The #Louisiana State Penitentiary, formerly a slave plantation, now America's largest maximum-security prison, is at the heart of a complex chain linking U.S. prison labor to major food brands. The Associated Press's two-year investigation revealed that prison-raised cattle and other agricultural products end up in the supply chains of companies like #McDonald's, #Walmart, and #Cargill. Prisoners, some of the nation's most vulnerable laborers, work for minimal or no pay and lack basic worker protections, facing severe consequences, including solitary confinement, for refusal to work.
This system extends nationwide, affecting a vast array of products in American supermarkets and even exports, with companies sometimes violating their own policies against using prison labor. The legal foundation for this stems from the 13th Amendment, which allows involuntary servitude as punishment for a crime. However, current challenges aim to amend this clause federally and in state constitutions.
Inmates at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, known as #Angola, undergo harsh conditions reminiscent of its plantation past. Willie Ingram, an inmate for 51 years, recalled brutal treatment and minimal resources while working in the fields. The prison labor empire, evolving since the 1970s, now encompasses various industries beyond traditional roles like license plate stamping.
The use of prisoners as a hidden workforce, subjected to grueling conditions and lacking essential labor protections, is a reminder of the complex history of forced labor and systemic inequalities that persist within the U.S. criminal justice system. Proper rehabilitation and justice require an overhaul of these practices, emphasizing fair wages, humane treatment, and the voluntary nature of work within the incarcerated population.