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We're All Criminals and Outlaws in the Eyes of the American Police State

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Second, there's the profit-incentive for states to lock up large numbers of Americans in private prisons. Just as police departments have quotas for how many tickets are issued and arrests made per month -- a number tied directly to revenue -- states now have quotas to meet for how many Americans go to jail.

Having outsourced their inmate population to private prisons run by corporations such as Corrections Corp of America and the GEO Group, ostensibly as a way to save money, increasing numbers of states have contracted to keep their prisons at 90% to 100% capacity. This profit-driven form of mass punishment has, in turn, given rise to a $70 billion private prison industry that relies on the complicity of state governments to keep the money flowing and their privately run prisons full. No wonder the United States has the largest prison population in the world.

But what do you do when you've contracted to keep your prisons full but crime rates are falling? Easy. You create new categories of crime and render otherwise law-abiding Americans criminals. Notice how we keep coming full circle back to the point where it's average Americans like you and me being targeted and turned into enemies of the state?

That brings me to the third factor contributing to Americans being arrested, charged with outrageous "crimes," and jailed: the Corporate State's need for profit and cheap labor. Not content to just lock up millions of people, corporations have also turned prisoners into forced laborers.

According to professors Steve Fraser and Joshua B. Freeman, "All told, nearly a million prisoners are now making office furniture, working in call centers, fabricating body armor, taking hotel reservations, working in slaughterhouses, or manufacturing textiles, shoes, and clothing, while getting paid somewhere between 93 cents and $4.73 per day." Tens of thousands of inmates in U.S. prisons are making all sorts of products, from processing agricultural products like milk and beef, to packaging Starbucks coffee, to shrink-wrapping software for companies like Microsoft, to sewing lingerie for Victoria's Secret.

What some Americans may not have realized, however, is that America's economy has come to depend in large part on prison labor. "Prison labor reportedly produces 100 percent of military helmets, shirts, pants, tents, bags, canteens, and a variety of other equipment. Prison labor makes circuit boards for IBM, Texas Instruments, and Dell. Many McDonald's uniforms are sewn by inmates. Other corporations -- Microsoft, Victoria's Secret, Boeing, Motorola, Compaq, Revlon, and Kmart -- also benefit from prison labor." The resulting prison labor industries, which rely on cheap, almost free labor, are doing as much to put the average American out of work as the outsourcing of jobs to China and India.

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No wonder America is criminalizing mundane activities, arresting Americans for minor violations, and locking them up for long stretches of time. There's a significant amount of money being made by the police, the courts, the prisons, and the corporations.

What we're witnessing is the expansion of corrupt government power in the form of corporate partnerships which both increase the reach of the state into our private lives while also adding a profit motive into the mix, with potentially deadly consequences.

This perverse mixture of government authoritarianism and corporate profits is now the prevailing form of organization in American society today. We are not a nation dominated by corporations, nor are we a nation dominated by government. We are a nation dominated by corporations and government together, in partnership, against the interests of individuals, society and ultimately our freedoms.

If it sounds at all conspiratorial, the idea that a government would jail its citizens so corporations can make a profit, then you don't know your history very well. It has been well documented that Nazi Germany forced inmates into concentration camps such as Auschwitz to provide cheap labor to BASF, Bayer, Hoechst, and other major German chemical and pharmaceutical companies, much of it to produce products for European countries.

Makes you wonder, doesn't it, whether what we are experiencing right now is fascism, American style, or Auschwitz revisited?

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John W. Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. Whitehead's aggressive, pioneering approach to civil liberties has earned him numerous accolades and (more...)
 

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It might just turn out that these arrests and fine... by Deena Stryker on Monday, Aug 4, 2014 at 1:22:44 PM
Another thing some police are doing now is searchi... by Catherine McCoy on Tuesday, Aug 5, 2014 at 3:26:26 PM