LOS ANGELES, Ca. (FinalCall.com)—Much of the recent prison
upsurge has been attributed to the Three Strikes Law, a sentencing law
originally intended to put murderers, rapists and hard-core violent
criminals in prison for a long time. Since its universal incorporation
in 1994, the three strikes law through its abuse and popularity has
expanded to include individuals with minor offenses, virtually locking
up tens of thousands of individuals for life for crimes such as drug
possession or shoplifting.
During the Prison Industrial Complex workshop held Feb. 15 at the
World Saviours’ Day 2002 convention, panelists concluded that the
growing trend in usage of the law is not an accident.
"We have to educate the public in order to pass an initiative," said
Dennis Duncan, of Families to Amend California’s Three Strikes (FACTS)
Los Angeles chapter. "You may be able to get it on the ballot, but you
have people vote for it. So you have to educate people and let them know
what the situation is and how the three strikes law has been abused over
No one denies that prisons are big business in America. Like the
military industrial complex, the prison industrial complex is an
interlacing of private business and government interests. Its dual
intention is one of profit and social control. In public, the rationale
is the fight against crime, but the bottom line, the presenters said, is
dollars and cents.
"We have to provide a moral solution for our children and our
households," said Imam Antar Jannah, who told attendees that sometimes
the approach to the problem has to be more than political. "We have to
let our children know that they essentially are setting themselves up to
go to jail for the rest of their lives. They are setting themselves up
to destroy their own communities, lives, and family life. And if they
want to take that course, they are going to have to suffer the
consequences," he said.
"We have to build coalitions and attack those things that effect our
community," said facilitator and the Nation of Islam West Coast Prison
Minister Charles Muhammad. "There are a whole lot of innocent people
being stretched out with these long sentences for crimes that don’t fit
"What we need is to create our own philanthropic network that will
fund any project that we want to keep our organizations working for us
in this way operable," said Nation of Islam National Prison Min.
Abdullah Muhammad. "This is why the Million Family March Economic
Development Fund, created by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, is
necessary. Because then we can go to our organizations, inquire about
their budget and then put the money in place and make sure they work for
Presenters on the panel also included Dr. Donald Evans of NABSIO,
Sis. Arisah Muhammad and Sis. Victoria Aguilera.
"Prison labor is what this is really about," said Sis. Sabah
Muhammad. "There are so many people in prison for petty crimes, just so
that private industry can have labor from 9 cents an hour." "Labor
unions can get involved," said Mr. Evans. "Prison labor infringes upon
those labor unions and the jobs they used to provide," he told the
audience and cited precedence from an Arizona prison where inmates
unionized, held a strike, and won their fight for standard minimum wage
Private correction companies also benefit strongly from the prison
growth. Investment firm Smith Barney is part owner of a prison in
Florida. American Express and General Electric have invested in private
prison construction in Oklahoma and Tennessee. Correctional Corporation
of America (CCA), one of the largest private prison owners, already
operates internationally, with more than 48 facilities in 11 states,
Puerto Rico, the United Kingdom, and Australia.
Under contract by government to run jails and prisons, and paid a
fixed sum per prisoner, the profit motive mandates that these firms
operate as cheaply and efficiently as possible. This results in lower
wages for staff, no unions, and fewer services for prisoners. Private
contracts also means less public scrutiny.
"If I own a prison, it’s like a plantation. The state gives me the
slaves (prisoners) and I can make them work for me," said Imam Jannah.
"This is the fastest growth industry in America. And multiple industries
are involved in predicting the future of inmates entering the penal
—Eric Ture Muhammad