Conspiracy Nation -- Vol. 6  Num. 37
                    ("Quid coniuratio est?")


By Marianna Wertz
The New Federalist, 10/30/95

"When It Comes To Marketing, Crime Does Pay," boasts an article in the Oct. 20 New York Times business section. The article reports on the financially lucrative marketing of "Prison Blues" blue jeans, T-shirts, and other apparel manufactured by prisoners in the state of Oregon. The state expects to sell more than $3 million worth of clothing this year, up from $221,000 in 1991. The Times notes, in a parenthetical sentence near the end of the article, that the prisoners, who both make and model the apparel for promotionals, receive a "meager hourly wage."

This report should prompt the following questions:

Does the potential of prison labor for money-making have something to do with the fact that nearly one-third (32.2%) of all black American males in the age group 20-29 are under criminal justice supervision on any given day -- in prison or jail, on probation or parole?

Does the fact that drug arrests are the single most significant factor contributing to the rise in criminal justice populations in recent years -- and especially the imprisonment of black Americans -- have something to do with the fact that our nation's cities are being flooded with drugs?

Are the 827,440 young African American males in our nation's jails and prisons -- nearly 40 percent of whom are there on drug-related charges -- increasingly being viewed as a prime source of loot?

-+- Drugs Driving Prisons -+-

That drug convictions are the prime source of the exploding American prison population -- now at or near 1.5 million people -- and that minorities are being arrested for drugs at a disproportionate rate, is documented in an October 1995 report issued by The Sentencing Project, based in Washington, D.C. The report is written by Assistant Director Marc Mauer and Tracy Huling, a criminal justice consultant.

Here are some of its findings:

** African-Americans and Hispanics constitute almost 90 percent of offenders sentenced to state prison for drug possession.

** Drug policies constitute the single most significant factor contributing to the rise in criminal justice populations in recent years, with the number of incarcerated drug offenders having risen by 510 percent from 1983 to 1993.

** The number of black (non-Hispanic) women incarcerated in state prisons for drug offenses increased 828 percent from 1986 to 1991.

While African-American arrest rates for violent crime -- 45 percent of arrests nationally -- are disproportionate to their share of the population, this proportion has not changed significantly for 20 years. For drug offenses, though, the African-American proportion of arrests increased from 24 percent in 1980 to 39 percent in 1993, well above the African-American proportion of drug users nationally.

To complete the circle of inquiry, one merely has to note the following: Hundreds of billions of dollars in drug money flow into "legitimate" businesses and banks in this nation every year, as this news service has documented in the best-selling book "Dope, Inc." Leading Wall Street firms, among them Goldman Sachs, Smith Barney, American Express, and General Electric, are investing millions of dollars in building prisons. Those prisons are right now producing billions of dollars worth of goods, at close to zero wage levels: It was reported at the Million Man March that by 1998, prisoners in America will be producing $9 billion worth of goods, while displacing 400,000 salaried workers.

Drugs, slave labor and mega-bucks go hand in hand. Look at the facts and draw your own conclusions.

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