American Slave Labor

This would make a great Jackie Gleason & Paul Newman movie. 1

The worst day of Brad McGahey’s life was the day a judge decided to spare him from prison.

McGahey was 23 with dreams of making it big in rodeo, maybe starring in his own reality TV show. With a 1.5 GPA, he’d barely graduated from high school. He had two kids and mounting child support debt. Then he got busted for buying a stolen horse trailer, fell behind on court fines and blew off his probation officer.

Standing in a tiny wood-paneled courtroom in rural Oklahoma in 2010, he faced one year in state prison. The judge had another plan.

“You need to learn a work ethic,” the judge told him. “I’m sending you to CAAIR.”

McGahey had heard of Christian Alcoholics & Addicts in Recovery. People called it “the Chicken Farm,” a rural retreat where defendants stayed for a year, got addiction treatment and learned to live more productive lives. Most were sent there by courts from across Oklahoma and neighboring states, part of the nationwide push to keep nonviolent offenders out of prison…

…There wasn’t much substance abuse treatment at CAAIR. It was mostly factory work for one of America’s top poultry companies. If McGahey got hurt or worked too slowly, his bosses threatened him with prison.

And he worked for free. CAAIR pocketed the pay.

“It was a slave camp,” McGahey said. “I can’t believe the court sent me there.”…

…But in the rush to spare people from prison, some judges are steering defendants into rehabs that are little more than lucrative work camps for private industry, an investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting has found.

The programs promise freedom from addiction. Instead, they’ve turned thousands of men and women into indentured servants.

The beneficiaries of these programs span the country, from Fortune 500 companies to factories and local businesses. The defendants work at a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Oklahoma, a construction firm in Alabama, a nursing home in North Carolina.

Perhaps no rehab better exemplifies this allegiance to big business than CAAIR. It was started in 2007 by chicken company executives struggling to find workers. By forming a Christian rehab, they could supply plants with a cheap and captive labor force while helping men overcome their addictions…

…Chicken processing plants are notoriously dangerous and understaffed. The hours are long, the pay is low and the conditions are brutal…

…Those who were hurt and could no longer work often were kicked out of CAAIR and sent to prison, court records show. Most men worked through the pain, fearing the same fate.

So, we’re back to the days of the company store? To suggest this practice is illegal 2 is like suggesting the Generalissimo is an incompetent buffoon; both suggestions are the epitome of understatement.

And fucking evil. But there’s certainly plenty of historical precedent for that in this country…

American Slave Labor

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Yeah yeah yeah, I know they’re dead. And, sadly, the closest we got to Gleason is Billy Gardell, who’s fine and all. But…you know, he lacks Gleason’s madness. And as for Newman, well, I got nothing. And then there’s Kennedy and Martin, both ‘types’ that don’t really exist today. Le sigh…
  2. Not to mention unconstitutional; forcing defendants to work for free might violate their constitutional rights. The 13th Amendment bans slavery and involuntary servitude in the United States, except as punishment for convicts. The problem here is most of the defendants sent to programs such as CAAIR have not yet been convicted of crimes, and some later have their cases dismissed.


The NYPD cop who took down Eric Garner seconds before he died told Internal Affairs investigators that he did not use a chokehold on the victim, his lawyer said on Wednesday.

“He reiterated that he used a takedown maneuver, that he did not utilize a chokehold. And any contact his arm had with the neck was incidental. He never intended to harm Mr. Garner, nor did he ever apply any pressure to his neck area,” attorney Stuart London told The Post about his client, Daniel Pantaleo.

“We have always maintained it was never a chokehold. It was takedown procedure he was instructed in how to perform while in the police academy.”

We’ve no doubt officer Pantaleo believes the restraint he employed on Eric Garner to be legitimate; remember, Pantaleo serves, and is of, a state that long ago expropriated the means of political organization and domination, to include violence.

Eric Garner’s resistance was illegal; officer Pantaleo’s subsequent killing of Garner was perfectly legal.

Moreover the arbitrariness of the state’s power to randomly kill its citizenry is quite useful; the killings can be later blessed by legal theater wherein the citizenry believes justice will prevail, thereby keeping up appearances. Look at us, the mummers proclaim: are we not well-meaning, competent individuals? Accept our rational verdict that it was your fault we killed you.

Think back to Ferguson: do you truly believe allowing Michael Brown’s corpse to lie in the street for four hours was an accident? Nothing could be further from the truth, which is that the agents of the state chose to display the body that way; we don’t spike heads any more but the message is just the same.

While racism in America is a precondition of inequality, not a consequence, Brown and Garner were not about racism: this is thinly disguised slavery. The way we live now is under the thumb of a multi-generational, plundering ruling class that has systemically woven its own wants and desires into our politics: what’s good for General Motors is good for America. Black America, having far more prolonged and intimate contact with the toe of our masters’ boot, tends to push back more often and, hence, dies more often. White America still buys into the snake oil pitch that we’re an exceptional nation, that our masters have our best interests in mind, that if we just keep our head down, work hard and keep our eyes on the prize we can become one with our masters.

That’s insane, of course, and the rest of the word — having experienced generations of tyrants of all stripes — thinks we’re crazy to believe it. The rest of the world understands that soon, when there are no jobs anywhere, even for white Americans, the color of the heads on the spikes will change.

Too bad we don’t recognize it.

Wake up, people.