With the American economy roaring ahead in the midst of the largest economic recovery in its history, many investors and analysts are talking endlessly about growth. With stocks climbing to record heights and more businesses finding themselves eager to hire new employees, it’s only natural that economists, investors, and everyday people discuss, debate, and enjoy the robust economic gains we’ve made over the past few years. Far too often, however, human rights abuses and other dismal conditions are accepted solely because they help generate economic growth, a terrifying trend which can’t continue.
We can’t accept economic growth that’s fueled by prison labor. Here are the changes that must be wrought to prevent it.
Prison labor is nothing new
Before diving into the worrying world of modern prison labor, it’s worth establishing that relying on convicts and the accused to bolster our economy is a tale as old as time itself. History is rife with examples of slave labor being used to generate results in economic arenas where growth would otherwise be impossible; the formation of the mining industry around the world, the creation of textiles throughout history, and countless other economic sectors are brimming with proof of forced labor used to generate huge profits. It would be foolish to think that chain gangs are a thing of the past, too.
In the United States, prisons remain a worrying source of labor and growth for companies and public works projects ambitious and brazen enough to tap into them. Labor conditions in modern prisons are so atrocious that last year saw what was probably one of the largest prisoner’s strike in history carried out, though few everyday people heard about it. The few news reports centered on that event mostly focused on prison conditions in general, though a crucial component of the strike was a work stoppage.
Private prisons have been steadily growing in the past few years, too, allowing companies to profit off the incarceration of citizens who may otherwise be rehabilitated and freed in a government-run prison system not financially incentivized to keep convicts behind bars. Everyday, clients can rely upon the stellar legal expertise of Diamond and Diamond Lawyers to keep them out of trouble, but those who can’t afford excellent legal protection for themselves may find themselves forced to work for literally pennies in prison.
We can and must do better
If the growth we achieve is to be sustainable, moral, and admirable in any sense, we can’t force prisoners to work for pennies to achieve higher profit margins. When prisoners are isolated in solitary confinement for speaking out about working conditions they’re effectively forced into, our economy and political system are sorely in need of adjustment. Until companies get on board with the movement to end exploitative prison labor practices, however, little meaningful change will be accomplished.
We shouldn’t be proud of economic gains that are partly achieved through the exploitation of those who could be earning a fair wage. Despite newfound progress in the stock market, modern growth rates should be viewed with dismay until we can ensure they’re maintained in a humane fashion where gains are fairly distributed to those who helped produce them.