Opinion: US Prison "Work" Produces $11B for the Economy

Toni Koraza

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Incarcerated workers produce $2 billion in goods and $9 billion in services, mostly earning next to nothing, American Civil Liberties Union reports.

Captive workers earn anywhere between 13 cents and 52 cents per hour on average across the entire country. However, this gets much worse in states like Florida, where captive workers don't have to be compensated for their labor.

As soon as someone enters the prison gates, they lose their right to refuse work.

Most of these prisoners are rightfully locked behind bars for bad deeds they've committed. However, does that make it right to use them as labor under exploitative conditions? Many would even dangle the word "slavery" in this particular case.

What about Florida?

In Florida, captive workers can be compensated $0 for their forced labor. And even if they break through to earn a few pennies an hour, these workers still don't have enough money to buy basic necessities like soap, shaving kits, or medicine. Take into account that prisoners have to buy their own

  • 70% can't afford basic necessities
  • 64% are concerned about safety at work
  • 70% received no formal job training
  • 76% report being forced to work opposite their will

These numbers come from ACLU and BSJ surveys.

The Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) has become the third-largest prison system in the United States, with a budget of $2.7 billion. Some 105,000 prisoners are providing a solid boost to the entire Florida economy, working far away from its sunshine.

The 13th Amendment prohibits slavery in all shapes and forms, except upon incarceration.

Is this correct or morally right?

Some might argue that prisoners are people who have committed something wrong, and now they're serving their time in re-education camps, so they can integrate as fully contributing members of society.

Others may see them as the scum that should be locked forever and throw the key at the deepest point in the Straits of Florida.

However, not everyone is incarcerated for the most appealing of crimes. So why should everyone be turned into an economic unit against their will?

What do you think about the captive work in Florida?

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