APRIL 2003: SLAVE LABOR AT UNICOR
From Behind the Wire by Richard J. Lester
Society knows the War on Drugs continues, though you might not know it from news reports in the media. In the prisons of our once great land there is never a bed waiting to be slept in. County jails are filled beyond capacity with so-called drug dealers, conspirators, and the like.
Perhaps the government believes we can be packed in prisons like sardines and people will forget. I do not think forgetting will be possible. There are too many of us now. The number of Drug War prisoners grows each day, and with us grows the number of our friends and members of our families. To those uncaring ones who hold the reins of power I say, the army of today’s silent ones like Moses in the hall of Ramses II will one day rise up and cry, “Let my people go!”
Then the time of slave labor will end. No more will Unicor (prison industries) pay less than dollar an hour wages for our work in the production of every imaginable item of commerce – depriving working people outside prison of their livelihood. A majority of the jobs in Unicor are filled by inmates convicted of drug crimes. Why? Most inmates convicted of drug offenses owe fines to the government, fines extracted from an already meager pittance. Prisoners sentenced to pay fines in addition to incarceration get top priority for jobs at Unicor, or else their work would be on mainline in the kitchen, earning them 12 cents an hour instead of 30 or 60 or 99 cents at Unicor.
It is tragic to see intelligent men vying for a job at Unicor, waiting months and sometimes years to make the minute payments on their fines they must. Fines have nothing to do with making restitution to the victim of a crime. Imposition of a fine satisfies no one but the prosecutor, an extra incentive to capture another pot smoker with a bag of marijuana in his jeans.
Wake up America! The deception and the cruelty have gone far enough. Let my people go!