The United States of America has the highest prison population in the world. Over 2.3 million Americans are living behind bars – over 1% of the population.
In the Land of the Free, there are higher proportions of prisoners than in China, South Africa or Russia.
Whites make up 56% of all federal prisoners; 40% are black, 2% are Native American and 2% are Asian.
10% are 17 years old. There are more 17 year olds in jail than there are in college.
And it gets more worrying when you think about what these people do while they are incarcerated.
The United States has one of the largest standing arming forces in the world, and these forces could not operate without the prison population. All helmets used by the military are made by prisoners. They also make an awful lot of other military equipment – webbing, clothing, even ammunition.
As well as the well known licence plates, they also manufacture appliances and office furniture. There is a proposal on the table for them to used to operate calls centres. Imagine the service you could expect from that!
In the US it is illegal to import any product manufactured using slave labour, but there is an argument that says by using prisoners in this way, they are effectively providing slave labour of their own. Economically, the argument is that it enables the US to compete with cheap Mexican labour.
And now Ken Clarke is proposing to make prisoners in this country work a 40 hour week while they are locked up – so if you are facing redundancy because it costs too much to employ you, then you might like to bear all this in mind…