Contrary to the implication that inmates are no longer exploited as forced labor for the country’s benefit [“Over Their Dead Bodies: Local Historians Honor Forgotten Railroad Workers,” Sept. 23, Xpress], folks need know that such legalized slavery thrives.
I’ve served as clergy for tens of thousands of Pagan prisoners nationwide for free since 1995, providing everyone from juvenile and immigrant detainees to people on death row magical guidance and help in securing their religious, medical, legal and civil rights.
An unaccountable superintendent rules each facility like a medieval fiefdom. The vast majority of my charges write that businesses contract with prisons to compel them do everything from booking airlines tickets by phone to making eyeglasses and myriad products for pennies a month. Facilities get their meager money back by charging usurious prices for hygiene items from the commissary like the corrupt “company store” of yore. Working for slave wages leads to black market trading, pervasive in-prison debt, violence and decimated self-worth that often leads to recidivism.
The extent of this shameful racket of profiting off prisoners to enrich corporations, inflate economic productivity numbers and fuel governmental graft is difficult to assess given the penal system’s high rate of staff and inmate reassignment, transfer and turnover.
In 2018, 698 people out of every 100,000 were incarcerated [in the U.S.] — nearly 3 million (source: wikipedia.com). The U.S. continues to imprison more citizens than any other developed nation (“America Still Locks Up More People Than Anywhere Else in the World,” cnn.com, April 2019). History will decry this captive slave market as the national travesty it is.
Citizens should be outraged that inmates are being used to pull the wool over our eyes by artificially bolstering our economy at the expense of free folk desperate for living wage work. Let’s not wait for history’s tsk-tsk to eliminate this expedient practice on moral grounds alone.
— Queen Lady Passion (Dixie Deerman)
Editor’s note: The writer notes that she is author of Pagan Prisoner Advocate’s Guide, currently enabling incarcerated witches in 558 unique institutions (see map at: oldenwilde.org/prisons).