In the book "Crime Control As Industry", Nils Christie states that our upward spiraling prison populations, particularly in the United States is a move towards gulags of the west. In particular, this book suggests that we may already be moving into an age of penal control that takes us beyond the gulag. Our American prison may be moving from a form of criminal control to a form of slave labor. Christie also points out that America has entered the modern age of crime control with sentencing guide-lines.
This slave labor in America's modern crime control is only one of many aspects that Christie discusses. Christie believes that criminals need to pay back their victims more directly than producing products so American consumers can save a buck or two. Prisons in America are starting to become a place of cheap production and a source of employment for under-educated and otherwise unskilled workers.
In Texas, the Executive Director of prisons points out that every inmate in its system is assigned a job, not one prisoner is paid for working, and all prisoners work an eight-hour day. Compared to doing nothing, working in the prison industry can be seen as a privilege. Our black population has gone from slave, to worker, to unemployed, to criminal, to convict laborer - the cycle has come full circle. For private companies, this semi-slave labor has become a dream come true. No strikes, no unions, no unemployment insurance to pay, and a made in the U.S.A. label. Prisoners do data entry for Chevron, telephone reservations for TWA, and make circuit boards, and even lingerie for Victoria's Secret.
This modern prison system of ours is self-sustaining. More prisons are needed to house factories for production of goods; more prisoners are needed to work in these factories, more criminals...