Articles Magazine

Brands Behind Bars: The Ethics of Fashion Brands Made In Prisons

This article may use affiliate links. Eluxe Magazine only links to products we trust.

By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

Recently, a crop of new fashion brands made in prisons has arisen, boasting that because they’re using eco-fabrics and are giving prisoners something to do with their time, they’re ‘sustainable’. In fact, anyone who watches Orange is the New Black will know that the series, based on a real life experience in jail, depicted inmates sewing lingerie for a whopping $1 a day. Well, these issues certainly raise a lot of questions, to say the least – namely: is it ethical to buy brands made by prisoners?

Putting prisoners to work is hardly new:  history shows    that from as far back as the late 1700s, up to the Great Depression, throughout World War II and continuing to the present day, there have been work programs in place for prisoners.

In the United States, the first and most established correctional program was  Unicor, which was implemented by the Federal Prison Industries not as a for-profit business, but as a form of inmate release preparation that helped offenders acquire the necessary skills to successfully make the transition from prisoner to law-abiding, contributing member of society.

But things have changed, and it seems American prisons are now merely sweatshops for cheap labour. According to Business of Fashion writer Kate Abnett: “Across England and Wales there are 105 public sector prisons, containing 63 textiles workshops,” whilst today in the USA,  “the Federal Prison Industries operates  78 factories inside correctional facilities, which make products for the prisoners’ own use, such as uniforms or bedding” as well as federal goods such as military uniforms.

Sure, it could be argued that there are various benefits of working for those imprisoned: They can learn valuable skills that can be used later; it keeps them busy and even pays them a nominal fee, sometimes. They gain a sense of dignity and self-worth, and benefit from teamwork. But this totally depends on the context.

Given the fact that prisoners only earn an average of between 23 cents and $1.15 per hour in the USA, paired with the fact that more people are imprisoned now than ever before in history in that country, something about sending work to prisoners smells fishy here.

The main reason is that work schemes are no longer intended to reform prisoners and boost their skills; instead they’re mainly aimed at saving money for corporations. Indeed, there’s a long list of well known companies that exploit prisoners for their labour: Victoria’s Secret,  IBM, Boeing, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T, Wireless, Texas Instrument, Dell, Compaq, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard, Nortel, Lucent Technologies, 3Com, Intel, Northern Telecom, TWA, Nordstrom’s, Revlon, Macy’s, Pierre Cardin, Target Stores, J. C. Penney and many more.

Rather nefariously, having more people in prison certainly serves these companies – which in turn have a lot of lobbying power over governments. Considering the USA has more of its population in prisons by far than any other country in the entire world (more than Russia! Way more than China! Far more than Iran!), and considering a lot of people are getting rich from the prison-industrial complex, it is certainly worth wondering whether the government has any incentive for keeping people out of prison.

This is a highly serious issue. Unlike the situation in most countries in the world (where taxpayers fund prisons), most American prisons are privately owned, for profit industries – which means it’s pretty obvious that the more people who are locked up, the more potential profits they can be made. The two biggest prison corporations in the country made  $3.3 billion  in 2012 — profiting from government payments and prison laborers, who were forced to work for pennies on behalf of companies like Boeing and McDonald’s. Additionally, it’s recently been revealed that President Trump received large sums for his campaign from the powerful private prisons lobby, indicating that private prisons are corrupting the political process by giving incentives for politicians to throw more people in jail.

Prisons are thrilled to get manufacturing contracts as they actually make a cut from the corporations who send work to prisons. You may think that at least the burden of funding prisons is lifted from the taxpayer when those institutions are privatised, but guess what? They also gain funds from taxes! When a private company is actually making money from crime, well…that’s just criminal. Or it least it should be.

Are These Really Criminals?

But who are the actual prisoners? In America at least, the vast majority are in for petty, non-violent and often drug related crimes. There are around 2.3 million people in jails there overall, around 1 in 10 of whom are black males.

And those prisoners are staying in for longer times, for stupider reasons. According to Global Research and La Prensa, the main reasons America’s prison population is so include:

  • Jailing persons convicted of non-violent crimes, and long prison sentences for possession of microscopic quantities of illegal drugs.
  • The passage in 13 states of the “three strikes” laws (life in prison after being convicted of three felonies), made it necessary to build 20 new federal prisons. One of the most disturbing cases resulting from this measure was that of a prisoner who for stealing a car and two bicycles received three 25-year sentences.
  • The passage of laws that require minimum sentencing, without regard for circumstances.
  • A prison culture that’s so miserable, it almost encourages violence – which then extends the sentences of those already incarcerated.
  • Parole conditions that are so strict, they’re easily violated, which means offenders often return to prison.
  • A lack of programs aimed at rehabilitating prisoners, meaning they often return to prison.
  • Legislation passed by former  President Bill Clinton in 1996 that loaded up detention centers and jails with immigrants

And perhaps most importantly: a large expansion profits from the work of prisoners, which gives companies and governments the motivation to incarcerate more people for longer periods of time.

It’s not only the prisoners who suffer, it’s their families too.

According to The Nation’s  Liliana Segura, for example, a tech company called Global Tel*Link charges more than $1 per minute for families and friends to speak with their loved ones in prison. There is no free market, no competition to drive the price down.  Global Tel* Link makes more than $500 million per year from exploiting these vulnerable people.

If family or friends are unable to afford Global Tel*Link’s prices, prisoners may run a higher risk of social isolation. It’s a vicious circle, as studies show that social connections are  key  to a prisoner’s rehabilitation process once he or she is released. FCC Commissioner  Mignon Clyburn, points out that a whopping 2.7 million children in the United States have an incarcerated parent. Many of them suffer immeasurably when such unaffordable phone rates rob them of the little parental contact they may have.

To Buy or Not To Buy

So, let’s get back to the original question: is it ethical to buy brands made by prisoners?

The answer is basically: no – if the product is made in a private prison. Allowing for and supporting private prisons interferes with the administration of justice. They’re driving inmate populations skyward by corrupting the political process. Moreover, in my opinion, profiting from putting more people behind bars turns a country into a police state, where incentives to turn productive citizens into prisoners outweigh incentives to turn prisoners back into productive citizens.  Currently, only the USA, UK and Australia operate private prisons.

In all other countries, it’s possible that work schemes for prisoners are exactly that – they are for prisoners. They’re designed to increase skills, knowledge, ability to work in teams and of course, pay them fairly for their work. Some examples of excellent schemes that have really boosted prisoners’ lives are below.

But on the whole, any company that exploits those behind bars, should be effectively barred by anyone with a conscience.

Brands We Trust

These are five examples of clothing made in prison ethically, from different countries with different approaches.

1. Carcel in Denmark

Carcel is a new fashion label manufactured by women in prison who use sustainable materials and acquire new skills at a good wage. All of their garments carry a tag with the name of the woman who created it. Carcel’s CEO & Founder Veronica D’Souza and Creative Director & Partner Louise van Hauen were inspired to create the label after they witnessed women in Peruvian prisons sewing and knitting – but with no market access.

Carcel was born out of a desire to turn this wasted time into improved skills and decently paid jobs, so that imprisoned women could support themselves, send money to their children to school, and save up to break the cycle of poverty that forced many of them into prisons in the first place.

Ironically, some of the countries with the high-rates of poverty related crime are also home to some of the world’s most exclusive materials – for example, Peru is home to two of the most luxurious fabrics on earth: vicuña and alpaca – yet many young women from poor households end up in jail for drug trafficking. Carcel works with the National Prison System of Peru and a local production manager inside the women’s prison in Cuzco to create Danish designed collections mixed with Peruvian colours and fabrics.

fashion brands made in prisons

2. Project Pietà  in Peru

This fashion label born in the prisons of Lima, defines itself as “an impertinent and irreverent project, independent and spontaneous.” When founder Thomas Jacob visited a   Peruvian jail in 2012 he was inspired to make a difference in the lives of the incarcerated people he met. The name he gave to his Project “Pietà ” is a tribute to Michelangelo’s masterpiece depicting the scene of accepting Divine will; it indicates in spite of the hardships, one should never give up. Prisoners not only knit and sew the clothing, but also design it, too, keeping them not only busy, but creatively inspired. Every piece is unique, numbered, made in limited edition, and signed by the craftsman who made it, using natural, ecological and recycled materials. The Latin American garments are composed of simple and minimalist cuts, poetically inspired by life’s vicissitudes.

 

3. Haeftling in Germany

Businessman Stephan Bohle could probably be the first to have ever conceived a jail ware brand, since “Haeftling” (that means “jailbird” in German) was founded in 2003. The brand believes in the good of mankind and giving second chances. In fact, opening their website you will be greeted with the words “Be good, do good.” This is a message that Haeftling abides by, since a percentage of the proceeds goes back to the prisons, in the form of training programs for the prisons. The company also supports organizations that campaign internationally to improve prison conditions and protect the rights of political prisoners.

The clothing collection ranges from jeans and jackets, to shoes, skirts, and even underwear. Furthermore, the beloved “schnapps” drink is embraced in the Haeftling Schnapps-Set, which consists of three homemade premium spirits. Hence, the company is also forging German inmates into skillful farmers, growing and harvesting the fruits and herbs and ultimately distilling them for the schnapps.

4. Banco Lotto n.10 in Italy

In the enchanting city of Venice, just a few minutes away from Saint Mark’s Square, there is   a boutique that sells one-of-a-kind clothing and accessories designed and hand-sewn locally  by inmates at the women’s prison on nearby Giudecca Island. Banco Lotto n.10 is housed in a former lottery ticket sales counter (as the name gives away), and represents how the incarcerated Venetians pay off their gambling debts. This is part of a reintegration program run by volunteers from the non-profit organisation Il Cerchio.

The inmates are trained to become high-skilled dressmakers, making women’s overcoats, blazers, jackets, dresses, and even eco-friendly handbags from recycled materials, such as burlap coffee sacks and the sailcloth of discarded sails. Their creations are so exquisite that La Fenice theatre often commissions their costumes for its stage performances from the prison.

5. Project Papillon in Finland

This brand is perhaps one of the most ethical in the sense that not only does it provide Finnish prisoners with creative work, where they design and create garments, but the label also pays them a licensing fee for their creations, acknowledging the hard work that goes into the clothing design, and continually rewarding prisoners for innovation and uniqueness.



You Might Also Like

No Comments

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Privacy Policy

The Eluxe privacy policy applies to all your personal information, given and received. Personal information is information that might identify you, like your name, address, phone number, email, or website. When you visit our site, we may gather information about you such as your name, email, cookie information, and IP location. We may contact you regarding your preferences for information and updates. This information allows us to honour your requests for products and services and to improve our service to you. We never share or sell your personal information, unless we need to do so in order to provide a product, information or service that you have requested. Please note that no data transmission over the Internet can be guaranteed to be 100% safe, thus, we cannot warrant that your information will be absolutely secure. Eluxe Magazine has a variety of safeguards – technical, administrative, and physical – in place to help protect against unauthorised access to, use, or disclosure of user information. We guarantee adherence to industry best practices that ensure complete security, and we fully comply with all federal regulations. If we change our privacy policy, we will tell you.

Copyright

All material on our site is original unless stated. Original content is fully copyrighted and may not be reproduced without permission. We make every effort to ensure all published images respect appropriate copyright. Should there be any issue, please contact us immediately.

Third party links

Occasionally, at our discretion, we may include or offer third party products or services on our website. These third party sites have separate and independent privacy policies. We therefore have no responsibility or liability for the content and activities of these linked sites. Nonetheless, we seek to protect the integrity of our site and welcome any feedback about these sites.

Eluxe Magazine uses affiliate links throughout the site. We may be compensated if readers click on those links. We only provide links to products and services we genuinely like and trust.

Our Site will also occasionally contain links to, and quotations of, material from other sites. Eluxe Magazine is not responsible for the content or the privacy practices of other sites and expressly disclaims any liability arising out of such content or practices. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave Eluxe Magazine’s Site, and to read the privacy statements of any website that may collect personally identifiable information. Some of the links found on our site may be links that have been paid for by the sponsor. Under no circumstances does Eluxe Magazine accept responsibility for, nor shall Eluxe Magazine be liable for any violation of personal or proprietary rights of you and/or any third party (including, but not limited to, copyright, trademark, patent, service mark, misappropriation, unfair competition, trade secrets, privacy publicity rights, etc.), false advertising that is harmful, or violates any law or governmental regulation and/or any media that may constitute libel or slander of any person or entity or infringe upon or violate the right of privacy or any other right of any person or entity arising out of content, practices, or other media of any third party links.

Eluxe Magazine is not responsible for the content or the privacy practices of other sites we link into and expressly disclaims any liability arising out of such content or practices. Under no circumstances does Eluxe Magazine accept responsibility for, nor shall Eluxe Magazine be liable for any damages or detriment arising out of content, practices, or other media of third party links.

Editorial Statement and Disclaimer

The views expressed at here are the views of the Eluxe staff and do not necessarily represent the views of Eluxe sponsors and/or partners. Eluxe content is for informational and entertainment purposes, and any views expressed should not be accepted as a substitute for qualified expertise. Though we make every effort to provide accurate information, it is up to you, the reader, to use Eluxe’s content responsibly; in return, we promise to publish responsibly. We stand by our content, our writers, and our editors. In the rare case we make a mistake, we will take whatever reasonable course of action we can to acknowledge and correct it.

Disclaimer and Limitation of Liability

EXCEPT AS EXPRESSLY SET FORTH IN THESE TERMS AND CONDITIONS, YOU EXPRESSLY UNDERSTAND AND AGREE THAT THE SITE, CONTENT, PRODUCTS AND/OR SERVICES ON THE SITE ARE PROVIDED “AS IS” AND ON AN “AS AVAILABLE” BASIS. TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW AND EXCEPT AS EXPRESSLY SET FORTH IN THESE TERMS AND CONDITIONS, TGT DISCLAIMS ALL WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND NON-INFRINGEMENT. ELUXE MAGAZINE DOES NOT REPRESENT OR WARRANT THAT THE SITE WILL BE UNINTERRUPTED OR ERROR-FREE, THAT ANY DEFECTS WILL BE CORRECTED, OR THAT THE SITE OR THE SERVER THAT MAKES THE SITE AVAILABLE ARE FREE FROM VIRUSES OR ANYTHING ELSE HARMFUL. FURTHER, EXCEPT AS EXPRESSLY SET FORTH IN THESE TERMS AND CONDITIONS, ELUXE MAKES NO WARRANTIES OR REPRESENTATIONS ABOUT THE ACCURACY, ADEQUACY, USEFULNESS, RELIABILITY, OR COMPLETENESS OF THE SITE, PRODUCTS, SERVICES, CONTENT, THE CONTENT OF ANY THIRD-PARTY SITE LINKED TO OR FROM THIS SITE, COMMENTS, INFORMATION, INFORMATION PROVIDED BY OUR VENDORS, OR ANY OTHER ITEMS OR MATERIALS ON THE SITE OR LINKED TO FROM THE SITE.

ELUXE ASSUMES NO LIABILITY OR RESPONSIBILITY FOR (A) ANY, ERRORS, MISTAKES OR INACCURACIES OF THE CONTENT, PRODUCTS, SERVICES, INFORMATION, SITE AND MATERIALS SET FORTH ON OR MADE AVAILABLE THROUGH THE SITE, (B) PERSONAL INJURY OR PROPERTY DAMAGE, OF ANY NATURE WHATSOEVER, RESULTING FROM YOUR ACCESS TO OR USE OF THE SITE, PRODUCTS, SERVICES OR ANY THIRD PARTY SITE(S), PRODUCTS OR SERVICES, (C) ANY UNAUTHORISED ACCESS TO OR USE OF THE SERVERS THAT HOST THE SITE OR ANY THIRD PARTY SITE(S) AND/OR ANY AND ALL PERSONAL INFORMATION STORED THEREIN, (D) ANY INTERRUPTION OR CESSATION OF TRANSMISSION TO OR FROM THE SITE OR THIRD PARTY SITE(S), (E) ANY BUGS, VIRUSES, TROJAN HORSES OR THE LIKE, WHICH MAY BE TRANSMITTED TO OR THROUGH THE SITE OR ANY THIRD PARTY SITE(S) BY TGT OR ANY THIRD PARTY, AND/OR (F) ANY ERRORS OR OMISSIONS IN THE NETWORK OR ANY CONTENT, INFORMATION AND MATERIALS (INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THIRD PARTY SITE(S)) OR FOR ANY LOSS OR DAMAGE OF ANY KIND INCURRED AS A RESULT OF THE USE OF ANY OF THE FOREGOING.

NO PERSON (INCLUDING ANY AGENT, DEALER OR REPRESENTATIVE OF ELUXE MAGAZINE) IS AUTHORISED TO MAKE ANY REPRESENTATION OR WARRANTY CONCERNING PRODUCTS AND BY USING THIS SITE, YOU ACKNOWLEDGE AND AGREE THAT YOU HAVE NOT RELIED ON ANY OTHER WARRANTIES OR REPRESENTATIONS.

IN NO EVENT SHALL ELUXE OR ITS SUBSIDIARIES, AFFILIATES, AGENTS, SUPPLIERS, VENDORS, MANUFACTURERS OR DISTRIBUTORS BE LIABLE FOR ANY INDIRECT, SPECIAL, PUNITIVE, INCIDENTAL, EXEMPLARY OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES, INCLUDING, WITHOUT LIMITATION, DAMAGES FOR LOSS OF USE, DATA, REVENUE OR PROFITS, BUSINESS INTERRUPTION, OR LOSS OF BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY OR GOODWILL, ARISING FROM OR IN CONNECTION WITH (A) THE USE OF, OR INABILITY TO USE, THE SITE; (B) THE PROVISION OF OR FAILURE TO PROVIDE SERVICES, PRODUCTS, MATERIALS, CONTENT, OR SOFTWARE AVAILABLE FROM, ON OR THROUGH THE SITE OR ANY THIRD-PARTY WEBSITE(S); OR (C) THE CONDUCT OF OTHER USERS OF THE SITE, WHETHER BASED ON CONTRACT, TORT, NEGLIGENCE, STRICT LIABILITY OR OTHERWISE, EVEN IF ELUXE MAGAZINE HAS BEEN ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES. YOU ASSUME COMPLETE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR USE OF THE SITE. YOUR SOLE REMEDY AGAINST TGT FOR DISSATISFACTION WITH THE SITE OR ANY CONTENT IS TO STOP USING THE WEBSITE. THAT SAID, IF ELUXE MAGAZINE IS FOUND TO BE LIABLE TO YOU FOR ANY DAMAGE OR LOSS ARISING OUT OF OR WHICH IS IN ANY WAY CONNECTED WITH YOUR USE OF THE SITE, ANY CONTENT, OR PURCHASE OF ANY PRODUCTS OR SERVICES ON OR THROUGH THE SITE, ELUXE MAGAZINE’S LIABILITY SHALL NOT EXCEED $100.00 IN THE AGGREGATE.

These Terms of Service (together with our Privacy Policy, which is expressly incorporated herein by reference and which can be accessed on this Site, and any other terms that may appear on the Site from time-to-time) contain the entire understanding between you and us with respect to your use and access of this Site, and supersede all prior agreements, terms, conditions and understandings, both written and oral, with respect to such use and access of the Site. No representation, statement or inducement, whether oral or written, not contained in these Terms of Service (and any other terms that may appear on the Site from time-to-time) or the Privacy Policy shall bind any party to this agreement. No additional or different terms or conditions will be binding upon us unless expressly agreed to in writing by an officer of ELUXE MAGAZINE. No other representative has any authority to waive, alter, vary or add to these Terms of Service. Before using this Site please read through all referenced documents carefully.

Aggregate information (non-personally identifiable information)

Eluxe Magazine may, from time to time, automatically collect aggregate information about our visitors to our advertisers, sponsors, promotional partners and affiliates. This aggregate information includes, but is not limited to, IP addresses connecting to our site, how many persons visited a particular page or activity, dates and times of image uploads, device characteristics, operating system, browser type, type of connection, page and image viewing statistics, and incoming and outgoing links.

Like most websites, we use log files to store this information. None of this automatically collected technical information is associated with any identified person at the time it is collected, but it could be associated with you under two circumstances: First, if you choose to give us personal data about you as described above, the technical information we collect that would otherwise be anonymous could instead be logged as coming from you. Second, if we are required to disclose our server logs as a result of a subpoena or other legal process, some third party such as your internet provider could match our anonymous technical information with you, using information beyond what is found on our servers.

Eluxe Magazine may use cookies, web beacons, pixel tags, or other anonymous tracking information to improve our server’s interaction with your computer, and we may partner with third party advertisers who may (themselves or through their partners) place or recognise a unique cookie on your browser. These cookies enable more customised ads, content, or services to be provided to you. To trigger these cookies, we may pass an encrypted or “hashed” (non-human readable) identifier corresponding to your email address to a Web advertising partner, who may place a cookie on your computer. No personally identifiable information is on, or is connected to, these cookies. Although our servers currently don’t respond to “do-not-track” requests (see below), you can block these cookies in other ways, for example by searching “[your browser] + disable cookies.”

Eluxe Magazine will never share, sell, lease, or rent PII to unaffiliated third parties, except in the following circumstances:

a) If we have a good faith belief that we must disclose such information for legal reasons, such as to enforce our Terms of Service, protect or assert the rights, property interests, or personal safety of Eluxe (including its employees, directors, suppliers, distributors, service providers, users of the Website or others), or if we are otherwise required to disclose such information by law. We will disclose information only to the extent necessary to comply with the purpose of the request.

b) We may share aggregate, anonymous or summary information regarding our customers and their behaviors with partners, advertisers or other third parties. This data is not personal information and so will not identify you personally. We may share information with companies that provide support services to us, such as a printer, mailing house, fulfillment-company, credit card processor, email service provider or web host, amongst others. These parties may need personal information about you in order to perform their functions. However, these parties may not use any personal information we share with them about you for any other purpose other than in connection with performing supporting functions for us.

You have the right at any time to prevent us from contacting you for marketing purposes. If and when we send a promotional communication to a user, the user can opt out of further promotional communications by following the unsubscribe instructions provided in each promotional e-mail. Please note that notwithstanding the promotional preferences you indicate by unsubscribing or opting out in some other fashion, we may continue to send you administrative emails including, for example, periodic updates to our Privacy Policy.

In order to access a profile on Eluxe Magazine’s shop, you must first create an account with a username and password. The registration system requires that a valid email address be used to confirm the account. You should choose a username that does not include your last name and does not specify your city or your address. Eluxe Magazine asks that you use your first name only, or an alias, for your display name. This is to safeguard your privacy and protection. We do not use and cannot access this information.

Eluxe Magazine is 100% opposed to unsolicited commercial email (“spam”). We do not have any desire to send unsolicited marketing emails to anyone without permission and we do not sell or provide user email addresses to any unauthorised third party in violation of this Policy. All of our newsletters and other general email marketing communications also include an “unsubscribe” opt-out link that you may use to tell us to stop sending you marketing emails.

In the event of a change in control resulting from, for example, a sale to, or merger with, another entity, or in the event of a sale of assets or a bankruptcy, Eluxe Magazine reserves the right to transfer your personal information to the new party in control, or the party acquiring assets. We will only do so if the party we transfer the information to agrees that they will abide by our Privacy Policy for as long as they hold the information, and that they will not transfer the information to any other party who will not abide by our Privacy Policy.

We use third-party advertising companies to deliver online advertising. These companies facilitate the delivery of ads, conduct market research, and use cookies for record-keeping purposes. These cookies sometimes enable the companies to serve you ads tailored to things you have shown an interest in based on your prior web activity. This is generally known as behavioral advertising. For example, this means that if you frequently read movie reviews online, it is possible that you might see ads on other websites relating to upcoming movies. Online advertising companies generally conduct this activity in an anonymous format, with online information not combined with information that would allow for your identification.

The third-party companies that will be serving advertisements on Eluxe Magazine may include DoubleClick, Google and Taboola.

We may periodically modify, alter, or update these policies. We will alert users to any material changes to this policy by posting the revised information here. We encourage you to review our Privacy Policy on a regular basis to stay informed about how we are protecting the personal information we collect. Your continued use of TGT’s website constitutes your agreement to this Privacy Policy and any future updates.