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