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The Vermont State Police emblem is pictured in this undated handout photo received by Reuters on February 2, 2012 from the Vermont State Police.

Call it petulance, call it resistance, call it subversion, call it opportunism, call it what you want. I’ll call it damn funny.

Vermont prisoners modified the State’s official police insignia, sneaked an image of a pig into the design and saw it printed up on 30 police cruisers that patrolled the roads for a year.

That the amended design went unnoticed for so long is really the story for me. It was finally picked up by a trooper who was inspecting his car while out on the job.

PRISON LABOUR HAPPENS

I suppose the other startling aspect to this story is that it will alert many Americans to the fact that prisoners carry out jobs that we might not expect of an incarcerated class. Most might think it’s foolish to give prisoners even the opportunity to interfere with the emblems of law enforcement, but when it comes to the economics of prison labour, there’s a whole unique logic to be discovered.

I don’t think there’s a license plate in the country that isn’t pressed inside a prison. Each state usually has one prison workshop to punch those out. Prisoners make text books, boots, flags, mattresses, office chairs, floor stripper. They harvest collards and tomatoes, pick almonds and box eggs. In California, the huge Prison Industry Authority (PIA) distributes milk and even produces meat.

Low cost production of goods is practiced in the private as well as public prisons. Depressingly, the ever conniving business lobby-group ALEC have led the loosening of laws to secure cheap prison labor for private business.

May I recommend the article, The Hidden History of ALEC and Prison Labor as a good introduction to the problematic trend and philosophical shift away from rehabilitation and toward profit:

Although a wide variety of goods have long been produced by state and federal prisoners for the US government—license plates are the classic example, with more recent contracts including everything from guided missile parts to the solar panels powering government buildings—prison labor for the private sector was legally barred for years, to avoid unfair competition with private companies. But this has changed thanks to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), its Prison Industries Act, and a little-known federal program known as PIE (the Prison Industries Enhancement Certification Program). While much has been written about prison labor in the past several years, these forces, which have driven its expansion, remain largely unknown.

If you want to know more about the intersects of business and incarceration, I recommend the book Prison Profiteers, edited by Paul Wright and Tara Herivel.

More on the VT police emblems here. Thanks to Matthew Spencer for the tip.

Couldn’t resist with this story. Afghanistan’s only pig, known as “Pig”, has been locked up in quarantine to protect itself and other animals.

Pig  is photographed, at a zoo in Kabul, Afghanistan on 30 April 2009. The World Health Organization (WHO) on 30 April said, that it would cease use of the word swine and stick with the scientific title of a new variant of influenza A(H1N1), in light of complaints from the pork industry. WHO updated the number of laboratory-confirmed cases of swine influenza to 257, including eight deaths.  EPA/S. SABAWOON

Pig is photographed, at a zoo in Kabul, Afghanistan on 30 April 2009. The World Health Organization (WHO) on 30 April said, that it would cease use of the word swine and stick with the scientific title of a new variant of influenza A(H1N1), in light of complaints from the pork industry. WHO updated the number of laboratory-confirmed cases of swine influenza to 257, including eight deaths. EPA/S. SABAWOON

However this is not all light-hearted banter. According to this article, by Golnar Motevalli, the Swine Flu is the latest blow during a tragic few years at Kabul Zoo.

Shabby and rundown, Kabul Zoo is a far cry from zoos in the developed world, but has nevertheless come a long way since it suffered on the front line of Afghanistan’s 1992-4 civil war. Mujahideen fighters then ate the deer and rabbits and shot dead the zoo’s sole elephant. Shells shattered the aquarium. One fighter climbed into the lion enclosure but was immediately killed by Marjan, the zoo’s most famous inhabitant. The man’s brother returned the next day and lobbed a hand grenade at the lion leaving him toothless and blind.

And, as the Telegraph notes, it has been a traumatic journey for “Pig” also.

“Pig” was one of two given to Afghanistan by China in 2002, months after the ouster of the hard line Taliban regime, to help reestablish the zoo after it was destroyed during civil war. However, the other pig – and their offspring – were killed in an attack by a bear. Despite being the only pig, it was not too lonely, Zoo Director, Mr Saqib said. “The pig made friends with a goat and was happy sticking to the goat in the enclosure, where some other goats and deer were on show for visitors.”

Credit: Reuters

Credit: Reuters

There are no pig farms in Afghanistan and no direct civilian flights between Kabul and Mexico.

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