Green prison labor refers to the system used by the Obama administration to involve prisoners in the production of different services and products. Through this system, prisoners through their UNICOR industry have participated in the production of services and products that have benefited their community a great deal. This industry was set up in 1934 as a vocational training program. However, it has transformed to a business that is providing green energy to different foreign agencies. Today, federal inmates in New York and Oregon are building solar panels to state agencies making $0.23 to 1.15 every hour. These panels are then being sold to different government agencies in the US.
According to the administration, rationalization of the green prison labor program facilitates provision solar panels made by local manufacturers. Thus, the solar panels bought by agencies in the US are domestically produced and sourced. This is very important because it ensures production of panels that meet trade agreement and American act. They also meet Reinvestment and American recovery act.
In 2009, the prison industry entered a contract worth $219 million with a company in Taiwan. This company supplies solar cells that are used in the manufacture of panels. Typically, the rhetoric used here is to manoeuvre around the statement, “buy American” since products made using products from foreign countries are still American made. What determines if products are American is whether they have been assembled in America or not. Nevertheless, this raises a question on what is being done with the dollars paid through taxation.
Among the most evident problems is this effort does not produce any benefit to private sectors. These foreign purchased products are assembled by inmates. Thus, American private sector does not play any role in the production of these panels. In addition, American law requires different government agencies to purchase products from the agency.
According to the administration, the government wants to involve inmates in growing the green economy through green prison labor. However, inmates are just involved in assembling parts that have been acquired from a foreign country. Thus, it is like the inmates are not included in the actual production of the green economy. The prison industry also undercut private enterprises extensively as history has revealed. For instance, the industry undercut a manufacturer of military clothing by $45 million. The lost contract resulted in the firing of employees. Analysts have observed that this practice is very ironical of a government that yells at other states claiming that they are using slave or prisoner labor in manufacturing items.
Perhaps, the severity of this practice can be seen from the ac by the leader of senate minority Mitch McConnell who intervened in the prevention of the use of UNICOR in pirating private sector businesses in his state. Prison industry partners with private sector in providing solar panels to agencies. At the same time UNICOR helps government agencies in the implementation of energy efficient strategies. However, Exelon Corporation which has intimate links with Obama administration is the main beneficiary of the green prison labor program as it deals in the supply of energy efficient products.