Starbucks' coffee strives to be good neighbors and active contributors in the communities where they live and work, says the coffee king's mission statement. And in keeping with company policy, prisoners package Starbucks' brightly colored, chocolate-covered holiday coffee beans, which apparently is being a "good neighbor" to someone.Where else but in jail are companies going to find compliant workers who will spend most of their lives performing dull and monotonous tasks for slave wages?
Starbucks' public affairs director Audrey Lincoff defends hiring Signature Packaging Solutions, one of 15 private companies that operates within the state prison system and uses inmate labor to supplement their outside workforce. Indeed, Starbucks is being an "active contributor in their neighborhood" at the sweatshops at Twin Rivers Corrections Unit in Monroe, Washington that houses mentally ill inmates, high-security felons and enrollees in the state's Sex Offender Treatment Program.
Lincoff points out in a Seattle Weekly report that workers are paid a minimum wage of $6.72 an hour, a sizeable increase over the state prison standard of 35 cents to $1.10 an hour. She doesn't point out that the DOC takes about half the prisoners' paychecks to slash its own expenses. Nor does she discuss how captive labor unfairly subsidizes the company over competitors by avoiding payment of employee health insurance and retirement. And as expected, she offered no insight into the constitutionality of using prisoners to accumulate wealth.
Prison labor, under these conditions, has little to do with
rehabilitation and is mostly about the huge corporate windfall
that it has become: slave labor with little customary turnover;
no intrusive federal and state regulations for safety, benefits
or minimum wage; legal sweatshops offering a distinct competitive
advantage.What else could a company seeking to be "good
neighbors" in their community ask for?
Finally, a president recognizes that breaking up families with lengthy prison sentences has severe consequences for parents, children and all of society. Therefore, mothers in prison have been pardoned and can go home to be with their children - in Russia, anyway, according to a recent report from the Kremlin press service. But here in the USA, it's prison business as usual where the drug war is largely responsible for the separation of an estimated 1.5 million children from their parents.
It's an estimate because no one is counting exactly how many
orphans that our rot-in-prison rehabilitation system has spawned
- certainly not the courts, cops, or prisons, anyway. But we
do know that approximately half of incarcerated parents are black,
20 percent are Hispanic, and 67 percent are in federal prisons
for an average of 10-plus years for breaking drug laws, according
to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
We hope that President Bush speaks with Russian President
Putin about releasing mothers from prison instead of releasing
nuclear weapons around the world at their next barbecue, but
saving lives has never been one of Bush's stronger points.
When children live most of their childhood while their parents are in prison, the cost to families and society is enormous. Children suffer socially, financially and emotionally. They experience post-traumatic stress reaction, depression, insomnia, poor concentration in school, flashbacks of violent police raids, survivor guilt, aggressive expression of grief and disrespect for law enforcement and the justice system.
Civilized societies should establish policies that work toward
keeping families together - not tearing them apart. President
Bush could show his compassion and intelligence by following
Putin's lead and pardoning all non-violent drug war mothers and
fathers. Children don't need Bush's "faith-based mentors"
to replace their parents who are drug war prisoners. Children
need moms and dads at home.
By Mark Harrison, November Coalition writer
Pee in a cup for officials at Matthews High School in Virginia and receive a free parking pass worth $25 and free admission to all school events. This compelling offer to students is known as voluntary drug testing, according to the Daily Press. Students who allow administrators to violate their privacy in this manner may also be allowed to miss four days of school instead of three and still be able to take final exams.
To further entice students to forget what they learned in civics class about the significance of the U.S. Constitution, free tickets to local attractions such as Busch Gardens are being considered. You know, Busch, as in Anheuser-Busch, Inc, makers of Budweiser Beer, that Superbowl drug that wasn't responsible for the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.
The Matthews High School Voluntary Drug Screening Program
was the brain flatulence of administrators, parents and students
after a few athletes on the football team were caught smoking
marijuana. So, students can give up their constitutional right
to privacy and go to Busch Gardens where maybe they'll learn
to become alcoholics. Those who say no to drug test bribery will
be illegally punished by the school administration and be made
to pay for the principles of privacy and consent at the door.
By Mark Harrison, November Coalition writer
Vector Group, Ltd. is pressuring the USDA to stop regulating their genetically engineered tobacco that has been growing in U.S. test fields since1999. The plant known as Vector 21-41 is engineered to disrupt the plant's normal production of nicotine and poses no risk of cross-pollination with other tobacco crops, insists Vector, owner of the Liggett Group, the fifth-largest tobacco maker in the U.S. But competing tobacco companies aren't buying it and say there are no guarantees that their nicotine-laden crops would not be contaminated with genetically modified tobacco since other U.S. crops like soy and corn have cross-pollinated with their genetically modified counterparts.
Consumer groups argue that if Vector were given unregulated status by the USDA, then the government would be, in essence, encouraging people to smoke these "healthier" cigarettes, which could lead to "healthier" forms of cancer. More smokers will be deterred from quitting, and new smokers will be encouraged to start. With the nicotine removed, the number of chemicals left in cigarettes that cause cancer in rats is reduced to just 42. But that won't be a part of Vector's ad campaign.
Commercial cigarettes contain some real tobacco and the rest is shredded paper or "homogenized sheet tobacco." A pulp is produced from mashed tobacco stems and other plant wastes and impregnated with nicotine and about 600 other chemicals. The "reconstituted tobacco" is sliced to look just like shredded leaf tobacco. This is how tobacco companies have been able to manipulate the addiction and carcinogenic levels of their cigarettes and thus our nation's mortality rates for the past few decades. A host of chemicals are also infused into cigarette papers, including titanium oxide that keeps cigarettes burning and is responsible for the vast majority of smoking-related home fires.
The federal government regulates this drug known to kill 420,000
annually and is responsible for more preventable deaths than
any other dangerous substance in the U.S. Meanwhile, nearly a
half million people are in prison for breaking drug laws, laws
that prohibit the use of drugs that have taken few or no lives
(marijuana most prominently) and cause a small fraction of the
health problems that tobacco does. Regardless, Vector plans to
roll out the new biotech cigarette in the second quarter of this
year after a comment period for industry, environmental and consumer
groups expiring on April 15.
282 West Astor - Colville, Washington 99114 - (509) 684-1550