Sample Argumentative Essays on American Prison Slavery

American Prison Slavery is worst today than it was back in the slavery times


With the American penal being a snare for catching time, good hearsays appear frequently about the kind of life within the American prison purporting that life within the custodial is mostly undramatic. However, the reality is quite contradictory as the thought of one living within such circumstances for even but just a minute would seem intolerable (Gopnik 1). One day within the American prison would appear much less due to the idea that a single day spreads out for decades. The burning catastrophe isn’t the dismay of the time at hand but the unconceivable repetitiveness of the time ahead that makes the American reformatories unbearable for the convicts. The reality at hand in the American prisons is that of the lock and clock as opposed to lock and key (Gopnik 1).

Not a soul that leaves the American prison ever lives to forget the experience even if they have been within for just a single day. The environment within is often full of attenuated terror, apprehension, dread, and monotony that is blended into a kind of invasive fog which cuts across both the guarded and the guards (Gopnik 1). Massive numbers of American prisoners are serving much prolonged prison terms than those issued for similar crimes in any other part of the modern world with Texas alone having sentenced more than 400 teenagers to life imprisonment (Gopnik 1).

Majority of the black poor American citizens, the American prison is a destination that braids through ordinary life just like college and high school does for the rich Whites. Statistics have depicted that more than 50% of all the black men in America without a high-school diploma go to prison some time in their lifetime. Mass incarceration on a very high scale than has never been witnessed in the history of mankind is the fundamental reality in America which may be attributed to the fundamental fact of slavery as was in the 1850. This burning reality has hit most the black American population as there are more blacks behind bars today than were back in the reign of slavery (Gopnik 2).

Prison slavery aimed at increasing the labor-force accounts for the massive numbers of American convicts. The high rate at which the American citizens are put behind bars has been on the rise over the years tripling from 220 people for every one hundred thousand Americans incarcerated in 1980 to seven hundred and thirty-one for every one hundred thousand by 2010, making the number so overwhelming than any other country has ever dared to approach (Gopnik 2). As a result, human rights organizations, together with social and political organizations, have raised concern about the issue referring to it as the present day way of inhumane exploitation in America asserting that more than two million people out of the American population are held behind bars, most of them Black and Hispanic, laboring for a number of industries for a chickenfeed (Pelaez 3).

The prisoners and guards are completely owned by the owners of the prisons. This would explain why the tycoons responsible for the prison investment industry enjoy the fortune of free labor. They have nothing to disquiet about, not even incursions, nor paying redundancy cover, nor comp time, not even retreats (Pelaez 3). All those assigned in the prisons work on a full-time schedule without absenteeism or lateness at the rate of 25 cents for every hour of labor without room for choice as they would equally be thrown behind bars without second thoughts if they refused to work (Pelaez 3). The California Prison Focus revealed that there is no other society in the history of mankind that has incarcerated a high number of its own civilians like America has. Comparing America to China, the focus reveals that America has locked up five hundred thousand more people as compared to China, with a population that is five times that of the United States. The statistics also depict that 25 percent of the world’s population behind bars is held by the United States of America but ironically, America accounts for only five percent of the world’s population (Dimon 2; Pelaez 3).

Contrasting view points

The issue of American prison slavery being worse than it was back in the slavery times has been met with divergent views. To begin with, it is argued that the prisons serve several purposes which include imposing punishment to law offenders, rehabilitations of the offenders and reduction of crimes through daunting others from participating in criminal activities and prostration of those purported to be criminals, which makes the American prison a key element within the society due to the vital role that it plays (Bair 2). Bair argues that the claims that the only institution program that has been availed to inmates over the years has been prison labor, and that those who term it as to be slavery are only raising provocative claims (5).

Bair contests the understanding of servitude arguing that if servitude implies the ownership of human chattel then it doesn’t exists in the prisons of the United States (6). He argues that inmates are not treated as property banking on the argument that inmates cannot be exchanged for money or used as indemnity. He continues by asserting that claims of prison labor being attributed to slavery does not meet the threshold simply because it’s obligatory. Bair asserts that there is an employment wait list in majority of the American prison industries which constitutes one form of labor that is performed by the inmates. Bair rounds up his argument by strongly asserting that it would be substandard for one to claim that inmates are enslaved due to the low wages that they receive (Bair 6).


However, Bair’s argument is met by strong opposition due to what is entailed in the American prisons. Jos differs with Bair’s claims as he asserts that the American prison system is one of the primary ways in which racialism of US servitude still lives to date (1). However, at the core of Bair’s documentation, he acknowledges that slavery exists in the American prisons but not due to the compelled labor (Bair 6). He argues that the existence of slavery in the American prisons is attributed to the fact that the convicts are obliged by cultural, political, and economic processes to execute both necessary labor and surplus labor and the benefits resulting from the labor is arrogated by another party who is the slave-master (Bair 7).

American prisons are foundations for perpetrating modern day slavery. In my own understanding of slavery, a social practice of possessing human beings as chattels especially for use as forced workhands, the American prisons can be justified as institutions of modern slavery. This is due to the fact that the labor-force of the inmates qua slaves is reproduced and owned by their masters who in most cases would be the custodial wardens or the head of state agency in charge of the prison industries. The appropriator on the other hand may be a private enterprise with the mandate to arrogate inmate slave surplus labor by the head of the rectifications section in a given prerogative (Bair 7).

The inmates are used by the investors as money making tools. Pelaez argues that incentives are compelled to send people behind bars due to the secluded contracting of inmates for labor (3). It is from such labor that prisons make income which they solely depend on and as a result, stakeholders who earn money from the prisoners’ labor champion for lengthy condemnations in order to increase their work-power (Pelaez 4). Pelaez argues that the American prison system “feeds itself,” laying accusations on the custodial industry for being a simulation of Nazi Germany which had compelled slave labor and deliberation sites (Pelaez 4). Being among the rapid developing businesses in the United States, the investors of the prison industry complex have been featured on Wall Street. The multimillion dollar industry carries out its own independent trade exhibitions, websites, contracts, and internet catalogs/mail orders. It also owns advertising campaigns, construction companies, plumbing supplies, architecture syndicates, and venture houses on Wall Street, padded cells in a diversity of colors, food supplies, and armed security. (Pelaez 4).

Despite the decrease in crime rates, more civilians have been sent behind bars to add up to the labor-force required in the prison industries. The federal prison industry has been noted for producing all the helmets within the military, bullet-proof vests, ID tags, ammunition belts, pants, bags, shirts, canteens, and tents (Pelaez 4). Other than war supplies, prison laborers supply 98% of the total market appliances and as if not enough, they even contribute to raising seeing-eye dogs for the visually impared (Pelaez 4). All this labor that is provided for by the prisoners is forced in order for the master to enjoy the financial benefits resulting from the fruits of their labor. This justifies that the slavery in America prisons is worse off as compared to the times of slavery. The irony behind it all is the fact that crime rates have been decreasing and yet the prison population has been on the rise. This calls for one to ask the question, why?

The stakeholders within the prison industry have manipulated and laws and the court system to include very lengthy sentences even for the most minor crime for their own benefit. Human rights organizations have revealed through their reports the various factors that are responsible for the increase in the profit potential for stakeholders in the custodial business complex. These include detention of individuals sentenced for non-violent crimes together with long prison convictions for ownership of very small quantities of illicit drugs (Pelaez 4). Taking an instance of New York, the anti-drug law passed in 1973 allows for an obligatory fifteen year sentence to life for ownership of four scraps of any illicit drug (Pelaez 5). Pelaez gives an example of a convict who was sentenced to 25 years in prison for having stolen a vehicle and two bicycles (5). In general, investors in the prison sector advocate for longer sentences, approval of laws that call for minimum sentencing, without paying attention to circumstances, massive extension of work by jailbirds to maximize profits that accelerate the imprisonment of more civilians for longer sentences, and enforcing more punishment on the convicts in order to prolong their sentences (Pelaez 5).

The prison is a business for making money and not a correctional institution. Due to the high cost of running the prisons and the burden that was laid on the government’s shoulder, private prisons were allowed as from the 1980s. Ever since, private prisons have always had their major objective in maximizing on exploitation of convicts for maximum benefit. Private prisons are thus guaranteed a given amount of money on a yearly basis for each convict irrespective of what it would cost to maintain one (Pelaez 5). Being a business that it is and in order to maximize on profits, private prisons employ a minimum quantity of sentries for the most number of prisoners (Pelaez 5). Some of the private prisons reward the inmates for good conduct by shortening their sentence but would also increase a convict’s sentence by thirty days for any misconduct or brake of the prison’s rules. As a result, the prisons rip maximum benefit from the inmates. Unlike the old times of slavery, the slavery in the American prisons has gone to a level higher to include importation and exportation of inmates in private prisons (Pelaez 5). This has been accelerated by the profits made from the prisoners’ labor which is the sole reason behind the rise in the new business. When one exports or imports, the actual activity on the ground is either buying or selling. What difference would it make from the time back in the slavery times when people used to be sold and bought like goods?

The buying and selling of prisoners is based on the length of sentence, the longer the sentence, the more the market. The only difference between modern day slavery within the American prisons and the slavery back then is that back in the times, slavery was practiced in outright daylight without concealing anything unlike today whereby its done behind the curtains in a manner that would take the civilians a lot of attention to realize that it’s still the same slavery of the olden times. Importation of inmates is concentrated on inmates with the longest jail term sentences, which implies that the worst criminal are the most lucrative in this business of modern prison slavery. This saw the population in private prisons overflow, which saw a court ruling by a federal judge against overcrowding in Texas prisons attributing it to cruelty and unbearable punishment (Pelaez 5).

Prisons would do anything within their power to take full advantage of the prisoners. Following the ruling, the Correctional Corporation of America (CCA) lured sheriffs from poor counties into signing contracts to construct and manage new confinements and share in the profits (Pelaez 6). Pelaez asserts that, according to a monthly magazine article published in 1998 December, CCA’s initiative for signing contracts with sheriffs from poor counties was seconded by several investors from Shearson-Lehman, Allstate, Merrill-Lynch, and American Express, spreading the operation all over the rural part of Texas (Pelaez 6). The slave masters being in control, a law prohibiting the courts decisions and supervisions from interfering with the prisons was put in place, approved in 1996 by Clinton. This resulted into overpopulation, lack of safety and violence in the prison cells (Pelaez 6).

Private prisons in Texas began making sales on the prisoners. They reached out to other prisons in other states with overcrowded prisons marketing their rental services with the rental cells salesman being given a commission of between 2.50$ and 5.50$ per day with the county receiving 1.50$ a day per head of every convict (Pelaez 6). According to Pelaez’s statistics, a total of 97% out of the total one hundred and twenty-five thousand inmates have been sentenced on non-violent crimes (Pelaez 6). The statistics assert that more than fifty percent of the total six hundred and twenty-three thousand inmates held in municipal and country incarcerates are blameless of the criminalities that they have been convicted for (Pelaez 6). Out of this population, a good number is still awaiting trial with a fraction of the many state convicts having committed non-violent crimes (Pelaez 6).


At this juncture, anyone would agree that American prison slavery is worst today than it was back in the times of slavery. With this issue being highly controversial, this research looks into both sides of the coin validating the authenticity of each single claim, though and idea without prejudice. Despite the fact the slavery in the American prisons exists, most of those who argue against its existence narrow their argument to a smaller picture and in most cases, lack of information and the clear state of matters could also account to the same. Hypothetically, there is the general assumption that the American prisons are meant for correction of criminal behavior in order to streamline the law offenders to fit in the rest of the American society.

The truth on the other hand is contradictory as correction does not exists anymore in the American prisons but business. Instead of assisting the convicted in becoming better people in the society so as to make them fit in the rest of the American population when time comes that they can leave prison, the prisons are more interested in exploiting the convicted for their own selfish motives with the desire to maximize on profits. The worse scenario in the modern day slavery in American prisons comes about when innocent civilians are sentenced without sufficient evidence against them in order to add up to the work-force required in prison so as to enrich another person. The fact that those running the private prison business have immense power to influence government action and policy making is also an added disadvantage to the prison slaves.

So far, most of the laws that were directed towards ensuring that inmates are handled in a humane manner have been overlooked rendering the court ruling against overcrowding of prisoners useless. In my own opinion, American prison slavery is at its worst today than it was back in the times of slavery because the same people who are supposed to protect the American population against exploitation and injustice are the very same people who champion for longer prison sentences, and as if not enough, import and export convicts with the highest sentence. This is not any different from the times of slavery but worse. It would be justifiable as worse because most of the American civilian population is not in the picture of the real happenings within their own prisons unlike the times of slavery whereby everything was done in the open which in my opinion is among the reasons that it was antagonized with strong conviction.

Works cited

Bair, Asatar P. “An Economic Analysis of Prison Labor in the United States.” University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2004. Ann Arbor: ProQuest. Web. 3 June 2014.

Dimon, Laura. “80,000 Americans suffer from a cruel and unusual practice most countries abolished.” 12th March, 2014. Web. 3rd June, 2014.

Gopnik, Adam. “The Caging of America.” 30th January, 2012. Web. 3rd June, 2014.

Jos. It’s Juneteenth 2013. “More Black people are in prison than were slaves and Paula Deen wants to bring slavery back.” 19th June, 2013. Web. 3rd June, 2014.

Pelaez, Vicky. “The prison Industry in the United States: Big Business of a New Form of Slavery?” 31st March, 2014. Web. 3rd June, 2014.