Slavery Today And In The Future In The United States

Slave Labor Easy Source For Corporate And Government Profit

Disturbing Implications For Racial Minorities

"As prisoners become sources of profit for the State, we can guarantee one thing: there will be more of them."

Over 40,000 prisoners are currently in Michigan state correctional facilities. Michigan is just one state of 50, and has less than 4% of the U.S. population.

Although black people make up only 13% of Michigan's population, they make up an astounding 58% of all state prison inmates. That means that in Michigan a black person is over 8 times more likely to end up in prison than a person who is not black.

Under existing law, prison officials can control virtually every aspect of a prisoner's life. They can decide he or she will not have sex, even without any law providing for that. They can decide when he will get up, and when he will go to bed. They can decide how much money will be spent on his food, and how it will be spent. They can set rules for prisoners, and punish prisoners in many ways, including depriving them of all food but "nutri-loaf," or tasteless, ground-up leftovers pressed into a loaf. They can decide who gets to visit a prisoner, and for how long. They can force a prisoner to sleep on a metal grating without a mattress. They can decide how long a prisoner must wait before he gets medical treatment. They can decide that the prisoner will spend 24 hours a day in his cell, or 12 hours a day doing backbreaking labor. It is up to them.

In many states there is a move to privatization of jails and prisons. Instead of being run by the Government, they will be run by private corporations for profit.

The labor of the prisoner belongs to the State, but when the State transfers their interest to a private corporation, the labor of the prisoner belongs to the corporation. A corporation will run the lives of prisoners, and decide how they shall labor and what they shall labor at. See any chance for profit here?

Under the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, slavery is not illegal. Slavery is illegal unless it is for conviction for a crime. In that case, slavery is perfectly legal.

The actual text of the Thirteenth Amendment (with some emphasis added) is as follows:


Amendment XIII

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.


Two hundred years ago, slavemasters justified their acts of enslavement by blowing all out of proportion some minor flaws of those being enslaved. Because the black slaves had difficulty with a foreign language (English), and did not have a good education, and did not understand the slavemasters' way of doing things, they were called stupid. Because their sexual practices and manner of dressing were not those of the slavemasters, they were called immoral. Because they objected to being slaves, they were called troublemakers. All of their differences were said to make them inferior. All this was said to justify their enslavement.

Today, slavemasters again justify their acts of enslavement by blowing all out of proportion some minor flaws of those being enslaved. Today, it is drug use. To a rational person, taking drugs is no worse a moral flaw than drinking alcohol, or overeating, or watching too much tv. Taking drugs is no worse than what our President, Vice President, Speaker of the House and Supreme Court Justices have done. To a rational person, selling drugs is no worse a moral flaw than working as a clerk in a liquor store, or owning stock in a corporation like Kroger's or Safeway that sells butter to fat people. The drug user is said to be "immoral," and a "troublemaker," and this is said to justify his or her enslavement.

Drug laws make is possible to sweep up hundreds of thousands of young men and women in the prime of their lives, and confine them for life to being the slaves of some profit-making corporations. Like a war party raiding a small African village 400 years ago, the present day war parties of police go into our cities and suburbs and round up healthy young men and proud young women and send them off to where their labor can be owned by someone else for the rest of their lives.

That is slavery.

Although a large number of white people are enslaved, blacks are rounded up at over 8 times the rate for whites, making this to some degree racially based slavery.

As reported by Mark Langford of UPI, Texas is a leader in the enslavement industry. Union leaders like Joe Gunn of the Texas AFL-CIO are upset that his union members have to compete with slave labor, which brings down the wages of all workers. And, the State Government loves every minute of it, because they get a cut of the profits. A large number of prisoners, normally a drain on the state treasury, turns into a financial asset. As prisoners become sources of profit for the State, we can guarantee one thing: there will be more of them.

Although many prisoners have trouble finding jobs in the real world, they make ideal employees in the prison setting. After all, they can't exactly talk back, or go on strike, or hope for promotion. Once trained, they cannot leave to go to another employer. You can strip search them after work to ensure no employee theft. Most importantly, with prisoners doing the work, "absenteeism is very low," says William Meehan, president of U.S. Technologies. Slave laborers working for him make electronic parts that go to such companies as IBM and Motorola. Meehan closed a plant in Austin, Texas and laid off the workers so he could hire prisoners.

With slave industry legal, not only the prisoners suffer; all working people suffer from depressed employment and depressed wages. However, since profits are up, folks like Meehan are making out as well as the folks who ran the agricultural slavery that prevailed in Texas before 1865. So, we have come full circle in only 130 years. Is it any wonder that top industrialists back any plan that will keep the prisons full?

The major corporations that own the major media outlets have launched an all-out attack on tobacco companies, aided by greed of governments nationwide to have more money to carry out their pet projects. Because the tobacco companies are corporations, this attack at first glance looks like it is not a plan of corporate America. But look at the realities. Who owns the networks? Who owns the major newspapers? Who has the most influence in Congress?

"It is undisputed that using tobacco is not good for one's health, but isn't it also true that being in prison is not good for one's health?"

It may just be a concidence, but the fact is that if tobacco is outlawed, hundreds of thousands of tobacco criminals will be subtracted from the regular labor force and added to the slave labor force, and the American work force will be divided and demoralized by having to compete with slaves. Aren't those things that would benefit the interests of corporations?

It is undisputed that using tobacco is not good for one's health, but isn't it also true that being in prison is not good for one's health? The breakup of families by incarceration of the parents will not be good for the health of parent or child. The impoverishment of families by imposing fines and forfeitures and taxes to pay for it all will also not be good for their health. The cutting off of access to higher education, and the disabling employment effects of a criminal record will not be good for the health of young men and women, and their descendants for who knows how many generations. And then there are the health effects of violent police raids, wars among tobacco-supplying criminal gangs, murder of snitches, etc., etc. These health effects are never factored into the equations of drug and tobacco policy makers.

As with drug prohibition, with tobacco prohibition we will certainly see a general increase in the level of violence in our communities, and in return get at best a modest decrease in use of the banned commodity.

The increase in prisoners will certainly have disturbing implications for the minority communities from which the majority of prisoners will come.

Regardless of the intentions of individual pro-Prohibition activists, tobacco crime will result in expanding opportunities for corporate profit and political control through expanding prison populations, just as drug crime is doing today.

What has changed over the last 400 years? Not much. Only the improved cleverness of the slavemasters in latching on to ingenious rationales to cloak their crimes.

For further information, please visit the website of the American Anti-Slavery Group.


Check the figures yourself on the odds of a black person going to prison compared to a white person going to prison, or
Read about slavery throughout the world today.
Read 1856 U.S. Supreme Court decision on slavery.
Return to the Special Reports page.
Return to the Other Stories page.
Go back to The Injustice Line home page.