What is the prison industrial complex?
Just as a reminder my question is how the prison industrial complex affects marginalized groups. In this blog post I will be talking about what the term prison industrial complex really means. I will also be briefly talking about prison reform and abolition.
Firstly, where does the term prison industrial complex come from? The term prison industrial complex is often used in reference to the “united states” and was derived from the term military industrial complex of 1950’s America (6). The term prison industrial complex was introduced by activists to argue the claim that increased levels of crime were the reason for the ever-growing prison population in America when in reality it wasn’t (4).
So, what does the term prison industrial complex really mean? The prison industrial complex mainly refers to the linkage between corporations, the government, correctional facilities and the media (4). One of the biggest aspects of the prison industrial complex is the exploitation of prisoners by private companies. Activists such as Angela Davis believe that the drive to construct and fill prisons is driven by these private corporations’ pursuit of profit (4). An example of how prisons make money off prisoners is the privatized prison system in the US, 8% of prisons in the us are private. These private prisons make money off how any inmates they house, which in turn leads to the mass incarceration of people in marginalized groups (which I will get into more in my next blog post) (2). They need to fill the prisons to make more money which then leads to over policing in lower-class, marginalized areas and making people serve life sentences in prisons over things like petty drug crimes. In 2010 two of the most profitable private prisons in the United States “earned” roughly 3 billion dollars, with their top executives taking home compensation packages worth over 3 million dollars (1). This leads me to the question, why spend so much money on privatized prisons when you can invest the money and put in the work into creating alternatives that will reduce crime and imprisonment while also reforming the prison systems. Putting money into giving people the resources that they need to survive and attempting to undo a society that continues to feed on oppression of masses through unfair punishment, violence, and control (3). In sum the prison industrial complex is the linkage between corporations, the government, correctional facilities and the media. Private companies making money from the government by incarcerating the masses in their private correctional facilities, and the media spreading things like the reason for the ever-growing prison population is due to increased levels of crime.
- Banking on bondage: Private prisons and mass incarceration. American Civil Liberties Union. (2016, October 24). Retrieved March 11, 2022, from https://www.aclu.org/banking-bondage-private-prisons-and-mass-incarceration
- Bryant, S. (2022, February 8). The business model of private prisons. Investopedia. Retrieved March 9, 2022, from https://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/062215/business-model-private-prisons.asp
- Paiella, G., Jones, S., Ngala, P. by F., Baron, Z., & of GQ, T. E. (2020, June 11). How would prison abolition actually work? GQ. Retrieved March 11, 2022, from https://www.gq.com/story/what-is-prison-abolition
- Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Prison industrial complex definition & meaning. Merriam-Webster. Retrieved March 8, 2022, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/prison%20industrial%20complex
- Schlosser, E. (2020, June 16). The prison-industrial complex. The Atlantic. Retrieved March 9, 2022, from https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1998/12/the-prison-industrial-complex/304669/
- Taylor Rae Almonte. (2021, March 12). The Prison Industrial Complex. Taylor Rae Almonte. Retrieved March 8, 2022, from https://www.taylorraealmonte.com/original-posts/prison-industrial-complex
I was very interested to hear about this topic. I have not heard of it before. I am glad I now have because it is very sad that people in prison are used for profit. I think that no matter what a person has done, private companies should not use the prisoners for their own personal profit.
Hello Sammie, great post! This topic is so incredibly relevant and unfortunately has been for many years. Legal systems, and in turn prison systems, have been harming marginalized groups, particularly ones of darker skin, for a long time. Falsified arrests and predatory bail practices are so common, especially in the United States, that they have practically become normalized. After you are arrested, you are, for all intents and purposes, found guilty until proven innocent, and you are held in jail unless you can pay your bail fee. If you cannot pay upfront, you can either stay in jail or find a bailbondsman that can provide you with what is essentially a predatory loan to pay for your bail fee. Absolutely horrid stuff!
Some resources you may find useful are:
this topic is very interesting to me and I look forward to hearing more about it in the future. I liked hearing about what the prison industrial complex really is and you have loads of information there and it’s awesome. the only thing I would want to hear more about is where the name actually came from, I found that part very interesting.