The 13th Amendment Is Helping Companies Profit Off Of Prison Labor

black prisoner sitting down at a sewing machine working
Alyssa Guznik
January 25, 2023

The 13th amendment ended chattel slavery but didn't end slavery as punishment. Today, the American prison complex exploits Black lives to achieve one major goal.

Profit. Black incarcerated people help produce over $2 billion in goods and $9 billion for prisons. Those in prison aren't protected by wage, safety, or union laws, and punishment for refusing to adhere to these rules can include solitary confinement or a loss of family visits.

For lower costs, companies like Walmart and McDonald's outsource their production to prison labor. But prisons pay pennies on the dollar. This system guarantees corporations realize huge profits.

What little money Black prisoners earn, if any, is often withheld by the prison for room, board, and taxes. It's not much better after release, either. The Bureau of Justice Statistics finds that those who find work after incarceration make about $25k a year.

America's exploitative prison system robs those behind its walls of wages and makes earning a living substantially harder once released. The entire complex is a scheme to ensure Black people involved in the system never succeed. It's another glaring reason the entire system should be abolished.

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