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(en) Britain, SolFed*, DA #30 - UK Prison Slavery - A private affair

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sun, 28 Nov 2004 10:51:08 +0100 (CET)

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Over the past 10 years, the prison population in England and
Wales has risen rapidly, to a point where it is now being described
as having reached epidemic proportions. With the government
unable to cope with the influx of prisoners and, in effect, having
nowhere to house them, it is, once again, the private sector to the rescue.
Imprisonment is now big business for the newly created custodial
services industry, with companies such as Group 4 and Premier at
the forefront of running the privately managed prisons, and
Securicor dealing with movements between prisons and ferrying
prisoners to and from court. There is also, however, another,
more sinister side, that is not immediately clear without looking at
the wider picture. The three main players have realised that it is
not just in imprisonment and custody that there are big bucks to
be made, but that prisoners themselves can be used to generate
even more cash to further cram those already overflowing coffers.

Rehabilitation programmes have been scrapped, education classes
relegated to the back burner, and skilled trade courses become a
thing of the past. In their place, production and packing lines have
been set up, with pay and conditions reminiscent of sweatshops
the Third World.
The private sector is intent on exploiting prisoners to fulfil its own
needs, and it is aided in this quest by prison rules and regulations
making it compulsory for all convicted prisoners to work. And
since there is no contract of employment between prison and
prisoner, there is no right for a prisoner to receive a wage for the
work s/he does. Instead, prisoners are given what usually amounts
to no more than a few pounds a week, which the prison describes
as a 'gift'.

With no workforce to take into account when tendering for
contracts, companies such as Group 4 and Premier are easily able
to undercut other potential competitors for the market share, and
have no problem in winning bids for work that would otherwise be
sent overseas. These loopholes allow slave labour to prosper in
British prisons and mean that the manufacturing and retail giants
are shielded from exposure.

So far the issue has been kept alive by Mark Barnsley and his
campaign against prison slavery, which has staged a number of
pickets around the country. Without that campaign, the transition
from what is now in its initial stages in Britain to the full-blown
version that is already in place in the United States would be
nothing more than a formality.

In the US, prison slavery has become so heavily relied upon by the
large manufacturing and retail corporations that they are actually
helping to build more prisons in order to secure cheap labour for
years to come. A shortage of prisoners to fill those prisons has led
to people being jailed for offences that normally would not have
attracted a custodial sentence. Prison privatisation and prison
slavery are one and the same.

By pledging your support to the campaign against prison slavery
we can at least bring this issue out into the open and expose what
has, until now, been kept largely a private affair.
Contact: againstprisonslavery@mail.com

Direct Action is published by Solidarity Federation, the British
section of the International Workers' Association
* Solidarity Federation is of the anarcho-syndicalist spectrum

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