This Country Makes Billions Off Of Incarcerated People's Work

person with a pick axe digging a hole
Zain Murdock
July 14, 2022

Over 1.2 million people are incarcerated in the United States - enough people to fill a major city.  Two-thirds of them are working - and as more Black people are disproportionately criminalized - the system will propel more of us into that "workforce."

But how much money is ACTUALLY made off the backs of incarcerated people?

According to a new report, $11 BILLION a year. That makes up all the goods and services incarcerated labor produces, from handling construction to fighting fires. Most of that is prison maintenance work - to offset what it costs to imprison people in the first place. 

But much of this work occurs with high risk and LOW return.

Nearly 70% of incarcerated workers said they couldn’t even afford basic necessities - earning on average 13 to 52 CENTS an hour. Seven states don’t even offer a wage at all!

76% of imprisoned workers are also FORCED to work (or else!)  The majority are concerned about their safety. During the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed thousands of incarcerated people, prisons made workers build the coffins and dig the graves of our loved ones.

Since being forced into the U.S., this country has brutalized and exploited Black people for our labor. The prison system is not keeping people safe - it's a ruthless remix of the enslavement era that needs to be abolished.