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in News - 09 Apr, 2017
by Curtis - no comments
Prisoner Production: The Economy Of Prison Labor

Luxury negligee, headphones, boomerangs, modern reception desks. These are only some of the things that modern Australians enjoy. Things that may have been made by those located behind bars.

Across Australia, the government is setting their prisoners to work, getting them to produce things like doors, tents, native works, among other things, as part of their attempt to rehabilitate them. The private sector has been enjoying the benefits of prison labor. In NSW, the Corrective Services Industries (CSI) division of the Justice department is the one in charge of prisoner employment.  According to its data, 85% of work capable inmates do actually work, which generates a profit for the division of about $45 M.

Outside of Australia, in places like America, prisoners are being paid to do work too, sometimes for more money. For example, prisoners in Silicon Valley can earn as much as $17 doing coding.

This isn’t entirely new, with TV shows having been made off of the concept, like Wentworth and Prisoner. However, the more prevalent use of prisoners for labor and production is a fairly recent trend. One that some are claiming is threatening the private sector.  Disgruntled businesses are wondering if the recent surge of incarcerated labor might be jeopardizing the businesses of the law-abiding citizens outside of prisons.

This was marked by the Northern Territory’s Correctional Industries group coming under fire, with some stating that the new labor was taking jobs away from the community, and that legal businesses were unable to cope; prison labor doesn’t generate superannuation contributions and the employer also doesn’t need to pay payroll tax, on top of super-cheap labor.

In response, Mark Payne, the NT’s Corrections Commissioner stated that it’s not their objective to compete or disadvantage local businesses in any way. The Western Australian correctional services reiterated this, stating that they make no moves that would threaten businesses in WA, adding that they even offer the inmates’ yakka (hard work) to local companies that need help so as to counter foreign efforts on the market.

Prison companies stated that most of their businesses are aimed towards prisons themselves.

Here is a list of things, both in Australia and out, produced by prisoners.

  • Australian Flags: Inmates’ impressive sewing skills supply National, State, RAAF, NAVY, Ambulances, and other with their necessary flags.
  • Bed Linen: A common product from inmates, particularly the variants used in hospitals.
  • IKEA Furniture: Of all the things to be made by prisoners, political prisoners, no less, furniture such as modern reception desks, seems like a st range option. But the Swedish giant, IKEA has admitted using the political inmates of East Germany for their production, apologizing for the matter sometime in 2012.
  • Native products. The NSW’s correction system has “creative centers”, places where the indigenous inmates of the state can ply their trade making their native products.