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Who’s getting tricked and who’s getting the treat? That’s the question I have asked myself over and over in the past ten years.

In 2002 as I sat in the county jail awaiting trial I happened to come across an article in the newspaper-which newspaper? I can’t recall-titled “Casinos and Prisons are Big Business.” The part about the casinos I skimmed over since casinos being big business is a no-brainer of a concept. But, I was very interested in what they had to say about the prison system here in California. What I eventually read has become like a song stuck in your head.

This article stated that the “Prison Industry Authority” better known as PIA, which is controlled by the federal government and run by the state under the California Department of Correction, is a publicly traded company on the stock market,Wall Street.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the PIA, let me give you a little background. PIA is a string of factories and farms that produce everything from desks and chairs to chocolate milk and bread. These factories and farms are being worked by inmates of the California Department who are paid minimum at $0.08 cents to a maximum of $0.65 cents an hour which by all standards is considered slave wages.

Another fact that the article talked about was that any state institution, whether it is a university or a police station, if the PIA makes it, they are forced to buy it and PIA sells it to them at the triple the cost. The institutions are forbidden to purchase items made by the PIA from any outside retail business, basically, purchasing items of lesser quality at a much higher price. This insanity goes unchecked. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

But, the question that has become a thorn in my side is this: What if my public defender or the prosecutor or the judge who presided over my case or all of them, own stock in PIA? I guess I know now who is getting tricked and who is getting the treat?

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