What is the prison industrial complex?

A very brief answer to that question would be: the private businesses, corporations and contractors that benefit from the construction, security and maintenance of prisons as a profit generating enterprise. In and of itself, making a profit by providing a service, in whatever form that service manifests, is how capitalism works. When it comes to the private prison industry however, that profit comes at the expense of; not only the tax-paying public that supports the private prison industry, but also the largely minority and poor population that is disproportionally incarcerated when compared to whites. The guards, or correctional officers, of these institutions are typically unable to unionize and generally paid very poorly for the dangerous job they do, ultimately leading to widespread corruption throughout the prison system; from the guards to law enforcement to the judicial system.

In the United States, 1.8 million individuals are behind bars. This is nearly 500,000 more than China, which has a population over quadruple the population of the United States and is largely criticized–deservedly so–for their human rights violations. If you are a black male in the United States, you are six times more likely to be in prison than a white male, and almost three times more likely than a Hispanic male. In 1993, while apartheid still existed in South Africa, the incarceration rate of black men was almost 1/6 what the current incarceration rate of black men in this country is. Not only is this emblematic of broad and systemic racial injustice, it is also the result of a profit-motivated prison system that makes more and more money–at taxpayer expense–when our citizens are locked up; increasingly for non-violent offenses. continue reading…