The Prison Industrial Complex

By Jueseppi B.

If you’re a caucasian conservative TeaTardedRepubliCANT GOPretender or a member of the Reich Wing, don’r even waste your time reading this because you just are not genetically engineered to understand this subject. Click this article closed.

OK they are gone, now let’s get down to business.

Prison–industrial complex” (PIC) is a term used to attribute the rapid expansion of the US inmate population to the political influence of private prison companies and businesses that supply goods and services to government prison agencies. The term is analogous to the military–industrial complex that President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of in his famous 1961 farewell address. Such groups include corporations that contract prison labor, construction companies, surveillance technology vendors, lawyers, and lobby groups that represent them. Activists have described the prison industrial complex as perpetuating a belief that imprisonment is a quick fix to underlying social problems such as homelessness, unemployment, drug addiction, mental illness, and illiteracy.

The promotion of prison building as a job creator and the use of inmate labor are also cited as elements of the prison industrial complex. The term often implies a network of actors who are motivated by making profit rather than solely by punishing or rehabilitating criminals or reducing crime rates. Proponents of this view believe that the desire for monetary gain has led to the growth of the prison industry and the number of incarcerated individuals. These views are often shared by people who fear or condemn excessive use of power by government, particularly when related to law enforcement and military affairs.

Each of the above listed businesses have a special interest in making sure they maintain a business that is lucrative, profitable and financially stable. That said, do you think they want to see a decrease in prison populations across America? NO.

“The Prison Industrial Complex” is the title of a recorded 1997 speech by social activist Angela Davis, later released as an audio CD and also served as the basis for her book of the same name. Davis also co-founded the prison abolition group, Critical Resistance, which held its first conference in 1998. She wrote an article entitled “Masked Racism: Reflections on the Prison Industrial Complex,” published in the Fall 1998 issue of ColorLines. “Homelessness, unemployment, drug addiction, mental illness, and illiteracy are only a few of the problems that disappear from public view when the human beings contending with them are relegated to cages,” Davis says. “Taking into account the structural similarities of business-government linkages in the realms of military production and public punishment, the expanding penal system can now be characterized as a ‘prison industrial complex.’ “

A few months later, Eric Schlosser wrote an article published in Atlantic Monthly in December 1998 stating that “The ‘prison-industrial complex’ (PIC) is not only a set of interest groups and institutions; it is also a state of mind. The lure of big money is corrupting the nation’s criminal-justice system, replacing notions of safety and public service with a drive for higher profits. The eagerness of elected officials to pass tough-on-crime legislation — combined with their unwillingness to disclose the external and social costs of these laws — has encouraged all sorts of financial improprieties.”.

Another writer of the era who covered the expanding prison population and attacked “the prison-industrial complex” was Christian Parenti, who later disavowed the term before the publication of his book, Lockdown America (2000). “How, then, should the left critique the prison buildup?” asked The Nation in 1999. “Not, Parenti stresses, by making slippery usage of concepts like the ‘prison–industrial complex.’ Simply put, the scale of spending on prisons, though growing rapidly, will never match the military budget; nor will prisons produce anywhere near the same ‘technological and industrial spin-off.’“

Public speaker, musician and Green Party activist Jello Biafra talks about the Prison Industrial Complex on several of his spoken word CDs. He charges that it is a form of institutional racism and that most often the black community is the intended target of these prison developments. He compares the modern incarnation of the prison system to “The gulag of the red, white, and blue” and notes the lack of a prisoner’s right to free speech in California where former governor Pete Wilson barred prisoners from talking to the press.

From the mouth of Ms. Angela Davis:

“Imprisonment has become the response of first resort to far too many of the social problems that burden people who are ensconced in poverty. These problems often are veiled by being conveniently grouped together under the category “crime” and by the automatic attribution of criminal behavior to people of color. Homelessness, unemployment, drug addiction, mental illness, and illiteracy are only a few of the problems that disappear from public view when the human beings contending with them are relegated to cages.

Prisons thus perform a feat of magic. Or rather the people who continually vote in new prison bonds and tacitly assent to a proliferating network of prisons and jails have been tricked into believing in the magic of imprisonment. But prisons do not disappear problems, they disappear human beings. And the practice of disappearing vast numbers of people from poor, immigrant, and racially marginalized communities has literally become big business.”

More From Ms. Davis:

“Almost 3 million people are currently locked up in the immense network of U.S. prisons and jails. More than 70 percent of the imprisoned population are people of color. It is rarely acknowledged that the fastest growing group of prisoners are black women and that Native American
prisoners are the largest group per capita. Approximately five million people — including those on probation and parole — are directly under the surveillance of the criminal justice system.

Three decades ago, the imprisoned population was approximately one-eighth its current size. While women still constitute a relatively small percentage of people behind bars, today the number of incarcerated women in California alone is almost twice what the nationwide women’s
prison population was in 1970. According to Elliott Currie, “[t]he prison has become a looming presence in our society to an extent unparalleled in our history — or that of any other industrial democracy. Short of major wars, mass incarceration has been the most thoroughly implemented
government social program of our time.”

To deliver up bodies destined for profitable punishment, the political economy of prisons relies on racialized assumptions of criminality — such as images of black welfare mothers reproducing criminal children — and on racist practices in arrest, conviction, and sentencing patterns.
Colored bodies constitute the main human raw material in this vast experiment to disappear the major social problems of our time. Once the aura of magic is stripped away from the imprisonment solution, what is revealed is racism, class bias, and the parasitic seduction of capitalist
profit. The prison industrial system materially and morally impoverishes its inhabitants and devours the social wealth needed to address the very problems that have led to spiraling numbers of prisoners.”

Thank you Ms. Angela Davis.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) 2,266,800 adults were incarcerated in U.S. federal and state prisons, and county jails at year-end 2010 — about .7% of adults in the U.S. resident population. Additionally, 4,933,667 adults at year-end 2009 were on probation or on parole. In total, 7,225,800 adults were under correctional supervision (probationparolejail, or prison) in 2009 — about 3.1% of adults in the U.S. resident population.

On January 1, 2008 more than 1 in 100 adults in the United States were in prison or jail.

In 2008 approximately one in every 31 adults (7.3 million) in the United States was behind bars, or being monitored (probation and parole). In 2008 the breakdown for adults under correctional control was as follows: one out of 18 men, one in 89 women, one in 11 African-Americans (9.2 percent), one in 27 Latinos (3.7 percent), and one in 45 whites (2.2 percent). Crime rates have declined by about 25 percent from 1988-2008. 70% of prisoners in the United States are non-whites. In recent decades the U.S. has experienced a surge in its prison population, quadrupling since 1980, partially as a result of mandatory sentencing that came about during the “war on drugs.” Violent crime and property crime have declined since the early 1990s.

In addition, there were 86,927 held in juvenile facilities as of the 2007 Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement (CJRP), conducted by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

As of 2009, the three states with the lowest ratios of imprisoned people per 100,000 population are Maine (150 per 100,000), Minnesota (189 per 100,000), and New Hampshire (206 per 100,000). The three states with the highest ratio are Louisiana (881 per 100,000), Mississippi (702 per 100,000) and Oklahoma (657 per 100,000).

In 2009, 92.9% of prisoners (not jail inmates) were male.


On June 30, 2006, an estimated 4.8% of black non-Hispanic men were in prison or jail, compared to 1.9% of Hispanic men of any race and 0.7% of white non-Hispanic men. U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Midyear 2009 Incarceration rates by race and gender per 100,000 US residents of the same race and gender.[41]
Ethnicity Male Female Total
White non-Hispanic 708 91
Black non-Hispanic 4,749 333
Hispanic of any race 1,822 142
All inmates 1,398 131 748

According to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) non-Hispanic blacks accounted for 39.4% of the total prison and jail population in 2009. According to the 2010 census of the US Census Bureau blacks (including Hispanic blacks) comprised 12.6% of the US population.

Hispanics (of all races) were 20.6% of the total jail and prison population in 2009. Hispanics comprised 16.3% of the US population according to the 2010 US census.

In 2009 black non-Hispanic males were incarcerated at the rate of 4,749 inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents of the same race and gender. White males were incarcerated at the rate of 708 inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents. Hispanic males were incarcerated at the rate of 1,822 inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents. For female rates see the table above.

However, black majority cities have similar crime statistics for blacks as do cities where majority of population is white. For example, white majority San Diego has a slightly lower crime rate for blacks than does Atlanta, a city which has black majority in population and city government.

Census data for 2000, which included a count of the number and race of all individuals incarcerated in the United States, showed for each state that the proportion of blacks in prison populations exceeded the proportion of whites among state residents in every state. In twenty states, the percent of blacks incarcerated was at least five times greater than their share of resident population.

Now there will be many silly people who will never agree with these facts stated herein. I already understand this. Questioning facts and surveys and research is about as intelligent as hitting your head against a brick wall. In this case a brick wall of facts and truth. What all this tells me is one simple thing….and that one simple thing is that people of color are filling up this prison industrial complex faster than Mitt Romney changes his mind. Quicker than Kim Kardashian gets a divorce.

The Prison Industrial Complex is a multi billion dollar business, built on the backs of people of color. Sounds an awful lot just like slavery.

“Disagree Intelligently, Use Facts, Truth & Common Sense.”

17 replies »

  1. Last week Up with Chris did an hour on this topic. He had Michelle Alexander on who wrote a book “The New Jim Crow,” that examines the so-called “prison industrial complex.”

    She said that there are many myths that need to be dispelled about prisons, such as the idea that the huge rise in prisoners over the last 30 years correlates with the drop in crime rates, or that people of color commit more drug offenses than whites.

    She also condemned what she called “the rise of a virtual police state,” in which “hundreds of thousands of people are stopped, searched and frisked, and enormous numbers are shuttled into prisons and jails, often for non-violent offenses.”


    • I saw Ms. Alexander, but I turned the sound down when asked a question, she turned her answer into an opportunity to do a little POTUS Obama bashing.


  2. Prisons are not the problem… it’s the privatization of prisons that is. They are horrid places, little to no rehabilitation. Understaffed, underpaid. And they’re popping up like mushrooms all over. CCA in Florida is building a private prison just to house illegals. That’s it. The primary reason for illegal immigration laws as well as tough drug laws just on addicts alone (not the dealers or cartel) is specifically to increase the private prison population. Since most of these only house non-violent criminals, then they have started outsourcing the inmates for jobs which would have been held by union workers. The low ball the bid, earn the job, and then turn around and pay the inmates 10 cents per hour and profit on the difference. Whereas, with union employees, the profit is not near so great as standard wages would apply.

    Alabama has just implemented one of the harshest illegal immigrant laws in the country. A significant percentage left the state. Now many farmers are without migrant workers, so rather than pay legal wages, they’re hiring inmates. Again, this was forethought by the private prisons by lobbying strongly for this law knowing damn good and well that the opportunity would come around where they can use the inmates to make even more profit.

    A prison should be a place of incarceration and rehabilitation for those who break the law – NOT a place where stockholder can profit off of humans in bondage. Yes, bondage.

    I helped set up a dog rescue and training program in the women’s prison here in NM, and it is a privately owned CCA prison. I’ve seen what goes on behind those walls, and hear the stories from the inmates. Yes, there are many who belong there, and I hope never walk the streets again. But a significant percentage should not be there, and are returning because they received no help from the prison when they were released the first time. Most of these women are uneducated, abused, raised in broken homes full of drugs and alcohol, and are victims of their surroundings. The mess up, go to prison. But then, the prison puts them right back where they came from, still no GED, because that’s not a requirement. Many women try, but with no high school diploma, don’t even know how to fill out a job application, what else are they going to do to survive but return to the only way they know how to survive. Crime. With most of them, it truly is a matter of survival.

    If private prisons were doing their job, then these women would learn how to fill out a job application, open a checking account, for some they would learn how to read (I’ve met many who cannot read), and most definitely, NOT put them back in the same environment which brought on the crime. The private prisons LOVE the recidivism – means more money coming in. They could care less about helping the inmates. I read the projected numbers of a prison report, and each upcoming year, the private prisons are increasing their bed count because they plan on having more and more coming in. That’s what they want, and they’re adapting the laws to give them what they want… money.

    I am a huge believer in self responsibility, and I know many people see a parolee that messes up and returns as someone who just did not have enough self responsibility to do “what’s right.” Well, as a recovering addict who has been on the streets and seen what life is like for many, for parolees it really is not a fault of making a wrong decision. For many, it truly is doing what they need to do to survive.

    Prisons do not need to go away. PRIVATE prisons do as well as the laws which aid in increasing the private prison population.


    • Also, keep in mind, the difference between many inmates and you (meaning you in general, not specifically) is that they got caught and have not (yes, anyway). If anyone ever tells me they’ve never broken the law, they’re lying. Taking one hit off a joint, having that one extra drink before driving home, which would just barely put you over the legal limit, etc. Believe it or not, there are people in prison for small crimes like this – but they are poor and could not afford a private attorney, so they had to use the public defender, who is over worked and under paid, and basically just tell the defendant to take the plea.


      • Michelle,
        Not much I can add to this….I was detained on 7 different occasions in my life based on my skin color or what i was driving at the time in the place I was driving. Most probably, I didn’t help the situation much because I was my old stubborn uncooperative self. I have a very good lawyer, so I spent at most a few hours locked up each time. Jail is not prison, but it is a bad place to be on it’s own merit. There are a blatantly high number of “US” behind bars based on what they drive, look like, or who they have in the car with them. Driving while black is a very broad gateway into the legal system.

        It is a major problem that will not vanish as long as somebody makes a dollar off of locking people up.


      • That, sadly, does not surprise me. The vast majority of the women in the prison here are hispanic, which is the predominant non-white race in this state. Very very sad. And most don’t have a nickel to their name to fight the unjust system.


  3. Great post Juesseppi. My heart breaks for Black,Hispanic and Native men because many if them don’t deserve to be imprisoned. This is just another form of slavery. In 2011, more than 10 Black men were released from death row having served an average of 17 yrs for murders they didn’t commit. The system is unjust and unfair to minorities.


  4. (Siiiigh)

    I may not relate well to this topic. Not well at all. I tend to believe we make basic choices and it shouldn’t be complicated to not commit certain acts, which ultimately spiral into a life caught up in the penal system. I find it difficult to intellectualize it and make it a matter of race. While I do get that African Americans are the largest populations in this type of system, I also wonder at what point we begin to collectively make choices that will help and not hurt. At what point do we stop turning our backs on ourselves? We can do so much better. Why don’t we?


    • Twin,
      Environment, upbringing, family, economic situations, all add to what makes a person choose something over something else. We are responsible for our journey to a point. Beyond that point we also are profiled, targeted and selected for prison based on those same economic, environmental and lifestyle situations. I have spent nights in jail based on my skin color. I was able to exact a measure of justice based on intelligence and contacts but what if I had none of those? Racism and prejudice know only one thing…fear against those different.


      • I do take into account all of the negative elements that factor in personal choices. It’s always been a tough road for people of color in America, most especially for those who are impoverished. But you well know that some people don’t put forth a good effort to better themselves. How hard is it to avoid some of these crimes they’re imprisoned for?

        Though, I do understand that prisons are money makers for those with a vested interest. I understand the profiling as well but let’s not make it easy or am I not understanding, still?


      • My Twin,
        I’ll only say that until you walk in someone’s shoes, it is a lot easier to think like you think. But I hope you never walk in those shoes. Being locked up is not for everyone.
        What are you up to on a Friday night?


      • No, no. Not the shoes for me. I’m not judging, or at least, that wasn’t the intent of my words.

        I’m home with my daughter, whose helping one of her classmates with math and watching the tube. It’s coooold here.


      • Twin,
        You are blessed to have family around you. I am blessed to know you. Gotta go cheer the Bulls to a victory!!!! Be back later.


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