Within the debate of penal labor, one commonly ignored aspect is the use of labor in contract facilities, also known as private prisons. Private prisons account for 16 percent of federal prisons, eleven percent of federal inmates respectively. Given the corporate nature of private prisons, questions arise regarding whether penal labor in private facilities is exploitative. This study examines the use of penal labor for institutional maintenance by federally contracted private facilities. Findings indicate that penal labor in contracted facilities operates in a similar fashion to labor in public prisons. The author argues that the nature of privatization and profit-driven incarceration in private facilities renders all forms of labor paid less than US minimum wage to be exploitative, thus classifying penal labor for institutional maintenance in contact facilities as labor exploitation. Findings also indicate that forced labor may be occurring as a result of penal labor policies in private facilities. Recommendations for the Bureau of Prisons, state departments of corrections, anti-trafficking practitioners, private companies and investors, and students are listed.
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