- JusticeNet Prison Issues Desk, email@example.com originating on July
8, 1996. It is a response to a September 5, 1995, prison-overcrowding
editorial in the Des Moines (Iowa) Register.
- The following is a comparative breakdown for 1994. All have been
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.
- Federal Prison Industries 1996 Annual Report, p. 83.
- Ibid., p. 84.
- 18 USCS 4122 (d) (2)
- 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.
- Jeff Erlich, Competing with Convicts, Government Executive, June,
1997, p. 32. The complete breakdown for 1996 sales is as follows:
|Agency||Sales (millions)||% of Total Sales
|General Services Administration||51.3||10.4
|Bureau of Prisons||28.7||5.8
|Veterans Affairs Department||6.2||1.3
- 18 USCS 4122 (b)
- 18 USCS 4124
- James V. Bennett (edited by Rodney Campbell), I Chose Prison (New York:
Alfred A. Knopf, 1970, p. 85)
- Newsweek, August 20, 1990, p. 44.
- Naftali Bendavid, Hard Times for Prison Industries, Legal Times, Week
of November 27, 1995, p.17.
- Bendavid, Are Prison Industries on Death Row? Legal Times, Week of
September 30, 1996, p. 24.
- Ibid., p.26.
- "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, p. 106.
- 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."
- Here are some salient facts compiled by Families Against Mandatory
Minimums (FAMM), 1612 K Street NW, Suite 1400, Washington, DC 20006,
- Hearing, p. 5.
- Joe Mohwish, letter to FAMM branch directors, July 24, 1992.
- Ibid., pp. 242-243.
- 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.
- Ibid. p., 138.
- Ibid., pp. 158-163. Testimony of Roger English, Sales Manager, ADM
International, Chicago, Illinois.
- Ibid., pp.200-201. Testimony of Sheri Lake, Metrospace, Inc., Vienna, Virginia.
- Deloitte & Touche, Independent Market Study of UNICOR, August,
1991, p. 118; California Auditor, op.cit. p. D-3.
- Hearing, p. 265.
- Ibid., p. 54.
- Ibid., pp. 8-9.
- 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
- 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.
- Ibid., p. 30.
- California Auditor, pp. I-7, I-8.
- All subsequent references labeled "Q" and "A" are from this source.
- 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)
- 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).
- 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,
- Bennett, op. cit. pp. 76-77.
- "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).
- William L. Selke, Prisons in Crisis (Bloomington: Indiana University
Press, 1993), p. 80.
- Quoted in Carey, op.cit., p. 169.
- 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.
- Ibid., p. 104.
- Ibid., pp. 143-144.
- Ibid., p. 151.
- 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).
- 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).
- "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).
- "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).
- Federal Bureau of Prisons, Quick Facts and Families Against Mandatory
- 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
- 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
- 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
- UNICOR Annual Reports, various years.
- Selke, op.cit. p. 18.
- 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.
- 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)
- California Auditor, pp. I-6-7.
- PREP Study, pp. 1-2.
- Ibid., p.8.
- 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.)
- Hearing, p. 6.
- UNICOR Annual Report, 1996, p. 5.
- Hearing, p. 28.
- 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;
- Quoted in Jessica Mitford, Kind and Usual Punishment, the Prison
Business (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1973) p. 286.
- California Auditor, p. VI-4.
- Ibid., pp. VI-4-5.
- Ibid., p.VI-7.
- Ibid., p. VI-3.
- Ibid., p. V-6.
- Families against Mandatory Minimums, Famm-Gram, op.cit.
- Carey, op.cit., p. 169.