PRISON INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX

May 28, 2015

PRISON INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX

Apparently incarcerating people, including illegal immigrants, has been good for both business and the people who invest in private prisons.

 McDonald’s uses inmates to produce frozen foods. Inmates process beef for patties. They may also process bread, milk and chicken products.Wal-Mart The company uses inmates for manufacturing purposes. The company “hires” inmates to clean products of UPC bar codes so that products can be resold. Starbucks The company uses inmates to cut costs as well. Starbucks subcontractor Signature Packaging Solutions hired Washington state prisoners for packaging. Sprint Inmates provide telecommunication services. Inmates are used in call centers. Victoria’s Secret The company uses inmates to cut production costs. In South Carolina, female inmates were used to sew products. Also, inmates reportedly have been used to replace “made in” tags with “Made in USA” tags. Fidelity Investments  401(K) or other investments are held by Fidelity, and, in some cases, some of your money invested by Fidelity is used for prison labor or in other operations related to the prison industrial complex. The investment firm funds the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which has created laws authorizing and increasing the use of inmates in manufacturing .J.C Penney and Kmart Kmart and J.C. Penney both sell jeans made by inmates in Tennessee prisons.

For example, Nashville-based Corrections Corp of America (NYSE:CXW) – which has seen its stock price gain 171 percent since the start of 2006, leading to two stock splits – has doled out $881,898 in contributions since last year, including donations to immigration-policy hawks like Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), head of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. Corrections Corp of America (CCA) also began paying dividends last year, which is often done when companies feel they’re on stable enough footing to share profits with their shareholders and encourage them to continue to invest in their businesses.CCA, the largest private prison operator in the U.S., stated in its 2011 annual report that changes to the way the U.S. treats illegal immigrants, “could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them.” The country’s second-biggest private prison operator, The Geo Group, Inc. (NYSE:GEO) of Boca Raton, Fla., echoed similar sentiments deep inside of its 2011 annual report by saying state and federal reform laws could “materially adversely impact us.”

Geo told the Financial Times it has not lobbied Congress on immigration reform and that it has not taken any position on the issue.  The company has seen its stock price rocket 343 percent since the start of 2006 following the implenetation of Operation Streamline. The company has since split its stock twice and paid out four dividends last year, including one for $5.68 a share.

Apparently incarcerating people, including illegal immigrants, has been good for both business and the people who invest in private prisons.

1.7 million offenders in 32 states, or nearly 70 percent of the inmates in U.S. prisons.

impress state corrections officials and gain their business, JPay spends heavily on industry conventions attended by agency heads with contracting authority. During a 2012 convention of the American Correctional Association, the company threw what it called an “END OF THE WORLD PARTY” at a Denver wine bar that bills itself as “about you, and your inalienable right to the unbridled enjoyment of food and wine.”The invitation, printed on a disposable beer coaster, promised “a bash, JPay-style: *fuerte* tequila, hand-rolled cigars, a live mariachi band.” Conventioneers could catch a JPay shuttle leaving from the hotel “ALL NIGHT LONG,” it said. For years, JPay has sponsored an award for former state corrections directors presented by the Association of State Correctional Administrators, paying for the recipient’s trip .

Ninety-seven percent of 125,000 federal inmates have been convicted of non-violent crimes. It is believed that more than half of the 623,000 inmates in municipal or county jails are innocent of the crimes they are accused of. Of these, the majority are awaiting trial. Two-thirds of the one million state prisoners have committed non-violent offenses. Sixteen percent of the country’s 2 million prisoners suffer from mental illness.

Private prisons are the biggest business in the prison industry complex. About 18 corporations guard 10,000 prisoners in 27 states. The two largest are Correctional Corporation of America (CCA) and Wackenhut, which together control 75%. Private prisons receive a guaranteed amount of money for each prisoner, independent of what it costs to maintain each one. According to Russell Boraas, a private prison administrator in Virginia, “the secret to low operating costs is having a minimal number of guards for the maximum number of prisoners.” The CCA has an ultra-modern prison in Lawrenceville, Virginia, where five guards on dayshift and two at night watch over 750 prisoners. In these prisons, inmates may get their sentences reduced for “good behavior,” but for any infraction, they get 30 days added – which means more profits for CCA. According to a study of New Mexico prisons, it was found that CCA inmates lost “good behavior time” at a rate eight times higher than those in state prisons.

Who is investing? At least 37 states have legalized the contracting of prison labor by private corporations that mount their operations inside state prisons. The list of such companies contains the cream of U.S. corporate society: 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 more. All of these businesses are excited about the economic boom generation by prison labor. Just between 1980 and 1994, profits went up from $392 million to $1.31 billion. Inmates in state penitentiaries generally receive the minimum wage for their work, but not all; in Colorado, they get about $2 per hour, well under the minimum. And in privately-run prisons, they receive as little as 17 cents per hour for a maximum of six hours a day, the equivalent of $20 per month. The highest-paying private prison is CCA in Tennessee, where prisoners receive 50 cents per hour for what they call “highly skilled positions.” At those rates, it is no surprise that inmates find the pay in federal prisons to be very generous. There, they can earn $1.25 an hour and work eight hours a day, and sometimes overtime. They can send home $200-$300 per month.

Jailing persons convicted of non-violent crimes, and long prison sentences for possession of microscopic quantities of illegal drugs. Federal law stipulates five years’ imprisonment without possibility of parole for possession of 5 grams of crack or 3.5 ounces of heroin, and 10 years for possession of less than 2 ounces of rock-cocaine or crack. A sentence of 5 years for cocaine powder requires possession of 500 grams – 100 times more than the quantity of rock cocaine for the same sentence. Most of those who use cocaine powder are white, middle-class or rich people, while mostly Blacks and Latinos use rock cocaine. In Texas, a person may be sentenced for up to two years’ imprisonment for possessing 4 ounces of marijuana. Here in New York, the 1973 Nelson Rockefeller anti-drug law provides for a mandatory prison sentence of 15 years to life for possession of 4 ounces of any illegal drug.

 

 The passage in 13 states of the “three strikes” laws (life in prison after being convicted of three felonies), made it necessary to build 20 new federal prisons. One of the most disturbing cases resulting from this measure was that of a prisoner who for stealing a car and two bicycles received three 25-year sentences.

. Longer sentences.

. The passage of laws that require minimum sentencing, without regard for circumstances.

. A large expansion of work by prisoners creating profits that motivate the incarceration of more people for longer periods of time.

. More punishment of prisoners, so as to lengthen their sentences.

Thanks to prison labor, the United States is once again an attractive location for investment in work that was designed for Third World labor markets. A company that operated a maquiladora (assembly plant in Mexico near the border) closed down its operations there and relocated to San Quentin State Prison in California. In Texas, a factory fired its 150 workers and contracted the services of prisoner-workers from the private Lockhart Texas prison, where circuit boards are assembled for companies like IBM and Compaq.

[Former] Oregon State Representative Kevin Mannix recently urged Nike to cut its production in Indonesia and bring it to his state, telling the shoe manufacturer that “there won’t be any transportation costs; we’re offering you competitive prison labor (here).”

CCA signed contracts with sheriffs in poor counties to build and run new jails and share the profits. According to a December 1998 Atlantic Monthly magazine article, this program was backed by investors from Merrill-Lynch, Shearson-Lehman, American Express and Allstate, and the operation was scattered

For example, Nashville-based Corrections Corp of America (NYSE:CXW) – which has seen its stock price gain 171 percent since the start of 2006, leading to two stock splits – has doled out $881,898 in contributions since last year, including donations to immigration-policy hawks like Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), head of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. Corrections Corp of America (CCA) also began paying dividends last year, which is often done when companies feel they’re on stable enough footing to share profits with their shareholders and encourage them to continue to invest in their businesses.

 

CCA, the largest private prison operator in the U.S., stated in its 2011 annual report that changes to the way the U.S. treats illegal immigrants, “could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them.”

The country’s second-biggest private prison operator, The Geo Group, Inc. (NYSE:GEO) of Boca Raton, Fla., echoed similar sentiments deep inside of its 2011 annual report by saying state and federal reform laws could “materially adversely impact us.”

Geo told the Financial Times it has not lobbied Congress on immigration reform and that it has not taken any position on the issue.  The company has seen its stock price rocket 343 percent since the start of 2006 following the implenetation of Operation Streamline. The company has since split its stock twice and paid out four dividends last year, including one for $5.68 a share.

 

 

 

 

 

 






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SCHOOL 'EM
SCHOOL 'EM

May 12, 2017

                                                       
                   
                              IF YOU WANT TO LIVE LONG, DON’T LIVE HERE…
                                                  INNER CITIES USA
MISSION:
To work with inner-city, community groups, including male and female juvenile offenders, to chisel/modify street survival knowledge into a functional business enterprise, shifting ideas focus from illegal commodities, such as drugs, to legal commodities, while establishing the relationship nexus between drug dealing, cash flow, and legal business, and promoting teamwork consensus versus fear-based hierarchies. 
Vision:
Our vision is to increase the presence, success and visibility of at-risk minority youths by transforming survivalist skills, honed by the hardships within their community, into viable business enterprises. (Survival is act of surviving; to stay living.)
 Method:
The School ‘Em team will enter a community with the goal of mentoring and guiding the youth to create their success model using their creative ideas combined with the life wisdom of our mentors. Using program resources (mentors) banking/finance, corporate structure-legal marketing/branding, they will build viable business entities that each teen believes will help improve his/her future and current living situation. We operate under the understanding that program mentors do not know fully know what is specifically going to assist each teen, but we can use program resources to show each teenager that they already have a skill set and street experience that will be vital and valuable—even provide a comparative advantage--to achieving success in the legitimate business world.
SCHOOL ‘EM: The passing on of wisdom to hack corporate culture with street survival values.

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After his 'Weediquette' appearance, author and cannabis activist David Victorson talks about his new book and the future of legal pot sales.
After his 'Weediquette' appearance, author and cannabis activist David Victorson talks about his new book and the future of legal pot sales.

May 06, 2017

For David Victorson, a job involving cannabis is nothing new. The 67-year-old social activist and speaker recently found himself in Miami on business, working with the local community to open a dispensary. But Victorson's got more knowledge of the plant than many looking to join the country's legal cannabis boom. In 1978, he bewildered authorities when he was caught smuggling what was then the largest shipment of cannabis—a staggering 37 tons—into the United States off the coast of Seattle.

"In my day, the statue for marijuana didn't include multi-ton loads. They didn't know anything about it!" Victorson tells me over the phone in a thick Boston accent. "They were very angry to find out that I'd been running 50 tons of pot each year from Colombia to the United States for eight years." In his memoir, 37 Tons, Victorson recounts what led him onto that fated freighter, but be warned: He's not one to regale his readers with tall tales of cartel glory. Instead, his writing is unyielding and raw, as he navigates his life from poverty to career smuggling and out of harrowing addiction.

Like most dealers, Victorson began small. He sold in and around Dorchester—the rough, dog-eat-dog Boston neighborhood he called home—quickly outgrowing the local scene for in favor of smuggling hash out of Amsterdam, India, and Nepal. With a disposition for circumventing the law, Victorson quickly appeared on the radar of the Colombian cannabis cartel. Before long, he was importing the drug into the US en masse and netting himself a cool $30 million, with a lifestyle to match.

However, Victorson's narrative is a far cry from the greed popularized through the media's portrayal of drug trafficking. Through his heydey as a smuggler and the aftermath—which included three months of jail time in a Bolivian military prison and four years locked up in Lompoc Federal Prison off the California coast—Victorson is marked by his giving spirit. "The way I was raised set me up to be a hostile person who didn't trust or believe in anybody I believe that most kids who are born into poverty will always have that," he says. "I'm a hard person to accept love—I don't believe it and I don't trust people. What I can do to soften myself up is give to other people. I believe that's a big part of growing up and being part of the world." 37 Tons finds the former smuggler grappling with the conflicting moral codes of society at large and those of the drug world, and it's this struggle that makes for a fascinating and high-speed read about survival.

I spoke to Victorson about his new life, his childhood, and his "good run."

VICE: How it feels to be working again with cannabis again, even though it's in a considerably different way?
David Victorson: It's hilarious! When I got busted in 1978, there were 5,000 people protesting my arrest. Even back then, people knew marijuana was a much better recreational substance than alcohol. Now, I'm invited to speak at a cannabis event in Washington DC I know people want to hear pirate stories about the outrageous behavior and high-risk adventure, but I want to use the platform to talk about cannabis as an emerging industry. We don't have to end up looking like alcohol and tobacco. We can end up employing—and with good salaries—marginalized people, people without college education, and people who have a hard time making it in the world.

As well as people who have been historically involved with the selling of cannabis and have gone to jail for it.
Exactly. I never held any animosity over the fact that I went to jail for 37 tons of pot, because I had been smuggling since I was 16. I made over $30 million and had a phenomenal life. I was treated like a rock star everywhere I went. I had a good run.

Thirty-seven tons must have been a massive shock to the authorities.
We were generating over $2 billion and they had no idea I existed. I had so many identities, passports, and cover stories that when I was busted they couldn't figure out who I was.

As a person who was constantly making up new identities, did you ever get to a point where you were having fun with it? How did you choose your characters?
Being that guy was my craft. It was like an actor studying for a play. You have ideas for a backstory, all the necessary documents, and a script—and you have to look the right part. I taught myself how to perfect it. It was never a spur-of-the-moment thing; it was something that was done so I didn't get caught and the people I cared about weren't jeopardized.

Throughout 37 Tons, you lament that the smuggling life meant forfeiting a lot of interpersonal relationships. Why were you set on leading an outsider's life?
It's a question I think about now when I work with street kids. When I was growing up, I went to school hungry every day and in class learned about things that wouldn't make me money so I could eat. [Learning] didn't matter to me because I was spending my school day planning how I would get food. I had no safety net—if I didn't earn, I was going to be hungry. Even when I was in community college, I was smuggling hash because I needed something to fall back on if it didn't work out. Most kids have parents or a community, but I never had that. The only thing I knew in my heart was that I had to take care of myself no matter what, because no one else could be counted on to do that.

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Another recurring motif in 37 Tons is fixated on "codes."
People talk about having a moral compass or value system. I read a lot of Adam Smith, and he talks about the difference between civil law and natural law. Civil law was created by people in power to keep them in power, while natural law is the instinctive difference between right and wrong. Even though I led a hard life, I always felt like I did what felt right in my heart. I don't agree with the silent contract we have with society. I believe in natural law—the law of the street. You're taught right from wrong—if you're lucky—otherwise the street would teach it to you.

In the smuggling industry, you couldn't be a liar. If you were, you'd cause people to go to jail or be killed. You couldn't be a thief, because if you stole, other people would suffer for your crime. Loyalty to the people who work with you is a huge deal. There were over 200 people involved in the entire smuggling process, but only two of us went to prison for it. We kept our mouths shut because that's what you do. Meanwhile, people in the corporate world lie, cheat, and steal all the time so they can move up the corporate ladder. I had the most honest and straightforward relationships with everyone I worked with in Colombia, Nepal, and India.

Even though the cannabis industry is rapidly growing, there's still a massive issue with smuggling. What are your thoughts on this?
I don't find it good on any level that young people are risking their freedom to make a profit from smuggling cannabis. I'd rather they'd wait until there's enough room in the industry for them to fit in legally. There's going to be good job opportunities in the industry—the average worker is making approximately $50,000 a year and I'm pretty sure what each state is going to do is say that you can't have a felony conviction within the last seven years. So if you do something stupid like transport weed over state lines and get caught, you're getting a felony conviction. That means you're dead to this industry. It's really important to me that people stay patient and not get greedy or ambitious to the point that they end up in prison.

How do you feel when people romanticize the life of a smuggler?
It's just a fantasy. They have no idea the tension that exists—the loneliness, pain, regret. You walk around and see women pushing strollers and kids eating ice cream and you know that's not going to be part of your life. People want to put you in prison. It's not a relaxing adventure.

You've recently hit 34 years of sobriety. What led you to your rock bottom?
I was at a point where the DEA, the FBI, Interpol, and international agencies people haven't even heard of were after me. I knew I couldn't go back to smuggling and I had to find something new to do. I never had another job, and no concept of what a normal life would be like. I was finally acknowledging the pain I went through. When I got busted and knew I was going to lose everything, I started snorting heroin and coke and drinking. I did it all alone and one day I woke up in a closet in my house totally naked, unshowered, and covered in fleas. I felt like a snake was eating me from the inside. Sobriety is the basis of my lifestyle because I know if I drink or do drugs, my life will fall apart.

You started School 'Em last year, a program geared toward at-risk inner-city youth. What do you try to hit when you're speaking to a young audience about your life?
I try to hit an emotional connection with them. I don't want them just to listen, I want them to feel what I'm talking about. At the end of the day, it's about how I can stop kids growing up in poverty from taking the path I took. I work with a lot of kids who are drug dealers now and I teach them that if you substitute another commodity for drugs, you have the skills to run a business. We're just going to teach you what white people know and you weren't taught. The only different to me between a drug dealer and a banker is a suit.

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David Victorson is featured in documentary TV series Weediquette. “Pot Pipeline”, which explores how marijuana legalization has affected black market trade, airs May 3rd at 10pm on the TV channel @Viceland. #weediquette  
David Victorson is featured in documentary TV series Weediquette. “Pot Pipeline”, which explores how marijuana legalization has affected black market trade, airs May 3rd at 10pm on the TV channel @Viceland. #weediquette  

April 29, 2017

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