The Economics of America’s Private Prison System The Civil War Didn’t End Slavery After All
The American prison system is a massive — if invisible — part of our economy and social fabric.
Slavery has been abolished in the United States since 1865, when the 13th Amendment was passed in the ashes of the Civil War.
Well, almost abolished. Actually, the amendment included a caveat: “except as punishment for a crime.” Since then, prison and forced labor have always gone together.
In fact, with over 2 million people behind bars in this country, the American prison system is a massive — albeit largely invisible — part of our economy and social fabric.
Recent years have seen a rise in both private prisons and the use of prison labor by private, for-profit corporations. This has created perverse incentives to imprison people and exploit them for cheap labor — often at 50 cents an hour or less.
Corporations such as Microsoft, Target, Revlon, and Boeing have all made products with prison labor. With over a third of home appliances and 30 percent of speakers and headphones made using prison labor, it’s likely most American households own inmate-made products.