US Prison Labor Creates $11 Billion in Value

The ACLU reports on America’s corporate neo-slavery

Mitchell Peterson


Photo by Hédi Benyounes on Unsplash

The American carceral state is an abomination. ‘The Land of the Free’ locks up more of its own population than any country on earth and has more than twenty percent of the global prisoners despite having only five percent of the population. The explosion of prisoners has far outpaced population growth and doesn’t even reflect increases in crime.

And while a Senator, Joe Biden was instrumental in creating the mass incarceration problem we face today.

The over two million people in American jails or prisons cost the taxpayers $80,000,000,000 a year. And they’re not just sitting in six-by-eight cells trying to stay sane and alive; they’re working.

They’re working for corporate America, the states they’re serving in, and the military-industrial complex for pennies an hour and sometimes nothing at all.

People often say that slavery never ended, it just changed form. It was made illegal, but crucially, “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted,” opening the door for chain gangs and the corporate exploitation we see today.

The American Civil Liberties Union recently released a report that details how these prison laborers are creating $11 billion in value and getting little to nothing in return, inside or outside of the institutions.

The ACLU says the cash bail system means, “There are twice as many people incarcerated in local jails awaiting trial and presumed innocent than in the entire federal prison system.”

It is too easy to ignore the plight of people behind bars. With a litany of other issues, it is especially difficult for a politician to champion their cause. But tireless work from activists and the utter inhumanity and exploitation of the system has finally made it a large enough issue that things are slowly happening at a local level, and Democratic Party politicians have to pay lip service to it.

The Washington Post reported that, as a candidate, “Biden says he will work to repeal federal mandatory



Mitchell Peterson

Freelance writer who spent nine years outside the US, currently in rural America writing the Substack bestseller 18 Uncles.