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U.S. Made Prison Products in China's News

U.S. Made Prison Products In China's News

China, taking the offensive in its spat with Washington over prisoner-made products, recently saturated its national media with an American magazine's account of U.S. industry's profitable exploitation of American prisoners.

China's national television news and most major newspapers gave prominent coverage to an account about American-style prison labor published in the February 17th issue of Business Week. " U. S. companies are taking two primary advantages of prison labor: coercion and low wages," the reports quoted Business Week as saying.

The Chinese reports carried the strong suggestion that the U.S. government, which accuses China of exporting prisoner-made goods to the United States in violation of U.S. law, should practice what it preaches or change the sermon. "The [Business Week] article said at the end that those who criticize prison labor in other countries might be missing what happens in their own country," the reports said.

The reports cited the magazine as saying U.S. firms were profiting handsomely from the labors of thousands of American prisons and using cheap prison labor to undersell foreign competitors. "U.S. private companies are using cheap prison labor to make profit and promote competition overseas," the reports continued. "So far some 5,000 inmates in 21 U.S. states work for private industry."

"Since U.S. law bans only imports of prison goods, cheap prison labor helps some companies to compete overseas," it added. The report cited Nyman Marine Corp., which Business Week said uses prisoners in Monroe Prison, Washington, "to make boat lifts used to moor pleasure boats." "The company, whose sales soared 240 percent in 1991, exports to Denmark, Holland and France," the reports added.

The Chinese news reports said some U.S. prisons were compelling prisoners to work for industry by threatening them with long hours in solitary confinement. "Recently, New York [state] has begun to put inmates in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day if they refuse work assignments," they said. "Prison experts say other states are moving in the same direction."

From: Corrections Digest

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