Jun 13, 2012
For years I have worked to answer the question of how private companies gained access to a labor force comprised of state and federal prisoners. I found the answer and it leads directly to the US Department of Justice. Under their authority a federal program known as the Prison Industries Enhancement Certification Program (commonly called PIECP or the PIE Program) is being operated and purportedly overseen by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). The PIE Program operates under and is authorized by 18 USC 1761subsection (c), et seq. First a little history on the PIE program and ALEC.
In 1994 Texas Rep. Ray Allen (R) introduced this program to the Texas Legislature and pushed for implementing state law to allow expanding the TX. prison industries. Allen was a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and by 2003 Chaired ALEC’s Criminal Justice Task Force, Chaired the Texas House Committee on Corrections and also lobbied for the prison industry trade association, the National Correctional Industries Association (NCIA). In 2005 Allen was caught using his office and staff to lobby for the NCIA and he resigned. After being forced to resign, Allen became a lobbyist for the private prison company Geo Group.
Back in 1995 Allen successfully helped lobby the DoJ to transfer oversight over the PIE Program from the BJA to the NCIA – and provide the organization a substantial financial grant to oversee themselves. He also took the TX. legislation to ALEC for adoption as “Model Legislation”, and they did so creating the Prison Industries Act. Once the trade group and ALEC got their hands on this program, they developed policies that would allow for the highest profits to companies involved in prison industry, reduce wages to the inmate workers, ignore the requirements of contacting labor groups and competing manufacturers and getting them to sign off on prison industry operations and to reduce actual oversight of the program. This reduction in oversight changed the annual review requirements to every two years and allowed for a review of documents filed, rather than actual on-site operations of prison industry facilities.
Eventually, the NCIA expanded the PIE Program from just a few states participating to more than 40. They built a “marketplace” upon their site to sell prisoner made goods to the public and developed a Director’s Board consisting of top officials operating their state prison industry programs. Their influence has been so great, that they got the DoJ and BJA to take part in a “Recruiting” video to disseminate to private companies to urge them to relocate from the private sector to prison industries. Many companies did just that as shown by the list of companies, products and inmates employed in documents provided by the NCIA.
The video is uploaded at the VLTP YouTube Channel and can be viewed by clicking on the picture above. I urge all readers to take a few moments and watch this video. If you do, you will have an understanding of the products made, the companies involved and begin to understand the PIE Program is not about training of inmates – it is about driving up the profits of companies partnered with the prison industries.
Today between 600,000 and 1 million prisoners are working in more than 300 state and federal prison factories nationwide. They manufacture tens of thousands of products you and I purchase daily at the grocer or retail outlets; from guidance components for military missile systems, wiring for Boeing aircraft, to processed foods sold to schools, Kroger, Piggly Wiggly, institutions and hospitals…they’ve made clothing for Victoria’s Secret, JC Penney and Third Generation, take reservations for American Airlines and operate tourist information centers. Companies taking advantage of this slave labor force include: IBM, Boeing, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T, Wireless, Texas Instrument, Dell, Compaq, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard, Nortel, Lucent Technologies, 3Com, Intel, Northern Telecom, TWA, Nordstrom’s, Revlon, Macy’s, Pierre Cardin, Target Stores, and many of these are or have been members of ALEC.
In addition inmates are now being used to replace public sector workers in several states and for replacing immigrant workers who have left states such as WA., Alabama and Georgia. Female inmates in Arizona have been working in farm fields in that state for two decades harvesting produce for Martori Farms – the primary produce supplier for Wal-Mart stores (a former ALEC member).
So the next time you wonder why it’s so difficult to find a job, why the wages today are so low…take a drive out to the nearest prison and look for the industries being operated there. That’s where you’ll find your job – whether it was a technical job you had or a labor job – inmates now do that work for pennies per hour so the corporations can profit by keeping wages and benefits down to near zero.