If you want to see what the capitalist ideal for America is, just look at our for-profit prisons. They exploit prisoners ruthlessly.
Last year, West Virginia contracted with a company, Global Tel Link (GTL), to provide free tablets to prisoners. These kinds of initiatives are rapidly becoming more popular, as states grapple with the legacy of four decades of tough-on-crime policies and renewed public calls for more rehabilitative prisons.
And it sounds great. Until inmates realize the company charges users every time they use the tablets, including 25 cents a page for emails and 3 cents a minute to read e-books. By that calculation, most inmates would end up paying about $15 for each novel or autobiography they attempt to read. To people who have little to no money, that’s not a benefit. That’s exploitation. The only beneficiary, aside from Global Tel Link, is West Virginia, which receives 5% of the profits.
I imagine some team of piggy middle-managers in a corporation that realizes they’ve got the capitalist ideal: captive customers who have to buy what you’re selling, in an environment where competition is not allowed, and they get to charge whatever they want for whatever service they offer. They go hog wild. Let’s charge them for reading! After a trivial investment to pay the ridiculous demands of authors and publishers for royalties, the greedy bastards, we can demand a reasonable recompense for allowing them to view a book.
What else can we charge them for? How about taking the Vimes theory of socioeconomic unfairness and cranking it up to 11?
Many prisons now ban in-person visits, then allow companies to charge $12.99 or more for video calls. Prison phone calls can cost up to $3.99 a minute. Prison shoes fall apart within weeks, and replacements are only available from a special catalog. Only sweatshirts are provided for the winter. Meals are nutritionally insufficient and, over time, must be supplemented to maintain good health.
All these necessities — shoes, jackets, phone calls, canned tuna from the commissary — rack up fees well above the market rate on the outside. But they often aren’t paid for by prisoners, who have little or no means to earn income. They are paid primarily by families who are often among our poorest. This hidden tax drives already vulnerable communities deeper into poverty and hopelessness.
Oh, yeah, let’s punish people by depriving them of their liberty and gouging every penny we can out of their families, and disincentivize that absurd idea of “rehabilitation”. Prison serves the leeches.
This company, Global Tel Link, calls itself the “Corrections Innovations Leader”. Their only innovations, though, involve coming up with new ways to suck profits out of the pockets of those on the lowest rung of the socioeconomic ladder. They see a poor person, they see someone they’ll have power over to steal their last dollar. This is their lying mission statement.
At GTL, our mission is to create impactful connections and provide industry-leading service. We give incarcerated individuals the ability to stay engaged with their support networks by making meaningful connections through our products and services.
If you work for GTL, I hope you are deeply ashamed. If you work for GTL, you’re probably not…because you have to lack a conscience to work for that soul-sucking evil company.