Major companies are exploiting prisoners for their cheap labour, according to a Victorian state MP.
Bunnings, Qantas, Fantastic Furniture, Oroton in addition to Flower Power all reportedly contract inmates to produce goods.
Reason Party leader Fiona Patten described the secretive production process as “completely unethical”, reports The New Daily.
Major companies exploit prisoners
Under the practice, inmates perform menial tasks for less than $1 an hour or about $30 a week – extreme wage theft in the real world.
The jobs provide no useful training for life after prison and they also undercut the wages of ordinary workers.
Prisoner advocate Brett Collins, who spent 10 years behind bars, spoke to The New Daily.
He said the practice is “effectively a slave labour force” where inmates are compelled to work or face a tougher time in jail.
“Making profit out of prisoners as being an alternative to third-world labour is totally antagonistic to the system.
“It’s taking advantage of prisoners, making a profit, and it should not be a public function.”
The major companies exploiting prisoners
According to The New Daily, Qantas contracts prison inmates to refurbish and then repackage headphones for passengers.
Similarly, Bunnings sells nuts and bolts manufactured by prisoners.
Meanwhile, natural pet food company, The Golden Bone Bakery, employs six inmates at the Borallon Correctional and Training Centre in Queensland.
Fantastic Furniture, Oroton and Flower Power also reportedly use cheap prison labour.
Advocates say companies use prisoners to make everything from tea-towels and bed linen to number plates.
Fiona Patten has previously asked the Victorian government to provide a full list of companies profiting from cheap prison labour.
She described the process as “incredibly difficult”, however.
“The government constantly tells us that any agreements that they’ve made with various companies are commercial-in-confidence.”
Meanwhile, The New Daily has also made efforts to uncover information about cheap prison labour from the New South Wales Corrective Services Industries.
After six months, the NSW government rejected the publication’s Government Information Public Access request.
It claimed releasing such information “could reasonably be expected to prejudice the business, commercial or professional interests of some of the businesses who engage with CSI”.
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Prisoners deserve meaningful work
Prisoner advocates such as Brett Collins believe inmates deserve the chance to do meaningful work and to also earn a fair wage.
He told The Daily Mail:
“The people who really are totally vulnerable and who also feel badly about themselves – all you’re doing is grinding them down into a greater level of submission and degrading them by giving them jobs that there’s no way in the world they’d be doing on the outside.
“As opposed to learning something that they can actually use.”
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