The Return of Commercial Prison Labor
In the decades following, the number of prisoners decreased to a historic minimum. But with cutbacks in the welfare state, the prison population exploded from about 200,000 in 1975 to 2,300,000 in 2013 (Scherrer and Shah, 2017: 37) and prison labor for commercial purposes became legal again. Today, about 15% of the inmates in federal and state prisons perform work for companies such as Boeing, Starbucks and Victoria’s Secret. Migrants detained for violating immigration laws are one of the fastest growing segments of prison labor. Under the Trump administration, their numbers are most likely to increase.