If you thought slavery was outlawed in America, you would be wrong. The 13th amendment to the Constitution states that  “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
In plain language, that means slavery in America can still exist for those who are in prison, where you basically lose all of your rights. (You don’t gain a lot of your rights back when you get out of prison, either, but that is a different story.) So, given the country’s penchant for rapacious capitalism, it may not come as a surprise that there is much of the American prison system that exploits American prisoners much like slaves.
In fact there is large-scale exploitation in American prisons benefiting American corporations and the military-industrial complex. UNICOR, better known as Federal Prison Industries, or FPI, is a government-owned corporation that employs inmates for as little as 23 cents per hour, to provide a wide range of products and services under the guise of a “jobs training program.” In theory, this is supposed to give inmates skills that will prepare them for the workforce upon release.
Critics of FPI have long claimed it exploits prisoners who don’t have the right to organize for representation to protect their rights and it unfairly competes with small businesses that can’t provide goods and services for the average pay of 92 cents an hour FPI workers make. The program employs around 13,000 prisoners per year. In 2013, it reported gross revenue of $609.7 million.
According to FPI’s website , inmates employed in the program carry out a wide range of services that include making house and office furniture, mattresses, flags, traffic signs and military items. These items are usually made for other federal agencies, but private companies can contract workers through FPI as well.
It is no surprise that the inmate/slave labor force has grown along with mass incarceration in America. The Prison Policy Initiative  counts 2.3 million people in prison, according to the 2010 census, by far the highest rate of incarceration in the developed world.
Many more are ensnared in the criminal justice system’s other branches. At the end of 2013, nearly 5 million adults were either on probation or parole, according to Bureau of Justice Statistics . All of these populations and even those not even convicted of a crime are vulnerable to exploitative fees and byzantine rules seemingly designed to catch people and get them back into the grips of the prison system. Basically, there is a trifecta of exploitation in the American criminal justice system. As reported  on AlterNet, the bail system in America keeps many people in jail in a massive form of pretrial detention one has to buy one’s way out of. And police departments are increasingly funding themselves by charging poor people exorbitant fees for minor infractions.