By Shakora Bamberg
- Companies are vying for a piece of the $80B spent on mass incarceration each year in the U.S.
- More than over 20,000 inmates have been infected with the coronavirus
Many businesses have begun to sink as a result of the virus, but one industry continues to thrive, including correctional facilities and prisons throughout the country. Some of corporate America’s biggest names, and many smaller companies, are vying for a share of the $80 billion spent on mass incarceration each year in the U.S. People in prisons in at least 40 states continue going to work, sometimes earning pennies an hour, or nothing at all, making masks and hand sanitizer to help guard others from the coronavirus, according to the Associated Press. Should there be any grace granted to prisoners as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to increase daily?
Why This Matters: Big businesses that have become synonymous with the world’s largest prison systems are still making money. Billed as a cheap alternative to foreign outsourcing, inmates previously provided goods to Starbucks (SBUX -0.95%), Victoria’s Secret and Amazon (AMZN +0.03%) owned Whole Foods. The take-home pay of workers in correctional industries can be as low as 20% of their stated wage after garnishment for room and board, restitution and other costs. U.S. jails and prisons house more than 2.2 million people, and in 2017, Blacks represented 33% of the sentenced prison population, and just 12% of the U.S. adult population.
Billed as a cheap alternative to foreign outsourcing, inmates previously provided goods to Starbucks, Victoria’s Secret and Whole Foods
According to USA Today, more than 20,000 inmates have been infected with the coronavirus and 295 have died at Rikers Island in New York. Many of these inmates are losing time with their families and are being charged about $25 per 15-minute phone call when speaking with loved ones, and surcharges are added each time they add credit. Inmates are also paying marked-up prices at the commissary for soap so they can wash their hands more frequently, this is a service that can carry a 100% processing fee.
Situational Awareness: In 2019, criminal and immigration justice advocates successfully moved nine major banks, including J.P. Morgan and Bank of America, to stop lending money to private prisons. Unfortunately, there are still 4,100 corporations that profit from the country’s prisons and jails, according to advocacy group Worth Rises.
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