Close to 18,000 inmates work to produce a range of products across industries for wages that range from $1 to 45 cents per hour, according to a recent report by Axios.
Prisoners contribute to products and services as wide-ranging as call centers, Whole Foods cheese, and strawberries. Among the companies known to use inmates are American giants like IBM, J.C. Penney, and Victoria’s Secret.
Some companies, such as jeans maker Prison Blues and Danish fashion brand Carcel, have based their brand identity on the prisoners that work on their products.
Most of this labor is provided through Federal Prison Industries, also known as UNICOR.
Inmates across the United States staged a strike last year in order to call for higher wages. Prisoners often make less than $1, regardless of the work performed, but receive additional benefits through their labor, including vocational training, and certifications.
Some of these products are channeled back to private prison companies, helping these firms lower costs. Much of the fruits and vegetables harvested by inmates, for example, remain in the prisons’ kitchens.
According to Anti-slavery group Alliance 8.7., close 560,000 prisoners were victims of forced labor to the benefit of private individuals or organizations in 2016.