I considered that possibility, but it just doesn't seem compelling. Most convicts do not work for private corporations, they either do work within the prison (cooking, cleaning, etc) or do menial tasks for the state which - while creating savings - will never be a profit center. Nobody's getting rich off of license plates.
I think that there's also substantial separation between the various legislative, enforcement, prosecutorial, judicial, and penitentiary institutions in the US to remove that incentive. It makes it difficult to see how those corporations benefitting from prison labor can influence criminal law. Are telephone customer-support companies (a big prison industry) actually lobbying for increased drug penalties? That would quickly raise big red flags.
Certainly the state ultimately loses money by imprisoning people. Imprisoning more only means an increased cost. Even if there are savings from selling prison labor to outside contractors, there is no economy of scale in incarceration.
OTOH, I find it easier to believe that the prison companies like Wackenhut do have an interest in states imprisoning more people.
Personally, I think there should be NO private prisons. I also believe that all prison labor should be voluntary, should be paid the minimum wage (adjusted for the fact that the state is covering food, housing, and medical for the prisoner), and should only be engaged in work for the prison itself or directly for a public institution. That way, the non-felon working population cannot possibly suffer because of prison labor
Your "organ bank" comment brings us back the original thread of Chinese human rights violations. China has repeatedly been accused by Amnesty International of using prisoners as organ "donors" for people in need of transplants.
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