by DCDave


  1. JusticeNet Prison Issues Desk, prisondesk@igc.org originating on July 8, 1996. It is a response to a September 5, 1995, prison-overcrowding editorial in the Des Moines (Iowa) Register. return_to_article

  2. The following is a comparative breakdown for 1994. All have been growing rapidly.

    State:CaliforniaTexasNew YorkFloridaFederal
    Inmate Population120,727115,52469,00061,00084,000
    Inmate Employment7,0127,6962,6002,48015,972
    Source: Prison Industry Authority:
    Statutory and Cost Control Problems Adversely Affect the State
    (California State Auditor, Bureau of State Audits, April, 1996) p. E-6. return_to_article

  3. Federal Prison Industries 1996 Annual Report, p. 83. return_to_article

  4. Ibid., p. 84. return_to_article

  5. 18 USCS 4122 (d) (2) return_to_article

  6. There are indications that UNICOR may not be scrupulously adhering to the requirement that it sell only to agencies of the federal goverment: Working with a network of federal prisoners, the trio (federal prisoners Joe Mohwish, Duane Olson, and Don Sergeant) has accumulated volumes of physical evidence such as purchase orders, memos, cost summaries and other documents from different UNICOR factories proving illegal sales transactions to privately-owned businesses. (Chris Cozzone, BUSTED! Corruption at UNICOR, Prison Life, January, 1995) These allegations were also reported by the Savannah Evening Press, March 16, 1994 and the Jesup (Georgia) Press Sentinel, March 20, 1994. return_to_article

  7. Jeff Erlich, Competing with Convicts, Government Executive, June, 1997, p. 32. The complete breakdown for 1996 sales is as follows:

    AgencySales (millions)% of Total Sales
    Defense Department$305.361.6
    General Services Administration51.310.4
    Bureau of Prisons28.75.8
    Postal Service20.14.1
    Justice Department10.42.1
    Transportation Department6.81.4
    Veterans Affairs Department6.21.3

  8. 18 USCS 4122 (b) return_to_article

  9. 18 USCS 4124 return_to_article

  10. James V. Bennett (edited by Rodney Campbell), I Chose Prison (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1970, p. 85) return_to_article

  11. Newsweek, August 20, 1990, p. 44. return_to_article

  12. Naftali Bendavid, Hard Times for Prison Industries, Legal Times, Week of November 27, 1995, p.17. return_to_article

  13. Bendavid, Are Prison Industries on Death Row? Legal Times, Week of September 30, 1996, p. 24. return_to_article

  14. Ibid., p.26. return_to_article

  15. "Speaking frankly, the FPI product is inferior, costs more and takes longer to procure. (FPI) has, in my opinion, exploited their special status instead of making changes which would make them more efficient and competitive. Without this change, we will not be serving sailors or taxpayers." (Master Chief Petty Officer John Hagan, the Navyís top enlisted man, before the House National Security Committee in July, 1996. Quoted in a press release from Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan on February 13, 1997.)

    Also, in a letter to Rep. Van Hilleary of Tennessee, the Defense Personnel Support Center (DPSC) reported that "FPIís prices are an average of 13% higher than the prices the government pays for the same product purchased from the private sector." (Small Business Competition for Federal Contracts: The Impact of Federal Prison Industries, Hearing before the Committee on Small Business, June 27, 1966, p. 54, [Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, Serial No. 104-83]. Referred to hereafter as "Hearing.") return_to_article

  16. Hearing, p. 106. return_to_article

  17. California State Auditor, Bureau of State Audits, Prison Industry Authority: Statutory and Cost Control Problems Adversely Affect the State April, 1996, pp. I-24,I-25. Referred to hereafter as "California Auditor." return_to_article

  18. Here are some salient facts compiled by Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), 1612 K Street NW, Suite 1400, Washington, DC 20006, 202-822-6700:

    • Federal drug cases increased 280 percent during the last 10 years. Sentence lengths for first-time, nonviolent drug offenses often exceed sentence lengths for violent offenders.

    • In 1990, more than half of the federal inmates serving mandatory minimum sentences were first-time offenders.

    • Drug offenders currently make up 61 percent of the federal inmate population, up from 22 percent in 1980.

    • Average expected length of stay in federal prison for a drug offense in 1985 was 23.1 months. In 1996 it was 70 months, more than three times as long as in 1985.

    • The U.S. rate of incarceration has increased by 22 percent since 1989 and is generally 5 to 8 times the rate of most industrialized nations.*

    • Black males in the U.S. are incarcerated at more than four times the rate of black males in South Africa--3,822 per 100,000 versus 851 per 100,000.

    • Federal mandatory drug sentences are as follows:

      Type of Drug5 years without parole10 years without parole
      LSD1 gram10 grams
      Marijuana100 plants or 100 kilos1000 plants or 1000 kilos
      Crack Cocaine5 grams50 grams
      Powder Cocaine500 grams5 kilos
      Heroin100 grams1 kilo
      Methamphetamine10 grams100 grams
      PCP10 grams100 grams

      *U.S. and European prison population rates per 100,000 population overall for 1996 are as follows:

      Austria77 France89 Lituania360 Russia690
      Belarus505 Germany84 Moldova275 Scotland110
      Belgium76 Greece60 Netherlands67 Slovenia30
      Czech Repub.190 Hungary120 N. Ireland106 Spain122
      Denmark66 Ireland60 Norway60 Sweden65
      England & Wales99 Italy86 Poland170 Switzerland58
      Estonia270 Kazakhstan506 Portugal119 Ukraine370
      Finland60 Latvia375 Romania200 U. S.615
      Source: Internet Web Site Prison Populations (British) return_to_article

  19. Hearing, p. 5. return_to_article

  20. Joe Mohwish, letter to FAMM branch directors, July 24, 1992. return_to_article

  21. Ibid., pp. 242-243. return_to_article

  22. Ibid., p. 135. Testimony of James L. Riley, President, Omni International Incorporated, Vernon, Alabama, on behalf of the Quarters Furniture Manufacturers Association and the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association. return_to_article

  23. Ibid. p., 138. return_to_article

  24. Ibid., pp. 158-163. Testimony of Roger English, Sales Manager, ADM International, Chicago, Illinois. return_to_article

  25. Ibid., pp.200-201. Testimony of Sheri Lake, Metrospace, Inc., Vienna, Virginia. return_to_article

  26. Deloitte & Touche, Independent Market Study of UNICOR, August, 1991, p. 118; California Auditor, op.cit. p. D-3. return_to_article

  27. Hearing, p. 265. return_to_article

  28. Ibid., p. 54. return_to_article

  29. Ibid., pp. 8-9. return_to_article

  30. FAMM-Gram, Newsletter of Families Against Mandatory Minimums Foundation, Volume 5, February-June 1995, page 10. Here is one example of one of the victims of the inter-action of drug conspiracy laws and mandatory minimum sentences currently on the FAMM web site:

    • Nicole Richardson was a 17-year-old high school senior from Mobile, Alabama, when she fell in love with Jeff, who happened to be a small-time drug dealer who sold cocaine and ecstasy. Shortly after the two started dating, Jeff began selling LSD.

    • One of Jeffís LSD customers turned out to be a DEA agent. Jeff was arrested for selling LSD and was encouraged to cooperate with the DEA to help himself. In his cooperation, Jeff had to call Nicole and ask her where he could contact his LSD supplier, so he could pay his debt to him.

    • Nicole talked to Jeff on the phone when he called. The call was taped by the DEA, and Nicole was arrested for conspiracy to distribute LSD. She was told that he could help herself by cooperating, but she had no information that was considered useful to the DEA

    • Nicole brought her case to trial, lost, and was given a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years, without parole. Nicoleís sentence was longer than anyone elseís who was arrested in that conspiracy including Jeff who, after cooperating, received a five-year sentence.

    • Nicoleís sentencing judge, Judge Alex Howard, voiced his opposition to the present system of sentencing drug offenders:

      ĎIn all of my experience with the guidelines, this case presents to me the top example of a miscarriage of justice due to two things: Due to the minimum mandatory sentencing, which I abhor, and due to what I deem to be a mistake in the guidelines, a dreadful mistake in the guidelines.í return_to_article

  31. John W. Roberts, Work, Education, and Public Safety: A Brief History of Federal Prison Industries, from Factories with Fences, The History of Federal Prison Industries, Federal Prison Industries, Inc. May 1996, p. 19. return_to_article

  32. Ibid., p. 30. return_to_article

  33. Ibid. return_to_article

  34. California Auditor, pp. I-7, I-8. return_to_article

  35. All subsequent references labeled "Q" and "A" are from this source. return_to_article

  36. Lee B. Phillips, An Insiderís Analysis of Federal Prison Industries, Inc., January 1, 1997, pp. 10, 22, 24.(2000 Huntington Avenue, Apt. 621, Alexandria, VA 22303) return_to_article

  37. James Carey, When the Doors Break (New London, WI, 1996) p. 139. Available from Phil Everts, N 4927 Madden Road, New London, Wisconsin 54961, $6.00 postpaid. Lois Forer, a former judge, has a similar view about the failure of prison education and work programs: "Prisoners can learn to read and gain job skills, given the opportunity and the motivation. All too often, however, prisoners spend their time in idleness or work that benefits the institution but not the prisoner." (A Rage to Punish: The Unintended Consequences of Mandatory Sentencing [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994] p. 94). return_to_article

  38. Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (New York, Random House, 1937 originally published in 1776 in England), p. 127. And here is prisoner Joe Mohwish 216 years later: "Have any of you ever been to a Federal Prison Industries (UNICOR) factory and observed the assembly line there? Had you done this you would have viewed the inmates performing the same menial production line jobs they have performed day after day, month after month and year after year. There is no such thing as providing inmates with meaningful skills. Federal Prison Industries has one purpose for inmates and that is slave labor." (Emphasis in original. Source is unpublished letter to Business Week, July 20, 1992.) return_to_article

  39. Bennett, op. cit. pp. 76-77. return_to_article

  40. "The Federal Bureau of Prisons is eternally grateful to the repeater, who by his consistent returns is a passive participant in the penal systemís Numbers Game of swelling the body count. This insures its expansion program of new facilities and justifies its raising the ante at appropriations time." (Carey, op. cit., p. 139). return_to_article

  41. William L. Selke, Prisons in Crisis (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993), p. 80. return_to_article

  42. Quoted in Carey, op.cit., p. 169. return_to_article

  43. This thin and inadequate summary of the remarkable life and career of Robert Stroud comes entirely from Thomas E. Gaddis, The Birdman of Alcatraz, The Story of Robert Stroud (San Francisco: Comstock Editions, Inc., 1989) Originally published in 1955. return_to_article

  44. Ibid., p. 104. return_to_article

  45. Ibid., pp. 143-144. return_to_article

  46. Ibid., p. 151. return_to_article

  47. Ibid., p. 178. There are, of course, two sides to every story. Here is Bennett on Stroud:

    "Peering through the bars of a cell opposite (killer of 22 people, Carl) Panzranís at Leavenworth was another murderer, Robert Stroud, the so-called Birdman of Alcatraz. He committed his first murder in Juneau, Alaska, at the age of nineteen, when he killed a man in an argument about how much money should be paid to a prostitute for whom he was working as a pimp. Sentenced to twelve yearsí imprisonment in the federal penitentiary at McNeil Island, he attacked and wounded another prisoner with a knife. He was given another six months and was transferred to Leavenworth. There Stroud attacked a prison officer in the presence of twelve hundred men in the dining hall at the Sunday midday meal. He pulled a double-edged dagger from inside his jacket and plunged it into the guardís heart because, he said later, the man had reported him for violating prison regulations. Stroud was tried and convicted three times of murder in the first degree, but the prosecution made so many errors in the presentation of the case that the first two trials were set aside by the court of appeals. Finally, Stroud was sentenced to death, but President Woodrow Wilson, in 1920, commuted the sentence to life imprisonment. Wilsonís attorney general ordered that Stroud should be kept in solitary confinement so he would not be able to kill again."

    "One of the less formal aspects of imprisonment in those days was that men were sometimes allowed to keep pets in their cells. Stroud became interested in raising canaries and he was permitted to increase his flock. The Leavenworth officials even let him have a second cell in which he could set up a laboratory. He repaid them for these privileges by smuggling out letters, defying the rules, and one day slugging the doctor who was treating him. Then they searched the cell thoroughly and found a lethal knife dug into the edge of his table in such a way that it could be quickly unsheathed and used on anyone who came near him. When Stroud's behavior continued to be recalcitrant he was transferred to Alcatraz, where he extended his studies and won his famous nickname, Birdman of Alcatraz."

    "Under my administration, Stroud's case was repeatedly reviewed by attorneys general and parole boards, by members of the judiciary, and by our own classification committees, but none of us believed he was anything but a psychopathic killer. Attorney General Biddle wrote: Stroud loves birds and hates men. Shortly before his death in our federal mental health institution at Springfield, Missouri, Stroud penned his own epitaph in the form of a dedication of one of his books on bird disease:"

    "'To my friends and enemies, whose mean, little or thriving souls, actuated by spite, bigotry, jealousy, sadism, vindictiveness or ignorance, by their very opposition, have stimulated me to greater effort and accomplishment than would otherwise have been possible for me.'" (Bennett, op.cit. pp. 167-168). return_to_article

  48. Selke, op.cit., p. 71. And thereís this:

    "While I was at the prison camp in Petersburg, I had orange juice just three times in the mess hall. If I wanted to pay, I could have had orange juice stolen from the prison by an inmate every day for $1.00 per quart. If I wanted to cook an egg in the microwave I could buy a stolen raw egg for $.25. In fact, I could have bought about everything I wanted including alcohol, drugs, and clothes. Buying and selling stolen goods are a way of life in prison, not because most inmates like the challenge (although some do), it is because it is a matter of survival. While the BOP is claiming that they are teaching 16% - 18% of the inmate population a proper work ethic, they are also supporting a scheme where the inmates that have deal in illegal ways with the inmates that do not have." (Phillips, op.cit. p 9, emphasis in original)

    "In my particular case what did I learn from working for FPI, Inc? First I learned that I could bribe someone and get my job sooner. Then, after FPI, Inc. employed me, I learned how to send false invoices, false shipping documents, false reports, etc. After which I then learned that if I took proper action and reported the criminal activity my family and I would be severely punished." (Phillips, op.cit. p. 22)

    "My experience clearly shows that the management of FPI, Inc. is for self-preservation and not for the good of the prison population. Working at the Furniture Factory at Petersburg teaches an inmate how illegal activity can be profitable, how threats, intimidation, and punishment can enhance business, and how power corrupts. Working in a corrupt and criminal work place teaches only corruption and crime. Living in a prison system where they tolerate criminal activity, no matter how small, only teaches--well you get the idea." (Phillips, op.cit. p. 13)

    "Professionals connected to the prison system say that instances of abuse in federal prisons are not unusual and that most go unreported and unaddressed. ĎOf course abuse happens in federal prisons as frequently as in other systems,í says prison-suicide expert Lindsay Hayes, ĎItís just that the federal government has so much money and power, it pretty much gets what it wants.í" (Mary A. Fischer, A Case of Homicide, GQ, September, 1996, p.268). return_to_article

  49. "Most of the inmate employees of FPI, Inc. do not look upon their jobs as helping them when they are released. Most inmates work for FPI, Inc. as a way to make their incarceration easier. Inmates hold FPI, Inc. in contempt because they know their work generates millions for someone. Most inmates believe that Judges, Justice Officials, and Members of Congress own stock in FPI, Inc. and these people are making a profit at the prisonersí expense." (Phillips, op.cit., p.10). return_to_article

  50. "There are solutions but the BOP is unwilling or unable to reform the present FPI, Inc. FPI, Inc.ís generation of capital and their expanded market share indicates that the driving force behind FPI is corporate growth and profit without regard for the reason for FPI, Inc.--the inmate." (Phillips, op.cit. p. 23). return_to_article

  51. Federal Bureau of Prisons, Quick Facts and Families Against Mandatory Minimums, op.cit. return_to_article

  52. C. Northcote Parkinson, Parkinsonís Law, and Other Studies in Administration (New York: Ballantine Books, 1957) p. 17; Anthony Downs, Inside Bureaucracy, (Boston: Little, Brown and Company) p. 17, and p. 18 to flesh out the quote, "The major reasons why bureaus inherently seek to expand are as follows:

    • An organization that is rapidly expanding can attract more capable personnel, and more easily retain its most capable existing personnel, than one can that is expanding very slowly, stagnating, or shrinking....

    • The expansion of any organization normally provides its leaders with increased power, income, and prestige; hence they encourage its growth. Conservers are the only exception, for they place little value on gaining more status for themselves. This principle does not imply that larger organizations necessarily have more power or prestige than smaller ones. Rather, it implies that the leaders of any given organization can normally increase their power, income, and prestige by causing their organization to grow larger.

    • Growth tends to reduce internal conflicts in an organization by allowing some (or all) of its members to increase their personal status without lowering that of others. Therefore, organizational leaders encourage expansion to maximize morale and minimize internal conflicts. Every bureauís environment changes constantly, thereby shifting the relative importance of the social functions performed by its various parts, and the resources appropriate to each part. Such shifts will be resisted by the sections losing resources. But these dissensions can be reduced if some sections are given more resources without any losses being experienced by others.

    • Increasing the size of an organization may also improve the quality of its performance (per unit of output) and its chance of survival. Hence both loyalty and self-interest can encourage officials to promote organizational growth....

    • Finally, because there is no inherent quid pro quo in bureau activity enabling officials to weigh the marginal return from further spending against its marginal cost, the incentive structure facing most officials provides much greater rewards for increasing expenditures than for reducing them....." return_to_article

  53. UNICOR Annual Reports, various years. return_to_article

  54. Selke, op.cit. p. 18. return_to_article

  55. Getting information on non-inmate employment in Californiaís program is apparently difficult there, too. Part of the clarifying information proposed to be added to the PIA annual report is "Number of free-staff employed (full-time equivalent), for both the current and prior year." (California Auditor, p. VI-15). Such information is not in the UNICOR Annual Report, and I was given the run-around when I requested, by telephone, by letter, and then by telephone again, time series information on civilian employment. Reporter Jeff Erlich of the magazine, Government Executive, seems to have had a bit more luck. He reported that FPI currently has total civilian employment of 1,700. (Erlich, op.cit., p. 31)

    This works out, by the way, with a total payroll of $132,242,000 and about 73% of that going to non-inmates, to an average salary of about $57,000 annually per civilian employee. return_to_article

  56. William G. Saylor and Gerald G. Gaes, PREP Study Links UNICOR Work Experience With Successful Post-Release Outcome (Office of Research and Evaluation, Federal Bureau of Prisons, Department of Justice, May 22, 1991, Revised, January 8, 1992) return_to_article

  57. California Auditor, pp. I-6-7. return_to_article

  58. PREP Study, pp. 1-2. return_to_article

  59. Ibid., p.8. return_to_article

  60. Ibid., p. 10. Now that UNICORís truly dismal record in rehabilitation is thoroughly exposed, the following words from Director Schwalb ring particularly hollow, revealing nothing so much as that Schwalb learned the Bennett lesson very well, that making prison industries look like the only possible liberal, enlightened alternative to primitive, self-defeating punitiveness is still a winning formula:

    "Letís suppose a person comes to jail from your community, maybe your block. When they get out, after an average of ten years, what would you have hoped would have occurred while theyíre in custody? Would you hope they would have learned a skill, or maybe a GED, or kicked their drug habit, and learned how to be a productive, working member of society? Or would you have hoped the guy was just confined to a cell, and heís breaking rocks, and heís eating bread and water, and heís on the chain gang picking up trash in a ditch?" (Legal Times, op.cit. week of November 27, 1995, p. 17.) return_to_article

  61. Hearing, p. 6. return_to_article

  62. UNICOR Annual Report, 1996, p. 5. return_to_article

  63. Hearing, p. 28. return_to_article

  64. Federal Bureau of Prisons QUICK FACTS, updated April 30, 1997. Here is the complete percentage breakdown for those with offense-specific information available:

    Drug Offenses, 60.18; Robbery, 9.36; Firearms, Explosives, Arson, 9.08; Extortion, Fraud, Bribery, 5.83; Property Offenses, 5.62; Violent Offenses, 2.78; Immigration, 3.34; Continuing Criminal Enterprise, .77; White Collar, .73; Courts of Corrections, .63; National Security, .09; Miscellaneous, 1.60. return_to_article

  65. Quoted in Jessica Mitford, Kind and Usual Punishment, the Prison Business (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1973) p. 286. return_to_article

  66. California Auditor, p. VI-4. return_to_article

  67. Ibid., pp. VI-4-5. return_to_article

  68. Ibid., p.VI-7. return_to_article

  69. Ibid., p. VI-3. return_to_article

  70. Ibid., p. V-6. return_to_article

  71. Families against Mandatory Minimums, Famm-Gram, op.cit. return_to_article

  72. Ibid. return_to_article

  73. Carey, op.cit., p. 169. return_to_article

David Martin

The Bird The Bird Columns DCDave's Homepage DCDave's Column DCDave's Column 1
newsgroup: alt.thebird email: dcdave1@cox.net
search for: