Prisoners for hire

  A new magazine called ColorLines, with editorial offices in Oakland, Calif., takes a harsh look at what it calls the "prison-industrial complex." It finds an unsavory relationship between corporations that improve their bottom line thanks to cheap prison labor, and our society's desire to lock up people we've given up trying to socialize or educate. Guest editor of the publication's second issue is Angela Y. Davis, who served time herself for trying to help a prisoner escape. She outlines disturbing trends, including the growing privatization of jails and resulting loss of public accountability, along with corporations' increasing reliance on prison workers who can't strike, organize into unions or demand health insurance. These days, prisoners do data entry for Chevron, for example, and Nordstrom department stores sell jeans made in prison under the label "Prison Blues." Who is in prison? A disproportionately high number of Native Americans, blacks and Hispanics, and a rising number of women, juveniles and illegal immigrants, a quarter of whom are deported after they serve their sentences.

The 44-page quarterly magazine, dedicated to "race, culture, action," is $15 for six issues from ColorLines, Box 3000, Denville, NJ 07834-9206.

*Betsy Marston

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