Prison Labor Exposed: From Starbucks to Microsoft - A sampling of what US prisoners make & for whom
May 21, 2013
Tens of thousands of US inmates are paid from pennies to minimum wage—minus fines and victim compensation—for everything from grunt work to firefighting to specialized labor.
The breaded chicken patty your child bites into at school may have been made by a worker earning twenty cents an hour, not in a faraway country, but by a member of an invisible American workforce: prisoners. At the UnionCorrectional Facility, a maximum security prison in Florida, inmates from a nearby lower-security prison manufacture tons of processed beef, chicken and pork for Prison Rehabilitative Industries and Diversified Enterprises (PRIDE), a privately held non-profit corporation that operates the state’s forty-one work programs. In addition to processed food, PRIDE’s website reveals an array of products for sale through contracts with private companies, from eyeglasses to office furniture, to be shipped from a distribution center in Florida to businesses across the US. PRIDE boasts that its work programs are “designed to provide vocational training, to improve prison security, to reduce the cost of state government, and to promote the rehabilitation of the state inmates.”
And Each month, California inmates process more than 680,000 pounds of beef, 400,000 pounds of chicken products, 450,000 gallons of milk, 280,000 loaves of bread, and 2.9 million eggs (from 160,000 inmate-raised hens).Starbucks subcontractor Signature Packaging Solutions has hired Washington prisoners to package holiday coffees (as well as Nintendo Game Boys). Confronted by a reporter in 2001, a Starbucks rep called the setup “entirely consistent with our mission statement.”
Texas inmates produce brooms and brushes, bedding and mattresses, toilets, sinks, showers, and bullwhips.
In Texas, prisoners make officers’ duty belts, handcuff cases, and prison-cell accessories. California convicts make gun containers, creepers (to peek under vehicles), and human-silhouette targets.
A stitch in time: California inmates sew their own garb. In the 1990s, subcontractor Third Generation hired 35 female South Carolina inmates to sew lingerie and leisure wear for Victoria’s Secret and JCPenney. In 1997, a California prison put two men in solitary for telling journalists they were ordered to replace “Made in Honduras” labels on garments with “Made in the usa.”
Open wide: At California’s prison dental laboratory, inmates produce a complete prosthesis selection, including custom trays, try-ins, bite blocks, and dentures.
Constructive criticism: Prisoners in for burglary, battery, drug and gun charges, and escape helped build a Wal-Mart distribution center in Wisconsin in 2005, until community uproar halted the program. (Company policy says, “Forced or prison labor will not be tolerated by Wal-Mart.”)
On call: Its inmate call centers are the “best kept secret in outsourcing,” Unicor boasts. In 1994, a contractor for gop congressional hopeful Jack Metcalf hired Washington state prisoners to call and remind voters he was pro-death penalty. Metcalf, who prevailed, said he never knew.
Federal Prison Industries, a.k.a. Unicor, says that in addition to soldiers’ uniforms, bedding, shoes, helmets, and flak vests, inmates have “produced missile cables (including those used on the Patriot missiles during the Gulf War)” and “wiring harnesses for jets and tanks.” In 1997, according to Prison Legal News, Boeing subcontractor MicroJet had prisoners cutting airplane components, paying $7 an hour for work that paid union wages of $30 on the outside.
One square missing, shining…
Moore, OK May 20, 02013
Miles Davis, Musician
- The giant armored fish, Dunkleosteus, has just made a kill.
- It is being mobbed by a number of early shark:
several Cladoselache; a male ‘anvil shark’, Stethacanthus;
and, lower left, Ctenacanthus.
- In the foreground a trio of the trilobite, Huntonia, forages through a reef of horn corals, brachiopods and sponges.
Set up as a top-secret biological and chemical weapons facility during the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War Two, Unit 731 has been referred to as the Asian Auschwitz. Through the practice of lethal human experimentation, the unit is thought to have been responsible for the death of up to 200,000 civilians and military personnel – the vast majority Chinese and Korean nationals, but also South East Asians, Pacific Islanders and Allied POWs. In the sprawling six kilometer-square complex in the city of Harbin (now part of Northeast China) those behind the sickening ‘research’ developed some of the most cruel and sadistic experiments ever to be conducted on human victims. These included vivisection, amputations, germ warfare tests, explosive weapons testing, and much more.
Sheldon H. Harris, one of the foremost historians on Unit 731, explained in a History Channel documentary how the people tortured and killed were treated as objects: “These scientists had a weird sense of humor,” Harris revealed. “They referred to their victims as “matures”, which, loosely translated, is logs, and that’s how they thought about them, as pieces of wood, not as humans. They could cut them up; they could burn them in a fireplace… If they ran short of candidates, the secret police would just literally sweep the streets of the city and pick up enough candidates for the lab.”
Many horrific experiments were enacted on these pieces of living timber under the direction of Shiro Ishii, the unit’s commander. The experiments sound like they could easily have come from the mind Josef Mengele, the Nazi doctor also known as the Angel of Death, infamous for his sick and twisted human experiments on prisoners held in Auschwitz.
There were many other fiendish experiments acted out on the thousands of prisoners incarcerated in Unit 731. These included testing chemical weapons on people trapped inside gas chambers; spinning victims in giant centrifuges until they perished; hanging individuals upside down to test their endurance before they choked to death; and injecting air into prisoners’ arteries and horse urine into their kidneys.
All things considered, these experiments rivaled many of those dreamed up by the Nazi doctor, Josef Mengele, in terms of pure evil intent, and yet incredibly many of the scientists implicated were honored for their services to their country.
The brains behind the unit, Shiro Ishii, lived in peace and quiet to the ripe old age of 67, when he died of throat cancer. The United States felt that the research into germ warfare was too valuable to lose and so cut a deal with the Japanese. In 1947, Douglas MacArthur, the General of the US Army, wrote to Washington that “additional data, possibly some statements from Ishii probably can be obtained by informing Japanese involved that information will be retained in intelligence channels and will not be employed as ‘War Crimes’ evidence.”
By granting immunity to Ishii and the other scientists working under him, the US wanted to ensure that no other nation would lay its hands on their research into bio-warfare. However, the Soviets did glean a certain amount of information after prosecuting 12 leaders and scientists from Unit 731 in war crimes trials held in 1949. Those found guilty were sentenced to between two and 25 years in a labor camp, and the Soviets built a biological weapons facility in Sverdlovsk using the data collected. Meanwhile, Shiro Ishii himself moved to (Fort Detrick) Maryland where he worked as a bio-weapons researcher. Yes, you read that correctly: Ishii was given a job in the US rather than tried as a war criminal.
Blink and you’ve missed it. Researchers in the US have captured the world’s first X-ray images of lightning, by creating a special camera that can capture radiation at 10 million frames per second. They presented their new findings at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting in San Francisco and they say that this new view of lightning could help to solve some of the mysteries of this spectacular natural phenomenon.
The research was carried out at the International Center for Lightning Research and Testing, located in Florida. It is one of the few sites in world where lightning is initiated and studied under controlled conditions. By firing rockets with trailing wires into thunder clouds, scientists are able to generate electric fields that are large enough to trigger bolts of lightning, which then propagate back down towards the rocket launch tower.
Joseph Dwyer and colleagues at the Florida Institute of Technology became interested in the fact that lightning emits X-rays as it propagates through the air, a phenomenon that was only noted in the past decade. But given that X-ray sources in lightning travel through the Earth’s atmosphere at velocities approaching the speed of light, it is difficult to catch them on camera before they disappear. In addition, they cannot be imaged with standard mirrors and lenses because huge amounts of material are required to prevent X-rays and gamma rays from entering through the sides of a camera.
Dwyer’s team has created a customized camera that has 30 detectors made from a combination of sodium iodide and photomultiplier tubes, each measuring 3 × 3 inch. The device, which is approximately the size of a standard refrigerator, is also equipped with a 3 inch pinhole aperture, and can record X-rays at 10 million frames per second. “This is actually a very old technique for making images, like that seen in a camera obscura,” Dwyer says.
During July and August this year, Dwyer’s team studied four rocket-triggered lightning flashes at the Florida test site. Each flash lasted for approximately two seconds and the resulting sequences of images revealed that X-rays emerged primarily from the vicinity of the lightning tip as it propagated towards the Earth. As the lightning crashed into the control tower it also triggered large bursts of gamma radiation, which were also captured by the camera.
“For the first time we’re catching a glimpse of lightning in the X-ray emission,” says Dwyer. “We’re seeing lightning as Superman would see it with his X-ray vision”.
Credit: James Dacey/physicsworld.com