What Marginalized groups are affected by 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 groups are affected by the prison industrial complex and how people’s intersecting marginalized identities play a role in how they are affected by the prison industrial complex.
I spoke about this briefly in my last blogpost but as we know private prisons make money off how any inmates they house. This need for inmates creates a surplus of policing in lower-class, and marginalized areas where often people do not have access to the resources needed to live a “healthy lifestyle”. When people do not have access to the resources and necessities needed to live a healthy life, they turn to crime just to have access to things they need to live. This is a perfect example of how the prison industrial complex functions, the linkage between the government, prisons, policing, and the media. The Government is not providing resources to lower-class and marginalized communities, thus resulting in crime and more people being incarcerated.
So, who exactly is impacted by the prison industrial complex? Currently in the “USA” half of their prison population is African American and More than 70 percent of people incarcerated are people of color (3). There are a few reasons for this, one of them being the need to fill these for-profit prisons. The political economy of prisons often relies on racist stereotypes of criminality forced upon predominantly black peoples. These racist stereotypes lead injustices such as black men being five times more likely to be arrested for a drug offense than their white counterparts (3). Prisons housing largely people of color is also due to racist practices that happen during arrest, conviction, and sentencing (2). The prison industrial complex not only targets those who are low income and people of color but also those who are mentally ill. in the United States approximately 200,000 of their inmates suffer from a serious mental illness and around 40 percent of individuals with serious mental illnesses go to prison at some point in their lives (4). Instead of being cared for my mental health professionals and given the resources needed to succeed in their communities they opt to put those who are mentally ill in prisons thus making the economy of prisons stronger (3).
It is also important to talk about how intersecting marginalized identities can play a role in how people are affected by the prison industrial complex. While the rate of incarceration for those who suffer from mental illness, people of color, and those who are lower class is disproportionally high it’s important to note how having these intersecting identities can lead to a higher chance of incarceration. For example, for African American men with no more than a high school education serving time in prison has become the societal norm (1), all Because of their status as a racial minority and their lack of education (thus leading to class inequity).
In sum the prison industrial complex largely targets people of color (mostly black and brown people) and those without the resources needed to live and receive the help they need. In my next blog post i will be touching on how the prison industrial complex affects these marginalized groups and how/ if the term prison industrial complex is relevant here is so called “Canada.”
- Authors Bruce Western and Becky Pettit, Author Information BRUCE WESTERN, Information, A., & Western, B. (n.d.). Incarceration & Social Inequality. American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Retrieved April 29, 2022, from https://www.amacad.org/publication/incarceration-social-inequality
- Davis, A. (2015, April 18). Masked racism: Reflections on the prison industrial complex. Colorlines. Retrieved April 29, 2022, from https://www.colorlines.com/articles/masked-racism-reflections-prison-industrial-complex
- Schlosser, E. (2020, June 16). The prison-industrial complex. The Atlantic. Retrieved April 29, 2022, from https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1998/12/the-prison-industrial-complex/304669/
- Schulman-Hall, J., Marks, Z., Chenoweth, E., Francis, R. W., & DeWolf, R. (2021, July 26). The rebirth of institutionalism: From mental hospitals to the prison industrial complex. Ms. Magazine. Retrieved April 29, 2022, from https://msmagazine.com/2021/07/20/mental-hospitals-prison-industrial-complex-mental-health-illness-women/