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article imageBP comes under scrutiny for use of prisoners during Gulf clean-up

By Stephanie Dearing     Aug 13, 2010 in Environment
BP's use of prisoners to assist with the oil spill clean-up has been called an "open secret." In other words, the use of prisoners was not hidden -- but BP has not openly admitted to the project either.
The use of prisoners first became apparent in May, reported by Reuters and other media outlets. At the time, dealing with the oil spill took predominance, but now attention is being paid to the smaller details.
Details like how BP promised to hire out-of-work fishermen -- people who weren't working because of the oil spill. BP said it was hiring local people to clean up the oil spill in the early days, but BP turned around and used prisoners and other labour instead of locals. Fishermen in Alabama protested the lack of jobs from BP in early June reported WKRG.
Attention from the American public is being focused on BPs use of hundreds of prisoners to clean up the oil spill. While some prisoners worked for no pay, others were paid -- and not only that, but the government subsidized BP at a rate of $2,400 per work-release prisoner, according to Democracy Now. While it is not known how many prisoners were used and how many were in the work-release program, AL said in May that BP used over 200 prisoners in Alabama. It's also been said that 200 prisoners were put to work in Louisianna.
Gulf residents are said to be irate over having lost jobs and revenues, and now for paying BP through tax dollars to use prisoners on the oil clean-up.
In an article written by Abe Louise Young for the Nation, Young noted the use of prisoners for the clean-up was a win-win situation for BP.
Rumbles of discrimination against black Americans in the Gulf region related to issues surrounding the oil spill have picked up steam with reports that most of the prisoners used to clean up the oil were black.
Final Call reported last week that black Gulf fishermen are claiming they too have faced discrimination; not only losing income because of the oil spill, they allege they weren't hired in clean-ups. They also complain they are still waiting for compensation from BP. Mr. Encalade, President of the Louisiana Oysterman Association and the South Plaquemines United Fisheries Cooperative told Final Call “The African American community in East Pointe A'La Hache is being wiped. All of our oyster beds are dead and provided that we get the money owed to us, it may take five to seven years before we recover from this spill. We're losing our culture and many may never recover from this like Katrina."
Rights advocates say that prisoners are being used as slaves, with little recourse to protect themselves. Blogger Nsenga K. Burton said "... We don't know why people are surprised. We've said it before and we'll say it again: Prison is the only place in the United States where slavery is not outlawed. The inmates are being treated like modern-day slaves because they actually are modern-day slaves."
Over 300 lawsuits have been filed against BP since the onset of the spill. Bloomberg reported that all the cases will be heard in New Orleans. The lawsuits have been launched by fishermen, hotel owners and other tourist-based businesses, environmentalists and others. Lawsuits launched by investors who are suing BP for losses will be heard in Houston Texas.
BP has created a $20 billion fund to pay out legitimate claims related to the oil spill.
Writing in Common Dreams, Jim Hightower said that BP was using various tax credits to reduce its cost for the Gulf clean-up.
The largest oil spill in America to date, the spill could be seen from space.
While officials have said that three-quarters of the oil spill is gone, oil is still washing up onto beaches, WKRG reported on Wednesday.
One Florida fisherman has said he is giving up his business because even though he can fish once again, he can't sell his catches said Fox 13.
More about Gulf oil spill, Deepwater horizon, Prisoners, Tax credit, Subsidy
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