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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.


Steve Prator, a Louisiana sheriff, unintentionally admitted that prison is the new slavery during a press conference earlier this week. The Caddo Parish official lamented that nonviolent offenders are being released from jails because the prison “can work” those inmates for free or next to nothing, saving money and profiting off their labor. In a video clip tweeted by writer Shaun King, Prator lays out his despicable defense:

“The [prisoners] that you can work, the ones that can pick up trash, the work release programs — but guess what? Those are the ones that they’re releasing!” the sheriff states, apparently oblivious to the truth he’s speaking. “In addition to the bad ones…they’re releasing some good ones that we use every day to wash cars, to change the oil in our cars, to cook in the kitchen, to do all that where we save money. Well, they’re going to let them out!”



Prator was railing against the Justice Reinvestment Act, signed into law by Governor John Bel Edwards in June, which will release thousands of nonviolent felony offenders from across the state. Local outlet KSLA reports that roughly 200 of those to be freed will come from Prator’s district. The law goes into effect November 1, and it’s expected that additional releases will be made.

“There’s ways and things that need to be reformed on the criminal justice system,” Prator added, according to KSLA, “but certainly we don’t need to do what we’re about to do.”

According to a recent Huffington Post analysis, Louisiana is the most carceral state. The United States imprisons more of its citizens than any other country—by both percentage and raw numbers—and thus, Louisiana leads some countries in its incarceration rate. “Compare Louisiana’s rate of 816 people per 100,000 with Russia’s 492, China with 119, France with 100, and Germany with 78,” the Huffington Post notes. There are more than 2.2 million people filling cells across America, which is home to 5 percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of its prisoners.

The prison industry is a profitable one, with prison labor just one source of enrichment. A report released earlier this year from the Economist offers more fiscal insights:

At the federal level, the Bureau of Prisons operates a programme known as Federal Prison Industries that pays inmates roughly $0.90 an hour to produce everything from mattresses, spectacles, road signs and body armour for other government agencies, earning $500M in sales in fiscal 2016. Prisoners have produced official seals for the Department of Defence and Department of State, a bureau spokesman confirmed. In many prisons, the hourly wage is less than the cost of a chocolate bar at the commissary, yet the waiting list remains long—the programme still pays much more than the $0.12-0.40 earned for an hour of kitchen work.

Similar schemes exist at the state level as well, making the market of 61,000 captive labourers worth well over $1 billion. California’s programme expects to generate $232M in sales this year, much of it from construction and textiles, though $10M is also expected from meat-cutting. In Idaho, prisoners roast potatoes. In Kentucky, they sell $1M worth of cattle.

Under the Justice Reinvestment Act, prisoners will serve a quarter of their sentences, felonies and misdemeanors will carry less lengthy sentences, and drug offenders will still be able to receive “government assistance such as SNAP and provide for the removal of restitution for some offenders with ‘financial hardships.’” These are the necessary and long overdue changes that Prator takes issue with, because he prefers having a captive pool of labor that can be forced to work for free or something very close to it.

Kali Holloway is a senior writer and the associate editor of media and culture at AlterNet.

Header image source.


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6 responses to “Bayou Sheriff: ‘Good’ Prisoners Make Great Slaves”

  1. Dominick Vila says:

    This imbecile articulated the “values” held by many of Donald’s supporters. The most disgusting part of it is that they are convinced their beliefs and actions are consistent with the teachings of a Lord whose name must be Lucifer.

    • FireBaron says:

      Considering how the Old Testament, that they use to condone slavery, would offer punishments for how they treat those slaves, it is ironic. These guys just refuse to recognize the 13th and 14th Amendments!

  2. Each day we hear and see things that we thought could not be outdone. But this candid conversation by what we would consider a responsible and intelligent person points out the downward spiral the nation is in.
    The sheriff is speaking sincerely and expressing what many already knew as the ever-present machinations to extend the reach of the notions of Racialism, the attendant practice of Racism, and the degenerate thinking giving birth to idiocies like White Nationalism.
    What the sheriff—and the GOP and conservative groups like ALEC—is espousing is a concept called “Peonage”, which slave-owners in the South established in order to extend slavery as an institution and practice into the post Civil War era. Obviously, the GOP, and other abettors of Racism like Donald Trump, are content with allowing the practice of slavery to continue right under our noses, and this clueless sheriff serves a purpose in alerting a wider swath of Americans to the realization that many Black folks and enlightened White brothers and sisters were already aware of.

    The book, “Worse Than Slavery”, by David Oshinsky, gives an excellent description of the rationale, context, and glimpses of what life was life for early freedmen in Mississippi, after the slaves were formally freed by decree in Lincoln’s proclamation of 1863. In this book, we see the dehumanizing aspects of peonage and how it further assisted in “Making America Great” by the turn of the 20th Century. The penal institution—now a museum—in Parchman, Miss., just about an hour’s drive northwest of Jackson, Miss. where I grew up, serves as a visible landmark of the horrors of living in the shadows of an institution that arrested people on the flimsiest charges for the purpose of utilizing their labor for free. A theft of a chicken out of desperation to feed one’s children resulted in long prison sentences, often resulting in death from being over-worked.

    And now we have this window of opportunity into the mind of a degenerate and depraved sheriff’s mind. Christianity keeps being assailed by forces of godlessness pretending to be Christian.

  3. Ever since Baha’u’llah annulled formally the Institution of slavery shortly after His formal declaration of His Revelation in the Garden of Ridvan in Baghdad, Iraq in 1863, there has been a gradual improvement across planet regarding how we generally perceive slavery. Pockets of slavery still exist in places like Mauritania, Sudan, and Yemen; Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries still practice a form of slavery by coercing certain “guest workers” to engage in forced work in public venues and in households; and in America we see that Conservative forces are keen to circumvent this call by Baha’u’llah to abolish once and for all an institution which only serves to dehumanize, to retard the progress, and to feed the appetite for wealth.

    Clearly, slavery was an institution allowed to exist and function since the time humans walked upright, and that Religions in the past, up to the time of Revelation of Baha’u’llah, were permitted to condone the practice of slavery. Why? This is a wisdom which may escape us until such time in the future circumstances and new authorized translations of the Writings of Baha’u’llah in the archives at the Baha’i World Center in Haifa, Israel become available to understand better the reason for such a system. My guess is that there was some economic benefit to humankind in its efforts to progress which required a lot of humans to be shunted into back-breaking tasks or running households, using slavery as a mode of controlling and managing such work.

    For now, this influence of Baha’u’llah’s injunction against slavery has yet to reach the minds and hearts of certain individuals/groups this sheriff, slave-owners in Yemen and Mauritania, and certain households in the Philippines which still permit this practice to continue under-cover.

  4. PrecipitousDrop says:

    Similar sound economic arguments kept slavery alive in the United States from 1619, in Jamestown VA, until the practice was ended by bloody Civil War 250 years later. When the economic argument withered in contrast to gross inhumanity, biblical arguments stepped in to illustrate how “the mark of Cain” and dozens of other verses justified continuation of abject cruelty.
    Maybe Herr Doktor Carl Jung was right. Maybe there is such a thing as “cultural memory”, a default position for people like the Sheriff (and nearly every minimum wage employer), whose reflexive reaction to workforce dilemmas enkindles the same ancient justifications for slavery. They just don’t call it that.

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