KGNU first heard from Melvin Ray, organizer with the Free Alabama Movement (FAM) earlier in the month about the group’s organizing from inside the St. Clair Correctional Facilities. One of the first glimpses the general public had to the prison industrial complex was through Hollywood, where a corrupt warden capitalized on free prison labor to pad his personal bank account in the popular movie The Shawshank Redemption. Melvin Ray outlined in detail for KGNU how the practice legally exists today and is part of a multi-billion dollar industry through which corporations profit, and taxpayers support these for-profit corporations through taxes that cover the corporation’s social security taxes, employee health care insurance, unemployment insurance, and other financial benefits.
Ray exposes how corporations such as McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Walmart use prison/slave labor to produce their goods, and therefore have a financial stake in maintaining a consistent stream of labor. He describes how these corporations lobby for stiff prison sentences for those convicted of nonviolent offenses in order to maintain this pool of labor.
A national action to expose McDonald’s in particular was organized from inside prison and took place on May 30, 2015 including in Denver. At the West Steps of the Capitol, guest speaker Reverend Tammy Garrett-Williams spoke about her personal experience with mass incarceration and prison labor. Here speakers spoke about the driving forces behind the industry and proposed solutions to the national crisis.
In the end, protesters marched to McDonald’s on 16th Street to expose the corporations own use of prison labor to produce the corporations uniforms, food, and plastic cutlery.