Welcome to the New Plantation!
Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton’s admitted in her book, “It takes a village,” that she used black prisoners as house servants when she was the First Lady of Arkansas. This has recently rung a much-needed bell in social media by Black Lives Matter, but I just wonder why it took so long. The book is two decades old, and to be fair, she is far from the only one who employed this odious practice. Many captains of industry still do as well. Perhaps Mrs. Clinton was just a trendsetter.
America’s Fortune 500 Companies followed Mrs. Clinton's example beginning in the 1990s and the use slave labor at a cost lower than any third world country was launched, again.
So this is not really a new way of getting cheap labor. In fact it is the very oldest way in mankind’s history, just slightly updated. It’s slavery—same as before—but with an oligarchic twist, seasoned heavily with political contributions. Slaves are now worked under ‘color of law’ right here in the land of the free—but nobody can stop it this time—because government is the Master.
In ancient times, armies were raised to capture human beings from neighboring nations, or ships were sent to foreign continents to entrap them. The slaves of old had to be housed, fed and cared for by their masters, medical attention provided, and often, they were paid a little money as a matter of law. Hillary Clinton and the Fortune 500 users of modern slavery do not. America’s largest corporations paid their political hacks in the U.S. Congress and 37 state legislatures to invent Slavery 2.0 [“new and improved” for the 21st century]. The U.S. Congress then filled these new plantations by outlawing 314,000 human behaviors—almost none of which were illegal as recently as my youth—though the federal government is only allowed by the U.S. Constitution to punish three—piracy, counterfeiting, and treason.
Many states followed suit making prison the penalty for the slightest infraction. These costly institutions were turned into profit centers—not for you the taxpayers who is footing the bill or for the new slaves themselves—but for the Fortune 500 companies and lucky politicians like Hillary Clinton who can enjoy slave labor at little or no cost to themselves.
Since 1990, when America’s largest corporate political donors began building factories on the new prison plantations, they have been assisted in keeping them full through the elimination of constitutionally required due processes of law such as the mandatory “trial by jury,” the “right to bail,” the right to challenge unlawful incarceration through a writ of habeas corpus--all mandatory rights-- have been stripped from the Constitution by Congress and ignored by the courts, including the nation’s highest.
To further the system of mass incarceration to serve industry, judges and prosecutors can violate the rights of American citizens without penalty—in violation of the U.S. Constitution (Amendment 13)-- due to a string of self-serving judicial decisions beginning with Pierson v. Ray in 1967. Government operatives, the prosecutors, can act with complete immunity—and impunity.
With 314,000 statutes for the prosecutors to employ and a de facto suspension of due process of law in America’s courts, no matter how many plantations are built, government prosecutors and courts now keep them at 130% of capacity—via an incredible 98.6% conviction rate—which is unheard of in any nation claiming to be free.
The worst of these new laws target minorities. The others are so vague and obscure that the average American violates three of them a day (according to a 2009 Harvard Law School study) and does not even know it until they are arrested and added to the prison work force for so doing. With the absence of due process and complete immunity for those who deny it, there is no chance of winning in court (well….14 out of 1,000—not odds anyone except the wealthiest of Americans can afford to take) which has rendered the United States system of ‘justice’ to be little more than a conviction machine.
As Marcus Tullius Cicero wrote 2,000 years ago, “The more laws, the less justice.” By that axiom, the nation with “The most laws,” offers “the least justice,” and that nation is America.
The only good news is that the profits of these corporations have soared since they began using prison slaves in 1990. There is no upkeep to worry about with the modern slaves, no expense of any kind except a pittance wage and that is mostly for show. That $80 billion tab is paid for corporate America by you—the U.S. taxpayer.
These new American plantations house factories for the créme de la créme of big business and multi-nationals such as “IBM, Boeing, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T, Wireless, Texas Instrument, Dell, Compaq, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard, Nortel, Lucent Technologies, 3Com, Intel, Northern Telecom, TWA, Nordstrom’s, Revlon, Macy’s, Pierre Cardin, [and] Target Stores,” just to name a few. They pay wages beneath the hourly rate of Haiti, for skilled American workers. The “minimum” wage is $5.00….per month. The U.S. Government claims that this is not “slavery” (by its own definition) under the 13th amendment because their slaves are paid something, though often, so were the slaves of old. This modern version of slavery also leaves no choice but to work for the master. If a prisoner refuses, he or she is put in solitary confinement (a.k.a. “Segregated Housing Unit” or SHU) until they come around—very similar to their predecessors.
Admittedly, this idea of enslaving one’s own citizens to use as industrial workers is not new. The difference is that we—America— used to fight and hate people who did the same thing, until Congress and our courts copied the very methods used by the German Nazis to enslave their Jewish citizens and political dissidents for national industries in the 1940s, as did the Soviet Union and Communist China in the 20th century. They targeted the groups to be enslaved with behavior-specific laws, eliminated due process of law in the their judicial systems, and granted immunity to the judges and prosecutors who committed these crimes against their fellow citizens. It works every time.
The only thing that is new is that America once invaded Germany to stop them and yelled “slave labor” and “human rights” until the Soviets and Chinese came around. Then..…our leaders—Democrats and Republicans alike--got paid to copy them. Today, the United States has 25% of the world’s prisoners, with only 5% of its population and one of the worst records of “justice” in human history. I contend that this is not an accident.
As an interesting—and possibly instructive—historical note, once these (other) rogue governments were deprived of slave labor, a funny thing happened. They emptied and closed most of their prisons and returned them to their original purpose—keeping the public safe from dangerous people—rather than pools of cheap labor for the captains of industry.
Might there be a connection?
Howell W. Woltz
Author of international bestseller, “Justice Restored: 10 steps to end mass incarceration in America by restoring due process,” and “The Way Back to America: 10 steps to restore the United States to Constitutional government,” both available on Amazon and at www.justicerestored.com
Born in North Carolina and educated at the University of Virginia, Wake Forest University and Caledonian University in Scotland, Howell now lives in Warsaw, Poland with his wife, Dr. Magdalena Iwaniec-Woltz. Howell is the European Correspondent for The Richardson Post and Chairman of The International Centre for Justice.