Exploring The Hidden Role Of Prison Labor In America’s Food Supply

The practice has received increasing scrutiny in recent years. Exploring The Hidden Role Of Prison Labor In America’s Food Supply Wikipedia/msppmoore

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It probably isn’t news to learn that prisoners are frequently required to work as part of their sentences, but the extent to which prison labor contributes to the meals that ultimately reach your dining room table might come as quite a surprise.

Here are the details

The irony isn’t lost on critics that the Louisiana State Penitentiary is located on a former slave plantation, since many say modern-day inmates are treated in much the same way.

  • They work for free or receive just pennies per hour for their labor
  • They can be sent to solitary confinement or denied parole if they refuse
  • They don’t qualify for safety protections afforded to all other workers

There’s no practical way for consumers to avoid spending their money on food products that have their roots in such coerced prison labor. After all, companies from Walmart to McDonald’s are among the final recipients of the meat and other agricultural products benefiting from the process.

Justifiable or unconstitutional?

Some argue that prison labor is just part of the punitive process. And the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, has a clause allowing for involuntary labor as long as it’s part of a criminal’s punishment.

Then there’s Willie Ingraham, who pleaded guilty to a crime he says he didn’t commit to avoid a possible death sentence and went on to spend more than 50 years behind bars at the state pen.

Much of that time was spent toiling in the heat under constant threat of armed guards.

“They’d come, maybe four in the truck, shields over their face, bill clubs, and they’d beat you right there in the field,” he recalled.

There are currently federal and state-level efforts underway to revise laws regarding prison labor … but for now, it’s a deeply ingrained part of American culture.

Chris Agee
Chris Agee January 30th, 2024
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