The Daily Kos

#BlackFriday #BoycottMicrosoft: Prisons and Slavery: How Bill Gates, the Gates Foundation and Microsoft Profit From Racism and Human Suffering Part 2: The Prison – School Connection

We outlined the connections Bill and Melinda Gates, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Microsoft have to profits from prisons in Part 1 here. Now we will connect these practices to the impact on our schools and offer some ways for others to join in resistance.

Jail Door

 

How do these stories impact our schools?

“Among the cuts approved by legislators: nearly $50 million from the Department of Corrections, including the closure of a prison facility; $50 million from K-12 education, including funding intended to keep class sizes small; $51 million from higher education, including at several of the state’s flagship universities; nearly $30 million from a state-subsidized health insurance program for the poor; and the elimination of non-emergency dental care for poor adults.”

What a trade off, huh? More cuts to education and social programs that benefit the poor while they pay out millions to prison industries and private prison operators – and give tax breaks to Boeing and Microsoft. Washington citizens are getting the shaft – especially their students and the poorest among them.” – Bob Sloan, Insourcing – Identifying Businesses Involved in Prison Labor or Supporting Those Who Are, The Daily Kos, (2010), (our emphasis)

Our schools and most vulnerable are starved as we see more spent on serving our prison populations than we do on our K-12 students. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s tax evasion is creating budget shortfalls that also hurt our most vulnerable. We’ve connected the dots and you can follow the money.

“Perhaps if states spent more money on educating students, they would not have to spend so much money keeping prisoners incarcerated.” – Rebecca Klein, This is How Much More States Spend on Prisoners Than on Students, Huff Post Politics (2014)

In a recent report by Kate Randall, US Prison Population Soars While Education Spending Plummets, Randall notes:

“State funding for prisons has dwarfed education spending. Adjusted for inflation, state spending for prisons grew by 141 percent from 1986 to 2013, while K-12 education spending rose by 69 percent, and higher education spending by merely 5.6 percent.” – Kate Randall, (November 2014)

But don’t the people arrested deserve to be in prison? Why are we including prisoners in a group of what we call “our most vulnerable”? Aren’t they guilty of major crimes against society?

“Ninety-seven percent of 125,000 federal inmates have been convicted of non-violent crimes. It is believed that more than half of the 623,000 inmates in municipal or county jails are innocent of the crimes they are accused of. Of these, the majority are awaiting trial. Two-thirds of the one million state prisoners have committed non-violent offenses. Sixteen percent of the country’s 2 million prisoners suffer from mental illness.” – Vicky Pelaez, The Prison Industry in the United States: Big Business or a New Form of Slavery?, Global Research, (2014)

But wait. Isn’t Bill Gates a humanitarian? Someone in the tech world sure thought so. Here is the beginning of his speech where he was honored with the James C. Morgan Global Humanitarian Award.:

“I come here tonight wearing two hats—as the chairman of Microsoft and as the co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. And so while I see a room full of customers, competitors, and partners, I want to talk to you as leaders—to discuss how we can bring technology to bear in reducing inequality and the suffering it causes.” – Bill Gates, The Tech Museum Speech, (2006), (emphasis ours)

He got one thing right. He definitely wears two hats.

Hat One: Humanitarian.

Hat Two: Profiteer from Racism and Human Suffering.

It may not be possible for him to consider the inhumanity of unfettered capitalism. We need to expose this inhumanity, shifting public opinion to one that tarnishes the shiny media image he has created for himself.

“There is a group of laborers that are paid way below minimum wage, and rival third world sweatshops. Corporations that make large amount of money, and save millions pay the workers low wages. These employees have been stripped, legally, of their political, economic and social rights. These second class citizens don’t have the right to unionize, are violently pressured into silence, they have no voice to even trigger change. These laborers are the 2.3 million American prisoners we can not see or hear. They are the new slaves. It isn’t a secret that the United States has a very high prison rate in comparison to its population. With just 5 percent of the world’s population, the US currently holds 25 percent of the world’s prisoners (Adam Liptak, NY Times). It also isn’t a hidden that the prison industry is big business, which brings in a lot of capital and employs many. The prison system has figured out a way to enforce this right under our noses.” – Queen, The New Slaves – The Prison Industry is Big Business, AFROPUNK, (2014)

Now we will connect the dots from the prisons to state budget cuts and directly to Bill Gates’/Microsoft’s tax dodging. As incarceration goes up, so do state budget cuts according to this article. Here are some terrible facts:

“The prison populations in most US states are at historic highs. Prisons in 36 US states incarcerate three times as many people as they did in 1978. State prison systems account for 87 percent of the total prisoner population, or roughly 1.3 million in 2013 compared to about 270,000 in 1978. But even as states spend more on prison operations, they are spending less on education for children and young adults, particularly in high-poverty neighborhoods.

A new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) paints a devastating picture of a polarized society in which the prison and police-military apparatus is being continually expanded while vital social programs are starved for funds. CBPP estimates that if state corrections spending had been held to mid-1980s levels, adjusted for inflation today the 50 US states would have about $28 billion more each year between them to allocate to non-prison related expenditures.

At least 30 states are spending less in general funding per student this year for K-12 schools than before the recession hit in 2008; 14 states have reduced funding by more than 10 percent. Spending cuts for higher education have been even deeper, with the average state spending 23 percent less per student since the recession. There is also a direct correlation between increased prison spending and education cuts, with many states with the highest incarceration rates making the deepest education cuts.” , – Kate Randall, US Prison Population Soars While Education Spending Plummets, (2014) (emphasis ours)

According to David Sirota and Jeff Reifman, Microsoft has dodged $29.6 Billion in US taxes and $8.16 Billion in WA State taxes through intentional, possibly illegal maneuvers.

Reifman details the connection to Washington State’s Supreme Court’s McCleary ruling:

“In June, the Washington State Supreme Court ordered the Legislature to appear on September 3rd to explain why it hasn’t found the revenue to fully fund the education reforms required by its McCleary ruling, reportedly as much as $7.83 billion through 2019.

There are a variety of reasons the state has a huge education budget gap. After the 2008 recession, the Legislature cut $4 billion from K-12 and higher education spending, which helped absorb the costs of continuing tax breaks for corporations. While most states have an income tax to smooth revenue through downturns, voters rejected the creation of a progressive income tax in 2010. Then, last November, the Legislature awarded Boeing $8.7 billion in new tax breaks.

Locally, Boeing often takes a lot of flak for its tax breaks, but Microsoft has also played a central role in lobbying for tax breaks that cripple state education spending.

… Using the 50 percent figure, we can conservatively estimate Microsoft’s savings from lobbying and dodging the state royalty tax between 1997 and 2014 at $5.34 billion. If we factor in interest and the Department of Revenue’s typical 25 percent penalty on unpaid corporate taxes, that number jumps to $8.16 billion (see Scenario B).

This is more than enough to fully fund public education under the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision.

These are also ethical issues. Chairman Bill Gates, former CEO Steve Ballmer and General Counsel Brad Smith are all public education advocates. In 2003, then-CEO Ballmer famously admonished taxpayers “… to come to grips with the notion that we need to invest in higher education.” Just not, it seems, corporate taxpayers.

The sophistication with which these men have manipulated the law and enforcement in Olympia has tremendously harmed our state and our schools, and undermined constructive dialogue over tax fairness. Ballmer and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos both fought the progressive income tax in 2010. In 2012, Smith suggested raising the sales tax was the best approach to fund education. I think the bourgeoisie term for this kind of hypocrisy is cognitive dissonance.” – Jeff Reifman, Where are Washington’s K-12 dollars? Just ask Microsoft shareholders, Crosscut (2014)

Microsoft’s tax evasions could fully fund McCleary, fully funding Washington State’s basic education budget. Budget cuts caused by the tax dodging of Microsoft would benefit our most vulnerable citizens, including the GEO prison detainees. Microsoft has used prison labor for profit while laying off Microsoft employees. The Gates Foundation has invested in the GEO Prison Group, profiting from human misery.

How does the amount of funding per inmate compared to the amount of funding per K-12 student in Washington State?

  • Funding per inmate in Washington State: $46,897 per year.
  • Funding per K-12 student in Washington State: $11,328 per year.

Gates Microsoft tax revenues could work towards evening out the imbalance between what is spent on K-12 students vs what is spent on inmates as well. While we do not suggest treating prisoners inhumanely in any way, we do suggest that investing in education leads to an increase in incarceration. Doesn’t it make sense to invest in our children up front to prevent incarceration?

No Cuts to Education

The cuts to Washington State budgets create shortfalls that would otherwise fund our most vulnerable.

The statistics tell a troubling story:

  • The opportunity gap starts early. Disparities in cognitive, social and behavioral skills and overall health are evident before a child turns one, and grow larger by age two.(15)

  • The opportunity gap is evident on nearly every indicator of child well-being. Children of color or from low income families lag behind their more economically secure peers on everything from education outcomes, neighborhood safety, and health issues, and are more likely to enter the child welfare system.(16)

  • Not finishing high school on time. Nearly eight of every 10 students (75 percent) graduate overall, but students of color and those from low- income families are less likely to graduate on-time (within four years of entering ninth grade) compared to their white and higher-income peers.(17) – Kim Justice, Michael Mitchell, Andy Nicholas, Lori Pfingst, A Paramount Duty: Funding Education for McCleary and Beyond, (2013)

How has America’s culture accepted this outrage? Chris Hedges explained in “The Death of the Liberal Class” how that death was caused by “visually emotive media”. Our society is inundated with prison shows, normalizing prison as an “acceptable” part of our culture. Orange is the New Black is one of the most popular programs on Netflix. IMDb lists the Top 10 Prison TV Series. MSNBC sports LOCKUP with titles like LOCKUP Raw: Violence Behind Bars. Increasingly, the public keeps their ratings high, while the media/news corporations, Hollywood, Microsoft, and Bill Gates profit from this misery.

What can you do? Here are just a few ways you can help.

Code Pink

In an effort to push the Gates from his investments in GS4 Israeli prisons, Code Pink was successful in a global protest. Follow in Code Pink’s footsteps with us.

“Bill Gates has sold off some of his shares in controversial British security giant G4S after the billionaire computer software magnate was criticised for his investment.

The G4S shares were bought in June 2013 through the philanthropic organisation he runs with his wife, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation…

…And Israel is accused of holding children in its prisons as well as torturing incarcerated Palestinians, both of which would also breach international law.” – Shane Croucher, Bill Gates Whittles Down G4S Investment Amid Israel Prisons Criticism, (2014)

Sign this petition demanding Bill Gates divest from GEO Group Prisons:

Per Lael Henterly:

“Presente is also circulating an online petition demanding that Gates Foundation get their money out of the GEO Group…” “We really want to make sure Gates divests,” says Mariana Ruiz, Managing Director at Presente.org. “We have many people working on this and we will keep working until they divest.”

– Lael Henterly, Gates Foundation resists pressure to pull private prison investment, Seattle Globalist, (2014)

We need to increase exposure to Gates’ propaganda and demand that he divest from profiting off budget cuts through tax dodging and prison labor profits connected directly to human misery. We have to knock Gates off his humanitarian pedestal by exposing the truth vs his propaganda.

 

REBEL

The Washington Badass Teachers Association is hosting a protest on public property near Microsoft in Redmond, WA on Black Friday, asking people WORLDWIDE to join us to #BoycottMicrosoft. This direct action is intended to increase public awareness of the Microsoft tax dodging and their ties to prison labor, education cuts, and inhumane racist labor practices.

Join our protest – #BlackFriday #BoycottMicrosoft WORLDWIDE. You can make a huge impact by sharing our event and participating.

Sign our petition demanding that Microsoft, Bill Gates, and Steve Ballmer pay the taxes they have dodged globally, nationally, and in Washington State. Click on the lin below to sign:

Bill Gates, Microsoft, Steve Ballmer: STOP DODGING TAXES: Pay your FAIR SHARE of taxes!

Donate to our #BlackFriday #BoycottMicrosoft GoFundMe to support the costs of artful resistance we have planned for our protest event. $5-20 adds up fast to crowd fund our resistance.

Sign up for our Facebook event here, even if you are not attending in person at the Redmond Microsoft location. If you are in the Northwest on Black Friday, join us here for an evening candlelight vigil protest from 5:30 – 7:30 pm.

LOCATION: Microsoft – Park NEAR Overlake Transit Center, just a block from the overpass:

15590 Northeast 36th Street
Redmond, WA 98052. Follow the signs to the picket.

Do you have ideas on how to move Bill and Melinda Gates toward their own idealistic humanitarian image and away from their investments in racism and human misery? Share them in the comment section below.

**NOTE: We will discuss how the Microsoft tax dodging impacts other vulnerable people in future posts. This post does not begin to discuss the School-To-Prison Pipeline, which is part of the profit from human suffering and racism.

#BlackFriday #BoycottMicrosoft: Prisons and Slavery: How Bill Gates, the Gates Foundation and Microsoft Profit From Racism and Human Suffering Part 1: The Prison Connection

“Mass incarceration on a scale almost unexampled in human history is a fundamental fact of our country today—perhaps the fundamental fact, as slavery was the fundamental fact of 1850.”

– Adam Gopkin

Punishment for Sale

‘ “I’M BEGINNING TO BELIEVE THAT `U.S.A.’ STANDS FOR THE UNDERPRIVILEGED Slaves of America” (Esposito and Wood, 1982: 149), wrote a 20th-century prisoner from Mississippi in a letter detailing the daily violence he witnessed behind prison walls.’

– Kim Gilmore, Slavery and Prisons – Understanding the ConnectionsHistory As A Weapon, (2000)

According to the Gates Foundation, it “works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives.” While Bill and Melinda spend much of their time running their capitalist “philanthropy”, Bill Gates still owns 330.1 million shares of Microsoft, and acts as a major leader, “substantially increasing” his time at Microsoft as of February 2014. In the following two posts we will outline how both the Gates Foundation and Microsoft profit from the human misery of our society’s most vulnerable through prison investments, labor, and contracts.  We will share the authentic stories of detainees who often have landed behind bars for almost “silly” reasons.  We will also lay out some ways that you can rebel against the Gates and Microsoft’s profiteering off racism and human misery.

Per the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation they have very noble goals, but what happens when these words of Bill and Melinda collide with their true actions?  Remember, Bill and Melinda are so highly thought of around the globe. Most of the public believes they are generous humanitarians giving away money to such important, benevolent, and only altruistic causes. We’d like to compare what the Gates Foundation states as their mission, and their actions to see where the truth lies.

In our last post we echoed Ian Birrell’s question: “Is Bill Gates is a “secular saint” or a hypocrite?” The deeper we dig, the more we discover the word “hypocrite” is much too kind.

Statue of GEO

Here are the ways Gates and Microsoft profit from racism and human misery in the prison industrial complex:

  • Investing in GEO Group private prisons
  • Hiring prisoners at slave labor wages for Microsoft profit
  • Evading taxes on licensing royalty taxes and more – through Microsoft’s lobbying and “intentional maneuvers”
  • Microsoft contracts with Unicor Federal Prison Industry and the US Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Prisons

What does this connection to the prisons reveal about the ethics guiding the Gates Foundation?

Prison Industrial Complex 2

 

The truth can be found more accurately in the stories of the detainees in the NWDC in Tacoma, WA, a GEO Group private prison and other prisoners who have witnessed first hand the treatment of incarcerated individuals who are too ill to work.  The truth can be found in the articles and links below.

Bill and Melinda hide their investments behind a “fall guy”, known as The GatesKeeper.  As quoted above, the Gates couple pretend they have no control over their own investment portfolio.  Yet this article makes it clear that is not the case.  The Gates have complete trust and faith in Michael Larson and these investments help Bill sleep well at night, as this story from the Wall St. Journal explains:

Mr. Gates raised his glass to toast the guest of honor, Michael Larson, who sat nearby wearing a pink button-down shirt, his favorite color. The Microsoft Corp. MSFT +0.26%co-founder said Mr. Larson has his “complete trust and faith,” according to people who were there.

“Melinda and I are free to pursue our vision of a healthier and better-educated world because of what Michael has done” for the past 20 years, Mr. Gates told about 40 dinner guests. Because of Mr. Larson, the world’s richest man said, he sleeps well at night.”

Meanwhile, Bill Gates is the richest man in the world.  Both The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Microsoft are profiting from the prison industry.  What kind of people profit from racism and human suffering?

Gates invested $2.2 million investment in the GEO Group per Mother Joneswho calls the Gates Foundation out on their “hypocritical investments

The Gates Foundation refused to divest from the GEO Group as noted here when they spoke with the Seattle Globalist:

“We understand the passion of people standing up for injustice. That is what motivates us all at the foundation every day,” the Gates Foundation’s Media Relations Team wrote in response to our email asking about the investment.”  – Lael Henterly, Gates Foundation resists pressure to pull private prison investmentSeattle Globalist, (2014) (our emphasis)

Their response went on to say:

  • The $2.2 million invested with GEO Group pales in comparison to the $25 billion the foundation has spent helping people over the last 15 years

  • The foundation doesn’t actually control its own investments. A separate body known as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Asset Trustdoes (but they don’t have their own media team to respond to public inquiries).

  • The asset trust is “actively managed so the foundation has the most money possible to support the great work the foundation does with partners around the world.” – Lael Henterly, Gates Foundation resists pressure to pull private prison investmentSeattle Globalist, (2014)

    Jobs Not Jails

Hiring prisoners at slave labor wages for Microsoft profit:  One of the ways Microsoft and subsequently, Bill and Melinda Gates have profited from the prison population has been directly through prison labor used to do work for Microsoft.

“If more information is needed to clarify the financial impact of continuing incarceration upon us as a society take a brief look at Washington State’s latest efforts to address the state deficit. The below cuts are necessary to reduce the budget by $600 million. A substantial need for such reductions was created because of the state’s continued reliance upon incarcerating more and more citizens, reducing private sector jobs through the use of prison labor by large WA. corporations such as Boeing and Microsoft.” – Bob Sloan, Insourcing – Identifying Businesses Involved in Prison Labor or Supporting Those Who Are, The Daily Kos, (2010), (our emphasis)

Is this legal? If so, how did that legalization happen?

“According to a recent study conducted by the ACLU, at least 37 states have legalized the contracting of prison labor by private corporations. Corporations that many Americans hold in high regard are reaping major benefits from this almost free labor pool. According to the ACLU research, among the list of companies raking in the profits are IBM, Boeing, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T, Wireless, Texas Instrument, Dell, Compaq, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard, Nortel, Lucent Technologies, 3Com, Intel, Northern Telecom, TWA, Nordstrom, Revlon, Macy’s, Pierre Cardin, Target Stores, and many more.

The ACLU states that, “All of these businesses are excited about the economic boom generation [sic] by prison labor. Just between 1980 and 1994, profits went up from $392 million to $1.31 billion.” – LA Progressive, Prison’s Shocking Economic Truths, (2014)

According to Pelaez, these “tycoons” – Gates, Microsoft, and the other investors in prisons today – also profited from human misery through what couldn’t be classified as anything else but forced imprisoned slavery.  Pelaez points out they are threatened with isolation cells if they refuse to work.

“For the tycoons who have invested in the prison industry, it has been like finding a pot of gold. They don’t have to worry about strikes or paying unemployment insurance, vacations or comp time. All of their workers are full-time, and never arrive late or are absent because of family problems; moreover, if they don’t like the pay of 25 cents an hour and refuse to work, they are locked up in isolation cells.”  – Vicky Pelaez, The Prison Industry in the United States:  Big Business or a New Form of Slavery?Global Research, (2014)

We found over 10 pages of Google links connecting Microsoft to prison labor, but honestly, many of these reports were from nearly 20 years ago.  Is Microsoft still using prison labor as slave labor to make profits AND evading taxes right under the noses of Washington citizens while these same detainees are under such deplorable conditions they are willing to suffer a hunger strike for a small piece of justice? Evidently…

Corporate lobbyists have conveniently made it very unlikely we can find ALL the information we need as evidence, as reported here, and yet as of 2012 there still seems to be a use of prison labor by Microsoft through Televerde:

“The Justice Department and the U.S. Bureau of Prisons don’t break down which companies they do business with. But Unicor said inmates provide private call center service, including data review and sales lead generation, for “some of the top companies in America” under a federal mandate to help companies repatriate jobs they have outsourced overseas.

In a fact sheet, Unicor asserts that prisoners in the program are less likely to re-offend and are better trained for full-time work upon release. All revenue goes back into the program, which “operates at no cost to the taxpayer,” it says.”

In the private sector, states usually partner with business-to-business firms to run the services — the companies provide the equipment and facilities, and the state provides the labor. One such firm is Televerde, a Phoenix company that partners with the Arizona prison system to provide marketing services for major companies that have included Hitachi and Microsoft.

In a marketing paper, Microsoft says companies like Televerde “can reduce the burden on corporate marketing and local marketing teams can have more meaningful interactions with their customers.” (Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC News.)” – MSNBC and NBC News Staff, Inside the secret industry of inmate-staffed call centers – U.S. News, (2012) (emphasis ours)

Volunteering to Work for Gates

We found out more about Televerde by Forbes:

“The privately held Televerde is run by James Hooker, 60, a corporate outcast who failed to fit in with any organization he couldn’t run himself. The Perryville operation, when he came across it in 1995 (then run out of a converted motel in Phoenix), became his calling and his own form of business rehab.

Televerde generated $12.1 million in revenue last year and is growing profitably. Hooker’s customers are some of the biggest names in tech: Cisco ,NetApp , Hitachi , SAP . A signed poster from Bill Gates hangs on several walls in Perryville: “To Televerde, Keep up the great work.” These firms discreetly rely on Televerde’s women to sell complex, multimillion-dollar software and hardware systems. Says Cisco sales manager Christina Foley: “Their technical aptitude is off the charts.” – Victoria Barret, Silcon Valley’s Prison Call Center, Forbes (2010)

Meanwhile, Bill Gates has influenced the adoption of Common Core to push his own agenda for profit while he claims it is to make our students globally competitive. He accuses the unnamed as perpetuating myths about poverty in global and domestic issues.  He says these myths are not just wrong, but harmful.  What about Gates’ investments?  What about Gates’ humanitarian media image? Myths? Wrong?  Harmful?

“Last month, Melinda and I published our foundation’s annual letter, about myths that block progress for the poorest. We focus on myths about global issues, like the myth that foreign aid is a big waste, but when it comes to domestic issues we’re in the grip of mythology, too. And these myths aren’t just wrong; they’re harmful, because they can lead people to fight against the best solutions to our biggest problems…

…Every American student should leave high school with the knowledge and skills to succeed in college and in the job market.” ~ Bill Gates, Bill Gates:  Commend Common Core, USA Today (2014)

Who is really promoting myths?  Microsoft is in process of laying off 18,000 employees. So let’s get this straight.  Here’s the irony:  Bill Gates promotes Common Core because he insists it will make students “college and career ready”  and because we have to “compete in the global market”, while he and Microsoft arereducing private sector jobs through the use of prison labor”.

Is this lucrative?  Is it cheaper to hire prison labor?  Does slave labor yield yet more profit for the richest man in the world?

GEO Group Separates Families

How does it connect to poverty and racism?  Use of prison labor for profit by capitalists goes back in time per Bruce Benson, who explains in his book, The Enterprise of Law:

“Houses of correction” were first established under Elizabeth to punish and reform able-bodied poor who refused to work. A “widespread concern for the habits and behavior of the poor” is often cited as the reason for the poor laws regarding vagrancy and the establishment of facilities to “reform” the idle poor by confining them and forcing them to work at hard labor. But Chambliss reported that “there is little question but that these statutes were designed for one express purpose: to force laborers (whether personally free or unfree) to accept employment at a low wage in order to insure the landowner an adequate supply of labor at a price he could afford to pay.” Such laws clearly reflected the transfer function of government.” –  Nathan Goodman, The Labor Politics of Prisons, (2014)

Does this sound familiar? Goodman goes on to say the use of prison labor marginalizes vulnerable workers (poor youth of color) outside the prison as well:

James Kilgore argues that the main labor problem entailed in imprisonment today is not slavery inside, but marginalization outside the prison. Kilgore points to a litany of ways marginalization from the labor market intersects with incarceration. First, he notes how it fuels incarceration, writing “The chief labor concerns about mass incarceration are linked to broader inequalities in the economy as a whole, particularly the lack of employment for poor youth of color and the proliferation of low wage jobs with no benefits.”  – Nathan Goodman, The Labor Politics of Prisons, (2014)

The links to the high prison populations with poverty and racism are clear. 

“Neighborhoods with the highest incarceration rates also have high levels of poverty, unemployment and racial segregation. People returning to their communities after prison sentences lack employable skills. Nearly 40 percent of prisoners have not finished high school, compounding the difficulty in finding employment. A Pew study found that total earnings by age 48 are more than 50 percent lower among men who have been incarcerated compared to those who have not.

Another study found that if state-level incarceration rates had not increased between 1980 and 2004, the official poverty rate would have fallen by roughly 20 percent over that same period. More than 2.7 million children have a parent behind bars, a significant factor driving child poverty. – Kate Randall, (2014)

Prison populations are rising to an all-time high. In March 2014 The Economist reported on the Prison Policy Inmate Report, stating:

“Yesterday the Prison Policy Initiative (PPI), a criminal-justice research and advocacy group, released a report and chart that draws on various data sources to present a fuller picture of precisely who is behind bars, and for what reason. It’s not happy reading. PPI reckons the United States has roughly 2.4m people locked up, with most of those (1.36m) in state prisons. That is more than the International Centre for Prison Studies estimates, but it’s in the same ballpark.” – J.F. – The Economist, (2014)

Yet, a report shows that crime itself has gone down, so how can prison populations go up? Investors like Gates have created a system that feeds itself, as noted here:

“The private contracting of prisoners for work fosters incentives to lock people up. Prisons depend on this income. Corporate stockholders who make money off prisoners’ work lobby for longer sentences, in order to expand their workforce. The system feeds itself,” says a study by the Progressive Labor Party, which accuses the prison industry of being “an imitation of Nazi Germany with respect to forced slave labor and concentration camps.”

The prison industry complex is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States and its investors are on Wall Street. “This multimillion-dollar industry has its own trade exhibitions, conventions, websites, and mail-order/Internet catalogs. It also has direct advertising campaigns, architecture companies, construction companies, investment houses on Wall Street, plumbing supply companies, food supply companies, armed security, and padded cells in a large variety of colors.” – Vicky Pelaez, The Prison Industry in the United States:  Big Business or a New Form of Slavery?Global Research, (2014)

We’ve heard from the Gates Foundation and Microsoft through their words and actions.  What about the stories from the people who are suffering under the Gates Foundation and Microsoft?

Hunger Strike Demands

GEO private prison in Tacoma had been connected to Gates earlier, and has come back in the news with a third round of hunger strikes.  The detainees at the Northwest Detention Center are risking their lives by rebelling:

“The strikers are protesting the conditions of their confinement, which they say include inadequate meals; exorbitant fees for the commissary; and severely under-paid labor ($1 per day) to cook and clean for the facility. “GEO provides inadequate nourishment which creates a demand for commissary food at inflated prices, which induces detainees to work for essentially no pay and then profits from families’ contributions to those commissary accounts,” reads a statement from supporters emailed to Common Dreams.” ~ Sarah Lazare, “In the Name of Justice, Hunger Strike Sweeps Immigrant Detention Center, Common Dreams

 

Solitary Confinement

What else do the Northwest Detention Center people impacted by detention in the for-profit prison have to say?

…Since February, new leaders have arisen in the detention center, including Hassall Moses, who arrived in the US as a child from Micronesia and proceeded to serve in the US military as an adult. In a voice recording, Moses shares his plan for how detainees could try to reverse the conditions of the detention center by taking things into their own hands:

Basically, this facility is run by detainees. If we, everybody stopped working, we could negotiate the pay raise because right now everyone’s working for a dollar. We could talk about the quality of food, the living conditions and put into practice having detainees who come in with petty offenses be eligible to be released on their own personal recognizance or conditional parole or humanitarian parole to be with their families and be working so they can afford their own attorneys.

In retaliation, ICE has placed Moses in solitary confinement. Elsewhere in the detention center on Monday March 24, Moses’s fellow inmate allegedly attempted suicide by hanging himself. He was sent to the hospital for a medical emergency and survived.

“If you say that I am not a prisoner/but you have what I lack/Of your words/I have nothing to say,” writes Jesus Cipriano Ríos Alegría, a hunger striker in Tacoma currently held under medical isolation, in a poem about being incarcerated in the Northwest Detention Center. For many, a suicide attempt, over 750 hunger strikers, solitary confinement and medical isolation for the leaders, all within a span of three weeks, is sufficient evidence of the decrepit physical and psychological conditions these prisoners endure and the need for radical change.” – JOMO –  “Fighting Obama’s Deportation Policies Without Papers—and Without Fear”, The Nation, (2014)

These stories offer truth in stark contrast to the Gates’ propaganda.

“(Bill and Melinda Gates) support vulnerable children and families in Washington State.  We also work to address issues of social inequity and poverty in Washington State.”

– The Gates Foundation

What do you think?  Does the richest man in the world need to profit from human suffering and racism? 

Read Part 2 to find out more about how this impacts our schools and our most vulnerable and what you can do to help.