. The enactment of drug laws provides an easily recognized form of such disenfranchising of African Americans and Hispanics in the U.S. As with many U.S. laws, the base legislation has come from certain trade or advocacy groups such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) which helped write and pass hundreds of such criminal justice laws.

To read Bob’s in-depth article at PolicyMic, please click here.