Letters: The War, Prisons, and the Economy

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As the wars drag on with no end in sight, new technology is enabling more of our wounded troops to survive, and naturally, survival comes with added cost.

From WWII to the present, survival rates rose from 1 dead for every 2.4 wounded to 1 dead to 8.3 wounded at present. In that time, an  outfit cost went from $170 to $17,000 now. Future systems are expected to reach $28,000 to $60,000 in  this decade. Every life is indeed precious, regardless of the price, but let us look at what makes up the cost of each system.

Ever since, President Eisenhower coined the term Military Industrial Complex, most of us are aware of the huge profits war can provide for the weapon  makers. How many of you are aware of the Prison Industrial Complex, (PIC)? Do you know the two complexes have now joined together to share in the rich profit bonanza?

The PIC, one of the fastest growing industries in the nation is a network of public and private prisons, military personnel, politicians, business contacts, prison guard unions, contractors, sub-contractors, and suppliers, ALL making huge profits. And what makes all this profit possible?

First, is the huge increase in private prisons. In the mid 90s there were only 5 in the country. There are now over a 100 with 62,000 inmates. In the next 10 years, they expect to hold up to 360,000. Once they build them, they cannot make good  profit, unless they fill them, so laws are being passed to imprison more people on lesser charges. Over 70 percent of inmates are there for minor, nonviolent drug related offenses and the most minor infractions can result in an  increased sentence. Our 2 million plus prisoners represent 1/4 of all prisoners in the world, a half million more than in China that has 5 times our population.

According to the Left Business Observer, the federal PICs  produce 100 percent of all military helmets, ammunition belts, bullet-proof vests, shirts, pants, tents, bags, and canteens. 37 states have legalized the contracting of prison labor by private corporations to operate in state prisons. Just a few on a large list are IBM, Boeing, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T. Dell, Compact, Intel, Target and many more. Just between 1980 and 1994, PIC profits went from $392 million to $1.31 billion.
In privately run prisons, workers receive as little as 17 cents an hour for a maximum of 6 hours a day ($20 a month). The highest paid are in Tenn. Where they are paid 50 cents an hour in the most highly skilled positions. They are told they are being paid to learn these skills for if and when they are released.

In federal prisons, they can earn $1.25 an hour for an 8 hour day.

It is reported that some Mexican sweat shops have closed down and moved across the border into prisons where they can enjoy not only slave wages, but no health or unemployment insurance, vacation time, sick leave, overtime, or strikes to settle.

Some are even returning here from China and SE Asia where they can save not only on labor, but transportation costs as well. A deal they cannot refuse!
Bud Deraps
St. Louis, MO

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