Another BP Outrage


With the BP well capped and former CEO Tony Hayward exiled to Russia, perhaps you thought the BP horror story was coming to a close. Now comes this: prison labor.

In its national PR blitz to buff up its image, the oil giant has boasted that it has been hiring devastated, out-of-work local people to handle the cleanup. Many have been hired, but not nearly enough. A Nation magazine report helps explain the shortfall. BP has been using inmates—a captive workforce—to do much of the shoveling and scooping to remove oil from Louisiana beaches. What a deal! BP gets cheap workers who are guaranteed to show up on time, do what they’re told, and keep their mouths shut.

In the early days of the cleanup, crews appeared on beaches wearing scarlet pants and white T-shirts with bold red letters: “Inmate Labor.” Investigative reporter Abe Louise Young writes that the sight of prison laborers outraged the local community, so they were removed.

Not the inmates, the uniforms! Now the inmates wear BP shirts, jeans and rubber boots with no prison markings, and they are moved to and from the job in unmarked, white vans. How many are there? No official with BP, the federal government, or the state of Louisiana could or would tell Young. How much are the prisoners paid? A local sheriff’s official told Young, “They’re not getting paid. It’s part of their sentence.”

BP is getting paid for this labor. By you and me. Under a little-known tax provision passed during the Bush regime, corporations can get a “work opportunity tax credit” of $2,400 for every work-release inmate they hire. To see Young’s article, go to


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