Federal Prison Industries
Federal Prison Industries, also known by its trade name UNICOR, founded in 1934, is operated by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and is a wholly-owned government corporation which employs 25 percent of the Federal Bureau of Prisons' sentenced inmate population.
The following is excerpted from Crossing The Rubicon: America's Descent into Fascism at the End of the Age of Oil by Michael C. Ruppert, scheduled for release in the late spring of 2003. ©Copyright 2003, From The Wilderness Publications. All rights reserved. Reprinted from From the Wilderness in accordance with Online Permission.
CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE: Eating The Chosen People
"There are currently 6.6 million people in the United States either in jail, on probation or on parole.22 Of those, as I have documented in previous issues of From The Wilderness, more than two million are incarcerated, mostly in state and federal penitentiaries. And of those two million - half of which were added in the last ten years - more than sixty per cent are nonviolent drug offenders.23 There has been a growing trend in corporate America to employ many of these prisoners as virtual slave labor for multi-national corporations. Inmate laborers now do everything from processing your credit card statements to making your airline reservations, to assembling your tennis shoes and the circuit boards for your stereo. And the Department of Justice operates something called Federal Prison Industries, better known as Unicor, as a profit-making venture to benefit American corporations. Unicor runs more than 100 factories in prisons in at least 30 states.24
"According to Unicor's web site unicor.gov:
- "One example was its [UNICOR's] role as a supplier to the military during the 1990-91 Persian Gulf conflict. UNICOR provided Kevlar helmets, camouflage battle uniforms, lighting systems, sandbags, blankets, and night vision eyewear for the military to use during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. It even manufactured cables for chemical gas detection devices and for the Patriot missile systems that played a key role in defending Allied troops during the Persian Gulf War. Brigadier General John Cusick, commanding officer of the Defense Personnel Support Center, praised UNICOR for the 'superb support [it] provided to America's Fighting Forces' and for helping ensure that 'we received the supplies the troops needed to win the war.'25
"About thirty per cent of the prisons in this country are run by private corporations which trade their stock based upon how many human beings they 'house'. In pure economic terms, inmates have become inventory. The two largest of these corporations are Wackenhut Corporation and Corrections Corporation of America.
"In recent years many law abiding Americans have lost their jobs to prison industries which are able to provide labor costs at a fraction of those in an uncorrupted marketplace. This means that the corrupt economy makes money by first selling drugs to people and then by putting them in prison for using drugs.
"Consider also that when Iraq released its 12,000 page report on its Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) programs, the U.S. government promptly censored several thousand pages. Among the pages that it withheld from public view in the U.S. were pages showing which corporations had made billions of dollars in profits during the 1980s and '90s by selling Iraq all of the technology, equipment and weapons that it needed to become the threat that the U.S. government insists it is today.
"Those corporations include: Honeywell, Spektra Physics, Semetex, TI Coating, UNISYS, Sperry Corporation, Tektronix, Rockwell, Leybold Vacuum Systems, Finnigan-MAT-US, Hewlett Packard, Dupont, Eastman Kodak, American Type Culture Collection (involved in bioweapons research), Alcolac International, Consarc, International Computer Systems, Bechtel, EZ Logic Data Systems, Canberra Industries. Many of these companies which operate overseas are subsidiaries of larger corporations based in the U.S. And the Iraqi government also received assistance from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Sandia National Laboratories.26
22. "More Than 6 Million People Behind Bars or on Probation or Parole," Boston Globe (Associated Press), August 26, 2002.
23. Jesse Katz, "A Nation of Too Many Prisoners?" The Los Angeles Times, February 15, 2000.
24. "Of the more than 150,000 men and women currently incarcerated in the federal prison system, 22,000 are employed by Federal Prison Industries, which uses the trade name UNICOR. The wholly owned government corporation was established by Congress in 1934 to provide job skills, training, and employment for prisoners, and now has more than 100 factories operating inside federal prisons nationwide," Silja J.A. Talvi, "Business from behind bars: profitable, or not?" Christian Science Monitor, May 14, 2001.
According to Unicor's own literature,"...it should be noted that the average Federal inmate has an 8th grade education, is 37 years old, is serving a 10-year sentence for a drug related offense..."
25. UNICOR History
- Hard Time in the Heartland, September 30, 2003, Ian Urbina, MERIP