Many companies also rely on a steady supply of prisoners for their labor force. There is already an available list of over 4,100 companies that profit from prison labor; however, in all likelihood, many corporations that use prison labor are absent from the list due to the lack of transparency surrounding labor practices and corporate supply chains. Prison labor is exceedingly inexpensive (sometimes even free) and thus constitutes an opportunity for companies to cut down on their labor costs and turn a greater profit. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, “the average of the minimum daily wages paid to incarcerated workers for non-industry prison jobs is…86 cents,” while “the average maximum daily wage for the same prison jobs… [is] $3.45.” In some states, people who are incarcerated are not paid at all for their labor. Prisons are prime sites for exploitation and cost-cutting. As Linda Evans and Eve Goldberg explain, “for private business prison labor is like a pot of gold. No strikes. No union organizing. No health benefits, unemployment. insurance, or workers’ compensation to pay. No language barriers, as in foreign countries” (Davis, 2003, 84). The appeal of extremely cheap (and in some cases, free) labor incentivizes filling up prisons with more people, i.e. more laborers, in order to further profit.
The far and wide reach of the PIC
In sum, the Prison Industrial Complex is an exceedingly wide-reaching network. It extends beyond the millions of incarcerated individuals and hundreds of thousands of correctional staff members in US correctional facilities, and incorporates thousands of corporations and a multitude of politicians and lobbyists. Billions of dollars flow through the PIC each year; the profitability of the PIC enforces and at least partially explains the phenomenon of mass incarceration.