The Prison-Industrial Complex: How the Justice System is Failing America

(TFC) – If you want to get a clear understanding of how the justice system is failing America, just look at how many inmates are released and return back to the jail within a year. This turnstile type of reform is doing nothing to help inmates who could become more productive citizens if more attention was given to them while they were incarcerated. The prison-industrial complex that we have engaged in is doing nothing to promote change within these people and often their rights are being denied.

What is the Prison-Industrial Complex?

The term “prison-industrial complex” was coined from “military-industrial complex,” which referred to the intersection of private sector interests in an expanding military. Similarly, as laws have gotten stricter and penalties harsher, prisons have expanded into the private sector in order to keep up with the space needed for all the people being sent to prison.

Lack of Formal Training

For those who have been in prison during their formative years, there is little to look forward to outside. They may not have the formal training they need to become a contributing member of society, which often leads them right back to a life of crime and a return to prison. In order to combat this, some prisons have started offering classes for inmates, but these classes are often very general and don’t provide useful work skills.

Exploitation of Cheap Labor

As if the private sector wasn’t gaining enough from managing the prisons, they often exploit inmates for cheap labor. Inmates can be contracted out by prison officials to work in a variety of jobs, usually heavy manual labor, and they have no way of opting out of this experience. The 13th Amendment prohibits slavery, but it does allow for forced work for criminals. If they are paid, the inmates usually receive wages that are less than a dollar an hour. The majority of the profits are funneled back into the private sector.

Less than Human

Because many of these private-sector prisons are interested in the profit they can churn out from the inmates, they often neglect to see the inmates as human and will neglect to take proper care of the inmates. Although they are required to provide adequate space, food, and medical care, that is not always the case. Some prisons have found success in treating their inmates as human beings worthy of respect, but too many of them function under the idea that they don’t need to care for their inmates. Because of this, there are still wrongful deaths occurring from lack of proper medical treatment or excessive force.

All of this happens because the private sector is more worried about the profit from prison than the people within them. Prison is meant to be a rehabilitation for most inmates, but recidivism rates are at an all-time high. If we want to see success and justice to be truly served, we need to take a look at how our prisons operate and what their motivations are.


Prison-Industrial Complex

American Slavery, Reinvented

Budge & Heipt, PLLC